• Redefining Fitness
  • Posts
  • If you build it, they will come. 🧘🏽‍♀️🧘🏻‍♀️🧘🏾‍♂️🧘🏼

If you build it, they will come. 🧘🏽‍♀️🧘🏻‍♀️🧘🏾‍♂️🧘🏼

Industry-revolutionizing updates from FitGrid, a true community builder and her successful Bikram franchise, and more on how we’re #RedefiningFitness.

Welcome back to #RedefiningFitness! I’m glad you’re here, and I hope you’ve invited a friend or two as well.

If you’re new here, or we aren’t connected on LinkedIn, this newsletter is a dedicated space to share wisdom, shout-out people doing amazing work (like you), and support each other in making the world a better and more fulfilling place, one small community at a time.

Each issue highlights a fitness studio/owner who's making cool moves in their community and helping to redefine fitness beyond the confines of the studio or gym. And this month is no exception – I’m honored to introduce you to Hye Jin Kalgaonkar, Owner/Founder of The Hot Room.

She’s one of the sharpest business people I know and managed to not only sustain, but grow her studio franchise during Covid. A total badass. Okay, let's get to it!

Studio Highlight: Hye Jin Kalgaonkar and The Hot Room

Hye Jin’s story is truly one of passion meets purpose. Born in Seoul, Korea and raised in Seattle, Hye Jin (@hjkyoga) started working for Eli Lilly after college, which led her to Indianapolis. Along the way she and her husband, Ashish, discovered Bikram yoga.

When she decided to move to Indianapolis, Hye Jin surveyed the yoga scene and realized Bikram yoga was not offered there. So they decided since no one else was doing it, they would!

In her spare time Hye Jin loves spending time with her husband, Ash, their two girls, Maya and Annika, and their dog Cooper. When she’s not in The Hot Room, she’s outside hiking, traveling, and exploring new cities.

A Conversation with Hye Jin

Q: You started The Hot Room after realizing a need for a Bikram space in Indianapolis. Did you always expect to have a career interest in fitness?

I really had no interest in a career in fitness until I didn't have access to a good hot yoga studio. I couldn't live in Indianapolis without it, so my husband and I decided to build it ourselves.

I've always had a passion for movement and fitness. I grew up as a competitive gymnast, dabbled in long distance running, and I have taken every cardio junkie class ever created. 🙂 I found hot yoga in NYC while working a high stress sales manager job and it changed my life. I had never felt better in body and mind AND I wasn't beating up my body!

Q: Wow. Definitely unexpected! And super impressive. What advice might you give someone who knows they’re interested in starting a boutique fitness studio?

My first piece of advice to someone interested in opening their own boutique fitness studio.... Never give up your personal practice or workout time. You have to make it a priority. For many of us, we decide to make the big leap to opening a studio because we love the workout or practice. If you lose that time to do what you love, you will quickly regret the decision.

A big reason why I love my studios and career is because I LOVE taking classes with the community. I used to be at the top of the list for taking the most number of classes. After 9 years, several people have surpassed me but I'm still probably top 10 🙂

Q: So… I know you got a sneak peek of the AI innovations FitGrid is bringing to the floor. What was your take on how that might be beneficial to your studio, and to the average studio in general?

My first reaction to the AI innovations: "This will certainly help us elevate the quality of our conversations with clients and SAVE time." One of the struggles I have as a studio owner is balancing automations and personalization.

Clients want to feel heard, seen and supported as unique individuals. We have to do a better job of understanding what clients are looking for and communicating how we can support them. I always tell my team that most often, the reason people do not come back for another class is that we didn’t do a good enough job of communicating the value of coming back. The new AI features will definitely help with this!

Q: You're a cheerleader for the industry at this time when there’s still a lot of uncertainty for small boutique studios (66% are at or below revenue from 2019 pre-Covid). How are you navigating the slow comeback now, and what positive signs are you seeing that give you confidence in the industry’s future?

I remain optimistic because what we do transforms lives and heals people's bodies and minds. Coming out of the pandemic, we know that even more people are making their physical and mental health a priority. The hardest part is to get someone to show up and give it go.

That's our job… We must do better at consistently communicating to our communities how we can help and what there is to lose by not taking action. Another positive sign—I am seeing more and more clients looking for ways to support their mental health. I love that people are more open to talking about it and sharing what works for them.

Never forget: How we communicate what we do, is far more important than what we actually do.

Q: Tell us a bit about how Covid impacted you, your studios, and what you did to make it through so successfully (including growing during the pandemic!).

Yes, prior to Covid we had two studios and had just acquired a third in December of 2019, a few months before the shutdown. Our plan in 2020 was to open additional studios, and we kept to that plan. We were optimistic that more people would need this space for community and for their mental and physical health.

It wasn't easy, but we remained focused and opened two more studios despite the pandemic. I give all the credit to my team. During a time where we could have put our hands up in the air, given up or "taken a break," we did the exact opposite.

We got creative, we got fun, and we found a way to stay connected to the community and help so many people even though our doors were shut down and we had countless challenges thrown our way. Everyone remained so positive and we created memories and experiences for our community that will never be forgotten.

Q: Just incredible. Finally, what's your favorite part about being a founder/owner of The Hot Room and all its locations?

Building community. I love building a diverse community where everyone feels like they belong. I love witnessing people from very different backgrounds connecting in our welcoming space. How lucky are we that we get to make a positive impact and change lives on a daily basis! I am forever grateful for the opportunity to see people walk out of our studios loving life and accessing a higher version of themselves every single day. Life is too short to live any other way!


Told you she’s a star! If you don’t love Hye Jin as much as I do after reading that, get outta here! Just kidding (sort of).

In my eyes, she’s an icon, and an excellent example of the kind of studio founder who is doing great work in the world.

If you’re in the Indianapolis area, be sure to book a class at one of The Hot Room locations—I know you’ll feel welcomed, and you’ll definitely get a good workout! Just tell her I sent you and she’ll laugh and put you in my favorite pose, “savasana” (resting pose).

Check it out

My latest article on LinkedIn explores the massive opportunities to leverage AI technology in the boutique fitness industry, from personalization to marketing to communications.

Studio owners already wear a hundred hats at once just keeping the doors open and classes running, and these new technologies offer relief from duties like data tracking, analysis, and customer retention outreach.

(Let’s be honest—it doesn’t relieve us of those duties. It enables us to actually do them period😂)

Until next time...

Thanks for joining me again in our community effort to #RedefineFitness. It takes a village, truly. I hope you were inspired by Hye Jin’s passion for community, as well as her business acumen and nonstop drive. (I still can’t get over the fact that she almost doubled her studio franchise during Covid, but if anyone can, it’s her.)

We’ve got some MAJOR news from FitGrid coming next week, and if you’re a studio owner, you’re gonna want to pay attention.

I’ll give you a hint: It involves taking some work off your plate and passing it off to your new AI assistant. 🦾

Finally, if you haven't subscribed yet, you can do that here — make sure you don't miss future newsletters! You can also forward this to friends who need inspiration, too.

I'll be back next month with another epic studio highlight, and with more details on FitGrid’s newest evolution. It’s going to revolutionize fitness.

See you in May,