Did you always know you wanted to own your own business?
NICOLE BENGTSON: No, I didn’t know that. I knew I had an entrepreneurial mindset. Prior to being a yoga teacher, I was a pastry chef and considered going out on my own, but it never felt right. Eventually I lost my passion for pastry and began teaching yoga.
I wasn’t sure where it would go, but things just fell into place. In August 2018, I was doing a yoga training through the Baptiste Institute. After a transformative experience, I decided right then and there I was going to be a Baptiste Power Yoga affiliate—and here we are. I signed the lease in December and we opened the doors in April 2019.
How was the process starting out?
NICOLE: There’s a huge support system within the Baptiste community. I’m the third affiliate in Connecticut, the other two are in Stamford and Mystic. The closest affiliate is actually in East Longmeadow, MA. I connected with the partners who own it. I had various questions throughout the process, and they were really helpful. But, creating this business was all me.
Tell us about how you chose the location. Why Hartford?
NICOLE: I live in South Glastonbury and, as a single mom with three kids, I was initially looking for convenience. I couldn’t find space in Glastonbury and eventually thought I should take a broader view of the area I live in. I used “Hartford county” in my online search and this space on Main Street kept popping up.
I honestly don’t know that much about Hartford. I’m not from Connecticut, I’ve lived in South Philadelphia, Harlem, Queens, so I consider myself a city person. The idea started to click that maybe what the location needed was to have a little bit of grit.
I came to look at the space and I thought: If I’m going to be a Baptiste affiliate studio, the space deserves to be in Hartford. It deserves to be in a more diverse and urban location than Glastonbury. Then, as I started to research Hartford, I started to get really inspired by what was happening in and around the city.
After I signed the lease, I began meeting people who were excited about me being here. They were excited to be here, too. A law firm two doors down invited me to the neighborhood revitalization board meetings. I’m so happy I chose to be here in Hartford, I really feel like I’m part of a community.
How else have you become involved with the community?
NICOLE: I connected with Julio Concepcion, who is Executive Director at the Hartford Chamber of Commerce, through his wife who practices yoga here. Julio brought some of the Alliance staff to visit the studio. It was wonderful to meet them. Since then, I’ve attended some of the Alliance networking events and met other local business owners.
We’re also trying to connect with some nonprofits so we can give back to our community. Since we opened in April, we started a donation-based “Power to Serve” class on Sundays. We ask for a minimum $5 cash donation, which goes to a Hartford-based nonprofit. In April and May we donated to the Charter Oak Cultural Center. In June and July we’re donating to KNOX.
How are you marketing and building your clientele?
NICOLE: I’ve been using a lot of social media and reaching out to organizations like the Alliance and the Chamber of Commerce.
Even though I had been teaching yoga, it was out of my home, so I didn’t come here expecting for my yogis to follow me. I was seeking something more. I was seeking something different. I wanted to become a part of a more diverse community.
NAN: What’s the best thing about working here in Hartford?
NICOLE: I signed the lease right before the holidays and, just in this short period of time, I feel unbelievably welcomed by so many different types of people and so many different types of business. I’ve made connections. That’s what I was seeking, and I feel like I found it. I’m thrilled to be here.