Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Koman Stretches from Realty to Yoga; Five Questions; Battle against Cancer Turned into a Passion, Which Then Turned into a New Business

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Koman Stretches from Realty to Yoga; Five Questions; Battle against Cancer Turned into a Passion, Which Then Turned into a New Business

Article excerpt

Bill Koman is not the first guy you would expect to open a chain of yoga studios.

The son of a former NFL linebacker, he has spent most of his career in commercial development as the president of the Koman Group, a real estate company based in Creve Coeur.

But he started dabbling in yoga and meditation about seven years ago when he was battling what turned out to be the first of two rounds of lymphoma.

"I wanted to branch out a little and try some different ways to balance my life," he said. "So yoga was one of the things I tried."

He found it to be a "good distraction," helping take his mind off the cancer. He stuck with it even after the lymphoma was gone. He continues to practice yoga about twice a week.

Now he's turned his passion for yoga into a new business. He has invested between $2 million and $3 million into an upscale yoga studio concept that offers both "hot yoga" - classes in a heated room - and unheated classes. He wants to build it into a chain across the Midwest and West Coast.

He opened the first location of Yoga Six in June next to Forest Park along Oakland Avenue. A second studio is set to open next week in San Diego, where he lives many months of the year when not at his home in Clayton.

Koman plans to open five to 10 more studios within the next six to nine months - with a few of those locations going up in the San Diego area and another one slated for the St. Louis region.

He recently sat down with the Post-Dispatch to discuss the yoga business. Here is an edited transcript of that interview.

- Tell me how Yoga Six came about.

We had a summer house in San Diego. So we started looking for close-by yoga studios. We really liked a studio concept out there that was called Haute Yoga. There was a husband and wife team running it. It was really funny that I had met the guy (Dino Flacco) in St. Louis like 20 years ago. He used to run three taco places in St. Louis called Flaco's Tacos. Then he screwed up his back, went back to the coast, and went to India to study yoga. What he really tried to do is come up with a more approachable, user-friendly model than Bikram (a style of hot yoga). ...

So I was like, 'Hey, this is kind of cool. If you ever want to open another one, I'd love to partner up with you as a sideline business.' ... We started working on a plan to open a second studio. (But Flacco died of cancer last year. So Koman decided to expand under the name Yoga Six.)

- What was attractive to you about the yoga business?

There's 23,000-24,000 yoga and pilates studios across the country, and there's no real chain that operates them. The only real model is the Bikram franchise model, and that's in 300 to 400 locations. So it's a really fragmented industry. We also thought that, emanating from the West Coast, that you're in a very prolific, dense yoga population. …

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