Boss Women: Highlighting businesswomen in Eau Claire

Cherish Woodford of CrossFit River Prairie hopes to cultivate confidence, community and health through her business

Taylor Reisdorf

More stories from Taylor Reisdorf

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March 25, 2020

Business ownership doesn’t necessarily require a business degree or copious amounts of experience. Something that is required, however, is passion. Cherish Woodford’s CrossFit River Prairie journey has been fueled by her passion for fitness and helping others.

Woodford worked as a delivery nurse for years but, as a single mother, needed to change departments for her four kids — she needed something with more stability regarding the hours she worked.

About three years ago, Woodford said she fell in love with CrossFit.

“Everyone wants to get healthy and better themselves, but I find with CrossFit it turns into more,” Woodford said. “It’s a safe place for people to come, usually develop good friendships. People rally around you when you go through hard times. I lost a brother and went through a divorce through my CrossFit journey and it was my outlet to be able to come and de-stress. It’s an hour out of people’s day to take care of themselves, to really focus on taking care of themselves without feeling guilty.”

When the opportunity to open a gym of her own presented itself, Woodford said she was worried about how she was going to be able, as a single mother, to pull it off. However, everything came together smoothly. The space was secured in February, construction started in April and CrossFit River Prairie opened its doors June 18, Woodford said.

“It formed a lot faster than I thought,” Woodford said. “I thought it was going to be a couple of years down the road, but everything came together with location and opportunity so I just had to jump for it and hope for the best.”

CrossFit, Woodford said, is still a somewhat small entity. She said she was worried that finding people with experience, and who weren’t already coaches somewhere else, would be a challenge. The search was a process, but the team she did find has been crucial to her establishment and success. CrossFit River Prairie has established a solid foundation of coaches and staff, and there’s been a consistent trickle of new members, Woodford said.

Woodford said business ownership been nerve-wracking, especially as someone with no prior business experience, but worthwhile. Business ownership has been the ultimate learning experience, Woodford said. The process has brought her and her business’s strengths and weaknesses to light. She’s learned and made adjustments as she continues on her journey, she said.

“I do feel that if you’re genuine and do things for the right reason, it will naturally develop,” Woodford said.

Woodford said Eau Claire, and the River Prairie area in particular, has really evolved over the last couple of years to be an active community. It’s also an open community, regardless of gender. Woodford said she has never felt discouraged or inhibited because she is a woman.

Eau Claire is very family-oriented, Woodford said, and that’s how she wants her business to be. That’s why she added a kid’s room, an area for children to play and hang out while their parents work out.

Nicole Randall — a CrossFit River Prairie coach, mother and nurse — adheres to Woodford’s desire to run a family-oriented business. Her husband is also a coach at CrossFit River Prairie and her children are a major motivator for her to be healthy, so the gym has become a healthy family experience, Randall said.

Woodford’s major hope, she said, is to foster confidence in gym members. She said she wants to help others truly believe in and take care of themselves.

“My mission is to help better (people’s) lives in every shape and form,” Woodford said.

A major thing that holds people back is the expense of CrossFit, Woodford said. However, when it’s broken down, the health benefits — lower chance of diabetes, lower blood pressure, among other things — don’t have a price tag.

“Nobody wants to work all their life and retire and have to spend all of their money on healthcare,” Woodford said.

Randall, also a nurse, said she sees firsthand the need for people to take care of themselves and their health early on. She said she has dealt with many patients who, if they would have known what the state of their health would be in the future, would have treated their bodies better.  

Woodford said she wants the business to keep growing and progressing naturally. Ideally, CrossFit River Prairie will become more involved with community events and potentially makes stops in different schools.

“At this point, we’re just trying to grow and show everybody what we’re about, that CrossFit isn’t scary, it’s actually very welcoming and fun if you just walk through the door.”

Reisdorf can be reached at [email protected].