When Julia Perkins was diagnosed with osteoarthritis, she turned to yoga to maintain an active lifestyle. As her passion for the ancient practice grew, she wanted to share it with others. So, she started teaching at yoga studios not far from her South Shore community on Chicago’s South Side.
As time went on, she wondered why there wasn’t a permanent studio in her own neighborhood for yoga. And in 2019, when a nearby building went up for sale, the vision for Studio Yogi was born.
Though Perkins’ background is in nonprofit consulting, she felt so strongly about yoga and bringing it into her community that she pivoted to another entrepreneurship endeavor. She invested her own capital to purchase the nearby building, and she also received a grant from the City of Chicago to support the project.
Perkins appeared to be off and running. But as she sought financing to renovate the building, like so many other business owners, a curveball came her way.
“The pandemic hit, and lenders really became risk-averse. I must have approached half a dozen lenders,” Perkins said. “And then a colleague told me I should reach out to CRF.”
Perkins found that working with CRF was different than working with other lenders. As she navigated the required documentation during the loan application process, she received advice, encouragement, and support.
And in September 2021, she received an SBA 7(a) loan from CRF to finance the renovation of the building. Shortly afterwards, Perkins was fortunate to receive a grant from We Rise Together, an organization that accelerates equity in the Chicago region’s economic recovery to help ensure Black and Latinx communities hit hardest by the COVID-19 are not left behind.
Perkins believes that it was CRF’s support highlighted on the application that contributed to her receiving the award.
“CRF really understood what I was trying to do. They saw that I had invested my own money and that this was an all-in scenario,” Perkins said. “Without CRF this project would not have come to fruition. They really stepped in; they believed in me.”
After experiencing delays due to national supply chain issues, Perkins is nearing completion of the renovations and expects to open Studio Yogi in January of 2023. Her hope is that her business will promote health and wellness and increase physical activity for those in her community.
She also envisions it as a place where people can gather, do outdoor classes in the summer, and enjoy music and other activities as well. She plans to occupy the rest of the building with tenants and businesses that will also contribute to a friendly and welcoming environment.
As Perkins prepares to turn the page on the building renovations and begin a new chapter in her small business journey, she is grateful for the support she has received along the way.
“I think that CRF is very authentic in terms of their commitment. Regardless of if they fund your business or not – they’ll give you good counsel, and it’s up to the person to take it,” Perkins said. “And in my case, they really believed in me and my project and the dream for the community.”