ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, IL — In January, Laura Kowalski opted to leave behind the long hours of working in the corporate world to focus her energy on being at home with her family. Two months later, when the global coronavirus pandemic hit, the Arlington Heights resident decided to start a new business at a time when so many other people were also finding themselves mostly living at home.
“For the first time in my adult life, I was unemployed, unable to leave the house, and struggling to keep my kids active and in a regular routine,” said Kowalski, owner of Hop Along Yogi Kids Yoga. “I knew that a lot of parents were facing similar challenges and looking for ways to connect to their kids and one another, so I started teaching virtual, kids yoga classes every Saturday morning.”
Kowalski is the mother of two girls. Her youngest was diagnosed as deaf after birth. She soon discovered the benefits of yoga for her as it combines movement with speech and language therapy. She describes Hop Along Yogi as a child-focused yoga company created by a mom on a mission to help all kids feel strong, loved, and balanced. Through the power of yoga, she believes kids will develop physical and emotional strength that fuels their self-image, nourishes their creativity, and improves flexibility, balance and coordination.
“I bring the concept of yoga to life for kids in a way that’s fun and approachable so that they’re ready to receive it,” Kowalski said. “My classes have a lot of music, props, and games. “
For virtual classes, she uses a green screen and often “transports” the classes to far away places, whether real or imaginary. Kowalski’s Saturday-only classes have expanded to Tuesdays, and she’s even started teaching some outdoor classes.
While so many businesses have been forced to close their doors during the pandemic, new entrepreneurs and ideas are also being encouraged and rewarded. Adriane Johnson, president of the Buffalo Grove Lincolnshire Chamber of Commerce, has been impressed with how new and old members have looked to continue improving their individual businesses and the overall business community by pivoting at times from the way things were done in the past.
“Our members are resilient and are demonstrating the power of American ingenuity. We’ve heard from so many members about how they are reinventing themselves as they work toward rebuilding their businesses,” Johnson said. “As our members are navigating the new normal, they are eager to get back to full operations and continue to innovate. The vibe is also to about keeping networking alive, and getting the word out that they are open for business.”
Both Johnson and Kowalski agree that embracing new technology is key to surviving, and in some cases thriving, during the pandemic.
“[You have to] be flexible, keep an open mind and think creatively. Invest in new technologies and don’t give up,” Kowalski said.
Teaching yoga classes has been a huge change for Kowalski as she is used to the many interactions that occur between the kids and the sense of community that she says is integral to the class.
“While virtual classes can be limiting, they also helped my business expand geographically,” Kowalski said. “Investing in a green screen, finding ways to make classes interactive, partnering with different organizations to generate awareness, and having some good old-fashioned Stick-to-itiveness helped me whether the storm.”
She said that one of the Yamas, or rules, of yoga is generosity. Kowalski recently updated her business model to give a portion of the proceeds from every class to different children’s charities. With her daughter’s diagnosis, she started with a free class for Illinois Hands and Voices, an organization that supports families who have kids that are deaf or hard-of-hearing.
“From there, I’ve made monetary donations to organizations, like the ChadTough Foundation that funds research for children with pediatric brain cancer,” Kowalski said. “In October, I’ll be teaming up with C.I.T.Y to offer a class.”
She added that she is looking to partner with or donate to a children’s charity each month. She can be reached at [email protected]
Kowalski admits that creating awareness for her company has been her biggest challenge, especially it being new and launched during the pandemic. To learn more about Hop Along Yogi Kids Yoga, visit here.