10 Reasons to Think Twice Before Opening a Yoga Studio. ~ Laura Dos Santos

Via Laura Dos Santos
on Sep 16, 2013
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from FinancialTimes.com
from FinancialTimes.com

There is a fine line between yogic principles and capitalism.

Maybe that line is not so fine at times—maybe it’s more like a football field—but I’m too ill-equipped with information to have that conversation right now.

Last I read, yoga is more than a $10 billion industry in the United States (given that data is usually a couple of years behind schedule, let’s assume it’s a bit more than that). By my very rough estimation, based solely on qualitative data, not nearly enough passionate people can afford to make a living from teaching.

Here is what I figure: Whole Foods Market is a $10 billion company. Seventy percent of Whole Foods employees are employed full time and likely making their living exclusively from working there.

I get that I’m comparing apples to chaturangas here, but something tells me that our industry could do better when it comes to the livelihood of our teachers.

With that said, a lot of the responsibility lies with the studio owners. They are scouting the markets, setting the pay structure and investing in making their business successful. Regardless of their studios’ profits, studio owners work incredibly hard. Unfortunately, hard work is in vain if you can’t pay your teachers a reasonable wage.

What I’m really saying is that the yoga industry in the U.S. doesn’t have it all figured out yet. We’re still working on cultivating our own yoga-conscious capitalism. The “working on it” part means that sometimes teachers get paid less than minimum wage (I’ve been there). But if you think that the solution to making money in this industry is opening a yoga studio, you are sorely mistaken.

Here are 10 reasons why you may not want to open your own studio: 

1) You want to start making money. Yoga or no yoga, businesses don’t typically make money in the first few years. They operate out of basements, they take out loans. They don’t profit.

2) You have no capital. You think your overhead is so low that you don’t need capital. Or maybe you don’t even know what overhead and capital are. In short, you do need money to make money. So if you have no money, going into business is not for you.

3) You’ve just finished teacher training. Give yourself some time. Learn about the industry. Teach a few classes, develop a following. There are rare occasions where someone fresh out of college (or maybe high school) starts a business that really takes off, but for the most part experience is an asset.

4) You’re already thinking about offering a Groupon. First of all, these extreme discount sites don’t create repeat business and yoga studios kind of depend on that. Second of all, how are you going to pay your teachers if you’re making a whopping $1.50 a class?

5) You want to work less. As a studio owner, you’re going to work more. A lot more. Nights. Weekends. Wee hours of the morning.

6) You’re non-confrontational to a fault. You’re going to have to be a leader, and sometimes that means telling people they are doing it wrong. People typically don’t deal well with constructive criticism, but you have to give it anyway so that your business will continue to improve.

7) You like yoga more than you like people. You are going to have to be behind that desk through sickness and health in times of plenty and in times of want. You are the face of that business and that face deals with a whole lot of people.

8) You’re impatient. It takes time and energy to build a community, usually years. Do you have years to do this?

9) You’re married or want to be married. Working 16-hour days is not so good for your relationship. Entrepreneurs have divorce rates even higher than that of the rest of the country. If you’re going to be successful, you likely have controlling, imbalanced and eccentric qualities. Once you own your business, these qualities will be magnified and the pool of people willing to love and cherish someone like that, is probably shrinking*. (*Not based on any actual evidence, please take with grain of salt.)

10) You just want to teach yoga. At this point you probably realize that if you’re going to open a studio, you’ll be doing a lot more than downward facing dog.


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Assistant Ed: Renee Picard / Ed: Sara Crolick

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About Laura Dos Santos

Laura Dos Santos is a recovering corporate marketing professional and forever yoga student who aspires to a little bit of everything. She’s always on the edge of inspiration and sometimes when she gets past that edge, something wonderful happens. Find her daily musings here and her freelance marketing work here.


15 Responses to “10 Reasons to Think Twice Before Opening a Yoga Studio. ~ Laura Dos Santos”

  1. Shareen says:

    All great points. Still, after reading this I DO want to open a yoga studio 🙂 I guess that's a good sign for me!!! Thanks for all of the useful thoughts. xo

  2. Francine says:

    Was the author ever the owner of a studio? For the life of me I cannot understand how we studio owners are supposed to pay teachers more then our businesses can afford? Teachers work between 60-90 minutes give or take some time for other responsibilities. Anywhere from $25-$50 per class depending on experience and popularity of the class is definitely a decent wage.

  3. Happy to hear that your decision to open a studio is a mindful one Shareen! That's what we need to support yoga as an industry. Namaste!

  4. Molly says:

    And also consider that if your teachers get to practice for free, then they are also getting an extra month of membership in their pockets so it's really like getting more than 50 per class.

