Soon after I received my Yoga teaching certification for Jivamukti Yoga many years back, I quickly hatched a plan to start my own yoga studio in my hometown. Years later, I have a thriving studio with enthusiastic students and amazing teachers. It was not always that way! It took many expensive and annoying mistakes to get to where I am now. Here is my list of the mistakes that you'll definitely want to avoid.
1. Putting Too Much Money Into The Wrong Space
Space and location are half of your success, so choose carefully. You might be an enlightened guru but if takes your disciples nearly the length of a class to get to you, they might give up the fight even before it started. Help them out and be in a convenient location.
Although location is critical, don't rent the most expensive space at the beginning. Give yourself always some space to grow. Your studio becomes your practice. Certainly don't overly invest in expensive build-out, design and equipment. You want to have safe and stable ground before you start growing. Don't go broke. Your yoga-studio-owner asana will not be completely steady and smooth at the beginning -- for a while.
2. Not Knowing Your Clients
With so many studios nowadays, it is essential for you to know who your studio is going to serve. How you understand yourself: that is the space you will create around you. You will develop this studio culture in two different ways: either get space with a reasonable rent and see what type of clients show up and design the course structure around them; or you can try to fit your optimal studio concept onto the space. Of course, the first scenario is easier. Do you want to have big classes for low-cost entry or smaller classes with higher prices? Each attracts different people to your studio. The middle-aged mom yogi may not feel at home next to athletic 20 year old college students.
3. Your Amazing Instructors Will Teach the Classes
No doubt, you will teach a lot yourself because your studio will manifest what you are as a teacher. Don't fool yourself thinking that others will do the job for you. No, they will do it with you but you must lead. Make sure you have things to teach and if you can, stay plugged into teachings through your own teachers or guru.
One of the subconscious reasons people come to your classes is that they want to have you have or want to be what you are. Don't get unappealing, average teachers. Frogs who you naively think will turn into princes with your approving kiss. Love everyone but also accept the reality of their limitations.
4. Partner With Your Best Friend
Although it might work in the personal sphere, there is no such thing as perfect 50/50 power distribution in business. Nothing would happen and there would be no movement. There always needs to someone who is the controlling force. Owning any business with a friend rarely works as there is often a struggle for power and control. If you want to keep your friendship and keep practicing yoga with your friend, don't mix in business. Exception perhaps for your family member, maybe then.
5. Yoga Classes Will Make Your Studio Profitable
Possibly, if you are lucky and your overhead is low. More likely you will need to create other important money-making elements such as a teacher training program, or a festival/large event series to have a profitable business. Regular classes are not necessarily enough to put the veggie bacon on the table.
6. If You Build It, They Will Come
Your studio is a living organism and you need to be social if you want to fill your classes. Of course, organic word of mouth growth is the best and most sustainable way of building your business, but you must also become an expert at internet social marketing. Get your Facebook on, modern yogi.
The competition is fierce, your studio must have a reason to exist among all the others. Don't send too many mixed messages although many adjustments will be made while growing. Have the underlying vision in your pocket all the time. Be like a tree with thick roots and bending branches. Do everything you can to stand out and be remembered. Promote yourself and your brand with DVDs, shirts, yoga mats, mugs, anything that helps remind people of you. If you are a shy Cinderella waiting to be discovered at the ball, you'll end up a pumpkin.
7. Be BFFs with Everyone!!
Just because you are nice, compassionate, loving and forgiving does not mean you let people step over you. Become really good at saying no. If there is a pink Ganesha in the room, don't pretend you don't see him. If you sense some of your friends are up to no good, and their actions are sabotaging the interests of your studio, stand up like a fierce Durga and protect your baby.