June 7, 2012

Do Yogis Actually Want to Make Money? ~ Poornima Vijayashanker

In the eight years I’ve been practicing yoga I’ve learned to be balanced, calm and value myself.

While I am not a yoga instructor myself, I’m inspired and motivated by those who are.

Before beginning BizeeBee, I worked trade and tech consulting for a number of yoga businesses. I was fascinated by how passionate yoga instructors and studio owners were about giving their students a solid practice.

I thought that owners who focused more on students and cultivating them into stellar practitioners were placing people above profits. While I thought this was noble, I quickly realized that there was an imbalance in the minds of many yoga business owners.

Too many yoga business owners are blinded by passion. They give away their livelihood, and struggle by opening studios they cannot afford, undercutting themselves on pricing or trying to build a business with little planning or savings. This ultimately leaves them with a sense of regret. Even instructors who don’t own studios find it hard to negotiate liveable wages.

There are large yoga chains that seem to be doing well, so why are so many smaller studios struggling to get by?

One of the causes is an overemphasis on doing what they love instead of what is required to run a sustainable business. While there shouldn’t be a dichotomy, there is in many people’s minds. They view asking for money for a service to be somehow un-yogic. Yoga teaches us to be mindful, but practicing mindfulness does not mean going to the extreme of either being an ascetic or materialistic.

As yogis in business, our primary mission is to exchange values. Students pay for a practice. Asking for and receiving payment is how we can build a business where we share our passion. This balance needs to be in the mindset of yoga business owners.

Too often there is an imbalance that occurs because an owner focuses wholly on teaching without any regard to business operations, or is afraid to ask for money that she should have rightfully been paid. Many don’t even come up with creative ways to showcase their business and its services, i.e. marketing.

It’s true that running a business is difficult, but if the mission is to share a passion, then part of sharing needs to be about caring for one’s business.

There are those who are practical. I’ve come across some bright yoga business owners who are setting milestones for themselves, building up their cash reserves and seeking help from business managers. They take the time to put systems in place to keep their passion alive and share it with others. It is an ongoing challenge given how many people are now interested in opening a yoga business.

I would like to encourage every yogi to not see money as the end goal, but as the means necessary to building a sustainable business just like he or she has built a sustainable yoga practice. Don’t fear asking for money or trying to make it. It is a reflection of valuing one’s time, mind and most importantly, oneself.


Poornima Vijayashanker was a founding engineer at Mint.com. She was instrumental in building the product, launching it, and scaling it until is acquisition from Intuit in late 2009 for $170M.  In January 2010 she left Mint.com to start BizeeBee.com, and is currently its Founder and CEO.  The inspiration for starting BizeeBee came to Poornima after volunteering at yoga studios across the country for several years, and seeing all the pains they had when it came to running a small business and retaining customers.

Prior to joining startup land, Poornima attended Duke University and received degrees in Electrical and Computer Engineering and Computer Science.  After graduating she headed out to Silicon Valley, where she first worked for Synopsys as an R&D Engineer, and was working towards a Masters in CS at Stanford but quit it to join Mint.com.

Aside from being a coder, entrepreneur, speaker, and mentor to junior engineers, Poornima blogs on Femgineer.com, is an avid traveler, foodie, and bikram yogini.

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Editors: Sharon Pingitore/Kate Bartolotta
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