  5. Char says:

    Give or take some time for other responsibilities? Give about half an hour on either side of class to greet students and prepare/clean the space, give hours of practice and planning for classes, give days spent researching and reading about yoga/anatomy/philosophy, give thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours training, give extra time after class to talk to that student with questions/comments/crises. Teachers work extremely hard and each class they teach is the tip of an enormous ice berg of time and money spent. We love it, we don't do if for the money, but $25-$50 per class is no living for a teacher that puts in hours of care and planning into each class, preventing him/her from teaching dozens of classes each week.

  6. The most challenging thing about running a successful yoga studio is getting people to know you exist. You'll easily put more time into that than teaching time. If they don't know you are there, it is tough to get people in class. And this is a job that is never finished. If you don't have a 5 year business plan including revenues and expenses, don't even bother

  7. amphibi1yogini says:

    If you cannot offer inducements other than Groupon to get the low-value customer in your doors, you have no business opening an elitist yoga studio. For my part, I came back to an IMPOSSIBLE yoga studio because they offered dance classes for a time, on the cheap. After nearly three years, which could be a lifetime in downward-dog years (some yoga careers last roughly that long, lol). I do not intend to take yoga with them ever again, but that had always been a given. [The jury is still out on their now-carriage-trade dance prices…] Still, they got members of the community in the doors (in their non-Lululemons) paying for a loss-leader. It all counts, and it makes them look good in the community, FWIW (except for the pied piperish toting of the ubiquitous yoga mats) But finally, have any of you gotten the memo that the boom has moved on to Cross Fit?

    Love your yoga; teach it part time or not. Do NOT make the mistake of putting all your income streams into one basket …

  8. Francine says:

    Please tell me what small business pays an employee for doing their own learning, research and prep when they are not on the clock. I never expected to get paid for every moment I did something for any of my jobs when I was not “on the clock”. I always considered my work outside of the office/studio to be something that made me a valuable employee and a better person. Before I owned a studio, i worked as an architect. I spent countless hours learning, studying and preparing so when I went into work, I did a great job. My pay was not significant by any stretch of the imagination and did not include one second of time outside of the office. . How can a yoga teacher say owners have to pay them for every second they spend related to their job.

  9. Francine says:

    One more thing… For the most part, studio owners are not bringing in tons of money. Maybe a few well known ones but the rest of us are not getting rich. Teachers, you are absolutely not aware of the realities of owning a business.

  10. Christine says:

    As a studio owner for 4 years, this is some of the best advice I've read on the subject. Since owning my business, I've been contacted by FOUR other local studio owners that asked if I would take over/buy their location because it wasn't working out for them. In every situation their own personal classes were not popular – meaning the studio owner had no "following", so they'd have to rely on other instructors to bring people in. And they also did not have business or marketing experience, so they relied on discounting classes to attract new customers. In addition to loving people and yoga, you need a following and you need a good business head.

  11. Great Article Laura! This “real talk” article applies to all small businesses. Not just a Yoga Studio. I’ve owned my own streetwear apparel boutique and clothing brand for the past 7 years. Owning a business is like having a baby that never grows up! I have 2 kids and they have grown up and are learning to be independent. My business on the other hand I had to keep feeding daily. Working Weekends, Nights ,Holidays, Holiday weekends etc. Thank you for your honest bluntness with this article! I will tell you that owning my own business was one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life. I've learned a hell of a lot more than I ever expected. Owning a businesses takes a strong team, spouse and circle of friends. My word of advice is you’ll never know unless you give it a shot. Don’t be afraid to fail.

  12. Christina says:

    Couldn't have written this better myself!!! Love your article.

  13. Chloe says:

    I teach yoga and middle school. I have never expected pay for preparation done outside of my hours. Also, $25-$50 sounds pretty good. The big thing for me as an instructor is that I appreciate getting paid more when I bring in more students or build up my class. I have worked at studios for a flat rate of $18 while the drop-in rate was much higher than my pay… those are the situations that I find difficult.

  14. mary says:

    Well, i would say that every one of these applied to me when I opened my studio. I had no following, no money, no plan. But I had a great location….I guess that was enough for me to keep a successful yoga studio.

  15. Elle Kealy says:

    I agree with about half of these and the other half are valid BUT can be absolutely avoided or worked around with a really great set up. The problem is that most yoga teachers don't realise that at the beginning, because, well, they just (number 10) want to teach yoga. But then 6 months into the biz when the love is starting to turn into 'how am I going to pay the rent' they realise they need to figure out solutions. It doesn't mean you shouldn't go for it, in fact I think it just means that this will be one really great journey and you must be open to learning so much and changing your views on things in order to have the best chance of success. And yes, you will work really hard too!