Not too long ago I made a drastic life change. After 10+ years as a corporate wage slave in London, I gave my two weeks' notice, packed up my flat, and headed to a small island in Thailand to manage a struggling yoga studio.
My corporate career had given me heaps of business experience, which is something many new yoga studio owners lack. As a result, I was prepared (well, in theory at least!) for some of the challenges I knew I would have to overcome in the first year.
In an effort to help my fellow yoga studio managers and those dreaming of opening their own studios, here are a few things that are worth knowing before diving in head first.
1. It Is a Business—Treat It As Such
By far the number one mistake made by yogis opening new studios is that they fail to treat their studios as businesses. Most yogis practice because they are passionate about yoga and want to spread their knowledge and share their spiritual pursuits with others. They open studios to accomplish this, forgetting that passion will not pay the bills.
By far the number one mistake made by yogis opening new studios is that they fail to treat their studios as businesses.
Plenty of new studios feel compelled to undercharge or offer free classes, but this significantly decreases your studio's odds of success. Not only because it cuts down on your bottom line, but because it devalues the service you are providing. It sets the precedent that paying full price is unnecessary, and it may discourage people from coming on days that aren’t discounted or free.
Since we’re on the topic of money, it’s also important to remember to do proper bookkeeping. That means tracking every single transaction, both income and expenses. Fully understanding your financial situation will help you adjust membership or drop-in fees, the number of teachers you hire, as well as make other finance-related decisions critical to your success. If numbers aren’t your thing, make hiring an accountant or bookkeeper your number one priority.
2. Market Your New Studio
The old adage “If you build it, they will come” can fool you into believing that just because you’ve opened a new studio, people will show up for class.
Yoga is a highly saturated market with studios popping up on nearly every block to accommodate the growing number of practitioners. In America alone, there has been a 30 percent increase over the past four years in the number of people practicing yoga. To ensure that your studio gets noticed, you are going to need a solid marketing plan that will help to get the word out.
Thanks to the internet, spreading the word has never been easier. With several social platforms to choose from—everything from Facebook and LinkedIn to Instagram and Twitter—as well as Google local listings and paid ads, numerous options are available to you. If you are uncomfortable in the marketing department, then invest money in hiring a professional.
3. Brand Identity Is Important
Brand identity is a combination of the visible elements of your brand that customers will see and the reputation you create that people will associate with your business. This is the combination of your studio’s name, location, logo colors, and quality of service. As the owner, you will undoubtedly be the face of your business, especially in the beginning. How you position your brand (via marketing and customer service) will in some capacity become a reflection of you.
This is crucial if you want to create a business that reflects your values and unique self, a business that you can stand behind and breathe life into. Some of the most successful businesses are the ones with founders who believed strongly in what they were doing and understood the importance of brand identity.
Think Richard Branson and Virgin industries, for example. From his airlines to music and mobile phone services, Branson injects his fun, adventurous personality in every single one of his ventures. You see this not only in his advertising and marketing, but also his employees. When you hear Virgin, you know you can expect high quality service. This is just one example of how powerful brand identity can be.
Pro Tip: Because the internet is such a major player in developing your business brand identity, make sure to separate your business social media accounts from your personal ones.
4. Anticipate Low Profit Margins in the Beginning
Starting your own yoga studio isn’t a get-rich-quick plan. In fact, for the first few years, you will likely be investing quite a lot of money into the start-up costs of the business, such as studio rental, equipment, and teachers. Simply put, you won’t be profiting a ton.
Starting your own yoga studio isn’t a get-rich-quick plan.
Until you build a strong clientele and business foundation, expect to live off a bare-bones wage, make sacrifices, and put in plenty of long hours.
5. Expect to Make Mistakes
Practice makes perfect, which means making lots of mistakes. And yes, we all make plenty of mistakes in the beginning.
By adopting realistic expectations early on, you will be able to roll with the punches and move forward knowing you learned something new.
Starting your own yoga studio promises to be a journey of self-discovery, personal growth, and perseverance. Don’t let your fledgling yoga studio fail because you were unprepared for the amount of work and investment (both financial and emotional) required to get it off the ground. Remember these five tips, and enjoy a long and prosperous career doing something you love!