Although she grew up in affluent Greenwich, Connecticut, Heidi Kristoffer was raised by a family that was "very frugal." They would use coupons, buy items on sale, and Kristoffer had to get a job if she wanted access to a credit card. She started babysitting at a young age, worked retail jobs from the time she could drive, and was also acting professionally. At the same time, she put her nose the grindstone academically, attending Cornell University's musical theater program and later the British American Drama Academy (BADA) in London.
"When I graduated, I came to New York with hopes and dreams of being a Broadway actress," recalls Kristoffer. But every manager and agent she met with recommended she do TV. While that's not exactly what she had in mind, Kristoffer went out for auditions and ended up starring on a soap opera for 10 years. "I learned very quickly how to do things well under pressure on screen, and became very comfortable talking on screen," says Kristoffer.
The young actress had also dedicated herself to a regular workout routine at the gym. But in 2007, in the midst of an especially cold New York City winter, she went to a yoga studio that was closer to her apartment in an effort to cut down on travel time. "I'm halfway through this class, I'm sweating, I'm exhausted, and I'm exuberantly happy," recalls Kristoffer.
Soon thereafter, her acting career took a toxic, exhausting turn. "I got to the point where the prevailing message was, 'You are never enough. You are never thin enough, fat enough, short enough, tall enough, pretty enough, ugly enough,'" she says. "It's rejection every day."
But in yoga, she was learning "to remember that we are enough exactly the way we are," says Kristoffer. "The universe created you to be perfect, and you are, and your job is to remember that." It was a game-changing notion—and one that inspired Kristoffer to leave acting and pursue yoga full-time by 2012. "Yoga saved me on every level—physically, emotionally, spiritually," she notes. "It changed my life forever and changed the trajectory of my life."
Still, Kristoffer craved a more financially sound career than full-time yoga teaching could afford. She began writing a blog and creating videos every week for SHAPE magazine. She was hired by Microsoft to create, write, and produce a yoga encyclopedia. And after welcoming her twins in 2015, she taught live-streaming classes on multiple apps.
A year and a half ago, she was inspired to create her own yoga app: CrossFlow Yoga. "I had a deep longing to share therapeutic yoga, but it wasn't sexy, and it wasn't clickbaity," says Kristoffer.
She wanted to create an app that was useful for busy parents too. "I attempt to offer something for most people on the app, no matter what your skill level is," notes Kristoffer. "And I want you to get the most bang for your time buck, because we are all time-starved and in combining yoga modalities together, you get more in a shorter amount of time, but leave feeling the same."
The app offers various yoga-based workouts and routines—like a quicker flowing Vinyasa CrossFlowV and a slower-paced bedtime class called CrossFlowZ—meant to suit any mood and energy level as well as tutorials, workshops, breathing exercises, and guided meditations. There are also prenatal yoga classes for those expecting.
The instructor was also motivated by her own motherhood journey. "Becoming a mom informed my need to create something on my own and not be at the whims of other people," she explains. "I needed to be in control of what I was doing, in control of my time, in control of my content."
What Kristoffer couldn't control with group classes, she could with her app. The now mom of three could shoot and edit a ton of videos at once, and create a schedule for herself based on her kids' school schedule. "They deserve my full, undivided attention when I can give it to them, just like my app deserves my full undivided attention when I can give it to her," she explains.
Here the entrepreneur shares her best tips for building a business that reflects your values and passing that valuable lesson onto your kids.
Be Willing to Put in the Work
Kristoffer found that in acting, "work begets work." So when she pivoted from acting to yoga, she put in the work to earn more and get better class time slots. And when SHAPE came to her to do a yoga series, it took her just one take to nail it. "They offered me a weekly blog before yoga was a part of their content," she says.
The lesson: "Just being able to continually deliver because of a hard work ethic and the willingness to do the work has always paid off for me," says Kristoffer.
Prepare for the Unexpected
The yoga entrepreneur recalls doing a stint at her stepfather's hedge fund after college in order to save up for an emergency fund that would cover her for six months. Now, she can't recommend enough the importance of "being prepared for the unexpected" by creating a financial nest egg.
Kristoffer notes, "It will allow you to keep moving forward and in the direction that you desire, rather than having little speed bumps throw you off balance."
Teach Kids the Value of Work
Kristoffer says it's important to her that her children, who are now 3 and 5, work hard and learn how to earn anything they want. She aims to teach them that lesson from a very young age. "I show them by example that Mommy and Daddy go to work every day and work really hard to afford the life that we live," she says.
It's also important to the mom of three that her twin girls "know their own worth, feel like they can stand on their own two feet or hold themselves up with their own two hands," she says. "It's lovely and amazing and special and beautiful that they have each other to lean on. But it's also super important that they understand that they don't need anyone except for themselves."