When Lora McCarville left LifeTime Fitness as a yoga instructor in 2009 to start her own studio, little did she know that opening a yoga studio was way different than teaching yoga as a salaried teacher. Eleven years later, her hard work has finally paid off. McCarville now runs classes in Yoga Rocks at Park Omaha that are often sold out in advance.
McCarville’s success is a dream for many yoga instructors — like you — who dream of opening up their yoga studio. Starting your own business is always a courageous decision, but the fruit of its labor is rewarding.
According to Yoga Journal, Americans spend a staggering $2.5 billion on yoga instruction annually while the market continues to grow. By opening a yoga studio, you will not only unlock new doors of financial prosperity for yourself but also touch more lives with your unique gift as an independent teacher.
The only thing standing between you and your plan to open a yoga studio is your decision to act. Overthinking is natural, but don’t let it stop you from reaching for your dreams. Of course, there are things that you need to figure out first. In this article, we will try to help you do just that.
After reading this step-by-step guide, you will inch closer to achieving your goal of opening a yoga studio.
So take a deep breath — inhale the knowledge that you are about to consume and exhale it by applying your ideas to realize your dream. Let go of your tension and worries for the next 15 minutes as you dive deep into the following 10 steps on how to open your yoga studio:
Step 1. Start by preparing a detailed business plan
The first critical step to opening a yoga studio — or starting any new store for that matter — is to come up with a clear business plan. There is power in documenting your ideas on paper. When you put words to your dreams, you send strong signals to the universe, saying that you want to achieve them badly.
Describing your business plan in vivid detail is also a form of positive visualization — a self-fulfilling prophecy for your future. Preparing a business plan helps you refine your thinking, create your roadmap for success, and identify your roadblocks and opportunities.
A business plan is especially crucial if you are a first-time entrepreneur because it can serve as the keystone of your business strategy. Most banks demand that you write them a loan purpose statement or a detailed business plan for them to consider financing your business.
Keep in mind that a business plan is not just self-expression, but a point-by-point action step to set up a business. For instance, include the following things when you write down your business plan:
- Your short- and long-term plans for growing your yoga studio
- The milestones you want to achieve
- Your marketing and pricing strategies, funding channels, hiring strategy, etc.
More often than not, your business plan is a foundational document that helps you pitch your business to potential investors that explains your strategic and tactical plans for growth.
Keep iterating the plan until you have a concrete understanding of what you wish to create.
If you want help to get started, here is a comprehensive guide from the U.S. Small Business Administration on how to write a business plan.
Step 2. Find your capital investment to stay financially afloat
One of the bitter truths about opening a yoga studio is that it will operate in negative cash flows during the first few months of its inception. Thankfully, your business plan can come to your rescue to counterbalance this business conundrum.
Do your due diligence in identifying and calculating the initial funding you will need to set up your yoga studio. Depending on your past financial preparedness, your investment sources can be your bank loan, families and friends, or 401K savings.
Make sure you have a few good options you can tap into in case you face rejections. Once you figure out the funding, your focus should be on keeping your yoga studio business afloat for the first 3–6 months and being accountable for the repayment.
Step 3. Pick a unique brand name and register your yoga studio
What are you going to call your yoga studio — Yogi Bear, LLC, or Third Eye, Inc.? Branding is essential, but it’s the second half of the story. You first have to register your yoga studio as a legal business entity.
Registering your yoga studio as a formal business entity might look like a perfunctory legal step, but it has long-lasting repercussions.
For instance, the tax benefits for registering your yoga business as a limited liability company (LLC) are better than registering it as a Corporation (Inc.). Instead of filing a corporate tax return, LLC owners can simply make a mention of their profits and losses in their individual tax returns.
For more information related to registering a small business, read this business guide from the U.S. Small Business Administration.
On average, the cost of registering your business under any formal structure is less than $300 — a one-time fee. The good news is, the World Bank ranks the U.S. at 6 out of 190 countries on the global index of ease of doing business.
It means that you have less bureaucratic hurdles and paperwork to get your business up and running. In most cases, you can start your business within 2-15 days of your filing for registration, depending on the State you are operating from.
