Homegrown Business: Chi Junky, yoga and pilates with Rachelle Wintzen

Chi Junky is a Toronto yoga and pilates studio. We spoke with Rachelle Wintzen, the owner, to find out more about them.

Chi Junky

What is your business called and what does it do?

Chi Junky is a yoga and pilates studio at its core but it is so much more. It is a beautiful 4000 sq ft space, rooted in community, that feels like a home away from home. The Chi Crew, a team of some of the city’s top instructors and friendly front desk team, create a full sensory experience. At Chi Junky, our intention is not to make people “fitter” but to take you on a journey through a moving meditation from beginning to end. A place to find your exhale moment.

We encourage you to move in a way that feels good for you and to let go of the moments before you stepped onto the mat. As a music-forward movement studio, the music-infused in each class is just as important as the movement, helping to transcend you into your body and out of your head. I chose to name my business Chi Junky which stems from my own struggle with addiction. I wanted to change the negative connotation of the word addiction into something positive. To become addicted to something good, in this case, your Chi. To become addicted to living our full potential through a vibrant healthy lifestyle, full of vitality every day.

‘Ch’i’ pronounced CHEE is the Chinese medicine word for life force energy, vitality.

Junky – is inspired by the book ‘Junky’ by William S. Burroughs, which tells the story of a young man living in New York City who becomes addicted to narcotics.

Chi Junky just reopened its doors after being closed for almost two years due to COVID-19. We’re extremely happy to welcome back our Chi Junky community and encourage newcomers to drop by any time! Big thanks go out to Mazda Canada for their generous financial support in helping us get back on our feet.

We received a significant donation through their Local Legends program, which is helping small businesses across the country who were affected by the pandemic to get back on their feet.

What made you want to do this work?

Chi Junky was birthed from my own personal experience and struggle with addiction and my journey to changing my life completely. My dream for myself was to be a professional dancer from the age of 4 and to live in New York City, which was inspired by my beloved uncle who at age 36 passed away from AIDS.

He was a brilliant New York fashion designer and introduced me to the city that stole my heart as a young girl. At 20 years old I moved to NYC to pursue dance professionally, but after two years, injuries ended my career and left me suffering from deep depression. I began working in the A-list New York City nightlife scene and was immediately under its spell. I developed a dependency that turned into an addiction to hard drugs and alcohol, and after many years of suffering, I knew if I didn’t leave this lifestyle, I wouldn’t live to see past my 30th birthday.

Through many small moments of grace and divine intervention, I met my mentor, Gil Jacobs, who changed my life. By immersing myself under his tutelage I transformed my lifestyle through holistic modalities, nutrition, and yoga. It was this 180 transformation that allowed me to experience true vitality, my chi (prana – life force energy) and a newfound love for life. Chi Junky was born in New York City in 2010.

What problem did you want to solve with the business?

It became my life’s mission to help people change their lives and realize that no matter how impossible it may seem it is never too late to change.

I wanted to create a space where people felt supported to leave it all out on the mat, where they could take a break from the day’s chaos and
responsibilities. A place people feel they can come back to themselves through self-care, where they can take their exhale moment and reset.
The more we can take care of ourselves the better we can show up for the people we interact with every day.

Who are your clientele/demographics?

I don’t try to cater to one particular demographic or clientele, the studio aims to be as inclusive of a space as possible offering a variety of movement classes that are suitable for all ages and bodies. I am working on bringing in a portable wheelchair ramp where we can be more accessible and offer chair yoga. I also offer financial accessibility programs where people can come to the studio on a sliding scale in addition to giving out free monthly virtual passes. We also are starting to run free weekly classes for anyone called the Good Chi. I truly believe the more good chi within us the more we can spread it out and into the world.

How does your business make money? How does it work?

We currently offer in-studio classes for those who want the in-person class experience.

When the studio went fully digital during the forced closures due to COVID-19, we were closed for 549 days and I invested in high-grade Livestream technology to stream classes. I wanted to create a great at-home interactive class experience. You get a teacher in real-time with a great sound system for both music and mic. I was the yoga instructor for the TV show Kim’s Convenience and over the pandemic, they so graciously donated and built a branded set to improve the look of our Livestream classes.

Convenience is key – so you can also access our pre-recorded library of 125 classes via our on-demand website chiondemand.com – it operates like a Netflix account for our classes, available 24/7 at the click of a button.

Chi Swag- I design and source all our branded merchandise, which acts as a form of marketing with people wearing our branded clothing as well as another revenue stream.

We offer private sessions at the studio, in-home or Livestream for personal and corporate clients.

The studio is also available for rent, we have private treatment rooms for practitioners and the studio space for workshops and private events. The studio also is used for photo and video shoots.

Where in the city can we find your profession?

East end of Toronto, Riverside/Leslieville neighbourhood

What is the best question a prospective customer could ask a member of your profession when comparing services? Give the answer as well.

What differentiates Chi Junky from any other yoga and pilates studio?

Chi Junky offers so much more than just yoga + pilates classes, we offer a full sensory experience, where we pride ourselves on the attention to detail where everything is done with intention. We are a full-service studio, so all you need to do is show up, relax, and let us take care of the rest. We offer complimentary alkaline water on tap, tea, healthy snacks, and every time you arrive for a class the room is “prop styled” with carefully curated pre-set mats, towels and props beautifully placed for your class. Once the class is over, we clean everything for you so you can stay in your zen state and get on with your day. We know it is hard enough getting movement into your day, so we try to make it easier by not having to lug a mat and gym bag around town. A studio where you can just show up and we take care of it all.

What is the best part about what you do? What is the worst part?

The best part is helping people, building a space that people feel has changed them for the better, that this studio has improved their day and their mental and physical well-being. It has been the most surreal experience to watch my vision become reality, where I started teaching four people in 150 square feet that organically grew via word of mouth over the last 8 years into something bigger than I ever thought possible. To be a part of a community that has given me more friendships, support and incredible experiences that have literally changed my life has been worth every single hardship I faced on my journey as a female entrepreneur.

The worst part is not having many people who really understand how hard it is to be a single-income, female small business owner. The weight of the responsibilities you must carry on your own, the sacrifices you make and the insanely long hours you work. Many people can’t relate and so it makes it lonely at times not having someone who fully understands your daily experience. Many people have no idea just how much goes into building and maintaining a small brick-and-mortar service-based business. It’s why I’m so grateful for Mazda’s financial support, which has really helped ease the financial burden of the re-opening of Chi Junky.

What is your favourite joke about your own profession?

Not a real joke, but I do get this a lot…

“you own a yoga studio, you must never have any stress cause all you do is yoga all day”

– if they only knew.

Where can we follow you?

Website

Instagram: @chi_junky@rachellewintzen

Facebook: @chijunky@rachellewintzen

PAY IT FORWARD: What is another local business that you love?

My hat is off to any other woman running and operating their own small business. It is a major commitment and takes a lot of grit and hustle. I support women entrepreneurs when and where I can, so I love this question. I wish I could name a whole list!

I am paying it forward to a fellow female-owned and operated fitness studio. Our industry got hit really hard through the pandemic, having been forced to close the longest.

Drop Boxing is a boxing gym downtown. Lara Marquez, the owner, gave me so much support through the pandemic and as we rebuild our businesses, I wish her so much success. It is a great place to sweat it out.

 

 

About Demian Vernieri 613 Articles
Demian is an Argentinian retired musician, avid gamer and editor for the Montréal Guardian, Toronto Guardian, Calgary Guardian and Vancouver Guardian websites.