Thanks to the wisdom of one of our yoga-business-owner friends, Sonja Ostendorf, we have some valuable yoga business advice from someone who’s done it themselves.
Before you can grow a yoga business, you need to know how to start out in the right way.
Of course, if you’re also a yoga teacher yourself, you’ll need to have your 200-hour teacher training certificate and, according to Yoga Alliance, you’ll need to complete Continuing Education credits every 3 years to maintain your teacher status. There are also annual fees to keep your teacher designation up to date. Luckily, Yoga Alliance has a page of benefits that might make the annual fees a little more worthwhile.
You may have wondered if you need a 500-hour or higher teaching certificate to start a yoga business and Sonja‘s answer is “no”. Having more education can always help, but a 500-hour certificate is not a requirement, nor is it any measurement of your business knowledge.
There’s always more to learn, but there’ll never be a “perfect time” to start your yoga business. Sometimes the best way to start is with trial and error. So, if you don’t have a 500-hour teaching certificate or higher, don’t let it hold you back!
How to start a yoga studio
Before you start your business, it’s a good idea to network first by finding opportunities for teaching at events, festivals, gyms and community centres. When the time comes to launch your yoga business, you’ll be able to invite a group of people to your studio.
Sonja doesn’t recommend teaching at another studio long term before starting your own. Why? Because the students at that studio may want to leave and join your shala, which would take away that studio’s business. Remember, there should be healthy competition with any business, but it’s poor form to “steal” another studio’s students.
You may ask, “Should I get a business partner to start a yoga studio?” and it depends. Sonja suggests taking the time to truly get to know a person before going into business with them. She says, “Just because someone does yoga doesn’t mean that you both believe in and follow the same business ethics”.
You should certainly partner with someone who helps strengthen your weaknesses and you theirs. We recommend drawing up legal documents to make sure that ownership is equal between you and your partner. If you can’t have an open and honest conversation with a potential business partner about legalities, then maybe they aren’t the right partner for you. Regardless, whether you’re beginning or ending a business, why not chat with a legal expert to make sure that you’re covered.
Don’t forget to register your business
Mygov.scot states that new yoga businesses will need to register with Companies House as a Sole Trader to start your business in the UK. If you’re partnering with someone, you’ll need to register a Partnership or a Limited Liability Partnership (LLP).
According to TRUIC, if you’re in the US, you’ll need to register a Limited Liability Company (LLC), usually through your state government’s website. In addition to the LLC, you’ll need to attain an Employer Identification Number or EIN if you want to hire people to work at your studio.
Location is everything
When searching for a location for your studio, you could consider renovating your own home to create a home studio. That can be quite costly, though, so the next step is looking for a location in your nearest town or city — the outskirts tending to be more affordable.
Sonja chose a location that was close to her home, which made things convenient; she also chose an area that had no other studios in the vicinity so that there was no competition. If you find a location near other studios, consider the possibility of teaching a style of yoga that the other studios don’t offer, e.g. teaching yin if the other studios focus mostly on power yoga.
After you acquire your venue, decide whether you want to provide and/or sell props. Pro tip: In the US you’ll need to get a vendor’s licence if you want to buy props at wholesale and/or if you want to sell products, i.e. yoga mats, as the government wants to track your sales taxes. Whether you want a vendor’s license or not, Sonja suggests researching your state’s or province’s individual tax process and contacting your local government to ask questions.
What are the top 9 ways to grow a yoga business?
- Creating a simple, clear name for your studio and forming a strong brand around that name. What do you stand for? What makes your yoga business different from the rest?
- Setting up a website with beautiful images of your studio, of any teachers you have, and of you teaching if relevant. It’s a good idea to list your classes, events/workshops, and teachers, and to have an about page and a contact page on your website.
- Keeping your website optimised using Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) so that it starts to rank higher in Google for relevant searches.
- Using social media as your free marketing tool, inviting all your contacts and friends to like and share your business on their social media channels.
- Hiring teachers who specialise in different styles of yoga to diversify what you offer. Then, asking your teachers to promote your business across social media and invite their contacts to come to the studio.
- Attending yoga and health-related festivals and events — some allow stalls at their event where you can advertise your studio.
- Starting an email list to keep in touch with your students. Ask for people’s email addresses in exchange for an incentive, like a discount on their first yoga class.
- Creating non-yoga related events, like a board game or movie night, to engage with your students on a personal level.
- If all the above sounds like too much work, consider hiring a marketing company like Wildheart Media to help you with your website, emails, social media, etc.
What’s the best way to sell my business?
Sonja recommends being open and honest with your community first. When she went to sell her business, she talked one-on-one with her teachers first. Then, she invited all students and teachers to attend a meeting. She broke the news to her students and made her studio available for purchase by anyone from the studio’s community before she went public.
She then went on to create a Facebook event, inviting everyone she knew to take a look at the event and tell their friends that she was selling her studio. Next, she listed her business at her local chamber of commerce. Lastly, she wrote letters to the other yoga studios in the surrounding areas, letting them know that she was selling. This is a powerful move to make because you’re letting other studios know that if they purchase your studio, they’ll expand to another location, get all your props and have access to your student database.
However, you may not want to sell your business to another studio. Why? Because they already have a brand and a name, so they won’t need to buy yours. Taking your brand out of the equation will lower the value of your business. Remember that your brand has power, as your students, locals and other businesses may recognise your business by name. So, selling your business to an independent buyer may just give your business a higher value.
Ultimately, Sonja sold her business through word of mouth. Your connections will be your biggest asset when going to sell.
Our takeaways for getting the most from your business
- Cultivate a student database or email list.
- Promote your business’s name, showing that there’s value in your brand.
- Keep your physical studio looking nice and make sure it follows all safety rules and regulations.
- If you have a landlord, make sure you have an agreement on a contract change for a smooth transition with the new buyer.
- Make sure your props (blankets, bolsters, etc.) are in good condition.
- Keep your website up-to-date.
Buyers might be mostly interested in your email list, location and props, but a good website and strong brand name can greatly increase the value of your business. If you’d like help strengthening your website and brand, reach out to us and we’ll provide a free consultation to help you on your way to helping more people.