Janel Norton isn’t just a business owner with a passion for yoga—she is also a veteran, having served in the U.S. Air Force as a combat photojournalist. She was also a press information officer and photojournalist for the United Nations, spending her early career documenting crises in Panama, Bosnia and Liberia.
Then, after 20 years as a photographer, Janel returned to school for her master’s degree from the University of South Florida. After facing a difficult job market upon graduating and discovering how yoga helped her maintain balance, she enrolled in a yoga teacher training program. “I managed to trade my photo and marketing skills for a 200-hour yoga teacher training, and began teaching a few classes at the studio where I practiced near my house,” Janel explained.
Her newfound love of yoga—and teaching it—quickly turned into co-ownership of Trinity Yoga Studio. Janel credits the leadership and work ethic instilled during her military training as a large part of how she formed her path from U.S. Air Force to business owner: “Once you enter into the ranks, there’s constantly a push for growth. Making rank and supervising others is just part of the natural progression of things—the nature of how the military operates instills confidence, a sense of purpose and direction.”
Eventually, Janel wanted to give back to other veterans like her, co-founding the Veterans Alternative with one of her students, Brian Anderson. Veterans Alternative is a non-profit organization designed to serve Veterans experiencing trauma incurred while serving in the military by training the mind, body, and spirit to heal after returning home from military service.
Veterans Alternative offers classes in yoga, martial arts, and strength conditioning, as well as offering therapies designed to help Veterans heal from mental trauma. As Janel explains: “We both knew the benefits yoga provided after returning from combat deployments, and wanted to bring that, along with other alternative therapies, to our Veteran population.”
While Janel credits some of her success to her military experience, she recommends learning from other business owners before launching a new endeavor. “I have zero business background, just management training and experience. Some of the most valuable information I received was from talking with other start-ups and business owners to hear what they failed at, and what their successes were.”