Staying positive post-pandemic

KaiaFIT owner Heather Flebbe leads a cross fit class at KaukFitr in Santa Clarita on Friday, 050721. Dan Watson/The Signal

While the pandemic and the resulting business closures were difficult on business owners from all walks of life, women were hit especially hard, studies found.

A new Union Bank survey found that the pandemic had a disproportionate impact on women-owned small businesses, with 64% of respondents saying they felt they had no control over the situation, versus 54% for men. 

They also reported higher median revenue losses: 50% revenue loss for women-owned businesses versus 35% for men.

But despite this, women respondents still said they remain optimistic and positive.

Here in the Santa Clarita Valley, women business owners agreed that while the pandemic has been a difficult time, it’s being women that has allowed them to continue to persevere.

KaiaFIT owner Heather Flebbe leads a cross fit class at KaukFitr in Santa Clarita on Friday, 050721. Dan Watson/The Signal


While Heather Flebbe has been in the fitness industry for nearly three decades, she always had a goal to open her own gym.

“As an exercise physiologist, I always had a passion that I wanted to share my knowledge of fitness and really truly what the power of fitness does for your mind, your confidence and your energy for life,” Flebbe said. 

In addition, Flebbe wants to create a space where she could reach women specifically, which is why when the time finally came to open her own gym, KaiaFIT was the perfect fit, as it specifically focuses on women’s fitness.

“I really want to just leave a legacy of strong women, and women that are really changing the world,” Flebbe added.

It was that drive that Flebbe believes allowed her to prosper, adding, “I think we have more empathy and are really concerned about the quality of life of people around us.”

The gym recently celebrated its two-year anniversary in April, and while the last year of near-full closure was difficult, Flebbe remained driven to provide women with an outlet through a stressful pandemic.

Within days, she’d created her virtual fitness class that she actually plans to continue as the gym returns to in-person classes.

Being a woman in business has had its benefits for Flebbe, who has found tremendous support from other women business owners, and as a mother, business owner and exercise physiology teacher, Flebbe said her ability to multitask has also been useful, though it can be challenging to find a good work-life balance. 

“I think women lead in a different way where we lead by doing,” Flebbe added. “I’m really trying to cultivate the heart of my business by doing the work alongside my employees and my clients.” 

KaiaFIT Santa Clarita is located at 26635 Valley Center Drive, No. 106, Santa Clarita.

Castaic Canine Camp

While Linda Chisholm began her career as a professional beach volleyball player, playing for College of the Canyons in the 1970s before she went on to win a silver medal in the 1984 Olympics, it was animals that were always her passion.

“I’ve always loved animals,” Chisholm said. “My mom would get mad at me for taking animals from the streets and bringing them in.” 

It was that passion that drove Chisholm to continue searching for a location where she could begin a kennel business, and in 2005, she found the perfect property in Castaic.

Castaic Canine Camp, a dog boarding and training facility, was finally born in 2007, as Chisholm worked to find her place in the industry.

“It took some time for everybody to get familiar with us before business picked up,” Chisholm added.

While chasing a dream often means making sacrifices, Chisholm was able to use her success in sports to continue pursuing her ultimate goals.

And it’s that perseverance and dedication that allowed Chisholm to survive the pandemic, which was difficult, as boarding dogs is a travel business, and travel was near nonexistent.

Castaic Canine Camp is located at 36975 Ridge Route Road, Castaic.

Jenifer and Mark Felan stand outside of The Sweat Shack. Courtesy

The Sweat Shack

In 2015, Jenifer Felan, and her husband, Mark, created The Sweat Shack to share the health benefits of heat therapy.

Like many working moms, Felan lived a high-stress lifestyle, juggling family, work and fitness, on top of struggling with numerous autoimmune disorders. 

Once she discovered the healing benefits of infrared heat, she began sharing her in-house sauna with friends, quickly realizing she needed to open a place. 

Now more than ever, as keeping your body healthy and strong becomes a focus amid the pandemic, Felan says the benefits of sweating are even more prevalent.

The Felans opened the first location in Old Town Newhall, and recently opened a second location at Skyline Ranch, the franchise model flagship store, as they expand the brand nationwide. 

While there are challenges in business, Felan said she’s never looked at it as gender-specific, simply tackling whatever problems come her way.

Jenifer Felan stands inside her business, The Sweat Shack. Courtesy

“It’s just about just being consistent and not giving up,” Felan said. “I look at it like I have choices, and I can get creative and buckle down and just do it, regardless of what was being thrown at me. … I’ve always been a firm believer, as well as my husband, that when you have a vision and a dream, you do what it takes.”

She and her husband did just that, selling their Agua Dulce home after COVID-19 hit, then living in their fifth-wheel trailer, in order to help finance their second location.

“We had already committed to build the location in Saugus, and we were going to keep our commitment, no matter what,” she added. “It’s just about using what’s in your hand, never giving up, always pursuing and being consistent, because that’s what pays off.” 

The Sweat Shack is located at 24363 Main St., Newhall.

Santa Clarita Concessions

Santa Clarita Concessions is a family-run business owned by Lisa Burke, the second generation to operate it, which has been in the SCV since 1955.

While she worked at the company on and off, she’d never planned on taking over, until it was time for her dad to retire, as it became an almost natural transition.

Soon, she found she was challenging herself to become less emotional — a quality she feels women possess more often — and stronger, ensuring to her clients and employees she could successfully run the business, too.

Since then, she’s worked to keep up with advancements in her industry, which has allowed the company to prosper. 

As a single mom, Burke found it challenging to manage both personal and work lives, yet Burke got creative.

“When my daughter was little, what I did so that she was not without her mom and I could be with her is I had somebody come to my office and watch her for me,” Burke said. “That was a luxury I guess I had for owning my own business that a lot of other moms didn’t have.” 

She, too, found her ability to multitask was beneficial, as she found ways of being a good mother and good business owner.

“I feel like women somehow just make it work,” Burke added.

Santa Clarita Concessions is located at 21554 Golden Triangle Road, Santa Clarita.

Harleen Grewal sets up for mobile Covid-19 testing from the back of her vehicle in Santa Clarita on Saturday, 011620. Dan Watson/The Signal

Filling a need

After Dr. Harleen Grewal became one of the 1 million Los Angelenos to be diagnosed with COVID-19, she realized there’s a better way for people to find out whether they have the virus, or whether they need to isolate because they potentially could make someone else sick.

But as a board-certified pediatric dentist who also has a husband who’s a board-certified neurologist, once she beat COVID-19, she also realized she was in a position to help others.

That’s why Harleen Grewal and her husband, Yuvi, who works at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital, decided to create

The pair also run a dental office, as well as a holistic health center known as Mind Body Infusion, which have opened recently. 

“If we don’t have a plan of action, we’re not going to be able to go do anything,” Harleen said, sharing the frustration she’s heard so many express over potential virus concerns, and her motivation for starting this effort. “If I can help someone, I really want to do it. This is the time.”

Mind Body Infusion is located at 28532 La Madrid Drive, Suite C, Santa Clarita.

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