When Shelly Kwiatkouski, Owner of Hot House Yoga, first discovered yoga in 2006, she was going through a breakup and needed a calm and restorative space to realign her energy and practice mindfulness. What she discovered was a passion for the physical and mental healing aspects of yoga and a desire to share with others. Shelly, who’s originally from San Francisco, shared the story behind her entrepreneurial journey and described how Hot House has grown into one of Volusia County’s most beloved yoga studios.
“My first time in Florida was for a work trip to Miami,” Shelly said. “All I remember was the humidity. I remember thinking, ‘This is the last place I want to live’. It’s amusing that Florida is where I ended up. However, I love it and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”
Shelly continued, “At the time, I was working as a ‘trouble shooter’ for different retailers. I’d travel around the country opening and closing stores and assisting with set up and visual presentations. Eventually I got to a point where I decided I wanted to focus my energy on something I believed in. I quit around 2004 and spent a year working for a non-profit animal rescue in Northern California. Unfortunately, I discovered a dark side of animal rescue. After that, I needed a break.”
Shelly’s parents retired and invited her to take a trip to The Keys on their boat. The boat was docked at the Halifax Marina in Daytona Beach and Shelly decided to stay for a while. She met a guy, bought a house in Ormond Beach and, for the next year or two, embarked on a journey of entrepreneurship and self-discovery.
“The guy I met was a real estate agent,” Shelly said. “With my background in visual presentations at retail stores and my new understanding of the real estate business, I started staging homes. I also started a business designing pet products called Urban Digs. That business grew to include retail, wholesale and online. My products were even available at Marshall Fields, a department store that was eventually acquired by Macy’s.”
After Shelly, who was already well aware of the power of meditation, took that first yoga class in 2006, she was hooked. That same year, she became a certified instructor and purchased the studio that introduced her to yoga.
“The studio was originally called Bikram Yoga Ormond Beach,” Shelly said. “It was the only one around and they only did Bikram yoga. I saw an opportunity to add other forms of yoga like Yin, Vinyasa and Core. Before I officially became the owner on December 13, 2006, I was helping the original owner run the studio. Since I already had a chance to learn the business and develop some relationships, this made the transition pretty smooth.”
In late 2007, after a year of running Hot House and Urban Digs, Shelly sold her remaining pet products to focus exclusively on building her new business. “I couldn’t do both and I preferred to have customers in front of me.”
In the early stages of the business, Shelly shared that being a novice teacher was a challenge. Growing and learning the practice, while running the business required a delicate balance. Over the years, the business has evolved as Shelly focused on outreach and connecting with those outside her immediate community.
“Venturing outside of Volusia County and practicing yoga in other areas is such a different experience,” she said. “Yoga is all about teaching kindness, compassion and diversity. What you’re sharing is received differently by different communities. I love it.”
Shelly continued, “Since 2007, we’ve also done a ‘healing festival’ type gathering. Twice a year, we open our doors to practitioners of different healing modalities. We’ll have acupuncturists, massage therapists, Reiki masters, Chiropractors and others on hand to share with our customers and the public. It’s a great way to bring everyone together and inform the community about the healing arts.”
The look and feel of Hot House Yoga has changed over the past 14 years. As Shelly explained, the new location is a unique space that gives her business a completely different feel.
“We moved into a warehouse,” she said. “I made the decision to do that because there are now five to seven different yoga studios in Ormond. They were all mimicking what I was doing, which is fine, but at some point you have to reinvent yourself. I thought about what I could do differently. Moving into a space that didn’t look like a traditional yoga studio is what I came up with. The warehouse has sky lights, a big gate and space to do yoga indoors or outdoors. I used recycled materials like pallet wood walls, vintage windows and stuff from thrift stores. I applied years of visual presentation work to create a beautiful and unique space.”
Looking ahead, Shelly, who thoroughly enjoys sharing her love of yoga, certifying new teachers and mentoring new yoga studio owners, admits that the COVID-19 Pandemic has forced her to think outside the box. “We now have a YouTube channel and we also live stream,” she said. “We’re also looking at additional ways to expand our reach. Figuring out people’s needs and wants and how to implement that has been our new focus.”
What advice does Shelly have for entrepreneurs interested in starting a yoga studio? “Ideally, you want to start a studio in a place where there isn’t much competition. However, if you want to do it in a place where there are other studios, you have to identify what’s missing to make yourself unique. When people come talk to me about opening their own studio, I usually try to talk them out of it. It’s not all rainbows and unicorns. It’s hard work. If you’re going to do it, you have to make yourself different from the pack.”
Shelly continued, “In terms of general advice for new business owners, it’s important to not take things personally. If someone doesn’t like your business, it doesn’t mean they don’t like you. Also, don’t feel like you have to be overly generous. It’s okay to say no.”