In 2011, I opened the doors to my own yoga studio in Los Angeles. Like so many newly-minted yoga teachers, I was really enamored with yoga and how transformative it is. I figured, what could be better than spending all day, every day bringing this service to people?
I would walk into other studios and see how happy the customers were and what a seemingly peaceful environment it was. I was living in east Hollywood at the time, an area of Los Angeles that has a very vibrant artistic community. There was no yoga studio at the time serving that particular area.
Enormous cost went into renting commercial real estate, as well as maintaining insurance, utilities, cleaning, staff, etc. It was also a huge challenge in an urban, dense area of Los Angeles to be able to provide parking for customers and they often had to fight terrible traffic. I found out quickly that I had not raised nearly enough startup funding and that I was not going to bring in enough revenue to cover my operational costs. I wasn't completely ready to give up on yoga as a business service, but I knew that the traditional physical studio model was not working.
I had gotten a few inquiries from companies wanting on-site yoga classes. I taught a few of them initially, and they went so well that our early clients started booking more and more classes. And more companies started to step forward asking for this service as well. It occurred to me that a better business model would be to deliver "on demand" yoga, by appointment and on location.
One advantage to our model is that we're very flexible and customizable to each and every client's need. If you go to a yoga class at a studio, the class is going to be themed a certain way/geared towards a certain level and you're pretty much going to have to work within that structure. We work with each client to customize the experience and all of my teachers are experienced in going out into the field into situations that can be very unpredictable. They have to assess the students and what they need on the fly. It's a real art form.
We also don't have the overhead of a large staff or a physical space that a traditional yoga studio would have to pay for.
The hardest thing, though, is connecting with customers that could benefit from our services. Many companies out there still don't know about us or they don't know how beneficial having yoga/meditation classes at the office would be for their employees and culture. Too many companies also assume that they have to commit to something forever or that it's too expensive or that they don't have the space. There are so many different ways we can customize our services.
Another big challenge is simply scheduling. As our business grows and we get more weekly bookings, I have to work on the logistics of how many different places my teachers can be. Scaling the company is not as easy as it sounds, because the customer experience is really important to me. I need to know what each and every one of my instructors is capable of; I can't just hire an army of hundreds of yoga teachers because I want to quality control the experience.
The road ahead
We're working on expanding our offerings to kids' yoga. In fact, in addition to bringing yoga to schools, we'd like to offer kids yoga training to traditional teachers to incorporate into their existing methodology. We're looking to partner with OB/GYN clinics to offer fertility, pregnancy and post-natal yoga. We'd like to book more healthy cooking demos with our chef Garland as well as healing sound meditations in the form of sound baths. Both the cooking demos and sound bath have been picking up popularity and we get a lot of inquiries about them. In general, holding public events on a recurring basis (in partnership with other organizations) is a specialty of ours that we want to do more often. There are countless situations in which we can incorporate/combine the wellness services our team offers, and I'm looking for more unusual and creative ways to do that.
And of course, overall, we're doing a lot of business development and reach outs in 2017. We'd like to double the size of our weekly recurring clients. I believe that we have enough experienced staff to be able to handle that workload competently. I try to set goals on a yearly basis and scale at a slow and mindful pace. This way, we can continue to provide the custom, boutique experience that distinguishes us from other companies that try to do the same thing.
About the author: McKenna Rowe is the founder of Chakra 5 Yoga, a mobile yoga business that serves dozens of corporate clients across Los Angeles County. Read more about Rowe and her entrepreneurial journey on Free Enterprise.
Edited for length and clarity by Nicole Taylor. Have a great entrepreneurial story to tell? Email your pitch to Shannon at firstname.lastname@example.org.