Flossmoor woman recognized by Women’s Business Development Center
BY DANIELLE NEVELES Correspondent September 4, 2013 2:18PM
Latrice Walker | Supplied photo
Updated: October 6, 2013 6:10AM
July 13, 1976, was the day when everything changed for Latrice Y. Walker.
She wasn’t just Latrice anymore. She was a mommy, and the moment she saw all 8 pounds, 2.5 ounces and 22 inches of her baby girl, everything shifted.
She wanted to be the best she could be, do the best she could for her little girl, Cortriceza.
“My daughter made me who I am today,” the Flossmoor woman said. “I mark everything in life with her.”
Researching the best practices for child care was a priority: from how to educate her daughter, how to stimulate her mind, to just simply helping her grow. She had her daughter reading at a kindergarten level at 31/2 years old, she said.
That’s where Walker’s motivation to start a business named Pre-Fit came from. Everything she did with her daughter, she wanted to share with other children.
Today, Walker, 56, is founder and chief executive officer of Pre-Fit, a preschool fitness program centered on the belief that learning is developed through movement. Pre-Fit instructors visit preschools and teach children their exercise routines.
The program combines sports, exercise, health and pre-physics to help nurture children’s social, emotional, intellectual and physical development.
For her work, Walker was recognized this year with the inaugural Legacy Award from the Chicago-based Women’s Business Development Center.
Walker, a graduate of Thornwood High School in South Holland, started her research in 1985. She would sit at her living room table with papers scattered across it. She noticed trends then in child obesity and wanted to give children the desire to be fit.
“If children could be more active, they would probably not struggle as much physically,” she said during a recent interview, tears forming in her eyes and her voice cracking.
When she found out being physically fit could help children develop mentally, she became even more determined and found correlations between cognitive skills and movement.
But starting Pre-Fit wasn’t easy. No one wanted to finance this type of business venture. She ended up having to use her own funds to launch the program in 1987.
Despite the challenges, Walker grew the business. In 1992, she created Children’s Health & Executive Club franchises, centers to strengthen children’s physical and mental abilities, with three Chicago-area locations.
Walker closed the franchises in 2002, but now there’s a “Pre-fit in a box” program that allows families to do Pre-fit routines at home. And Gym-N-Class helps teachers creatively explore physical activity sessions based on their learning environment.
Walker’s mission is for Pre-fit “to serve the greatest number of children at the least amount of cost.” She said serving others has been a passion since she was a little girl and her grandparents used to ask her to give away a toy to a child in need — and not just a toy she didn’t play with, they emphasized, but one she played with frequently.
Despite the success of Pre-Fit, being a businesswoman wasn’t always easy. Walker said she wishes she knew in her early years what she knows now, and that joining the Women’s Business Development Center and having that support system has meant a lot. The nonprofit provides resources, services and support for women entrepreneurs.
When the WBDC presented Walker with the inaugural Hedy M. Ratner and S. Carol Dougal Legacy Award on June 1, she immediately started crying.
“When Hedy said, ‘We looked around at the child care community, and the hundreds of women who have helped the WBDC build its child care program for the past 15 years. And one person stood head and shoulders above the rest,’ I just started crying,” Walker said. “It’s one thing trying to do what you love but to be recognized for it is amazing.”
Walker has been active with the organization for 15 years, including serving on the advisory council.
“We chose Latrice Walker as she embodies the principles of the WBDC — the importance of supporting women as they create powerful businesses and move toward financial independence,” Ratner and Dougal said in a statement. “Latrice has owned multiple successful businesses, she is a skilled trainer and an inspiring teacher, she has devoted countless hours toward supporting women in early childhood education and helped the WBDC create a powerful system of support to child care business owners.”
Walker’s motivation is much easier to express.
“I want to leave a legacy of learning for children,” she said.
For more information on Pre-fit, visit www.pre-fit.com.