A local yoga studio, Om on the Range, recently announced that they’ll be permanently shutting down their Bucktown location. I just started taking classes at this studio, so I was especially sad to hear this announcement. Of course, this is not the first yoga studio to go out of business, and it certainly won’t be the last. So why do some yoga studios fail, while others succeed?
As a former studio owner/manager, and as someone who has practiced at studios all over the country, I have a few ideas about what can make or break a yoga studio. Here, in no particular order, are what I consider to be five important characteristics of a successful yoga business (and, yes, it is a business):
1. Great Teachers In order to be successful, studio owners need to define their brand carefully and choose their teachers even more carefully. Instead of hiring a disparate group of teachers who are good enough on paper, studios should aim to hire truly exceptional teachers, each of whom has something unique to offer while also fitting into the overarching style and theme of the studio.
2. Happy Teachers A successful yoga studio must treat its teachers well. Some studio owners think they can just cycle through teachers, as if they were interchangeable widgets. This is just not the case. Students develop a relationship with individual instructors, not the studio per se, so when their favorite teacher quits, the students tend to leave, too. In order for a studio to be successful, then, it should strive to maintain a stable and happy group of teachers. Of course, it’s impossible to keep a completely static roster of teachers over time. But by keeping their teachers happy, studio owners can minimize teacher turnover and will have a better chance at attracting and retaining dedicated yoga students.
3. Location This is basically Small Business 101. If a studio has a poor location, it’s going to have a lot of trouble getting regular students. However, it’s not necessary, or even advisable, to put a yoga studio in a space with maximum visibility. The rents for such places are usually quite high, and since most yoga studios don’t rely on random walk-in business, there’s no need to rent that primo retail space next to the Apple Store. In fact, a lot of successful yoga studios operate out of second-floor or back-alley spaces. If you have a good studio, yogis will find it. What’s more important than visibility is that people can get to your studio easily by foot, public transportation and/or car.
4. Schedule Almost all successful studios offer lots of classes, every day of the week. An extensive class schedule is so important, especially for regular yogis who purchase multi-class packs or unlimited passes. In addition to lots of options, a studio’s class schedule should stay relatively stable. There’s nothing more annoying, from a student’s perspective, than having your favorite class moved to an inconvenient time or suddenly cancelled altogether. Studio owners should be patient with their schedules, and resist the temptation to tinker constantly.
5. Community At Bloomington Power Yoga, my old studio that I ran for several years, I found that the teachers and the relationships they built with their students were the lifeblood of the place. At the beginning of each class, there was a palpable excitement in the air as new and old friends got together to share something special. Without forcing the issue, a community was born. I don’t know how to put a dollar value on something like this, and I’m loathe to do so because it’s not about the money at all. But in terms of good business, there’s nothing like a strong community to give a studio the solid foundation it needs for ongoing success.
This is by no means a complete list of all the things that affect the success or failure of a yoga studio. There are plenty of other factors that can come into play — e.g. a really bad economy, a crazy landlord, major life changes, etc. However, in my ten years of practicing and teaching yoga, I really can’t think of an instance where a studio did all of the above correctly and still had to shut down.