When Momentum Cycling & Fitness studio opened earlier this month in Summit, NJ, it was a dream come true for owners Menekse “Nekki” Robinson and Camellia Lowry Redmerski. A dream that involved massive amounts of sweat equity – but luckily, these longtime friends are used to that. Nekki and Camellia have much in common: both had demanding careers on Wall Street, live in Summit, are moms who went through divorces, remarried and have blended families. And both wanted to become entrepreneurs. Camellia had worked on the trading floor of Wall Street for 20 years, until getting a package from Citigroup in 2012. “My initial thought was to take time off to be with my kids and regroup,” she recounted in an interview. “After 3 months I was bored. I worked for a small firm in Summit for a little over a year, got pregnant and had my third child and realized I wanted to do something else, I wanted to own something, I wanted to see the direct impact.” For Nekki, after 20+ years on Wall Street at a firm that went through 3 mergers, she also tried staying at home but her 5 kids were already middle school age or older. After working for a local business for five years, she wanted more. “I’ve always wanted my own business,” she said. “I wasn’t afraid of that kind of challenge. I mean, it’s serious, it’s your life savings you’re putting in, if it doesn’t work you could lose the whole thing. But if you don’t try you’ll always think coulda shoulda woulda.”
The decision to open a business together came naturally to them. “We can finish each other’s sentences,” one of them said (it doesn’t really matter which one because the other concurred). They both feel strongly about physical fitness, especially for moms who are often too busy caring for others to take care of themselves. When she was a single working mom with two young kids it was hard for Camellia to make time for Pilates but she did, because “it’s about self esteem, it’s about becoming stronger, and the physical translates to the mental.” For Nekki, whose mother died with a heart condition that precluded her from exercising for much of her life, her father is her fitness inspiration. “He’s almost 80 and he still runs. That inspires me, and I want to inspire my kids to live a healthy, long life.” All of their life experience combined: the rigors of working in the male dominated environment of Wall Street, of divorce, parenthood, and physical fitness workouts, prepared them for the stresses of opening a stand alone business for the first time. Each trusted the other to do the work and see it through. There were, of course, hiccups (putting it mildly) along the way.
“About 2 1/2 weeks before we opened our website was having issues, there were build out issues, inspection issues, the bank account was draining, one of our instructors had to have surgery – a ton of things were coming our way. That was the only time I said I don’t know what I got myself into,” said Camellia. “I had a sleepless night. But next day, you roll up your sleeves and address the issues.”
“The day before the Grand opening I had a meltdown,” said Nekki. “The week leading up to it was a ton of pressure – we were working out the class schedule, paperwork, payroll, putting bike numbers on bikes, on top of that having a major event. We hit a glitch, and I blew it out of proportion – the stress of everything happening caught up with me. It’s gonna happen. I think it’s brought us closer.”
The Grand Opening, with Steve Weatherford of the NY Giants cutting the ribbon drew over 200 people and a CBS camera crew. Up until the very last minute they didn’t know how many people (if any people) would show. “There was a moment when the place was packed and people were congratulating us and asking for information about our classes when I took a step back and thought We did it!” said Camellia.
But the work is just beginning. “I feel like we planned and had a great wedding,” said Nekki. “And now we’re in this wonderful honeymoon phase where we get to plan the rest of the marriage. Now we need to reach people and let them know we’re here, get them in the door, see what works and make this a great place for them to work out.”
With childcare, a range of classes (Spin®, TRX®, H.I.I.T, to name a few) from early morning through evening each day, a small boutique atmosphere and a convenient location by the train station, they hope to meet the needs of busy people like them and spread the benefits of fitness far and wide. Nekki started running with her dad when she was in high school. “I thought, he’s 26 years older than me, if he can do it, so can I! And that has kept me going – I’m realizing that’s the only way I ‘m going to live to my 100s.” She laughed. “Not that I have enough money to live that long.”
If Momentum takes off though, perhaps she will!
The first class at Momentum Cycling & Fitness is always free. For the month of September you can take advantage of their Grand Opening special and get a 1-month unlimited membership for $125 (normally $175 for new clients and $225 for existing clients).