BRIELLE – John and Natalia DiFolco, owners of Bask Hot Yoga, both learned about the hard work of being an entrepreneur from their respective parents.
“We’re both very similar in a weird way,” John said. “We grew up in a very entrepreneurial family. My father owned a civil engineering firm in Freehold and I grew up with him. I remember that my father taught me how to do technical work on the computer in the workshop. It didn’t work for me as a career path, but I grew up seeing him work long hours and still being with our family, which really shaped me as I wanted to start my own business later in life.”
“My parents are both doctors and had their own practice in the area for 30 years,” Natalia said. “I grew up working in her office and I remember doing the paperwork there for the patients that came and went. I graduated from front desk work and did so throughout my teenage years. Seeing the basis of my endeavors and realizing what I was capable of was very inspirational and opened the door to what else I could do as an entrepreneur.”
Both John and Natalia worked for their families for about five years until they were about 18 years old. After attending Brookdale Community College in Middletown at the same time, both John and Natalia earned their associate’s degrees.
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“I studied civil engineering and architecture, but neither worked, so I switched to marketing and business, which I really enjoyed,” said John. “I ended up doing that and I’m glad I got involved in something I really enjoyed and developed a passion for. It was a nice transition. Natalia and I both attended Brookdale and she studied photography while I studied marketing. We loved what we did and pursued our education to the fullest.
“I started working at an investment bank,” John said. “I mainly did marketing for this company. In short, when a company came to us to raise capital or needed a reorganization, I would help them create a new presentation and branding. I would work on PowerPoints for them. I took ideas that people had, packaged them up for an investor, and then raised money for them. After seeing how companies are formed and how capital flows into companies for people who want to raise money and build companies, it has really helped me solidify the way companies operate in America. It was a great mini-education for me on how to start a business.”
“I knew I could never take over my parents’ business because I never went to medical school,” Natalia said. “My parents never pushed me to do anything I didn’t want to do. In fact, they encouraged me to follow my dreams and what I was passionate about. I got into photography at a young age and started my own photography business. I started photographing events and people. I graduated to work with companies and generate my own clients. I did that for a while.”
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Learning how to run a business
“College ended and we just kept working,” John said. “It really got us on the path we are on today because it taught us how to run a business and how to properly structure a business. All this information that we learned at the investment bank was an invaluable experience and that was the real school for us. We learned what really makes businesses work and thrive.
“At the same time that we were working for this bank, we were starting to get clients outside of the investment firm who wanted our services, so in 2015 we started our own marketing and design company called Axial Creative, which we still run to this day,” John “It got to a critical point where we started getting more side jobs, so we broke ties with the investment bank and left that firm on good terms.”
Natalia said that she had dealt with anxiety and stress her entire life and had always had an interest in fitness.
“I was looking for different ways to continue my fitness and give myself a way to continuously relieve everyday stress,” Natalia said. “I tried hot yoga and in the end I really liked it. I wanted to calm my nerves after dealing with many of life’s obstacles and I did that with Hot Yoga. It was the first time my brain could find a moment of stillness. After the first few hours I couldn’t believe my feelings and wanted to move on.
“It became something I was passionate about,” Natalia said. “After doing this for a couple of years and loving it, I got John into it too. He tried it reluctantly, but he was starting to like it more and more. After that he was very impressed and wanted to do the same as me. We wanted to wrap our arms around it and be as close to it as possible. That was contagious for us.”
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“Forever grateful” to their customers
In the fall of 2016, the couple opened Bask Hot Yoga, sharing their passion with the world.
“We brainstormed and came up with the ideas for the company,” Natalia said. “Our first studio was in Jackson and we had a lot of clients straight away, so many that we had to open two more additional locations, one in Brick in the summer of 2017 and the next one was due to open in 2020, but the world had other plans.”
“Needless to say, COVID-19 hit and it was disastrous for our business,” John said. “We were closed in one day and it was a big challenge to keep the business going. Our customers have helped us stay in business by maintaining their memberships during this time and we are forever grateful to them for that act of kindness.”
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John and Natalia did it. They opened the doors of their studio in Brielle at the end of summer 2020 and have been there ever since.
“We regained momentum and people gradually came back through the door,” Natalia said. “We went back to normal and saw people smiling again and not being so nervous. We couldn’t have done it without the incredible support of our employees and customers. Luckily we’re still here.”
At Bask Hot Yoga, they primarily focus on a style of yoga that is all about flowing movements.
“It’s connected to breaths and the studios are heated,” Natalia said. “It starts at 98 degrees and goes up to 102 degrees. It’s a mindful movement and over the course of an hour you’ll move through a few seated and standing poses. There are many aspects of strength, but you’re constantly moving your spine in different directions. It’s very therapeutic.”
“We are always looking for additional locations to support the growth of the business,” said John. “One thing about our business is that anyone who is a member of Bask can go to any of our three locations. We are always open to the public and will continue to serve our loyal customers.”
Sunbathe hot yoga
Owner: John and Natalia DiFolco
Locations: 712 Riverview Drive, Brielle; 1957 Route 88, brick; and 702 Brewers Bridge Road, Jackson.
Hours: 9.30am to 9pm weekdays, 8.30am to 11.30am weekends in Brielle; Mondays and Wednesdays from 8:30am to 9pm, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6:45am to 9pm, Fridays from 8:30am to 7pm, weekends from 8:30am to 11am in Brick ; 9am to 8pm Monday to Thursday, 9am to 6pm Friday, 8am to 11am on weekends in Jackson