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Jenni Keith: Evolutions Yoga
Jenni Keith: Evolutions Yoga

Alumni profile: Jenni Keith turns childhood passion into entrepreneurial “Evolution”

When Jenni Keith was eight years old, guest instructors came to her elementary-school classroom and taught basic yoga techniques. The instructors asked the students to lie on the floor by their desks and close their eyes. Then they introduced the students to progressive relaxation techniques – relaxing each part of the body – while telling visualization stories.

“I would take those experiences home and then, right before bed, I would practice them,” Keith said.

Those classroom lessons motivated Keith to learn more about yoga. She explored the philosophies and teachers.

“The physical postures are something I learned much later as an adult,” she says. “But as far as the meditations, the breath work, the philosophies – I’ve been into that since I was a kid.”

After earning a bachelor’s in philosophy with a minor in religious studies from the IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI in 2008, Keith began teaching at an Indianapolis yoga studio.

One day in mid-September 2008, the studio’s owner announced that she was closing down at the end of the month. Because Keith had several years of experience under her belt, a friend suggested that the two of them take over the business and open their own studio. With the help of an “angel lawyer,” Keith and fellow IUPUI alum Ross Corson (B.A., Religious Studies and Philosophy) completed the necessary paperwork and worked through details with the original owner. Time elapsed: two weeks flat. On October 1, 2008, Evolutions Yoga opened its doors.

In addition to teaching, Keith’s duties as a business owner involve finances, marketing, community building, planning classes and workshops, and researching best practices.

In February 2016, the studio expanded, adding a second practice room that was 100 percent community funded. Keith told students that she wanted to open up a second room so they could add more classes, and, in just two months, the studio community raised $20,000 for the new space. Keith and her partner built the area on their own. The community helped with painting and other projects.

The studio offers a variety of classes daily as well as a four-month teacher-training program for those who want to be yoga instructors. 

[Video: Step inside Evolutions Yoga with Jenni Kieth and learn how a liberal arts major becomes an entrepreneur.]

“My liberal arts degree helped in a variety of ways,” said Keith. When starting a business, “there’s a lot you have to navigate and you have to navigate it through logic. There are legal documents, business operations, and even navigating people and understanding where they are coming from—understanding their culture, their personality, and their personal philosophies. So a liberal arts degree helps me in a lot of aspects: to be able to step back a little and look at the situations that come forward. There’s also the research component. Our studio is very much into education. We have a lot of really great educational programs and a big training program we do every year. So I’m continually researching, writing, and producing documents.”

Evolutions Yoga currently operates with 10 teachers and serves an estimated 800-1,000 students per month.

While the hours are long and the financial pressure great, Keith said her love of her profession keeps her going – something her fellow liberal arts graduates need to bear in mind if they want to pursue their own business.

“It starts with a passion,” she said. “It has to start there—the passion is so strong, you just feel like you have to act on it. That’s the starting point. It makes all the other obstacles worth it. No matter how long I’ve done this, there are points when I just want to walk away. But the passion kicks in again and I remember: This is what I wanted.”