It’s completely up to you to choose how you want to register your yoga business; there is no right or wrong way of doing this. Whatever you do, make sure you open a business bank account and get a company card as the next step so that you can claim business expenses and file for relevant tax benefits in the future.
Step 4. Get your occupancy permit, fire exit signages, and zoning license
Any recreational business like a yoga studio or a gym needs a set of documents including occupancy permits, parking and signage placements, fire safety clearance, and so on. The law requires you to obtain an occupancy permit to ascertain that your business complies with the zoning laws and ordinances and is safe for conducting yoga classes.
The requirements vary from one city, country, or State to another. In general, you have to submit the following documents to obtain an occupancy permit:
- Your business income and receipts tax ID
- A commercial activity license, and
- Zoning and use permit
Besides, you will have to paste workplace labor law posters in your property to comply with the U.S. Department of Labor regulations.
The perils of not meeting the standard compliance can not only incur monetary losses for your business; it could also lead to costly lawsuits and/or permanent revocation of your business license.
Step 5. Rent or lease a premium location
You must have heard of this business adage many times before, especially in the domain of real estate: there are three most important things you should consider — i) location, ii) location, and iii) location.
The importance of location is highly relevant for a yoga business since it operates in the consumer market for recreational activities.
Consider all the places where you want to open your yoga studio. Later, shortlist the best neighborhood based on the following criteria:
- Number of households
- Total population
- Demographic information such as median age, gender, and professional
- Average household income
Factoring in these considerations will help you calculate the best return on investment (ROI) for your yoga school.
You would be lucky if you already own a place in a neighborhood that guarantees high foot traffic. In such a case, all you have to do is remodel the property into an energy-exuding yoga studio.
If you don’t, you should find a spacious place that you can rent or lease. Rental agreements are short-term — usually paid every month — while leasing is long-term and mostly on annual contracts.
Of course, you can also follow the suit of many yoga entrepreneurs like McCarville, who use open-air public spaces after securing the necessary permits from the local authorities.
Step 6. Talk to your to-be customers as early and as often as possible
A common trap most of the first-time business owners fall into is when they fail to test their business ideas with their potential market.
Creating a direct feedback loop with your customers even before you start your business helps you validate your business idea of opening a yoga centre, understand their existing pain points, tap into the buyer’s psychology, and research the right pricing strategy.
In startup incubation programs such as Y Combinator, the mentors often dedicate a large section of their lectures on two things:
- How to talk to your users before building a minimal viable product (MVP)?, and
- How to iterate quickly and as often as possible?
Slack, Groupon, and YouTube are a few brands that pivoted early based on customer feedback. If talking to customers has helped tech giants of Silicon Valley, it should also help small business owners like yours.
To pull this off, you can leverage social media to run online polls or hire an agency to conduct anonymous surveys. The more you communicate with your prospective customers, the higher your chances of creating a lasting impact on their lives.
In addition to this, talking to your customers early on and directly also helps you personalize your marketing strategy and offer bespoke yoga regimens suitable for your niche market.
Step 7. Hire an A-team of yoga instructors for your studio
If you assume that you can be a one-person Swiss Army Knife to handle all the chores of your yoga school, you might wear yourself out sooner than you expect.
You can’t shoulder all the responsibilities of running your business on your own, especially when you have to take care of several legal and operational aspects of the company.
Being a yoga expert, you must be aware of some of the main principles of yoga, i.e., wisdom, ego sacrifice, and contentment. You shouldn’t start a yoga business at the cost of risking your physical and mental well-being; that would be short-sighted and egoistic.
And let’s face it — even superheroes need sidekicks.
As a yoga entrepreneur, your aim should be to hire a team of talented people to help you establish a value-driven yoga school and grow it to its true potential.
Build a team of excellent yoga instructors, admin staff, and backend office professionals from the get-go. You might want to hire your ex-colleagues from your past training batches or family members who are invested in your success.
Hiring is one of the most challenging aspects of growing your business. Therefore, if you think that it’s something you are not particularly good at, your focus should be to find someone who can do it for you.
