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Updated: Dec 23, 2019
So you’ve decided: you want to open up your own yoga studio. You’ve heard the warnings, the countless testimonies of disaster, the rumors that it will drain your passion, but have chosen to ignore them all because—someone has to do it and you are the determined yogi who will overcome the hurdles and successfully transmute your own passionate practice into a thriving place of business.
So now, where do you start?
You probably have a vision for both the kind of studio atmosphere you want to foster and the community that you want to develop through this space; if you don’t, this is your step 1.
Not all yoga studios are the same, here are some essential questions to considering before opening your yoga studio:
These are the questions you should have answers clearly mapped out to: a yoga business is fundamentally different from other business endeavors, in that, most other endeavors won’t involve your spiritual practice, but it is also, fundamentally, the same. If you don’t understand your clientele or have clearly delineated business goals and plans, you are going to be vastly overwhelmed by a constant swell of challenges.
Every yoga studio needs, a studio. Finding a strategic space, especially in an urban setting like New York where rent is comically high and your competitors lurk on every corner, can prove to be one of the most difficult parts of this endeavor. The creator of Blackout Yoga compared the process of finding an adequate studio space in New York City to “finding a rodent-free apartment on a shoestring budget.”
Obviously minimizing overhead is a priority, but you need to determine how much you’re prepared to pour into the process initially, before your business is profit capable.
So first, what does your studio need and what are your means? Here, is where it’s important to have a really clear vision of what you want from your studio: if music is going to be a central component of your studio’s classes, acoustics of the room and sound system capabilities, as well as noise control policies, need to be taken into account.
Are you looking for a space with one large room or do you need multiple studio spaces for simultaneous classes (and how many students do you, ideally, want in the room, keeping in mind you need about 21 square feet per practitioner)?
Are you looking for a simple changing space near your front desk check-in or a more of an extensive locker room set-up with showers and other amenities?
Do you already have the capital to fund the necessary renovations or will you need to raise outside financing? Maybe you have extensive funding and can invest in a more expensive, finished space, but still can’t find exactly what you want, so you’ll need to use those funds to create the ideal space.
You should embark on your search with a clear list of requirements for the space, and then a list of more malleable features that you’d like the space to have, but can work around if it lacks.
Returning to knowing your clientele, the yoga industry in the United States is constantly expanding and all of the businesses caught in the boom are competing for the same clientele. Having something that sets you apart from the legions of other studios around could be the answer to not getting lost in the sea of your various competitors.
Blackout Yoga, a new boutique yoga studio in New York, is driving this idea home: their initial goal was to create their “own spin to a traditional yoga practice and create a new invigorating, bass pumping, and sweat dripping kind of yoga where we turn up the bass, dim the lights, and let the music feed our souls.”
Their idea to unite their passions for EDM and yoga is a fresh one with a long list of viable clientele: the boom of electronic music largely coincided with the boom of yoga and the overlap of young people who appreciate both is a niche that is certainly specialized, but by no means small.
They have narrowed in on who their positive consumers will be and this is a model that will create long-lasting, return clients, not fleeting, one time negative clients.
So, as a prospective studio owner, this isn’t to say you need an idea that completely revamps the practice, but a defining feature, something memorable and different about YOUR studio is almost essential at this stage of the game (even if that feature is something as small as cold towels and cucumber water). Give your yogis a reason to come back to you.
So now that you have your space, it’s time to build an equally crucial team of people.
Depending on how large of a business you plan to run, your management needs will vary: larger studios will need more extensive front desk and general business management, maintenance teams, and, of course, teachers.
When looking for teachers and staff, return to the energy you want for your studio environment; while all of the people that you hire don’t need to be carbon copies of you or your vision, they DO need to have goals that are aligned with yours and need to be invested in your ideas.
Look for teachers whose teaching styles will contribute to cultivating the energy that will build your studio community and whose business practices are organized and reliable.
While perhaps it isn’t absolutely necessary that everyone on your team is a yogi, it certainly is helpful; if the woman working your front desk is a yogi, she will be more in tune to the needs of your customers, and, perhaps more importantly, she will more likely have a lifestyle that is comparable to yours.
This is an inherent advantage to the business of yoga: you can easily surround yourself with likeminded individuals, using yoga as an organic tether. Kevin Yang, the Yoga Director for TRN, a new app that connects clients with fitness specialists, offers insight into his hiring process:
“I find teachers by building relationships with them and other practitioners. I learn who the best instructors are and try to take a class with them. There’s nothing like experiencing a class first hand to get a sense of how the instructor teaches and whether the instructor can teach one-on-one by listening to verbal cues and watching adjustments. This helps me to narrow the pool of teachers with whom I wanted to speak with and consider as potential TRN specialists. Once teachers apply to become a TRN specialist, they go through a rigorous selection process as we handpick our team. These specialists are at the top of their fields; their knowledge of how yoga affects the body combined with their teaching experience will give TRN’s users the best possible experience.
In terms of methodology, the most important thing I look for when adding to the TRN team is their ability to sequence and actually teach rather than just call out a bunch of poses. The best teachers I’ve come across all found a way to build each pose for the student, making him or her aware of the alignment points and muscle engagement of each posture without disrupting the flow of the practice and the transitions between poses. In addition to that the overall energy and professionalism of the instructor determined whether I wanted to approach (Yang).”
Like any business, building a team of individuals who have “bought into your company’s culture” is imperative. All aspects of your yoga studio — and especially your employees — should understand your direction, and actively help you in growing your vision into a reality.
Getting the word out about your studio will be your next challenge: the close knit yoga community (wherever you are) is a wonderful place to implement simple word-of-mouth marketing, as well as utilizing this to build your team.
Social media pushes are great for emphasizing that unique defining feature of your studio, and making this feature eye-catching [i.e. Candle Lit Flows, Late Night Classes, “Meditation and Beats Flow”] and enticing is essential to combatting your competitors.
Use your vision about the energy you want to flow through your studio to create a brand that mirrors that energy; then, be sure to use the right marketing channels to target your ideal consumers.
“For TRN, the most effective way to get our word out, besides the “warm” organic marketing, is to make our services known to our target clientele by focusing on getting exposure through those avenues they would most likely frequent. For example, our first exposure piece was in the Wall Street Journal, which our target clientele would most likely see. I think the combination of having the right people in your network coupled with access to the media your target market would consume is the key (Yang).”
Opening your own yoga studio requires the same attention to location, hiring, and marketing as any other small business. Identify who you are, what you are offering, and what will make you different from the yoga studio located a few blocks away — and consider that vision with every decision that you make on your spiritually-infused entrepreneurial journey.
Samantha Novick is a senior editor at Funding Circle, specializing in small business financing. She has a bachelor's degree from the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at New York University. Prior to Funding Circle, Samantha was a community manager at Marcus by Goldman Sachs. Her work has been featured in a number of top small business resource sites and publications.