Kelli Harrington and Nicole Ferguson didn't set out to own a business together. In fact, when they first met, they didn't even immediately become a part of the other's "inner circle."
"Kelli and I were both working at Center for Yoga," recalls Nicole. "We were the lead teachers here, we both had a great following. But we weren't really tight. I respected her, would drop into a class, but we didn't really know each other."
For anyone who currently practices at Red Yoga — the studio owned by Kelli and Nicole since August of 2015 — the idea that the two started out as mere acquaintances is probably difficult to believe.
Like yin and yang, the two complement one another beautifully, both in business and as yoga teachers.
"It's funny what you see when you get to know somebody," said Kelli. "It's a whole different personality. It's nice. It mixes well. We complement each other very well."
COMING TOGETHER BY CHANCE
It wasn't even Nicole or Kelli that initiated their business partnership. It was a mutual friend, Dave Patterson, who saw something special between the two of them.
"(He) pulled us in the parking lot one day and he just said: I don't know whether you guys gathered or not but you're really good and you have what it takes," said Nicole. "He said, ‘You're the yin and she's the yang, and you guys have a synergy together.'
"He told us to get to know each other, get over our differences, and become friends."
The two women did exactly that and, on August 1, 2015, opened Red Yoga, an infrared yoga studio on the west side of Ann Arbor.
They offer vinyasa classes in 80-100-degree heat, providing a cardiovascular workout that builds strength and flexibility.
"We're told every single day when people come to Red that they think there's no other studio out there like it," said Nicole. "We are in Southeast Michigan, which is close to Jonny Kest, and it's really Jonny that developed the style of vinyasa that links the breath to the movement with the music.
"I think what Red has that many studios don't is that we have the intensity. Kelli and I are not afraid to push people, and we have incredibly strong students, and we feed off of that energy.
"We never baby our students. We don't teach to the modification. We both know how important it is to teach to the intensification."
WHO FITS RED YOGA?
Nicole will tell her students that she and teacher Meggie Riegel once joked that Red Yoga is "varsity yoga." The individuals who attend the classes there are intense, Type A go-getters who want to better themselves.
It's that mentality that creates a different vibe within the studio.
"Our clientele are doctors, lawyers, professionals," said Kelli. "They're driving their Tesla to work. They're type A, they're go-getters. They want a 5:30 in the morning class so they can get it done and work and be a mom and be a dad and run their business.
"That kind of personality needs to almost wear out to even be able to hold or be in a yoga class."
Both Nicole and Kelli believe that Red Yoga students need to be physically challenged so they keep coming back.
"It's people who are ready to conquer the world," said Kelli. "We attract that type, but it all ends up being yoga in the end. Whether we are a stepping stone for them to go on for whatever personal practice they have or we are their primary practice, it's all about that growth.
"There should never be an end."