Leadership: Therese Bailey
Address: 900 S. Fifth St., Suite 305, Milwaukee
What it does: Aerial yoga classes and instructor training
At 58 years old, Therese Bailey was working a nine-to-five job in corporate marketing at a large Milwaukee company.
When Bailey was laid off, she unexpectedly found herself at a crossroads and decided to take a step back.
“I did that because I was concerned who would pay me what I was making at this age,” Bailey said.
While she took a breather, Bailey threw herself into her yoga hobby. Already certified in hatha yoga, she had been practicing and teaching for several years when she discovered ashtanga and stress management.
Bailey was hooked. She would wake up on Saturday mornings and drive to Chicago and back for an aerial yoga class every week.
“When there’s a fire in you that says don’t be afraid, move it forward, you do it,” she said. ”I was so enthusiastic about it, I knew I had to do it here.”
In 2012, Bailey established ZenZen Yoga Arts in a 1,100-square-foot studio in Milwaukee’s Walker’s Point neighborhood, and she’s never looked back. Students travel from around southeastern Wisconsin for the classes in a relatively rare, acrobatic form of yoga.
ZenZen’s one-hour classes are taught by Bailey, now 66, or one of her four coaches. Each class, which usually costs $22, covers one of four aerial disciplines: hammocks, silk ribbons, lyra hoops or bungee harnesses. On weekends, ZenZen offers 1.5-hour or two-hour workshops, and Bailey also hosts private events for bachelorette parties and the like.
“It changes you from feeling like you’re just doing a fitness class to feeling like you’re doing something artistic,” she said. “I want to have a safe space where you can do backflips, where you can climb, where you can stretch, where you can fly.”
Bailey was a recent guest on entrepreneurship pitch show “Project Pitch It” on WISN-TV Channel 12. Competing against two other area entrepreneurs, Bailey won the Cardinal Stritch University mentorship prize, which included business classes, office space and mentorship from the college.
With the help of the additional training, Bailey plans to launch teacher training so she can get more coaches certified in aerial yoga, while giving herself more time to work on marketing.
While she’s paying the bills, Bailey said she hopes to grow the business with the teacher training revenue.
“My teacher training will allow them to teach at my studio for pay. That’s a choice,” she said. “I would love to just turn over my classes to somebody else utterly, fully, totally."