Sherry offers four styles of yoga classes at her studio: senior yoga, gentle yoga, wheelchair-bound yoga and corporate wellness yoga. While she does have a “storefront,” she emphasizes building your business beyond the confines of the studio—75 percent of her personal teaching and 25 percent of her studio income originates from outside of her studio. “[When] you go out into the community, it’s endless. So [for] you teachers who don’t have a studio, you can be that teacher who goes out into the world and all these different places” and capitalizes on the market potential, she says.
While generating revenue with these growing markets is certainly a primary business goal, Sherry says that making more money may not always be what’s best for you. Although possible, Sherry points out that making over $100,000, or even “a couple hundred thousand,” often comes with strings attached: “ I’ve been there, and I’ve done that, and with that comes lots of stress,” she says, “If you’re going to open a yoga studio because you want to bring that kind of money in, it’s all about business. You’ve got to love business...”
Defining the Market
Three of the classes that Sherry specializes in – senior, gentle and chair yoga – have defining characteristics that yoga teachers and studio owners must be aware of.
- Senior Yoga (Aimed at the 65 and over age demographic): Poses, sequences and modifications should focus on senior-specific issues including kyphosis, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, hypertension and balance. “The first thing to go, my seniors are telling me, is balance. And guess what? When balance goes confidence goes, and then it starts to escalate,” Sherry says.
- Gentle Yoga (Aimed at beginners and baby boomers and in between): Poses and sequences are slower-paced and accessible to people with stress, physical limitations, injuries and the like. “You get a beginner in your class, you should not be doing Chaturangas and Downward-Facing Dogs with those people,” Sherry advises. Baby boomers and people who are under stress also need to ease into yoga practice, and gentle yoga is a good place to start. “Realize that even these people who look very able-bodied are in there to be calm and to stretch and to breath and to slow things down,” she says.
- Chair Yoga (Aimed at seniors to desk workers of any age): Almost any pose can be modified to be done in a chair or seated position. Chair yoga is especially helpful for people who cannot get up and down on the floor easily or who are limited in the ability to kneel or sit cross-legged. “When you get all heated up and [do] chair sun salutations, I say, ‘You know, that’s your Prana moving. That’s what’s going to keep you healthy. That’s what it feels like to be alive,’” Sherry says.
The “product” you are offering – senior, gentle or chair yoga – has to match the needs of your targeted audience. “If I am going to be offering an Ashtanga class in a senior retirement center, it’s not going to get very full,” Sherry notes. She defines business as equal to your efforts to combine the right mix of product, marketing and sales. “Most seniors will not walk into your studio. I’m telling you most of them won’t. It’s too far and too weird for them. You’ve got to go to where they are,” she says, tying into her emphasis on generating business outside of the studio.
Sherry points out that pricing your product is a sensitive point: “We all feel that we have value as a yoga teacher, but for me, in my life right now, it’s about service. So I have to look at my demographic to say, ‘What price can they bear? And how can I package it so it’s a no-brainer for them? And who sells it’?” If any of the marketing mix – the yoga style, customer, place, time or price – is not right, you won’t be successful.
In many “Business 101” circles, it is typically recommended that you have a business plan in place to help guide your vision and keep you on track; in the corporate world, that plan encompasses budget, marketing strategy and timeline. A good business plan should project out one to ten years in the future, so you have a clear vision of where you’re going and direction to get there. At this point in her career, Sherry says she relies on her creative energy, karma, intuition and business acumen to guide her business planning.