Running a business is tough. It can also be a big JOY in your life. I’ve worked at many yoga studios throughout my lifetime. I’ve trained teachers, I coach teachers and yoga studio owners, and I also created and operated my own brick and mortar yoga studio.
Teaching yoga is a labour of love. I’d love to emphasize both the words labour and love because both are necessary things you’ll need to focus on if you too want to own a yoga studio.
I opened mine in a small Ontario town in 2014. There was a need and I filled it. It came out of opportunity and desire to serve my community. My intention in creating my studio was never, “here is a great financial opportunity” but “here is something that I would really love to create.”
I loved my job, but it was also a lot of hard work. I closed my yoga studio in 2020 during the pandemic. That chapter needed to end. Many studios closed during this time period and I write this for those who are now thinking about creating a space of their own. Here’s what I learned about running a yoga studio based on my experience owning, operating and now working with current yoga studio owners.
- It’s going to cost you a lot more than you think
While I was never blind to my finances I didn’t do a deep dive into financial projections like I did post closure when I applied for grants to recover from my closure. The grants asked that I thoroughly dissect my expenses, project financial goals for the future as I went about creating new businesses and go through things with a fine toothed comb.
I don’t live in a big city center yet I still had big city bills. I had big bills too because I believe in doing things right the first time. I was creating a professional establishment. It wasn’t going to be a hobby. It wasn’t going to be something I did just for fun. It was going to be a successful business. A business requires systems, strategies and structure.
My basic expenses to run my studio were about 10x the amount that I ever dreamed they would be. Your idea for your business might look profitable and easy on paper before you begin but you’re going to uncover a lot of hidden costs as you move forward.
I do believe in lean startups, and I do believe that done is better than perfect but I also saw that I had to continue to spend, in order to attract, maintain and grow my business.
2. Incentivise your teachers.
I paid my teachers much more than other local businesses would because I believed in a fair wage. Other local businesses only paid $25/class. I don’t believe $25/class is enough for an experienced teacher. A brand new teacher looking for experience? Maybe. I also don’t believe in paying out huge amounts to teachers that aren’t pulling their weight. Studios that do well, incentivise their teachers to grow their own personal following. They want their teachers to talk about and promote their classes. Post about their classes. Gather their own communities and take pride in building that audience. I paid teachers well who did this kind of side work. Every teacher on my staff had a base pay rate. They could choose to stop there…..or they could work harder to increase their own paycheck. There is no joy in being stuck in an hourly wage no matter your profession. Incentives make work more appealing and exciting for everyone.
3. Choose your teachers (and staff) wisely.
I lived in a small town with a very limited amount of yoga teachers to choose from. Studios in the past would have hired anyone with a certification. I didn’t want just anyone. I wanted the best. I wanted to hire those that shared my values, were kind, courteous, hard working and living in integrity with the practice itself. In regards to yoga teacher trainings, it’s kind of the wild west out there. There are unfortunately terrible yoga teacher trainings out there that do not provide sound education. Education that teaches proper alignment, teaching technique and/or the solid roots of yoga’s rich lineage.
I investigated where they received their training and anyone that signed up with me also had to sign off on continuing education and be open minded to receiving feedback and learning opportunities. My teachers were required to practice. If they weren’t practicing….they wouldn’t be teaching at the studio.
I also looked at their social media accounts. If they didn’t represent themselves professionally, they weren’t for me and my studio. I said “no” to many people, despite needing them in the beginning.
I eventually created my own yoga teachers through my teacher trainings so I could create exactly the kind of educators who would represent the studio well. Creating your own teachers, is the best way to create staff that will elevate your business.
4. Clear is kind
Clarity is kind. To save yourself a lot of headaches later, be clear on exactly what you expect from your staff, what clients can expect from your establishment, and what you expect from your clients.
Clear and posted in my space were rules and expectations. New teachers had a guidebook to review and sign off on. New members had contract agreements to sign.
Never make assumptions about what people will do. Be clear about what you’re creating from day 1 and you’ll save everyone a lot of headaches later. People appreciate clarity. Assumptions only lead to conflict.
5. Re-thinking scholarships
This one is tough. As a yogi who believes this is life saving service work….I WANTED to give so much away for free. I offered so many scholarships. I gave away a lot of memberships for free to those who couldn’t afford them. I created karma yoga classes and karma yoga work exchange programs. I had expectations that people would value this opportunity and would make the most of it.
