I’m a yoga studio kinda girl.
Yes, I practice at home occasionally.
Yes, I use online resources occasionally.
But overall – I practice yoga in a studio.
I’ve always been a studio kinda girl – there’s something about collective energy vibrating together yet independent of one another that gets me every time. The idea that strangers gather, breathe in unison, move in unison, and feel in unison is invigorating, motivating, and inspiring (to say the least).
So when I made the move to St. Pete, and left behind my precious yoga studio – the first and most important order of business was finding a new yoga studio. And if you live here, then you know how many damn studios there are to choose from (it’s a bit overwhelming).
I joined one studio, dropped into another, bought a class pack here, and finally – I found The Body Electric Yoga Company or for short, The BE.
The BE was the 6th yoga studio I visited (that’s dedication people).
And I have to admit, it was love at first sight. I think many people, if not everyone, who visits The BE experiences this same feeling of love. It’s a rare occurrence to fall head over heels for a yoga studio, but it happened, and I’m okay with that.
If you don’t live here, let me quickly tell you why this place is so badass:
- The space is incredible – the exposed brick walls, the funky decor, the vintage aesthetic, the beautiful hardwood floors and high ceilings… it’s magical.
- The teachers – these people are hands down some of the best I’ve practiced with. They know their shit, they’re dedicated to the practice, and they genuinely care about the yoga community.
- The class schedule is very eclectic, there’s a class for everyone – literally.
- The workshops are equally eclectic and epic. There’s always a great lineup of opportunities to grow your soul.
- The owners – I saved the best for last. Jenny & Katelyn are two serious yoga babes who built an incredible space and community for people to learn, grow, and connect. I can’t thank them enough for creating, nurturing, and growing such a beautiful yoga studio. So if you’re reading yoga babes – thanks!
Okay – so why are we here? What is the point of this article?
Well, I asked Jenny (one of the owner yoga babes) to shed some light on how the studio came to be, how she manifested its creation, how their processes work, and ultimately – how they had the courage to do the damn thing!
Yogis – Please use this interview as an informational tool to help enrich your knowledge of opening a yoga studio, starting a business, or taking a chance of any kind.
And with that said, let’s get into it.
1. At what point in your teaching career did you decide – I want to open a yoga studio?
I was not a very good teacher at first.
I don’t think anyone is.
So I considered myself lucky.
I taught at YES for a minute, and then was fortunate to pick up a class over at Yoga Etc. Studio. I have a lot of respect for Cindy Mastry, who owns that studio, and Jen Lowery, who was co-owner at the time, and who pretty much showed me how to teach vinyasa.
When YogaBlu opened, I popped in there and Megan Robinson was kind enough to give me a couple of hot classes.
I’d say it took me a good three years to be what I consider a competent teacher.
My real job at the time, and for 15 years previous, had been in web development, and I knew I wasn’t going to last much longer. My skills were becoming obsolete, and I didn’t care enough about it to keep up. I knew I had to find something else to do.
I started playing with the idea of opening a studio.
I didn’t know my partner Katelyn at the time, but we had a mutual friend who introduced us, knowing we both had the idea of opening a studio. We met, talked about our ideas, and really clicked. We both had similar visions and I got the impression that our strengths and weaknesses might match up well.
2. What was your biggest fear or limiting belief during the process?
Katelyn has no fears that I know of.
All the fears and limited beliefs came from me.
The one thing I didn’t want to happen was – having success, as in filling the room with students, but still not making enough money.
I was worried about our projections being realistic, because really we were just shooting in the dark.
I worried about everything.
I would have never opened a place, left to myself.
I would’ve quit a hundred times, at every obstacle.
3. How did you afford to open a yoga studio?
We couldn’t get a loan from any bank.
We spent two years saving, trying to drum up money, researching locations.
It was frustrating.
I can’t remember what the normal estimated cost for opening a place is, but we didn’t have nearly that. We were fortunate to find a landlord who was really willing to work with us.
In the end, I’m glad no one gave us money, and I’m glad we stuck to our guns and didn’t bring on any investors.
We were never in the red, and we did it all ourselves. Neither of us come from any money, so we know how to work and hustle.
I’m proud of that, I must say.
