Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in health and wellness but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Rachelle Wintzen, founder of Chi Junky Studio, located in Toronto, ON, Canada.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Chi Junky is a yoga and Pilates studio at its core, but it is so much more. It is a beautiful 4000 sq. ft. space, rooted in community, that feels like a home away from home. The Chi Crew, a team of some of the city's top instructors, and a friendly front desk team create a full sensory experience.
Our intention is not to make people "fitter" but to take you on a journey through a moving meditation from beginning to end. A place to find your exhale moment. We encourage you to move in a way that feels good for you and to let go of the moments before you step onto the mat. As a music-forward movement studio, the music-infused in each class is just as important as the movement, helping to transcend you into your body and out of your head.
I chose to name my business Chi Junky which stems from my own struggle with addiction. I wanted to change the negative connotation of the word addiction into something positive. To become addicted to something good, in this case, your Chi. To become addicted to living our full potential through a vibrant, healthy lifestyle full of vitality every day.
'Ch'i' pronounced CHEE is the Chinese medicine word for life force energy, vitality.
Junky - is inspired by the book 'Junky' by William S. Burroughs, which tells the story of a young man living in New York City who becomes addicted to narcotics.
I don't try to cater to one particular demographic or clientele; the studio aims to be as inclusive of a space as possible, offering a variety of movement classes that are suitable for all ages and bodies. I am working on bringing in a portable wheelchair ramp where we can be more accessible and offer chair yoga. I also offer financial accessibility programs where people can come to the studio on a sliding scale, in addition to giving out free monthly virtual passes. We also are starting to run free weekly classes for anyone called the Good Chi. I truly believe the more good Chi within us, the more we can spread it out and into the world.
Tell us about yourself
Chi Junky was birthed from my own personal experience and struggle with addiction and my journey to changing my life completely. My dream for myself was to be a professional dancer from the age of 4 and to live in New York City, which was inspired by my beloved uncle, who, at age 36, passed away from AIDS. He was a brilliant New York fashion designer and introduced me to the city that stole my heart as a young girl. At 20 years old, I moved to NYC to pursue dance professionally, but after two years, injuries ended my career and left me suffering from deep depression. I began working in the A-list New York City nightlife scene and was immediately under its spell. I developed a dependency that turned into an addiction to hard drugs and alcohol. After many years of suffering, I knew if I didn't leave this lifestyle, I wouldn't live to see past my 30th birthday.
Through many small moments of grace and divine intervention, I met my mentor, Gil Jacobs, who changed my life. By immersing myself under his tutelage, I transformed my lifestyle through holistic modalities, nutrition, and yoga. It was this 180 transformation that allowed me to experience true vitality, my chi (prana - life force energy), and a newfound love for life. Chi Junky was born in New York City in 2010. It became my life's mission to help people change their lives and realize that no matter how impossible it may seem, it is never too late to change. I wanted to create a space where people felt supported to leave it all out on the mat, where they could take a break from the day's chaos and responsibilities. A place people feel they can come back to themselves through self-care, where they can take their exhale moment and reset. The more we can take care of ourselves, the better we can show up for the people we interact with every day.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
It has been the most surreal experience to watch my vision become a reality, where I started teaching four people in 150sq feet that organically grew via word of mouth over the last eight years into something bigger than I ever thought possible. To be a part of a community that has given me more friendships, support, and incredible experiences that have literally changed my life has been worth every single hardship I faced on my journey as a female entrepreneur. After six years of hard work slowly growing the studio to being able to build my dream studio and do a major renovation in 2019. This year being named 1 out of 3 small businesses to be honoured as a 'local legend' as part of Mazda Canada's campaign to help get a small business back on its feet.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
The hardest part is not having many people who really understand how hard it is to be a single income, female small business owner. The weight of the responsibilities you have to carry on your own, the sacrifices you make, and the insanely long hours you work. Many people can’t relate, so it makes it lonely at times not having someone who fully understands your daily experience. Many people have no idea just how much goes into building and maintaining a small brick-and-mortar service-based business. My goal is to one day have a real day off. You are at the helm and the only one who will go down with the ship.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
"It isn't about how many resources you have but how resourceful you are." I never had investors or much support when I started, and I always thought if I only had X, I could do so much better. For a long time, I was very negative with what little I had to build my business, but then I started to get really strategic and smart and focused more on being resourceful. How you show up for your business will reflect how well the business is doing. So if you are really negative and resentful of how hard it is to run your business, it won't attract much success.
Constantly focus on the positive; if one person showed up to class, be grateful and continue to keep the faith, it would always work out even when it seems like it won't because trust me, if you keep going, it gets so much better! If you can make it through the first year, you are ahead of the game; after three years, you will start to feel like you have a better idea of what you are doing at year five. Maybe you start making some money. If you start a business, you have to love what you do so much and be in it for the long game. It takes ten years to look like an overnight success.
Know that being a female entrepreneur may be the hardest thing you do, but it can also be the most rewarding. You know way more than you think and really learn to trust yourself. Most of the time, you know the answers if you just get quiet, slow down, and believe in yourself. Early on, I spent so much money paying other experts to tell me what I already knew. I just didn't trust myself enough to believe in myself. Be ok with letting your business change to adapt to what your community wants, not necessarily what you want. Never give up; even when it seems impossible, and all the odds are against you, there is always always a way. If you keep going through the most difficult times, you will be rewarded with something greater. Never get too comfortable in your business, constantly study your market, always find new inspiration and ways to do it better. Being a female entrepreneur can be really lonely, so align with other women running their own business; we speak the same language, and finding those women will be a lifeline when you need it.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
The studio was closed 549 days through the pandemic. Our road to rebuilding has been a tough one, and there is a big misconception that being re-opened means you made it, but that is a far cry from the truth.
Making it through the last two years has been half the battle. In fact, the reality is it’s much harder keeping the business afloat now that we are open… because all expenses have gone right back up. The heartbreaking reality is that our classes are not even seeing the necessary attendance to cover the cost to run the class. If you want to help support your local studios, it is as simple as coming to take a class. If we wait much longer, a lot more of us will be casualties of the pandemic. Get to know your local studio owner and who they are as a person; who are you choosing to support? A big corporation or an individual is trying to make an honest living.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solopreneur that you'd like to share, then email firstname.lastname@example.org; we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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