Steps for building your own yoga business

By Kathleen Shiflett

Five years ago, I embarked on a journey to open a yoga studio. I had been teaching yoga for four years, had no prior business experience, and no local connections or contacts. It was a huge risk. I did however have high hopes, and a clear vision of what I was working towards. When my small boutique studio opened its doors in 2016, I quickly began to navigate the ins and outs of owning and managing my own yoga business.

One of the unexpected lessons I learned over the last several years is that taking ownership of your yoga business isn’t as complicated as it might feel at first. With a few well placed moments of research and planning, you can absolutely set up the foundations for your own business sooner than you think.

Yoga teachers often assume that it is the role of the gym or studio where they teach to handle offerings, client retention, and community creation. Ironically, I would ague that studio owners usually feel the opposite. Even if you teach one class a week, taking responsibility for several important details will make you much more successful. While being a business owner certainly is’t for everyone, if you are at least curious about it, I invite you to discover the steps for building your own yoga business. With a week or two of diligent work your aspirations to have your own business can absolutely become a reality!

Clarify your business plan

Working the front desk at my studio

The first step to starting your own business is to clarify your business plan. This doesn’t have to be fancy, or perfect, but it does need to be clear. Give yourself a fair amount of time to sit down, contemplate, and journal about the questions that follow. This might be a few hours, or a whole weekend. Remember to give your most authentic responses, but don’t take more time to do this than is absolutely needed. Knowing where you stand before you begin will save yourself and others a great deal of time, effort, and money.

  1. What does success mean to you right now?
    Consider that success comes in many shapes and forms. Success can be tied to knowledge or experience gained, and often times is associated with financial benefit. Be realistic, but optimistic. Some questions that might help clarify your perspective for success include: At the end of this season of your life, what do you feel will matter the most to you? If you were to talk about your yoga teaching business what would be the first thing you would tell your mom, your best friend, and/or a stranger? What would be the parts you would avoid talking about and why? I missed the opportunity to do this when I opened my yoga studio, which meant I spent quite a few years chasing after various means of success without ever truly feeling successful. I wholeheartedly believe that if I had taken the time to clarify this in the beginning, it would have made a huge difference in what I focused my time and energy towards. I now know that for me, success is seeing I have made a positive impact in my clients lives while meeting my own financial goals.

Build a business foundation

Once you are clear on your business plan, it is time to build your personalized business foundation. This begins with research to gather a few more important details you will need to make this process run smooth. When you have decided on these elements, don’t waste time taking action to get your business established. Besides the fact that resistance builds over time, one segment is often dependent on the next. If you maintain steady progress, within just a matter of a few weeks your business can be up and running.

  1. Determine your formal business structure.
    Yes, you should have a business structure. Even if you teach a single class a week, it will make a world of difference in how you and your clients perceive your professionalism. Depending on your circumstances, you might set up your business as a DBA, LLC, CORP, or some other entity. It is best to speak with an accountant, but know the decision will ultimately be up to you. Quite a few yoga teachers operate their business as either a DBA or a single member LLC. If you are not familiar with those terms, take the time to look them up and learn about their differences. In the end what is most important is that you have a business structure as it helps everything else fall into place.

Craft your business necessities

Every business is unique, but nearly all businesses are sustained by several necessities. Your business won’t exist for long if you don’t have something to offer, fail to ask for an exchange, or disregard the importance of telling others. You will give a significant amount of effort to hone these elements over time. In the beginning phase of your business, keep your methods straightforward. Then, experiment and use your support resources to learn and grow. Especially in the virtual space, find a platform like Interval that allows you to easily create, structure, and publish content to hone you offering over time. Crafting your business will be both an art and a science.

  1. Pin Down Your Initial Offerings.
    If you spent time identifying your offerings as part of your business plan, then you are ready for this step. Revisit what you determined to offer, when, how often, and to whom. With this information, you will want to create an upside-down hierarchy. This is also known as your business funnel. At the top will be the method(s) you choose to reach the most amount of people for very little in exchange. An example, this could be an informative handout or a 1st class free in exchange for an email address. At the bottom of your hierarchy will be your most intensive and expensive offering(s), intended to attract very specific clients. A good example of this would be one-on-one sessions. In-between your top and bottom elements will be your intermediate offering(s). As you craft your funnel, you may need to adjust your offerings from your initial plans.

Make mistakes, it is part of the plan

As a fellow yoga teacher and business owner, know that I too have navigated the daunting aspects of building a business. I have had to make a lot of decisions, therefore, I have also made a lot of mistakes. Through my trials and errors, I have slowly gained experience and wisdom. For the last four years I owned and managed my boutique yoga studio in Northern Utah. After much thought and consideration, I decided to close my studio at the at the end of 2020. With the year winding down, I shifted my focus to support my teaching team and encouraged them to take ownership of their teachings going forward. Ironically, it was during those conversations that I realized I not only enjoyed sharing my thoughts, but I actually had experiences, opinions, and wise counsel that was worthy of being shared. While I explore this newfound passion, I will be revisiting many of these business development steps, using the lessons I’ve learned, to evolve my business once again.

In time, your business will absolutely grow and shift as well. Even if you keep teaching at your favorite spots, you will notice a difference in how you handle your classes and clients, and others will too. If by chance you are still feeling a bit more overwhelmed than energized, I absolutely encourage you to reach out for help. In the end, the best advice I have to offer is to make make mistakes, it is actually part of the plan.

In looking for a platform to launch your business, check out Interval, or email one of their team members here. Interval has created an user-friendly but powerful platform for all livestream, on-demand, and even in-person content complete with scheduling, payments, and community features.

If you’re a doer who is ready, but still doesnt quite feel prepared to begin you own yoga business, I invite you to connect with me or the folks at Interval. I am launching a new community for yoga teachers to meet up online over a cup of tea for a quick business teaching, and would love for you to join in! I look forward to our group sharing experiences, asking questions, and discussing lessons learned as practical advice for others to soak up. Please reach out to me at www.kathleenshiflett.com to let me know you are interested in participating.