Creative Business Strategies for Yogipreneurs on a Budget
Yoga teacher or studio owner trying to reconcile big dreams with a tiny budget? Sometimes doing things differently is the key to success.
Starting a business is an exciting thing; even more so when it is a yoga business grounded in deep passion and commitment to the community and improving the lives of your students. Unfortunately, many yoga teachers struggle to gain traction as the begin their careers. Without the right strategy, they run around in circles and have little to show for their efforts.
I ran a small yoga business that had a shoestring (ok, maybe half of a shoe-string) budget that yielded wonderfully diverse clients and a tidy profit by embracing some of the best practices below. Hopefully, a few will both inspire you and make you prosperous.
Often times when the words “Brand Management” are uttered, you are filled with thoughts of business suits and power ties, not yoga pants and mandalas. Your brand, however, is one of the most important investments you can make. The brand should ultimately reflect your attitude and the environment you will be, in essence, selling. Working on your brand should be one of the very first things you do since it will set the tone for everything you put out into the world. It therefore makes sense to try to make a decent budget for it.
Find an inspired graphic artist. You can find one by asking friends, asking leaders at companies whose brand you like, or using an online marketplace such as Fiverr or Upwork. Create your logo and develop your web presence, no matter how small you are. Many graphic artists are also web designers (or partner with some) so they can also help you with your website. Once you have a brand you are proud of, display it everywhere.
My initial brand management budget consisted of funds for a logo and extra logo art, a website (be sure your developer picks a user-friendly platform unless you are planning to keep them on as a monthly expense), and MOO business cards because the value and the quality cannot be beat. After a month, I decided to purchase a small stock of water bottles with my logo. The next month, I bought a small stock of tote bags with my logo, and so on. I took these items with me wherever I went and also strategically placed them with a few friends who graciously offered to do the same (people love free swag), and I gave them ten to fifteen business cards in case anyone asked. This got my name out quickly, and I started getting clientele in fast.
Every month, review your social media strategy. Be sure to set up a Facebook page (note that a Facebook page is different from a profile), Twitter, and Instagram accounts specifically for your business. Also be sure your LinkedIn account is up-to-date because many of your students and business partners will be active in the business world.
For example, the weekend before each month begins, I plan my social media strategy:
- Scheduling: I decide which days and times to Tweet, Facebook, and Instagram so I have a consistent presence. To save time, I use Hootsuite to schedule my posts (you can just use their free plan to get started).
- Blogging: I identify a theme of the month and write one blog post per week on it. I then share them via my personal and business social media accounts.
- LinkedIn: You may also like to publish your blog posts on LinkedIn. Or, if you have time, write specific articles about the benefits of corporate yoga to attract new clients.
- Interact: It’s important to not only be someone who posts interesting material but take the time every day or so to “like” or comment on your students’ posts and observations. I personally love it when my yoga teachers chime in on my Facebook.
Consistently taking these steps is a great way to connect with current clients and get them to share with their friends. Eventually, you should see your efforts pay off as your bottom-line and increases each month.
Grow Your Audience
Don’t have a lot of followers? Social media contests can be one way to attract followers and connect with new people online:
- Hold various contests each month that require students to follow you and tag you in a post to win.
- Set up the contest to progress through the month like a Clean Eating Recipe Challenge, Pose of the Month Challenge, and other health-improving ideas.
- Each time they tag you it gives you additional visibility on their news feed, which leads to more subscribers who eventually turn into clients, or at the minimum, additional influencers.
Another option to build your audience is advertising, which can be set up to be very targeted and done on a small budget:
- Facebook Ads allow you to specify gender, age, interests, and location. You can set up the ads to display on both Facebook and Instagram. Your ads can take people either to your Facebook page, send them to your website, or be used to promote your content.
- Twitter Ads are another way to target people who might fit your ideal student type.
- Google Ads can work especially well for particular keywords that people are searching.
