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Kali Lindner, a 2006 UM graduate in international business and Spanish, went on to create one of the most popular workout trends.
Where did the idea of OULA come from?
I used to dance a lot when I was a kid, but when I got into college I stopped dancing and got more into yoga, and I decided to go through training to become a certified yoga instructor. It took six months of training in Bozeman. I loved that process, but what I realized is that I missed dancing. I missed the movement and the music of it all. Through my yoga training, I learned about this program called Nia, which is kind of an infusion of the dance arts, martial arts, and healing arts. I got certified as a Nia instructor and then moved out to Oregon and started teaching there, but what I realized was that it still wasn’t what I wanted to be doing. So I decided I was just going to create the class that I would want to take. I created my own format called Bliss Moves. It was getting closer to what I wanted, but it wasn’t quite there yet. I couldn’t stop thinking about it and how I wanted it to feel.
How did that idea become OULA?
Bliss Moves was in Oregon, and I was moving to South America for several months so I transferred ownership of that business and wanted to start fresh wherever we decided to relocate, which happened to be Missoula. My participants in Oregon were amazing and encouraging and helped me believe that what I was onto was something special. In South America, I came up with the name and wrote the teaching manual for OULA at a coffee shop and then started reaching out to gyms and studios in Missoula, so I could kind of hit the ground running when I got back.
Where did the name OULA come from?
I woke up in the middle of the night, and I just knew what the name should be. It’s called OULA after MissOULA. I hadn’t lived in Missoula for about three years at that point, and I really missed it.
When did you start OULA?
OULA started in August 2010. I moved back to Missoula then, and I begged and pleaded with gyms to pick up the program. And only two out of the ten gyms I contacted wanted the program.
How did OULA grow in popularity?
Well, when anyone new walks into our studio to take a class, one of our partners, Lacie Ellis, says, “Welcome to your new obsession!” “OULAgins” are sometimes called “OULAholics,” but the point is that OULA is addicting. People talk about it because it makes them feel good. I can’t tell you how many people have said that OULA has changed their life because it makes them feel good or because of the friends they’ve made or because of how happy they have become or for whatever reason it may be for them. And they want to share that. So they bring their friends, family, co-workers, and to be honest, the majority of our growth is just from these shiny, happy “OULAgins” sharing their OULA stories.
What does a typical OULA class look like?
OULA has a super-friendly instructor who welcomes you to the class. There are a bunch of “OULAgins”—wild and crazy people who just want to have fun. It’s an hour class and each class takes you on an emotional and physical journey. We begin with a warm-up, and then the class gains in intensity and slows with a cool down. In every hour of OULA class, there are songs that make you feel happy, sexy, sad, empowered, like a kid. And there are songs that if something is bothering you, it lets you just get it out, just move it through the body. We try to make sure that by the end of the class when our participants leave, they leave feeling lighter. They had all these different emotions, and they got to just physically move them out of the body. When you combine music with movement, something really powerful happens and you’re able to dance and release those different emotions and sensations.
What's the key to your success?
The key to our success is a lot of heart. My partners Crystal Smith, Carrie Nowlen, Lacie Ellis, and I, as well as all of our dedicated mentors, instructors, and participants, put a lot of ourselves into this, and all of that good energy and love is what makes the OULA experience. As a business we remain pretty transparent and allow people to see our struggles and watch us overcome them, to know our goals, and watch as we strive for them. I think when you are real, people want to get behind you and root for you.
What does the future hold for OULA?
My partners and I are the dreaming type, so we really see no limit to where we can take this. We want to shift the paradigm in fitness from “if I look good, I will feel good” to “when I feel good, I look amazing.” Because it’s true! Every day I get to watch people of all shapes and sizes walk out of our studio with a beautiful, healthy glow, and they get to carry that with them throughout the rest of their day. Fitness shouldn’t be intimidating. Dancing shouldn’t be elitist. OULA is a hot mess of goofy, sexy, sad, silly, powerful, beautiful warriors that is looking to grow its tribe.