In a few days, Spirit House Yoga will begin our 12th year of business. We began our studio in early June of 2004 and have been in business longer than any studio in Oklahoma City. Back then, there were only five studios in the entire metropolitan area – now we have around 30, but who can keep track anymore? With a 600% increase in competition, staying in business becomes more challenging for everyone. For ten years, our yoga community averaged about one studio per year closing its doors forever. So far in 2015, we’ve already seen one studio come to an end. I suspect one or two more will follow this year.
In the yoga we know on the mat, the physical practice, we work on a balance of strength and flexibility. Some come to yoga very flexible, but typically have little strength. Others come to yoga already strong, but have little flexibility. In business, we have to be flexible and willing to change established patterns and business models. However, we also have to offer a strong product. At Spirit House, that strong product is strong teaching and intention. With 600% more options, strong teaching may not always be enough to keep customers coming through the doors. We all want the best value for our money, so what we’ve seen happen over the past several years are social media deals such as Groupon and Living Social – underselling the rest of the market and ultimately undermining that studios strength. Margins are narrow when you run any business, but when you deal with businesses such as Groupon, they keep half of the money, making the margins even narrower.
The walk-in rate for a yoga class is now up to $20 for a single class. At Spirit House, we have only raised our prices once – back in 2009 when we opened our second studio. The strategy for a high priced single class is to drive business toward package deals, making more money for the studio and giving the impression of a “better deal” for the customer. At Spirit House, we have never offered unlimited yoga and it’s been quite some time since experimenting with Living Social. We value our strong product and believe our pricing is more than fair – a balance of strength and flexibility. An important aspect to strength is intention and commitment. Our intention at Spirit House is to serve – and we’ve been committed to that intention for 11 years. To stay in business you have to be willing to change and find new ways of staying strong and viable. My personal observation of why some studios fail is their lack of commitment to a strong intention. Few studios last much longer than five years.
In February of 2014, Spirit House Yoga began offering teacher training. In that first year, we had more students than we anticipated and we asked the question, “Where will they all teach?” From that question and from yoga reaching a $20 walk-in price, YogaLab was born. A completely new business model! The teachers who will staff YogaLab will come out of our teacher training program. YogaLab is structured in a business sense to pay for itself, without our livelihood added in. This is how we’ll be able to offer classes at $6 per class – all classes, all the time without any package deals or social media scams. Our new teachers will have a “laboratory” in which to develop their teaching skills. We know of no other model anywhere in the country offering this type of opportunity in conjunction with their teacher training programs. We recognize how expensive yoga can be, pricing far too many out of this amazing practice. We believed the Plaza District was the one and only place to open this studio, right in the middle of a low income area in Oklahoma City.
Not only will our YogaLab classes be $6 – all the time for all classes, we will also be offering a pay-it-forward option for those who might not have $6 that day for a yoga class. This is also a first in Oklahoma City. When we say Spirit House Yoga’s commitment is to serve, we are literally putting our money where our mouth is! In addition, we currently have three people in our teacher training program who speak fluent Spanish. In time, we hope to be offering bi-lingual classes in Spanish. Another first for OKC!
In life, we know how insurance works in the event something goes wrong. In business, if something goes wrong and you’re forced to close the doors, there is no insurance. Supply and demand in the yoga business is out of balance in the Oklahoma City area. Some may argue that point, but I suspect those arguments come from someone who doesn’t own a yoga studio. If supply and demand is out of balance, some studios will close – others will hang on – and still others will find a way to grow. Adding teacher training to our business was a layer of insurance for us to grow our business. Adding YogaLAB is another layer – although it’s yet to be proven. No risk – no reward. Later this summer we’ll announce yet another layer of insurance – more expansion and growth for Spirit House Yoga. In time, YogaLAB may offer the expansion of our business model for Spirit House Yoga itself.
We ask our teacher training applicants why they wish to teach yoga. We ask them to write down their intention – as we believe is all begins with a clear intention. We can’t fake intention – sooner or later we’ll be held accountable if we aren’t truthful about it. There are far too many people teaching yoga in the world today who are inauthentic about their intention. That which supports life is supported by life. Spirit House Yoga is successful because our intention to serve is honest. 11 years in business and all that we’ve done and will continue to do is proof of not only our intention, but also our strength and flexibility.