A talented petroleum engineer and a Big 4 accountant — together, they could succeed just about anywhere in the world.
So why would Scott ’11 and Rachel Worthington Burhnam ’12 return to the small-city life of Marietta to start up a fitness center in the heart of downtown?
“I don’t know if I’d want to do this anywhere else but here,” said Rachel, who co-owns Rockstar Wellness, LLC, with her husband, Scott, whose 8-to-5 job is as a full-time engineer for a natural gas distribution company. “To me, one of the great things about starting this small business is the community. We have a lot of support behind us — from the other businesses located downtown to the people in the community and the College. We have so many people on our side.”
The two met at Marietta as students — Scott studied to be a petroleum engineer and Rachel was focused on working as a public accountant at one of the Big 4 firms. Both graduated, left the Marietta area and reached their individual goals. They married in 2015. But the downturn in the oil and gas industry and another passion that the couple shared — fitness — soon led the couple to move back to the area.
“We had a lot of people tell us we were coming into an over-saturated area,” Rachel said. “We opened right on the heels of Planet Fitness, and there are so many other gyms in the area, but we felt really strongly about what we could bring to an area like Marietta.”
Scott is an avid runner and handles a variety of management and day-to-day operations at the fitness studio, which is located on Second Street. When the pandemic hit, the Burnhams were prepared to keep the fledgling business open.
“Mentally we were prepared,” Scott said. “It was one of those times that you just had to roll with the punches. That’s also how it is in petroleum engineering: you make the best decision with the best information that you have. Going remote was a challenge but we navigated it very quickly. We knew there was a demand and we just had to figure out how to provide it. Our clients were still there and they still needed to have what we had to offer.”
Rachel says walking away from her original plan to be a Big 4 accountant in order to follow her dream of helping others achieve a healthy lifestyle was never a tradeoff.
“My favorite story is of a young woman who came in for her very first class,” Rachel said. “She works for a nearby bank and she knew she’d have to walk by our place every day so she let a coworker talk her into coming.”
The woman had no idea what a fitness class would be like or how she would be treated. Rachel and staff learned her name the first day and got to know about the woman as much as she would share.
“She was a back row participant for a while and, within three months, she was shining in the front row,” Rachel said. “Now, she’s an instructor. It’s my favorite success story — being able to watch her confidence grow, and now it flows out of her. To me, that’s what this business is about; that’s what makes Rockstar one of the most rewarding things. It changes people’s minds and it changes the way people care for themselves. Can you imagine being able to help someone do that?”
Scott admires how much his wife puts into their business and how much care she invests in their clients. Though he works a full-time job and carves out a little time for his own personal running before putting in additional hours at Rockstar Fitness, he said the business is truly a passion project.
“Since opening Rockstar, I see how it has been an inspiration within the community,” he said. “There are several gyms in the area, and ours is unique. It’s been uplifting to see the success that our customers have had. It’s not just about losing weight; it’s seeing people who have been able to use our exercise classes as therapy for other illnesses in their lives. From the owner’s perspective, being able to watch other people’s journeys has been uplifting and it inspires us to keep going because we know we are having an impact.”
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