4. What resources did you find helpful during the process?
- There are classes available through the City of St. Pete for entrepreneurs. They have a lot of resources available, and we took advantage of that.
- I went to a Yoga Journal Conference and took all of the classes about opening your own studio and the MINDBODY classes too. I learned a lot at those. Got really good advice.
Finally, those couple of years, which seemed so long and demoralizing at the time, is when we laid all of the important groundwork for the studio. We met so many people, and did so much more teaching. We blogged, we took a big group of folks on a yoga retreat to Costa Rica, we made friends in the community.
We needed that time to develop, even if we didn’t know it then.
5. How did you decide upon the name?
We went through hundreds of names and rarely agreed.
The name came to me in a flash, I guess. It’s from the Walt Whitman poem – I Sing the Body Electric.
He embodied a lot of what we’re about.
6. What’s your favorite memory of opening the studio?
We call the January and February before we opened “the dark days.”
Just a small group of friends worked day and night on the studio.
We really busted our asses. It was hard, dirty work. There was a lot of real blood, sweat, and tears.
I’ll never forget those nights.
7. What’s your number one piece of advice for future yoga studio owners?
Hmm…just one piece?
- You have to want to run a business, because the yoga teaching is only one small part of it.
- It’s a lot of work — managing people, marketing, technical, retail, maintenance, quality control, training, etc. etc.
- It’s really great to have a partner.
- Don’t compromise or get lazy when it comes to picking your location.
- Have a vision.
8. What’s the most difficult situation you run into on a consistent basis?
Making sure things don’t fall through the cracks.
There are so many moving parts.
We say YES a lot, and it creates so much work. We have almost 20 teachers now, and that’s a lot of folks to look after, keep happy, and develop.
9. How did you decide upon your class offerings, type of teachers you’d employ, and the overall vibe of the studio?
Man, I could talk about this all day.
Essentially, we know what we love and don’t love in a studio, and we set out to create a space that we would want to practice in.
We started with just four teachers: Katelyn, Jade, Rachel, and me.
We had three rules:
- Arrive at least 30 minutes before class.
- Long Savasanas.
- No shit-talking of any kind – other styles, studios, teachers, anything.
We got really lucky with our teachers. You have to be incredibly careful, because once you have someone on board, you don’t want to get rid of them. You can’t always take a teacher just because they’re great in a room.
For us, it’s about being part of the family, buying in, doing your own check-ins, learning the POS system, promoting, subbing, training, keeping up with everything happening at the studio.
It’s a lot more than most teachers want to do. We give them a lot of responsibility. We ask a lot of them. And I think that’s the key to our vibe.
Everyone feels ownership.
And that’s why we’re able to go on vacation, too!
10. And lastly – Why did you start practicing yoga in the first place? And how and why did you become a yoga teacher?
I moved from DC to Florida in April, 2009.
My little brother had died of an accidental OD a couple of years prior, and as a result my parents had moved to Uganda, to dedicate their lives to helping people. My sisters were here, in Tampa, and I wanted to be close to them. I hadn’t lived near them in almost 20 years at that point.
I came to St Pete with my girlfriend at the time, who, in retrospect, was probably just depositing me near my family so she could leave me, which she did after a few months.
I was really fucked up over that loss. I didn’t know what to do with myself.
Aside from drinking a lot, I started going to a hot yoga class with Mike Meehan over at Yoga Energy Studio.
I’d done maybe three classes in my life before that point.
I was in so much pain at the time.
Those classes were really hard for me, physically, and it took me out of that pain for a few minutes here, a few minutes there. It was the only relief I ever felt.
So I kept going.
After just a few weeks, Mike suggested I take their upcoming teacher training.
It seemed like a ridiculous idea, not something I would ever do.
Which made me think, maybe I should do it?
Every other decision I’d ever made had landed me in this spot. Maybe I should do something way out of my comfort zone. Also, I was a little flattered that he was impressed with my practice.
So, I did it.
I want to send a huge THANK YOU to Jenny for collaborating with me on this piece, for being honest and authentic when it came to personal and professional advice, and again – for creating an incredible yoga space for the yogis of St. Pete to enjoy.
Until next time – xoxo.