Stronger Together: OhmFit Owner Paying it Forward
From Pop-ups to Store Fronts, Business Owners Find Local Support
When the weather is nice, OhmFit Activewear owner Heather Young keeps the front door open, cheerful music spilling out, inviting in friends and strangers alike.
Two years after opening her brick-and-mortar store in Uptown Normal, Young says her business is still small enough to be personal. She often visits with customers who’ve known her since OhmFit began as a pop-up boutique in 2013. Back then, Young took her clothing to local spots like Specs Around Town and Fox & Hounds, hoping to meet like-minded women who shared her love of fitness and fun.
Young's OhmFit retail store receives a lot of foot traffic in her prime location in Uptown Normal
(Christian Prenzler for AdaptBN)
“I came from a nonprofit, and nonprofits always have missions,” Young explained. “Ours is to inspire women to live a healthier life. And I feel like we can do that through really awesome, fun workout clothing.”
If it seems like clothing shouldn't have such an impact on a workout, just ask Young, who leads a group exercise class at The Workout Company in Normal. “I get so excited when I have a really cute outfit. I want to go to my kickboxing class; I work harder because my clothes are perfect for what I'm doing.”
Young’s personal fitness journey began fifteen years ago when she was struggling to lose weight as a new mom. “I was really, really overweight. I had a 2-year old and I started working out in the basement,” Young said. “That’s not exactly a good way to focus on your goals and get fit.”
Young says she found her addiction when she joined The Workout Company in Normal. “I just couldn’t get enough of it.”
She also found a personal friend and professional mentor in owner Carol Clover.
“My first professional conversation pitching (the pop-up boutique) was to The Workout Company. Carol Clover could not have been more supportive,” Young said. “It gave me the confidence to reach out to other gyms and strike partnerships with them.”
OhmFit began selling at The Workout Company and other fitness studios like MyLeanBody Bootcamp, where Young developed an eye for women’s activewear needs.
“I know the people who work out there and the type of fitness they enjoy. It really helps me decide, ‘Okay, what am I taking to them?’” Young said she's sold her products at multiple locations in Bloomington-Normal, from CrossFit gyms to yoga studios. She has also cultivated an inventory of tried-and-true activewear brands such as Lucy, Karma and Running Skirts.
Now that she has her own brick-and-mortar shop, Young is happy to host other businesses’ pop-ups. “Anyone who comes to me, as long as we have even a shred of something in common, I’m going to say yes, they can do a pop-up here.” Young also brings OhmFit to offsite locations like Lakeside Country Club for ladies’ night-style events, complete with shopping, pampering, and cocktails.
“Working together makes it more attractive for the shopper,” Young said. “When we do a pop-up here, or I do a pop-up at another business, it’s an exciting venture. It gives someone an added excuse to shop at Refine 309, or an added excuse to shop here.” Young said she’s just trying to pay forward the kindness and support she received when she first started.
Another mentor influential mentor for Young is Natalie Galligan, owner of Shoo Shoo Baby in Bloomington. “When I started thinking about this, she and I sat down for coffee. She was happy to tell me how she got her start, pitfalls she found and some things to avoid.”
Galligan’s support was the opposite of what Young expected from another business owner. “You would think that you would want to hang on to your information. It’s like, ‘I earned this, it was hard to gain.’”
Still, Galligan says not everyone in the business community offers to lend a hand. “I think women, in general, are not always kind to other women, especially if they feel threatened. I’ve always felt like there was enough for everybody.”
For Galligan, what’s good for one small business is good for them all, making collaboration a no-brainer. “In my mind it’s never been, ‘Oh, I want it all for myself.’ It’s, ‘Hey, let’s build this community where people want to come and shop, because I’m going to benefit from that, too.”
That sense of community makes Young believe she found her sweet spot with her North Street storefront. She also says neighboring businesses like The Garlic Press and Uptown Gifts create an atmosphere where women, herself included, love to spend hours at a time.
“And we all work so well together. We’re branded well together, and our customers are very similar.” Young also credits the Town of Normal for its efforts to organize and promote events like Mimosa Mornings, which draw shoppers to Uptown.
Someday Young hopes to open a second location with more room to host fitness and wellness classes. A larger store would allow her to offer classes such as yoga, essential oils, and healthy eating. Whatever happens, she plans to continue with her Uptown storefront.
“It’s a good place to be. I’ll stay here until the building falls down.”