“In 2020, now is a better time than ever to become an entrepreneur; there are ways to establish your brand from anywhere,” says Reena Vokoun (BBA ‘98). She adds, “You can make an impact online and there are fewer barriers to entry from cost, operations, and infrastructure perspectives.” Leaving a career in corporate America to start a company is not a leap everyone can make, but for Reena, it was her passion for health and wellness, along with her dedication to helping others and comprehensive experience that led her to do just that. We are pleased to welcome Reena to the WAVE Advisory Board after her service on the Wisconsin School of Business Alumni Board.
Reena is the Founder and CEO of Passion Fit, a health and wellness lifestyle company that empowers women to flourish personally and professionally through wellness. Inspired by her own experience working in high-stress positions and fueled by her passion for health and fitness, Reena wanted to help others overcome the challenges that come from burnout and a lack of work-life balance. She uses her years of experience in corporate America, working in sales, marketing, digital media and business development roles for Google, Reebok, Grokker, Yahoo, GE and CNET, to design personal and corporate wellness plans. She works with a wide range of stakeholders including individuals, companies, non-profits, universities, schools and media outlets to teach her holistic model of fitness, nutrition, mindfulness, productivity, work-life balance and leading an overall healthy lifestyle.
After completing her Bachelor of Business Administration degree from the WSB in marketing and management, Reena joined GE in a leadership development program. She rotated through different roles while moving every six months to work in different financial services offices for GE Capital. The experience incorporated business curriculum with on-the-job training, stressing cross-functional development. Following the two-year program, Reena was interested in opportunities in digital media and took a role working with the tech product review site CNET. When her husband’s graduate school took the pair to Boston, Reena took a chance and reached out to the CMO of Reebok for an informational interview. To her surprise, he accepted her request and the two discussed career opportunities at Reebok. While working as the global interactive marketing manager, Reena also pursued her Master of Science in advertising and communications at Boston University. While Reena loved her work with Reebok, she and her husband wanted to move back to California, which led her to digital advertising positions at Yahoo! and then Google. The work was exciting, challenging and grueling and Reena ultimately wanted to get back to a place where she was working on something she was passionate about, so she took a leap.
Making the decision to leave her role at Google to start Passion Fit involved years of careful planning, savings, and self-reflection. Reena said she worked on her business plan for at least three years, carefully identifying what she wanted to accomplish, her product offerings and how to meet market needs. Understanding that the health and wellness market is crowded, Reena wanted to ensure she could make a difference with her company and not get distracted by endless opportunities. She outlined pillars for Passion Fit early and made decisions about how to pursue them while keeping in mind current trends. While her business has grown and evolved, she’s been able to stay true to her personal and business motto, “Pursue your passions, be fit and the rest will follow.”
Reena wears many hats in her current role including entrepreneur, writer, public speaker, activewear designer, content creator, media spokesperson and certified health and wellness expert. She also runs the company’s strategy, product, service and content development, marketing, business development, sales, operations and finances and works with cross-functional teams in web development and design, search engine optimization, legal, accounting, video production and photography. Her 18-year career taught her many lessons that she incorporates into Passion Fit as well as her work mentoring and advising students. Now she sees that her personality, interests, and approach fit well with being an entrepreneur.
“The current situation involving COVID-19, will forever change the work environment,” says Reena. She is busy sharing her expertise, amplifying her message to maintain a heathy lifestyle while professionals balance work and home life in the same environment. For Passion Fit, in-person workout classes were moved online and in-person coaching appointment or speaking engagements are conducted virtually as well. While she understands people are spending more time on social media and it’s a great time for businesses to stay visible and engage with customers, she is balancing that with recommendations to disconnect. “For both mental and physical health, we know it’s important for people to take time away from screens.” Reena admits she also struggles to disconnect at times, but suggests, “Go outside and put your screens away; leave you phone at home if you can, or zip it away in your pocket.” Taking breaks from technology can also help to get better sleep. Reena recommends physically removing devices, so you aren’t tempted to check them. “Try charging your phone in a different room at night,” Reena proposed.
We are extremely grateful to Reena for her dedication to the University of Wisconsin-Madison and for her willingness to share her first-hand experience with students. Welcome to the WAVE Board, Reena!