Dramatic life turnaround fuels entrepreneur who is striving to address obesity in Tampa Bay

It is appropriate that entrepreneur and fitness and nutrition enthusiast Billy Womack is emerging as a dynamic leader in the Tampa Bay market for ViSalus.

After all, ViSalus is the company behind the Body by Vi™ Challenge, a 90-day personal health and lifestyle transformation platform, and Womack is a living example of resilience who has already lived a full life at 40 after building and selling multiple successful businesses, losing everything when he served eight months in jail for ecstasy charges, cleaning up his life and rebounding as a successful entrepreneur committed to helping curb America’s battle with obesity.

Earlier this year, ViSalus eclipsed $1 billion in product sales in three years from its weight loss products. The company was founded by Nick Sarnicola, Blake Mallen and Ryan Blair, a former gang member who inspirationally transformed his life.

Inspiring men and women alike who are striving to improve their health is fueling Womack, who like Blair has overcome adversity to make a positive difference in the community.

A Florida native, Womack relocated with his family to Arkansas as a child and earned the state’s High School Basketball Player of the Year honors in 1991 and was set to attend the University of Arkansas, but instead went to junior college and a knee injury ended his hoop dreams.

He served for four years in the United States Air Force and then joined GTE (now Verizon), working his way to the company’s No. 2 revenue-producing salesman in the world and the company’s Rookie of the Year award in his first year. He was 24, and doors were opening.

Womack’s path led him into a business that designed websites for professional athletes, which resulted in an expanded opportunity to coordinate and host parties for celebrities. That propelled Womack into the night club and restaurant business, and an unsavory lifestyle that almost destroyed him.

He was entranced by the lavish party lifestyle and started using drugs for the first time in his life. Ecstasy was his substance of choice, and the addiction grew so strong that he eventually started dealing. His world crumbled when he was arrested and then sentenced to jail for distribution. At the age of 30, his once seemingly exciting life crumbled. Womack lost his posh home and his high-priced sports cars. His girlfriend – the woman he planned to marry – left him, and he did not see his daughter for two years.

“When I was arrested for drugs, I was sick and tired of looking over my shoulder about what I was doing,” Womack said. “Ironically, I felt a huge weight lifted when I was incarcerated. It helped me get away from that lifestyle, and I prayed that when I was released that God would help me turn my life around and help me do something good for people.

I didn’t know what God had in store for me,” Womack added, “But I knew I was confident that I would be used as a positive example.”

Jail could have marked the beginning of the end for Womack. Statistics indicate that a majority of inmates in prison remain mired in crime after they are released. Womack was remorseful for what he had done and vowed to make a positive difference in his life, and in the lives of others, when he gained his freedom.

“When I got out, focused on looking for a job, but even with my positive military background and success with a Fortune 500 company nobody would hire me because of my incarceration,” Womack said. “Regardless, I vowed that, no matter how things got, I would never turn back to what landed me in jail to begin with.

“If it wasn’t for my Christian faith I would not have turned my life around,” Womack said. “If you screw up in life, just don’t make the same mistake again, and make the most of your second chance, if you are blessed to get one.”

Womack kept believing in himself, even when doors seemed to remain closed after getting his second chance at freedom.

“I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I knew that I had been successful as an entrepreneur before, and there was no reason I could not be a success again,” Womack said. “Only this time, I wanted to be someone who was well-respected for the right reasons, and a man who was a benefit for others instead of focused on himself.”

Womack spent time in sales roles before learning about ViSalus from a friend, two-time Olympian champion bodybuilder and fitness model Jenny Lynn. It was Lynn who recognized Womack’s entrepreneurial drive and persuaded him to join the ViSalus team.

“I’m passionate about ViSalus because it is not a company that emphasizes products. It inspires and motivates through the Body by Vi 90-Challenge, which is creating healthy lifestyles,” Womack said. “Diets are not always effective, but adopting a healthy lifestyle that includes fitness, nutrition and positive thinking is lasting and produces results.”

Obesity has evolved into such a chronic problem in the United States that the American Media Association declared it a disease earlier this year. It is a disease that afflicts men, women and children of all ethnic backgrounds. In fact, the AMA reports that one out of every three Americans is obese.

The majority of children and adults who are already obese, ScienceDaily.com reported, will likely struggle with the condition over the course of their lives – unless they abruptly change their lifestyle. The outlet also wrote that, since young children today are living in an environment where obesity is more commonplace than it was 20 years ago, they can fall into and remain mired in unhealthy habits that lead to excessive weight gain – if they do not learn healthy alternatives.

ViSalus kicked off 2013 with a campaign to conquer obesity called Project 10™, a initiative that awards a total of $10,000 to 10 people who lose 10 pounds every week through participation in the Body by Vi 90-Challenge.

In his first year with ViSalus, Womack has generated $150,000 a month in sales and is reaching his objective to have a positive impact on helping address the obesity issue with people of all ethnic backgrounds. Recently, he brought on leaders in the Latino and Indian communities in Tampa Bay to spearhead a movement of 90-Day Challenges to address the obesity epidemic.

Womack continues to build ViSalus in the Tampa Bay area and is speaking about entrepreneurship, healthy lifestyles and overcoming adversity to groups across the region. He is writing a book about his resurgence titled “From Bars to Stars” and is exhilarated about the present and the future.

“My life could have been over – as far as being a useful and positive member of society – when I went to prison. Instead, I chose to re-invent myself and become a better person who makes a difference,” Womack said. “Many people who are battling obesity believe that there is no hope of ever losing the weight and getting healthy, but with the 90-Challenge, and the support system that ViSalus provides, they gain confidence when they start seeing results.

“What I love about my new life and my new career is that I can earn a comfortable living being involved in something that dramatically changes lives for the better,” Womack. “It’s not too late for any of us to make the adjustments in our lives to feel better about who we are.”

For more information, visit www.billywomack.com.