Once your studio is up and running, you can set up a process to evaluate your staff performance. Take a look at GoSchedule’s analytics to see how it can help you track your employees’ monthly achievements.
Step 8. Create the right yoga programs and classes to teach
This step becomes easy if you collect meaningful insights after talking to your prospective customers. Similarly, you can also tie this with the collective experience of the instructors that you may hire.
Combine these two factors to develop your courses, define the average class size, and course schedules. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you want to offer all-year-long beginner’s classes? Or, do you want to offer progressive courses starting from basic, medium, and advanced level yoga?
- What about offering certificates of completion?
- Will you be open to offering bespoke classes for people who want to become certified trainers?
- How about the scheduling process? Do you want people to manually register for monthly memberships at the yoga centre or offer them the ease of doing it through an online appointment app?
- Will you offer the old-school Hatha Yoga or short bursts of power yoga for busy working moms?
These are questions you should consider when designing a program for your yoga school.
Step 9. Develop a solid marketing strategy to ensure a steady flow of customers
In today’s hyper-competitive business environment, you can no longer bank on sticking tear-off fliers in your local neighborhoods or displaying your business card in the grocery store’s pin-up boards.
Remember that 43% of the Americans who practice yoga are between the age of 30-49; they are internet-savvy and spend most of their waking hours in digital spaces.
In that sense, devising a marketing strategy for your yoga studio is of utmost priority even before you roll out the yoga mats for your first clients. To develop a failsafe marketing strategy, identify a niche market you can cater to, such as AntiGravity yoga, Ashtanga, Vinyāsa, or prenatal yoga.
Next, you have to create an excellent digital presence for your yoga school. Building a website is a great first start, but it needs some depth.
For instance, include compelling call-to-action (CTA) on your website to help customers take desired actions. The best way to do this is to give them an option to book an appointment for free.
Use a yoga studio software to help your customers volunteer their name, phone number, address, and email to book free classes as a try-before-you-buy incentive.
Here’s an example:
There are several benefits to doing this. The free incentive will attract them to your yoga studio, increasing their likelihood of converting visitors into a customers.
If they somehow don’t show up for or don’t come back after the trial, you can leverage their information to start a nurture campaign through direct mail, email, or text messages.
Step 10. Introduce your brand merchandise to sell in-store or online
To make the most out of your yoga studio business, you can introduce your own line of yoga merchandises for sale such as custom tees, mugs, yoga mats, clothing, Mandala posters, meditation rugs or cushions, branded keychains, water bottles — the options are immense.
You can have an in-store to exhibit and sell the merchandise, or you can create an online storefront on your studio’s main website.
Yoga and fitness enthusiasts are really into branded merchandise, especially activewear and athleisure wear. According to research stats, they are a massive part of the booming yoga economy.
There are multiple advantages to selling your brand merchandise:
It can help you spread the word about your yoga studio when your clients use these merchandise in public places.
Selling brand merchandise will help you generate a steady stream of revenue for your yoga school. You can also grow your merchandise business as an independent online e-commerce store.
You can also leverage the merchandise inventory as free incentives in your direct response ad campaigns to get more customers.
For instance, you can create coupon codes to drive new registrations to your yoga school or run enter-to-win giveaway campaigns in hyperlocal marketplaces such as Groupon, Yelp, Living Social, or even Facebook ads.
Direct response ads are very useful for conversions since they require 21% less cognitive effort to process a decision and offer 29% more ROI than other ad channels.
Ready to open your own yoga studio?
We are perhaps living in the Golden Age of the capitalist economy. If you are passionate about opening your own yoga studio, you should not keep it as a pipedream anymore.
The business and legal efforts of opening a yoga studio are minuscule compared to the skill that you offer as a tutor and your passion for the practice. Your focus should be more on creating a lasting impact on people who will come to learn yoga from you.
Ask yourself — in a world where there are dozens of YouTube channels teaching yoga for free, why should people pay to learn yoga from you?
Just like the body chakras, align your value system with your entrepreneurial aspirations, and soon the hurdles to opening a yoga studio become an effortless task.
Once you have that clarity, go with confidence. We wish you the best in your business endeavors.
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