I'm a person who happily jumps into different challenges if they excite me. I don't look so much at if I have tons of experience in the things that I do, rather what I look for most is a feeling of enthusiasm and passion for my projects. During the last three years I have managed a small yoga studio in the Philippines, with (you guessed it) not much prior experience.
Although I would do it all over again, here are few truthful things to consider if you are thinking of opening a studio of your own.
1. You won't be making much in the first months and year/s.
Manage your income expectations because you will need to bring in your own money. Chances are, you will not be making much in the first few years. When starting out, buying a bulk of mats, blocks, belts and other props may already take some investment, not to mention the investment you will need in securing a venue for your activities.
Also it will take some time to build an audience of regular yogis. You will have to plan this in, and be ready to invest money when needed. You can start with a side-business, share the venue with other like-minded entrepreneurs, and slowly build up your classes.
2. Work at your business, not in it.
Any business owner knows that in order to grow your business you need to work at it, not in it.
It may be tempting to teach classes yourself (and up to a certain point you can), but you also need to be the one to manage the venue, oversee sales and marketing, create and maintain an online presence for your business and take care of legal matters. This can be a lot to handle, and it takes a surprising amount of time from your day.
The first time I started to hire yoga teachers, I was almost hyperventilating into a brown bag. How could they ever be able to convey the soul of the business the way I intended it? But guess what? A stressed out and busy owner / teacher / all-around-person does not convince anyone either. So letting go and sharing the workload is a good thing, which brings me to my next point...
3. There will be some conflicts, and you'll need the leadership skills to resolve and manage them.
Meeting yoga teachers from all walks of life is great. But being responsible for running your studio means that you are responsible for hiring (and firing, if need be) yoga teachers. Even if you are hiring friends, it's wise to put your business hat on and make contracts, take care of legal issues, and prepare yourself.
Unless you know an endless pool of great teachers, you will have to advertise, interview, and hire teachers, and puzzle everyone's schedule to match the classes you want to offer. And no matter how much effort you put into it, sometimes things just go wrong, and you may find yourself having to correct, reprimand, or even fire people.
For someone who dislikes conflict as much as I do, this was one of the hardest things to do. Owning a studio requires leadership skills, and that means being there to see through all the good, the bad, and the ugly.
4. You are ultimately responsible for anything that happens.
Even if you have it all figured out, stuff happens. As the owner of a yoga studio, you are ultimately responsible for just about anything that happens. There will be times when your scheduled yoga teachers will come in late, or not get there at all, and the reasons could be anything from delayed flights to family emergencies.
In these situations, you, as the owner, will have to jump in and be ready to teach, or find a replacement with just a few days' notice. This means that any other fun activities you may have planned for yourself fly out of the window, and you will need to "live" in your studio if necessary.
Running and owning a business is like a baby in some ways—you are always on call and it needs your constant care.
5. You might not have time to enjoy teaching or being a student in your studio.
I used to think that since it's my own little studio, and I was the one hiring and hosting the yoga teachers, this means I would also get to practice unlimited amounts of yoga and join any class I want. Unfortunately, whenever I would actually take the time to join a class, my mind was busy running the show instead of focusing on my practice. I would wonder whether the kitchen was operating on time or whether invoices were being prepared properly, and so on.
Eventually, I gave up and realized that a private class or my own practice was the only way to go. This raises the question of balance, and for me, some painful moments of self reflection. Was this really the lifestyle I wanted? Although I loved it, working 12-16 hours a day, seven days a week, for years was not sustainable.
So what's my final verdict?
I would not take back a single moment, because—cliché as it sounds—the hard times teach us the most valuable lessons. Sometimes we can confuse loving something with the desire to build a business around it and make 'what you love' also be 'what you do for a living'.
While I believe you absolutely should have a passion for what you do, you should also ask yourself what you value most in life. If you're not too sure about owning a yoga studio, there are also many perks of being a devoted student of yoga or being a freelance yoga teacher.
My goal is not to discourage anyone, especially if being able to own and manage a yoga studio is truly what your heart desires. Rather, I want to paint a more realistic picture which focuses not just on the highs, but also on the challenges you might face.
Now, if after all your research and taking into careful consideration the pros and cons of having your own studio, you still feel that this is what you're destined to do—please do go for it! I'll be here cheering you on, and I'll be happy to answer any questions you may have—just post them in the comments below. :-)
Image credit: Andrea Taylor