Find Your Niche
I also targeted a niche that was underserved — those people who desperately wanted a regular yoga practice but didn’t fit the media images promoted by the mainstream yoga industry. Not only was this a good business decision, but in all honesty, it was my passion. I was one of these people. I felt like an outsider as a teacher at times. As a result, I wanted to create some inclusion in a practice I truly believed was for everyone. My personal experience lead me to an untapped market.
I started a “Curvy Girl Yoga” studio class and reached out to the local media via their websites. I copy-and-pasted a passionate form letter into their “I have a story” sections. I was called for an interview within a day from the first paper I contacted. My “paragraph blurb” turned into a two-page spread with photos. The next week, my studio class tripled in size, and in following weeks, it continued to grow.
I was serving a niche I didn’t even know existed — most of my students were female consultants who traveled to town each week and were looking for something other to do than eating or drinking. Many were intimidated by yoga. They saw the spread (and pictures of a more-than-curvy teacher doing complicated poses), and they came. This cost me zero dollars and taught me the underserved will show up for you every time.
I also found diversifying to be rewarding. I had classes at a local yoga studio, corporate clients, and private clients. I diversified both the types of services and styles of yoga I offered.
I also reached out to progressive corporations to offer my services to them, highlighting the ways yoga benefited employees and increased happiness overall (which increased morale and productivity). I also mentioned that the yoga I offered was different. It was grounded in hatha, but provided modifications for a range of health issues many of the employees had. Once employees heard it was a modified class, they asked for it, and I was hired. Having me offer a weekly (or twice weekly) class also lowered insurance costs for the company!
In a nutshell, look for ways you can go beyond basic: beyond studio classes and beyond your same poses and students.
Guerrilla marketing means using an advertisement strategy concept designed for to promote your offerings in an unconventional way while minimizing expenditure. In other words, don’t blindly copy everyone else — do something different!
I have already mentioned focusing on an underserved niche, and then using this to appeal to local media and corporations. Next, try community outreach. Contact people with specific needs. Below are some of the different groups I have served.
- Office Workers: I have offered free thirty-minute “desk yoga” seminars and won corporate business. I did karma yoga classes for colon cancer survivors and ended up with additional private and corporate clients.
- Athletes: Working in a major city with several colleges, I contacted sororities and women’s groups that I felt would be a good fit for my styles of yoga. I worked with wrestling and football teams to improve their flexibility with a balance-centric and hip-opening workshop tailored to their needs.
- Wine Lovers: I did “Stretch and Sip” yoga classes that would entail forty-five minutes of yoga, and then we would just sit and talk about how to handle stress for another thirty minutes while we drank wine.
The key is to think about clients you would enjoy working with and find a way to build an experience that they would enjoy. Follow your passion and don’t be afraid to try something different. Always be sure to offer a few options for something rather than rigidly sticking to a set sequence and playing the same music in every session.
Connecting in Class
Even experienced teachers can sometimes do well to reflect on the way they interact with their students, as this is the single biggest factor influencing whether somebody will return to your class or not.
- Be Social: Be sure to give your students your time before and after class.
- No Favorites: I don’t repeat classes as a student where the teacher only has favorites or seems bothered by students. If you expect student support, you need to give it.
- Don’t Single-Out Students: Often students don’t like to be singled out and congratulated on making it through a class in front of their peers. While it is well-meaning, it can be embarrassing for the student and make them feel bad. Sometimes it is better to congratulate everyone and then give individual praise in private. This is particularly the case with people of size, those with any kind of physical handicap, or the elderly.
- Don’t Prejudge: It’s important to avoid making assumptions about your students. As both a teacher and a student, I have seen this go south more times than not! Do your best to treat everyone equally.
In conclusion, when starting a yoga business, it is a mixture of business savvy, organization, personal passion, and creative thinking that will bring you students and success. If you can balance them just right, you will be rewarded both personally and financially.
Om Shanti Om!