CWRU Alum Launches Startup to Fuel Community During COVID-19

Karishma Bali

By: Yvonne Pan

Launched in July 2020, the Chicago-based start-up Pulse Athletic Apparel is an affordable athletic wear brand founded by CEO Karishma Bali (GRS ‘19, medical physiology). In the middle of a global pandemic and faced with civil unrest, Bali saw a need for community and interconnectedness. 

“Life’s been very dynamic, but running and fitness have been my constants,” Karishma said. “It’s how I stay grounded and find clarity.” 

Bali, a five-time marathoner, calls Pulse “a community motivating you to find your inner passion.” 

“In the midst of chaos, uncertainty, and adversity, it’s easy to give up. It’s easy to be negative or even become complacent,” Bali said. 

“Pulse forward,” Pulse’s slogan, reminds people that breaking away from the easy actions or inactions helps yield more progress and reminds people to just keep moving forward.

Bali’s motivational business stems from her own experiences being the older sister to a sibling with disabilities and a first-generation student navigating the educational system trying to pave a career in both medicine and entrepreneurship. Bali admits that in college she was a failing pre-med student struggling to handle stress, but she managed to push through, get into graduate school and start her own business thanks to the Pulse mentality.

In addition to running Pulse, Bali is an independent consultant at SingleCare, president of Onedrus, a fellow at Ohana Health, founder of Bali Academy and hosts the podcast Kill it with KB. She also holds bachelor of science degrees in anthropology and biology from Loyola University Chicago and a master's degree in global entrepreneurial management from the University of San Francisco.

This range of experiences has allowed Bali to network and create this inspiring community. 

“I’m building relationships with dancers, teachers, artists, coaches, leaders in healthcare, and fellow founders and entrepreneurs,” Bali said. “I’m identifying those who embody the Pulse mission and encouraging a community of empowerment.”

Pulse’s growth extends beyond just Bali’s network and she gets messages daily from people interested in being part of the Pulse community. 

“It’s amazing how despite being socially distant, you can still network and connect with so many people through a simple message,” she said.

Pulse’s pledge to not mark up or inflate prices makes athletic apparel more affordable and more accessible. This accessibility makes the brand more inclusive and it has been worn by anyone from nurses, physicians and health coaches to yogis, dancers and students.

Pulse’s slogan “Pulse Forward” and its logo, complete with the heartbeat wave aligns with the brand’s philosophy, “put your heart into everything you do.” Looking forward, Bali hopes to see Pulse working with underserved communities and be known as an inclusive health and wellness platform.