My experience with free programming is this. People don’t always value what they don’t pay for. They often went unused or I was taken advantage of. My Karma Yoga applicants wouldn’t do a very good job or would easily quit.
When we pay for what we want….we value it.
I will still offer yoga and services pro bono to those who need assistance. My Cancer, heart centered yogi soul can’t not. What I do do now is remove my expectations that the experience will be a certain way. I remove all expectation that the gift will be used a certain way. I now give, just because. I do my best, then let go of the rest. Just something to consider if you’re thinking of doing this too.
If you’re going to offer scholarships or work exchange karma programs, be clear, create an application process and hold people responsible for their work that they are committing to. Clarity is kind. Be really clear about what you’re creating in that relationship. Encourage personal responsibility……but expect nothing in return.
6. Cultivating Community
Creating community is really hard work. It can also be a beast that takes on its own energy. Large communities come with struggle, drama and leadership requirements. We see this in organizations that have grown really big. Eventually, they almost always come crashing down.
Appreciate small communities. Create little side communities in your business like book clubs, workshops, outdoor gatherings and enjoy getting to know your people. Message them, talk to them, see them. You can’t do this with large amounts of people.
So many clients that I work with now as a coach desire to build large communities. I’m warning you in advance….it might not be what you actually want. Focus on serving small amounts of people well. Focus on positive change in a powerful way with one person. A community can be 2 people.
“Needing” lots of people to feel successful is a crutch that will drain you. It’s a social media disease, it’s not as impactful as you think, it’s not as powerful as you think and you might not have as much fun with it as you think.
Meet your people face to face. Connect to people in a real way. Don’t worry about gathering mass amounts of strangers on a social media platform…..it doesn’t mean anything.
My spouse is a left-brained, logical, (sometimes emotionless) leader. He builds strong businesses that make money and he never, ever stresses out in his business. When I originally started out creating my studio I thought about who I would want to partner with and he immediately shut me down.
“If you do this….you do it alone.”
And this was the best advice I’ve ever gotten. Partnerships rarely work out. Strangers or best friends, it doesn’t matter. One person always feels like they’re doing more. One person always does do more.
Hire people to help you, but there needs to be a hierarchy. Someone needs to be the boss. Be the owner, and hire a manager. You can hire people that take on leadership roles…but there’s only room for one at the top to create a stress free business that makes money.
8. Hiring help faster
I tried to do everything myself because I didn’t have a lot of capital to work with in the beginning. I was the owner, manager, cleaning lady, accounts, billing, IT department, marketing, retail, you name it.
I think it was necessary and important that I learned how to do everything myself so I could properly delegate the work later. You need to understand the work that you do first.
My only regret is that I didn’t hire out these departments sooner. I was scared that I didn’t have enough money to hire people. But if you want to have a business….you’re going to have to spend money. A lot of money, to make money.
Doing it all will only leave you busy and broke.
Hire people to do the work that you’re not an expert at and use your time to do the things that you’re really good at (and enjoy) or you will remain stuck without growth in your business.
If you find yourself always grinding, hustling, stressing…..you’re not doing it right and it’s time for a change.
9. Keep educating and investing in yourself
I take courses daily. I sign up for at least two major trainings and certifications each year. I also invest in coaching.
My investment in self, keeps me motivated, educated and excited about all the work I need to do. These things are not expenses. They are investments. Investments are necessary if you want your business to grow and be profitable. Investments are necessary if you want to free yourself from struggle.
My investments in self, have only ever added to the overall success of my personal growth, and my business growth. I’d love to also note that there was never a time that that financial investment was easy or within reach. I had to dive deep into my pockets each time and be brave. I had to be confident that my investment in self was always worth it. I had to have faith. I would not be where I am now, without professional, paid support, help and education.
10. It’s worth it
Even though I closed my studio during the pandemic, I look back on my memories running this business with fond memories. I learned a lot….and I loved a lot. I’ve now taken this experience and expanded it into a new vision for myself.
The closing of my business was not a failure. I closed because of the pandemic. I chose not to stay in the struggle and I got to take everything that I learned and turn it into a new, prosperous and sustainable career for myself.
You’re never starting over, you build on everything that you’ve ever done. If it’s within you to create something, you should do it.
With grace and grit,
Karla Joy Treadway
Karla Joy Treadway is a professional life coach, educator and creator. She coaches motivated individuals, helping them with their business, life and spirit. Karla owns and operates a virtual movement and mindfulness studio. She integrates spiritual philosophy and logic based blueprint strategies for her clients and students in both business and life.