What’s Local: Channeling passion in business

By Jim Hagerty 

ROCKFORD — There is something to be said for those who make a living doing what they’re passionate about.

For one Rockford businesses owner, it was not that she was unhappy in her former career. She made plenty of money and had a considerable amount of freedom and security. But, as most mortgage brokers began realizing a few years before 2008, a bubble was about burst, decimating the industry.

By 2009, there were no more sub-prime lenders buying loans from mortgage companies. In fact, most had closed or were swallowed up after the banking crash caused a foreclosure wave some markets have still not recovered from. In the retail sector, small sub-prime loan originators fell first. Others retooled, holding onto loan modification and government products. Eventually, most of those closed, too.

Former broker Keri Knutson, of Rockford, held on as long as she could. It wasn’t long though before she realized products were not the only thing that lacked. By 2008, gone was her drive to reinvent her business so it would sustain in a drastically configured marketplace.

But her passion wasn’t gone. She’d just compartmentalized it.

A yoga practitioner for nearly 20 years, Knutson began teaching in 2012. The entrepreneur’s next professional chapter began. The scrambles of loan processing, clearing underwriting conditions and scheduling appraisals were in the past. And although her former career was difficult to leave behind, what Knutson received in return continues to pay off.

Today, her business, Ahimsa-Yoga with Keri, is mobile. Aside from regular classes at Choices Natural Market, Womanspace, NSpire Yoga, Nicholas Conservatory and Jones Family Chiropractic, Knutson is the yoga teacher of the Rockford IceHogs and hosts a variety of events and private sessions.

“It was an ‘ah-ha’ moment for me,” Knutson said. “I was good at mortgages— good in the finance industry. But I never loved it.”

It took several months away from business to reinvent her plan. She knew yoga was her passion and that passion transcends anything taught in textbooks. Degrees are beneficial, but shouldn’t define a businessperson’s ability to broach the unconventional. That’s what a run-of-the-mill job is for, she said.

“Our ideas don’t always have to fit into a box,” she said. “We can find our strengths by being ourselves. My advice to anyone in a situation they are unhappy with just because they think they need to stay in it, there is nothing wrong with getting out of that.”

Entrepreneurs are risk takers. People like Knutson know that too well. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be reserved. She knows jumping in with both feet isn’t always the answer. But she says preserving passion is vital to the ability to use them as a business model. That is why she built her yoga practice while supplementing her income, something she recommends for new businesses.

“There is nothing wrong with doing what we have to do with one hand, while you create what you want to do with the other,” she said. “Making it a slow transition until our passions can sustain us financially can allow you phase out what you needed to hang onto.”

Knutson recently accepted a proclamation from Mayor Tom McNamara to coincide with National Day of Yoga, which was June 21.

More information about Ahimsa-Yoga with Keri is available by calling 815-312-2830. R.

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