Business: The Hot Room
Owners: Hye Jin and Ash Kalgaonkar
We fell in love with hot yoga when we were living in New York City for a few years. We then moved overseas and spent three years in Europe, where we had the opportunity to continue our practices in various countries. Hye Jin loved it so much that she became trained to become an instructor. When we came back to Indianapolis, there wasn’t a hot yoga studio here, so Hye Jin decided to open her own in 2013; that’s how The Hot Room got its start.
We truly believe in the practice of yoga. We feel it is the best combination of physical, mental and spiritual exercise, and it can complement any other exercise or stand on its own. We offer original hot yoga, Vinyasa, Yin, yoga sculpt and Pilates classes for all levels, and since launching we’ve expanded to two locations in Indianapolis and one location on Chicago’s North Shore. Since 2013, we've been a catalyst in helping develop vibrant, diverse and strong communities in Indianapolis. Our team and our community are a big family. When the shelter-in-place orders started, we were in the middle of building a fourth studio in Fishers, Indiana.
In mid-March, closing the doors to our physical studios was one of the hardest things we’ve had to do since launching the business. But with our community at the center of our decision-making, we knew this would be a time when we all needed yoga the most. This is what we had been preparing for over the years of our practice. So the bright spot was that we could finally build out our virtual offerings and create The Hot Room Now. It was something we’d always wanted to venture into but had never had the time to focus on because we were so busy running the day-to-day operations at our studios. Here’s how we shifted our business as soon as the stay-at-home orders started.
WE FLIPPED TO VIRTUAL CLASSES QUICKLY
We saw the closures coming, and had started streaming some classes from our studios with just our instructors and a few staff members even before we had to shut down our physical locations. But this was the first time we had done an entire yoga class on a virtual platform, and the previous streaming we’d done helped us prepare for when the stay-at-home orders began.
We basically flipped all our classes to virtual ones over a weekend, with our instructors live-streaming out of their homes using Zoom. But it wasn’t like they could just open up their computers and start teaching. We had to have the right set up, the right quality, good audio — there’s a lot of behind-the-scenes work that goes into it. We also have a team member who plays host during the class, who monitors the chat function, mutes people and deals with any technical issues so the instructors don’t have to. I think the fact that we were able to pivot so quickly is what has kept us competitive during this time.
We were also able to devise a system for selling the amazing apparel that we have in our boutique online. We added some fun by having contests, and we personally dropped off home deliveries for orders over $100. Because people were practicing from home, they needed the right yoga gear like mats, blocks, straps, etc., and it became another great way to support our small business.
WE CREATED TIERED MEMBERSHIP SERVICES
We have people who are paying for memberships and needed to be respectful of that. So we created membership tiers, which helps us attract new customers and makes sure we provide premium services to our current members. Anyone who is brand new to us gets a week of free access to our live-streamed classes. After the trial, you can join at a membership level that continues to give you access to our daily schedule of classes; we typically livestream four or five classes a day.
People at our top tier of membership also get 24/7 access to our recorded classes, as well as access to a private members’ Facebook page where we share additional health and wellness content. We meet every afternoon at 3 pm and stream specially curated classes. We’ve done family yoga sessions as well as covered other lifestyle topics taught by our staff, things like cooking classes or skin-care lessons. One of our most popular classes was on how to make a charcuterie board. It was really interesting to see how many people were interested in that! It’s helped our staff find ways to reinvent themselves and provided a new way to connect to our community off the mat.
WE’RE ALWAYS BRAINSTORMING WAYS TO EXPAND ONLINE
We know that a virtual platform will continue to be a part of our business model, which means online classes were just the beginning. We’ve dedicated time and resources to launch The Hot Room Now, which brings our instructors into professionally recorded classes so that anyone can access The Hot Room from anywhere. Members can access unlimited classes on The Hot Room Now for $39 per month with the first week free.
What we’ve loved about going virtual is that we’re able to connect with people all across the country and all over the world. We have people from Austria to Mexico coming to our classes. It’s expanded our reach and enabled our community to access our awesome teachers and classes from wherever they are.
Hye Jin and Ash Kalgaonkar are clients of Northwestern Mutual. They work with Wise Financial in Indianapolis.
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