We had the good fortune of connecting with CLAUDIA SOTO and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi CLAUDIA, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
For me, the thought process of starting my own business has always been to create something bigger than myself. I was successfully building a reputation in fitness as a pilates instructor and I started to share more of my day to day workouts and clients through Instagram. Over time, I became aware of the influence I had on people through social media. Naturally, I am an introvert and I don’t often connect with strangers easily, but fitness gave me something to talk about that I was eager to share with anyone who followed me. Becoming a source of information or guidance in the fitness realm created a sense of purpose for me. But because I wanted people to connect with the information rather than the messenger, I created SWEAT + SOUL FITNESS.

Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
SWEAT + SOUL FITNESS was created to connect, educate and empower people along the journey to the happiest, healthiest version of themselves. We built a community of fitness enthusiast from our local network and organically grew a platform for Black and Brown voices, which historically have been under and misrepresented in all sectors including health and fitness. My business partner (Sandra Aderibigbe) and I started the company in 2017 with a heavy focus on learning more about the fitness needs in our community of Houston, TX. We wanted people to be excited about learning how to make healthier choices and feel good about working out but we realized that one of the main issues starts before we ever leave home, in our closets! As a fitness instructor I would see a lot of women struggle with their clothes throughout the class and it would immediately distract them from zoning into the workout. They would become subconscious and stop or slow down to adjust themselves. It made them think twice about joining another class depending on how many people would witness their wardrobe malfunctions. The issue wasn’t a lack of quality brands that might better fit their shape, the issue was the lack of representation by those brands in their ads. These women didn’t see anyone that looked like them modeling for the brands so they didn’t see themselves buying those brand. So in 2018 we teamed up with a manufacturer in Colombia to produce our own high quality fitness apparel specifically for people of color. We tweak the standard sizes and based our measurements on more real bodies with real curves. We spent the rest of the year designing and testing product options until we finally came up with The Essential Collection for men and women. In 2019 we started to launch our products and grow our brand from a community to a retail business. We had our friends, family and trainers model for us to highlight different body shapes and faces. Our focus was to continue growing our community with pop-up fitness events and offering our merchandise at these events and online (sweatandsoulfitness.com) for people who wanted to endorse our lifestyle brand. I moved to L.A. in January to expand those events outside of Houston and tap into a new market in the west coast. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, we had to put pop-up events on the back burner until it is safe for everyone to gather. But we knew we couldn’t lose the momentum we had built and had to adjust the brand to the new normal. My business partner had started working with shifting her event planning clients to virtual meet ups so we used the same tool to develop a virtual studio. One of our goals has always been to expand our online community to a more global reach so it was the perfect time to develop and release and app. As of July 2020. the “SWEAT + SOUL HOUSE” app is free to download with features like live workouts, text message affirmations, special discounts and giveaways. We are excited to expand our community on our app and continue connecting, educating, and empowering our user in the journey to the happiest, healthiest version of themselves!

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Now more than ever you have to enjoy the simple pleasures of being outdoors in this California weather. Since most business are closed or super limited, I like to spend time on the beach or on a hike social distancing from people and tapping into nature to help me stay grounded through these crazy times. I like to switch up my scenery and use the SWEAT + SOUL HOUSE app to stream my workouts anywhere I go. But the one place I think everyone should try to experience if you make it to the west coast is Nobu in Malibu. There’s something about the sun setting over the water while listening to the waves crash and the taste of the yellow tail sashimi just makes it feel like you’re floating in nirvana. Or at least it does to me 😉

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
First, I always have to give thanks to God for the life he anointed me to live. And then, list could really go on forever because I would be nothing without the people that support me, encourage me, believe in me, and BUY from me! My family, friends, vendors and everyone in between, has played an intricate role in the development of my story. Honorable mention goes to my business partner, Sandra Aderibigbe, for helping me bring my dream to life.

Website: sweatandsoulfitness.com
Instagram: @claudia_evelin
Twitter: @sweatandsoulfit
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sweatandsoulapparel
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCIsiZQcwvYtFMKtyLn_mBVw?view_as=subscriber

Image Credits
Photographer for professional images: Justin McGlockton @iamjtgallery

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutHTX is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.