Tips For Building A Successful Yoga Business In A Small Town
If you’re opening a yoga studio and can sustain your business with a membership of only .01% of your local population, you’ll be in luck— assuming you’re in New York City, where that’s about 900 people. On the other hand, if you’re starting your yoga business in a small town like the one where I live, .01% will get you one-fourth of a person. This isn’t meant to discourage you. There are perks to being in a small, rural area, including the lower cost of living. But if you want to fill a room with yoga students, you’ll need to work harder and smarter to draw them in, and then you’ll have to keep working in order to retain them.
Small town yoga centers really do exist, and they really do provide some teachers with income. Mind you, no one is getting rich out here in the fringes, but we manage to keep doing what we love and making enough money to keep the lights on. The most successful yoga teachers and studio owners in my area have succeeded by using an organic and authentic strategy of engagement. What does that mean, exactly? I’m glad you asked, because I’ve got answers to share. Here are the ABCs of building your own yoga business in a small town.
Attract and retain
- Make it easy for them to find out about you and to find you. Post your location, hours, prices, and contact information in prominent places on your website, social media accounts, and everywhere that you advertise. If you use terms like ‘Vinyasa’ or ‘Yin Yoga,’ be sure to explain exactly what that means. People with little knowledge of yoga may be put off by unfamiliar terms.
- Share your message. Explain clearly and simply what you most want students to gain from the classes.
- Keep it clean. Everyone who steps through the door into your studio should immediately feel welcomed and peaceful. Eliminate the clutter. Minimal is always appropriate—even preferable—in a yoga space. Sweep and wash the floor daily, keep blankets and blocks neatly stored, and be scrupulous about cleaning the bathrooms. A little essential oil blend in a diffuser won’t hurt, either.
- Teach to the student – meet them where they are. If you’re the first yoga business in your area, you are likely to have a LOT of beginners. They will need introductory classes. Be sure that you can offer that, or at least provide modifications so that everyone in the class can feel they fit in there.
- Remember: it’s not enough to get students through the door; you have to keep them coming back. Be sure to give as much or more attention to those regular students and their needs as you do to attracting new blood. Keep it fresh with new poses and themes. Continue learning, so that you always have something new to share with students.
- Ask happy students to share their yoga experience with friends. Word of mouth is still the best advertisement, and this is particularly true in rural areas. Still, you can’t expect others to read your mind or intuit your needs, so go ahead—ask them to help spread the word.
- Take your business seriously. Start with a business plan. Decide in advance on your logo, message, schedule, prices. Writing a business plan will help you solidify the dream and prepare for the unexpected. Don’t worry—the plan will evolve as you learn and grow. You can use the Small Business Administration’s website and templates to help with this.
- Before you rent or buy a space, make sure it fits your needs. Consider the appearance, location, parking, bathroom facilities, peacefulness (is there an active railroad track ten feet away?), and neighbors (primal scream therapy next door?). Don’t let the charm of a Victorian mansion override your budget or the sagging floors. Go where the students are; only the few, truly dedicated students will travel to a studio located 10 miles out of town. Do you even need a dedicated space, or can you share space with a dance studio or other business?
- ABC: Always Be Consistent. Show up prepared and enthusiastic to teach the classes you advertise. Have a plan for getting the word out or for bringing in a substitute teacher if you have to cancel at the last minute.
- Consider a freebie. Many studios offer a free introductory class to each person who comes in. Some (perhaps most) of the people who take the free class will never be seen again. Some will fall in love with yoga and become regulars. Other studios offer a free introductory class once or twice a year. You might try different approaches, you might not want to offer free classes at all. Whatever you do, keep it (that’s right) consistent with what you’ve advertised.
- Define your message: Why do YOU want to teach yoga, and what is the one thing you most want your students to gain from the classes? What sets you apart from other yoga teachers or fitness classes in your area? In short, why should anyone show up for you?
- Dispel misinformation politely, and accept that some people will always believe that you are in league with the devil.
- Educate without being self-righteous. Use your social media accounts to provide bite-size facts about the benefits of yoga. Speak to local community and faith-based groups. Respect other philosophical and religious and health-based programs as you’d want them to respect your classes.
- Join forces with other yoga teachers. They aren’t your competition; they’re your support system. Team up with nearby studios, teachers, and complementary businesses. Can you offer discounts for each other? Can you combine forces for a Yoga Day event?
- Maintain your own practice. It won’t be easy to fit your needs into the schedule, but it’s critical. Be a student in another teacher’s class, even if the only one available to you is online.
- Network. Always have cards, handouts, or fliers with you.
- Remember that every person you encounter will make a judgment about your business based on your behavior. The whole town will hear one rude comment at the megastore.
- Join the local chamber of commerce and be an active member.
- Know your students’ names. Be a friend, a real friend.
- Be a valuable part of the community. Contribute. Do business locally. You must be sincere in this, however; don’t for one minute think you can fake your part
- Be who you are. Show your true personality instead of presenting your Yoga Teacher Persona.
After you’ve crafted your business plan, scouted for locations, and assessed the potential number of students, you might conclude that opening your own yoga studio isn’t going to work. If your area can’t support a dedicated yoga facility, consider bucking the system. Be creative. Think outside the studio. You might choose to teach in other places. Here are a few suggestions to think about:
- Private yoga, 1-on-1, in students’ homes
- Private yoga club in your own home
- Community room, local park, senior center
- Pop-up yoga around town from your yoga truck
- Freelance at yoga studios outside your area
- Yoga parties hosted by your friends, a la Tupperware
- Fitness center, if gym yoga suits your style
- Chiropractic offices, new age shops, health food stores, or hospitals may have spaces you can use
- Arts center or martial arts or dance studio—these seldom use their space full time and might be happy to offer you an hourly-rental rate
- Community room at a place of worship
- Workshops & festivals and retreats
- Sports clubs where you can offer specialized classes (Yoga for Golfers, Yoga for Swimmers, etc)
- Businesses that have demonstrated a desire to help employees get and stay healthy (you could offer Lunch Hour Yoga or Desk Yoga)
- Schools that recognize the benefits of yoga for athletes, and many are adding yoga classes to their teams’ training regimen
If sharing your love of yoga is what you truly want to do, then don’t—I beg you—don’t let anything stop you. Make it happen, even if you have to stand on your roof and teach to that one person across the street who never leaves his house.
And if you are already teaching yoga in a small town, please share with us the events, marketing strategies, and class offerings that work best for you.
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