RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Ethel Velasquez said she never thought she would open her own gym during a pandemic. But her need to workout when gyms were closed temporarily in 2020, quickly turned her passion into a business.

When she isn’t teaching at Richmond Public Schools or making macramés for her other side business “Knotty Things,” you can find her at The Box RVA, a boot camp-style gym in Willow Lawn.

“I still needed to work out because fitness is the only thing that keeps me sane, it’s my outlet,” Velasquez said.

“The Box” started out as just group workout sessions with friends. Now, it’s a gym offering memberships, daily boot camp-style classes, personal training sessions, virtual classes and even pop-ups.

The Box RVA is located in Willow Lawn and features daily boot camp style workouts. (Photo: 8News)

Velasquez, who immigrated from Peru with her family at the age of four, said entrepreneurship has always run in their blood.

“I was very young, but I was able to witness the process — them coming, working. We really came with nothing. And that really motivates you to not just work a job but build your own business and leave your mark here in a positive way,” Velasquez said.

Ethel Velasquez (L) stands with her family for a family portrait in front of the White House. (Photo provided by Velasquez)
Ethel Velasquez (L) stands with her family for a family portrait in front of the White House. (Photo provided by Velasquez)

What she witnessed, drives her to keep growing her business.

“Being able to do what I love and make a business out of it is a dream for me — an American dream. I am comfortable. I am living. I am not working for someone in the gym and I can share this with everyone.”

Velasquez said she wants people to build a healthy and positive relationship with fitness. Working out doesn’t have to be a drag, she said.

“The most important thing is you can’t come into this lifestyle in a negative way. You can’t be like ‘I am going to work out because I hate my body.’ You are already thinking negatively. You need to start working out because you love yourself. It’s really self-care,” Velasquez said.

Velasquez said many of her members come to “The Box” with that mindset but over time learn to love fitness and ultimately see it as a form of therapy.

“I love seeing their mindset totally change and also they are physically changing too,” she said.

Clients workout at The Box RVA in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo: 8News)
Clients work out at The Box RVA in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo: 8News)

For other Latinos wanting to build generational wealth through a business, Velasquez encourages them to just do it.

“I would have never done this if it wasn’t because of COVID and it turned into literally my dream job,” Velasquez said.

The 8News Hispanic Heritage Month special will air on 8News at 12 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 12.