Hustlers helping hustlers: how Caleigh Rykiss turned hardship into a self-love paradise
Updated: Sep 26, 2019
Say her name; know her story. We ask phenomenal women to narrate the story of their lives in five chapters. They name each chapter and explain why each chapter is named the way it is, allowing them to share their story in their own words, and showcase their milestones, hardships, and decisions along the way.
Picture this: You have plans to go out with your friends tonight. You want to get a workout in, but you also want to look HAWT, and you only have three hours before the pre-drink. What do you do? You get your ass to BOLO, do a quick boxing class, then head to the back of the salon for a blowout and makeup session. Naturally, you do this while throwing back a few double vodka sodas. BOOM - you’ve burned off some healthy cals, you look like a goddess and you’re already buzzed.
When you’re feeling yourself, flirting with someone new in front of your ex at the bar tonight, just remember - Caleigh Rykiss gave you this gift.
But before we get to how she founded BOLO, we need to talk about the road that Caleigh took on her way to becoming the beautiful badass boss that she is.
It’s 2019, so using the phrase “the struggle was real”, even if used ironically, hasn’t been socially acceptable for at least five years. However, we would definitely make an exception if it were coming from Caleigh Rykiss.
“I feel like I learned a lot at a young age, some of which I’m grateful for, some of which is kind of sad. I don’t think young people should have to carry the burdens that I feel like I was aware of early on, but in the end it led me to who I am today.”
Caleigh remembers learning the stresses of financial strain at a very young age. Raised by a single mom, she recalls the uncertainty they often faced about their future. But she also recalls the resiliency and unconditional love of her mother, who did everything in her power to keep the two of them afloat.
“There’s nothing my mother wouldn’t do for me now, and there’s nothing she wouldn’t have done for me then.” God damnit, moms (and dads!) are amazing.
Through their struggles and financial strain, Caleigh found a safe haven within music. Like lots of kids, she wanted to be a rockstar. Unlike the other kids, she decided she wanted more than just lip syncing with a hair brush while melodramatically pointing at herself in the mirror all alone in her room. We all do this, so don’t pretend like you haven’t been listening to the new Ariana/Lana/Miley collab while putting on a fully choreographed solo concert plus an encore. Just don’t.
With a prominent music manager for an uncle, Caleigh quickly got herself flung into the music industry at the age of just 13. She was booking meetings with songwriters, producers, and musicians, and recording music with artists she had admired her whole life. I repeat: she was only THIRTEEN. How is it that I’ve been putting on my own bedroom Black Eyed Peas concerts for 24 years and I still haven’t been approached to record with Will.I.Am.? I feel robbed.
While she was doing a lot of recording and having even more fun, her music career simply wasn’t taking off as she had hoped it would. For all the work she was putting in, the return seemed slim to none.
Having to give up part of her dream at 17 was soul crushing for Caleigh. And while it may sound a tad dramatic now, remember that we are a generation that have made quarter-life crises an actual thing. So stop judging. She was 17 and she thought her life was over.
“If I’m not a musician, I am nothing,” she remembers telling herself.
To make matters even more complicated, in true millennial fashion, her educational and professional background seemed like one big clusterfuck - a BA in Political Science, work experience in the music industry, and the pressure of having to start everything over at just 17 years old. But somehow, Caleigh landed herself a job at etalk (I guess it’s true what they say about those handy dandy transferable skills?!).
She set her sights on becoming a producer, made it, loved it, and then quickly realized she needed a new passion to discover and conquer.
One day, some of her male friends dared her to join them in the ‘hardest fitness class they’ve ever taken’ (pfffffft) at a gym filled primarily with a bunch of jacked up men who were probably not doing legs.
Naturally, she crushed it. She didn’t know it yet, but that one class would take Caleigh on the next turn in her career.
“I went that first day and spent more time in that gym than I did in my apartment.”
She was hooked. She trained and boxed on the daily while continuing to work full time. She built up her strength and endurance so high that she even fought in some amateur tournaments (which is the way that I plan on describing the next bar fight that I get into). She loved the turn that her life had taken, but it also started putting serious stress on her body.
Addicted to the thrill and the lifestyle she was building for herself, Caleigh gradually began training more, eating less and feeling shitty pretty much all the time. Sadly, her physical and mental health declined quickly, and she was eventually forced to take a year of disability leave from her job at etalk.
After finally giving herself some much-needed time, rest and grace, she came to the realization that what she craved wasn’t to have skinnier arms or a perfectly defined six-pack; it was balance.
“It’s difficult when people are critical about other people’s appearances. Especially women critical of other women. It’s important to give ourselves grace. A positive body image isn’t being skinny; it’s about loving your body the way it is.”
Her time away from work provided her with clarity surrounding her professional life and career goals. She was ready for something new, which brings us to BOLO Inc.
BOLO stands for BodyLove; a place to give your body some much-needed love by using movement for both health and socialization. She had a vision of creating a space that would make life a little bit easier for people like her; women who were working relentlessly to reach their personal and professional goals while also trying to maintain a healthy body, mind and social life.
Caleigh recalls the countless investors who turned down the business idea. You’re telling me that a bunch of old rich dudes didn’t understand the value in creating a space that would make it a teeny tiny bit easier for women to practice self-care while hustling hard, raising families and basically running the world in general?!? Shocking. They told her that she was trying to do too much - fitness, hair, makeup, booze, lunch and coffee was just too many things to do under one roof.
Guess what: a 7,000 square foot roof is fucking huge. You can fit a lot under it, and that’s what Caleigh did.
BOLO’s gym isn’t run like a cult for Instagram models and none of the classes are called ‘fat burners’, ‘calorie blasters, or ‘six pack givers’. The classes are designed to nourish bodies with exercise and explore how movement can allow us to give back to our bodies for longer and happier lives.
And then, of course, there’s the other half of BOLO; the café and salon. Caleigh’s vision was to have a spot where clients could go to get their entire fill of self-love all in one place, and that’s what she does with the other half of her space. The salon literally offers a service called The Sweat Style to make sure everyone feels cute enough to be seen in public, even those of us who do everything in our power to avoid washing our hair for way longer than we care to admit. Blowouts, boxing, Prosecco, lash lifts, lattes… Yes Belinda Carlisle, heaven IS a place on Earth and it is called BOLO.
Despite a personal and professional path that was winding and sometimes uncertain, Caleigh’s entrepreneurial spirit has allowed her to give back to the world in the way she felt she could make the most difference. From musician to media production to fitness boss, Caleigh has lived a full life and is still just 35 years young.
Find out more about her story in her 5 chapters video.
Written by: Hannah Geiser and Michelle Kwok