Photography by Dan Austin
Husband-and-wife team Trey Smith and Atenea Lara are on a mission to redefine health and fitness through their ambitious and holistic companies.
It’s not uncommon for couples to have similar interests or even own a business together. In this case, Trey Smith (RDN, LDN) and Atenea Lara are a dynamic husband-and-wife duo who have been building their health and fitness businesses for many years. Though they each have their own distinct business (Trey owns Smith Advanced Nutrition Enterprise and Atenea owns Inspiring Fitness), they work together to inspire and motivate one another.
Atenea and Trey’s journey began in 2013 when the couple met in Orlando while attending the National Personal Trainer Institute at the National Academy of Sports Medicine. Atenea, who had been coaching and training clients in her home country of Mexico for a number of years, enrolled in the program to earn certifications that would allow her to engage clients outside of Mexico. Trey, who was on active duty with the Air Force, attended the program in order to help his unit meet their goals on the physical fitness test.
“We met over casual conversation and agreed on two things: how much we loved Florida and how important it was for us both to grow our fitness businesses,” says Atenea.
After a few months, the training came to an end. Atenea returned home to Mexico, and Trey returned to Atlanta where he was stationed. The couple continued their relationship and dated over the course of four years.
In 2017, Trey left active duty and joined the reserves. He moved to Lakeland and enrolled at Keiser University to pursue a bachelor’s degree in dietetics and human nutrition. Within a few months, he proposed to Atenea and she too moved to Lakeland.
Atenea is currently creating a six-month comprehensive online certification program for people who want to become coaches.
They both loved Florida, and while they were not yet sure if the small town of Lakeland would be a good fit for them, the Dietetics and Nutrition Coordinated Program at Keiser combined an internship and classroom learning experience. Trey was able to earn his degree faster at Keiser than in other programs. In addition, the program was also flexible and respectful of his deployment schedule, allowing him to stay on track to graduate.
There was a charm to Lakeland and a community that Trey and Atenea felt drawn to. They eventually got married in the States and hosted a big reception with family and friends in Mexico. When Trey graduated, the couple realized that Lakeland had become home and began to plan a future as newlyweds and entrepreneurs.
Atenea’s ambition to expand her company, Inspiring Fitness, created an opportunity to find a great community, especially at Catapult where she has an office and Trey utilizes the co-working space. “Catapult has been a huge [deciding] factor [on calling Lakeland home], at least for me,” says Atenea. “I work remotely, therefore community and space are important. My friends are here.”
Another factor in their decision to stay in Lakeland is how supportive they have found the community to be. “As an interracial couple, it was important to find a place where we felt comfortable… [and] we have found that,” says Atenea.
As with many people in the fitness field, Atenea started as an athlete first, participating in fitness competitions. After achieving success, people began asking her how she did it and if she could help them train. Eventually she had to make a choice: stay at her stable job or take a risk to follow her passion.
“…And I think that is the real crux of being a nutritionist, and nutrition in general: It’s helping people feel better. You don’t have to look a [certain] way to feel good.”
Atenea was nervous about quitting her job, but with the help of her family she was able to step out in confidence. “It was a big game changer because I realized how powerful it is to take risks, but at the same time, how important it is to have somebody… that [person] saying, ‘You’ve got this and I have your back.’”
Now, Atenea wants to be that encouragement and support for other women and is transitioning her business to focus on training, hiring, and supporting fitness coaches. She is currently creating a six-month comprehensive online certification program for people who want to become coaches. She plans to launch her program in January of 2021.
In addition to building Smith Advanced Nutrition Enterprise, Trey works at Brandon Regional Hospital a few days a week. His business is focused on coaching clients to be the healthiest version of themselves. In the future, Trey hopes to connect with corporate communities to help employees achieve and maintain healthy lifestyles, which in turn would lower insurance premiums.
A registered dietitian is an expert in food and nutritional science, and, since becoming an RDN, Trey’s perception has shifted as to what makes a healthy person. He now believes in a more holistic approach. Instead of just focusing on physique, he wants to be someone “who wants to live longer, feel better when he wakes up in the morning, and has more energy throughout his day. And I think that is the real crux of being a nutritionist, and nutrition in general: It’s helping people feel better. You don’t have to look a [certain] way to feel good.”
There have been tough lessons along the way which have caused both Atenea and Trey to grow as people and entrepreneurs. Atenea’s advice to those who are thinking of starting a business is three-fold: 1) take time to validate the idea before doing anything else; 2) hire people who are good at the things you are not good at; and 3) identify ways to evaluate how you are doing.
“It’s so easy to feel like you’re doing great when you’re not, because I’ve done that, and also feel like you’re doing really bad when you’re actually doing pretty good, because I’ve done that too,” says Atenea. “It’s hard to assess your real value in the market, so finding ways to ground yourself and find perspective are key.”
Atenea and Trey help their clients focus on multiple ways that they can make progress beyond what they see when they step on the scale. “What we try to tell people is, ‘progress, not perfection,’” says Trey.
Whether it’s helping health and fitness clients or guiding entrepreneurs ready to join them on the mission to spread the holistic wellness message, this health-and-fitness duo hope to make a difference by impacting people’s lives in Lakeland and beyond.
“One day,” says Trey, “I want to look at my son or daughter and tell them that their dad risked everything for them: his career, failing, he risked everything, in order to believe in a dream.”