Entrepreneur Lindsey Kaalberg fell in love with yoga, but was disheartened by the industry’s treatment of its teachers. So she decided to start a revolution, creating her own studio brand where teachers finally receive the respect—and rewards—they deserve.
Although their occupation revolves around physical activity, it seems like trainers and instructors are constantly on the move. I always assumed it was part of the hustle until my favorite spin instructor revealed there was more to it. She was auditioning for a major cycling studio because the prospect of teaching one class at only one or two studios was worth losing her following. She was exhausted from running all over the city, sick of working for multiple companies, and determined to receive a steady paycheck.
That scenario is all too familiar for many members of the fitness industry—and just like any other career, personal trainers and teachers need a sense of community and stability to thrive. For yoga teacher and entrepreneur Lindsey Kaalberg, the negligent treatment became apparent as soon as she completed her certification. But instead of resigning herself to the grind, she saw the opportunity to nav. a revolution.
Controlling the Grind
Kaalberg was hooked from her first yoga class; within in a year, she completed her training and began working as a teacher. But she quickly realized the teaching system in her industry was broken. She didn’t receive compensation for creating classes, or healthcare benefits. She traveled between five different studios to make ends meet, which meant she wasn’t able to find a place within the teaching community. “It was a grind, and I love a good grind, but only when I believe it’s for a system with pure intentions,” says Kaalberg.
Rather than driving her away, the “burn and turn” system only sharpened her focus on her end goal: to own her own studio. Instead of forcing teachers to pay for their own training, teach unpaid classes, and battle amongst themselves for positions, Kaalberg envisioned a model that respected teachers, and was respected by them. By setting that organizational culture, she believed the supportive and clearly cultivated environment would foster a better yoga experience for her clients.
Transforming the System
“Owners of yoga studios and other business owners constantly told me ‘That will never work’ and ‘Why would you do that instead of just using the brand to make a killer profit?’” says Kaalberg. “It fueled me to prove them all wrong. When people tell me no, I’ve always wanted to say yes three times louder.”
Prove them wrong, she did. Today, her studio, Ritual Hot Yoga, has locations in San Francisco’s Financial District and Soma, as well as an outpost in Chicago’s River North neighborhood. Her full-time teachers—14 in total—are paid a salary, receive healthcare benefits, and are compensated for their training. She also employs nearly 30 part-time assistants who end up making more than most of the industry’s full-time teachers. Offering living wages and sustainable career paths has not only had a positive effect on her staff, but her business.
“Our team blows me away every single day. They build the community, create the experience, and come up with more innovative ideas than I ever could. They drive the business,” says Kaalberg.
Another systematic flaw Kaalberg wants to debunk is the idea that being an entrepreneur in the yoga industry has conflicting interests. The clarity and mindfulness she’s learned through her practice has actually strengthened her business savvy—and in turn, her practice has benefitted from her business endeavors.
“When I need to make a decision, my mind is clear. When shit hits the fan, I remain calm. When eight hours of data entry needs to be completed, I stay focused,” she says. “Hold high-plank for five minutes…I’m on it. Mediate for 60 minutes…bring it on. Write an onboarding manual for three weeks…give it to me.”
She also wants to crush any taboos about profiting from yoga—and taboos around money in the industry in general. For her, it’s a no-brainer: classes at Ritual are a premium price because her teachers create premium experiences and deserve to be adequately compensated for them. Discounting her product isn’t an option, since devaluing it would directly (and negatively) affect her staff.
Through her experiences, Kaalberg has identified a correlation between the industry’s cheddar qualms and its primary practitioner: women. Although the yoga world is dominated by women, it’s the prominent male yoga teachers who appear to have no issue with profiting from it. “Money is a powerful tool that allows us to fulfill our mission. I want women and yoga teachers to be empowered to value themselves—and that does include monetarily.”
No Pain, No Gain
With three studios to her name and more on the horizon, Kaalberg seems unstoppable in her mission to revolutionize the yoga industry. And she has advice for fellow female entrepreneurs who want to make a difference.
“Make the bullshit worth it,” she says. “Starting a business isn’t glamorous: ‘If you’re not failing, you’re not trying hard enough.’ You’ll experience the negative, but there’s a strong difference between experiencing the negative and being negative. If you truly care about your mission, all of the bullshit will be worth it.”