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Carlsen Center alum finding success after creating first in-home, smart Pilates machine

Kaleen Canevari brought her innovative at-home Pilates exercise machine Flexia to market with help from Sac State’s Carlsen Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. (Courtesy Kaleen Canevari)
Kaleen Canevari, a mechanical engineer-turned-Pilates instructor, sits on the Flexia exercise machine she invented.
Kaleen Canevari, who invented Flexia, an at-home Pilates exercise machine designed to fit various body types, will share her story during Startup Happy Hour July 26. She will discuss how the Lean Innovator program through Sac State’s Carlsen Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship helped her realize her dream. (Courtesy Kaleen Canevari)

A bad knee made Kaleen Canevari a high-tech entrepreneur.

The mechanical engineer-turned-Pilates instructor invented Flexia, the world’s first smart, artificial intelligence-connected, at-home Pilates exercise machine designed to fit various body types.

With growing sales and $4 million in seed funding, Canevari is set to transform the way people stretch, tone, and strengthen their bodies through the popular exercise format.

The Lean Innovator program through Sac State’s Carlsen Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship played a pivotal role in Canevari’s success. She learned about the program, which the Carlsen Center developed with the Sacramento Metro Chamber of Commerce’s MetroBusiness Center, just before COVID-19 hit in early 2020.

“I’m a really good engineer, and I’m a really good Pilates instructor, but how do I get a business doing those two things off the ground?” Canevari asked.

Canevari, who had participated in several accelerator programs throughout the country, said the Lean Innovator program helped her identify and communicate her message to potential investors and customers.

“It helped me think of the other side of the equation,” she said. “You may have a great idea, but if nobody knows why your idea is great, it doesn’t matter.”

She also participated in a business accelerator program through FourthWave, which partners with the Carlsen Center to support women-led tech companies.

“I’m excited to see her continued growth from when we first met her during the Lean Innovator program,” said Cameron Law, Carlsen Center’s executive director. “She’s a great founder who utilized regional resources to help her in this startup journey.”

A Woodland native, Canevari grew up playing competitive soccer in the Sacramento area. However, injuries that resulted in two surgeries when she was in high school kept her on the sidelines.

“I would play recreational soccer, go hiking and dancing with friends, but something was still wrong,” Canevari said. “I’d pay the price for doing something adventurous.”

Her knee would be painful and swollen for days, and despite consulting several doctors and trying various forms of therapy, nothing worked.

After college, Canevari took a job as an engineer at a company that made Pilates equipment. To increase her practical knowledge about the machines she worked on – and to use them herself – she took Pilates classes, and that exercise took away her pain.

Canevari started training to be a Pilates instructor.

In 2015, she quit her job and split time between teaching in a local Pilates studio and traveling the country installing and maintaining Pilates machines, known as reformers.

Canevari’s clients repeatedly said they wanted to do more on a reformer outside of the studio.

However, commercial-grade machines used in studios were pricey and too big for in-home gyms, she said, while machines made for in-home were too flimsy.

“I started Flexia because I wanted to solve that problem,” she said.

Because Pilates is built on controlled, precise movements, Canevari designed her reformer to measure stability and control using sensors hidden under the carriage. Other home machines only measure speed and weight.

Data captured by Flexia’s sensors is transmitted via Wi-Fi to its online studio and displayed in real time on the client’s connected device. The information is then used to create personalized exercise recommendations.

Canevari also wanted a machine that would fit anyone.

“We’re really proud of making something that can fit more bodies,” Canevari said. “People who are wider – whether broad-shouldered or carrying extra weight – can fit on it really well, and pro athletes or really tall people don’t feel like they’re being smushed into a certain form.” 

Flexia, which offers more than 80 online classes, officially launched in the middle of the pandemic with the first orders shipping at the end of 2021.

The company recently raised $4 million from Jerusalem-based venture capital fund ADvantage, a partnership led by the Adidas’ Adi Dassler Family Office.

Canevari is supporting the Sacramento business community by sharing her story during Startup Happy Hour, 5-7 p.m. July 26, hosted by the Carlsen Center and StartupSac.

The Carlsen Center is accepting applications for the Lean Innovator Series through Aug. 1.

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About Jennifer K. Morita

Jennifer K. Morita joined Sacramento State in 2022. A former newspaper reporter for the Sacramento Bee, she spent several years juggling freelance writing with being a mom. When she isn’t chauffeuring her two daughters, she enjoys reading mysteries, experimenting with recipes, and Zumba.

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