In May 2021, Crystal Pinkston and Sharon Calhoun Norman opened their first YogaSix franchise, located in Hyde Park, a diverse neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago.
Calhoun Norman, a Chicago native, and Pinkston, who relocated to Chicago years ago, are longtime friends who have always enjoyed taking a variety of fitness classes together. The two became interested in opening a YogaSix studio because they could combine their passion for a wellness lifestyle with entrepreneurship.
Pinkston’s career has spanned 20-plus years with several F100 CPG companies. She is currently a senior leader with a CPG company focused on consumer and shopper behavior in addition to helping manage the YogaSix franchise. Her career expertise directly translates to the business of better understanding the member, marketing, and sales strategies.
Calhoun Norman is a lawyer by trade. She is a former law firm partner whose 15-year legal career focused on litigation and intellectual property. Calhoun Norman recently left to focus full-time on the growth and expansion strategy of the duo’s YogaSix studios.
“Savings and faith helped me to overcome the fear of leaving a salary behind,” she says. “I am also confident in my skill-
set and resume and know that a traditional nine-to-five will be available for me if I choose to go that route. Ultimately, I thought it was better to invest my time and money in myself and my own business rather than putting all my energy into corporate America. ”
Where passion leads you
Yoga has been a passion of Calhoun Norman’s for almost 20 years, and the friends share a love of boutique fitness and maintaining an active lifestyle.
“The YogaSix brand is appealing because it seeks to make yoga accessible to all,” says Calhoun Norman. “Yoga can be intimidating, and YogaSix takes the intimidation factor out of yoga by removing Sanskrit and making the classes energizing, empowering, and fun using music and a state-of-the-art audiovisual system. From a business standpoint, Xponential Fitness, YogaSix’s parent company, has perfected the boutique fitness model through sister brands such as Club Pilates and Cycle Bar so we knew that YogaSix’s business model was strong. ”
But it’s not simply wellness and entrepreneurship that Pinkston and Calhoun Norman value. The opportunity to give back to their community is very important. “For Black History Month, we held weekly educational classes that built on the theme established each year by the ASALH (Association for the study of African American Life and History),” Pinkston said.
In honor of Juneteenth, they held a virtual meditation event as an opportunity to reflect on and commemorate what Juneteenth means. The charitable event raised money for the DuSable Museum of African American History to highlight the importance of Black history in Chicago and nationwide. Pinkston and Calhoun Norman matched the total dollar amount donated.
The duo also created a YogaSix Teacher Training scholarship program to increase diversity in the yoga space and help them identify and retain talent in a competitive fitness landscape when they launch Yoga Teacher Training this fall.
“Year-round we aim to provide programming and instructors that appeal to the Hyde Park community through music, workshops, partnering with other businesses in Hyde Park.”
The road to growth
Pinkston and Calhoun Norman recently acquired two existing YogaSix studios in other parts of Chicago and plan to expand into a new boutique fitness vertical in 2023.
“These studios are in communities that are different from Hyde Park, but we believe our approach and philosophy of inclusion can help make these locations as successful as our Hyde Park location. No matter what side of Chicago you live on — North, South, Loop — we want to provide a Hot Yoga studio that is engaging, empowering, and fun. ”
The entrepreneurs purposefully chose the franchise route to business ownership because of its proven model and structured approach. It was a huge advantage that gave them the freedom to laser focus on understanding their members and operations versus trying to optimize a business model.
“There are pros and cons to organic entrepreneurship or franchise entrepreneurship that really come down to personal preference, risk tolerance, and bandwidth.”