Taking CorePower to the people
Marketing Chief Tess Roering aims for intensity with intention
Tess Roering loves to sweat. From spandex-clad aerobics instructor in the late ‘80s to daily heated yoga these days, the 47-year-old serves as CorePower Yoga’s chief marketing officer, joining the booming Denver-based boutique fitness brand about a year and a half ago. Roering’s career includes stints with nonprofits and major brands. She recently sat down with ColoradoBiz to discuss CorePower’s place in the multi-billion-dollar yoga industry.
You studied psychology at Stanford University. Did you want to be a psychologist?
I had no idea what I wanted to do and sort of settled into law. I worked for a law firm for about six months after graduating and was like, this is not for me.
So I took a step back and at the time I was doing a lot of volunteer work. I was living in Washington, D.C. at the time. One day while volunteering at Special Olympics International, I took a typing test and got the job as the administrative assistant in the marketing department. Three months later, I got promoted and sent to Austria to run their Winter Games. I ended up getting three years of just a little bit of everything in marketing, but I realized I didn’t really know what I was doing. So I decided to go back to get an MBA at Duke.
What did you do with your MBA from there?
I launched into a marketing-focused career. I bounced into all kinds of industries – started off in consumer goods and worked for Gillette when it was independent. I worked for an agency and launched what was a startup at the time – Hotwire. I worked at Visa International and then fell into a really cool job at Old Navy running strategy and advertising. Then I moved to a marketing job at Gap, and then a couple years later was asked to run marketing for a company they had recently acquired called Athleta. So I was head of marketing for Athleta for five years prior to coming here.
How did the CorePower offer come up?
I had gotten a call from a recruiter who was searching for this particular role, which didn’t yet exist in the company. I first asked, ‘What is CorePower?’ So I went to probably 15 or 20 classes in quick succession and immediately fell in love with it.
I’ve always been a fitness fanatic. I love to ski. I love to play tennis. And a little-known fact – I was actually a high impact aerobics instructor in college, back in the Jane Fonda days, with the sweatbands, and I wore a bandana around my waist; leg warmers and shiny tights.
What does this role look like for you?
What we’re responsible for in our department is really understanding our students and what they want, being closely connected to our studios, teachers, managers and having a clear sense of what differentiates us. We need to be able to articulate that in a way that’s compelling, that sustains students and compels future students to come check us out.
How has yoga become big business?
When the company started, it was more of a hippie thing – the sort of thing my aunt who doesn’t shave her armpits does. Now, it’s become such a mainstream idea. People have recognized it’s not just stretching, it’s a really good workout and there are so many physical benefits. Also, as a culture, we’re now so focused on mindfulness and everyone’s looking to relieve stress.
Speak more specifically on the growth of the brand.
We opened 20 studios last year. We’ll open another 30 this year. Our current total is 147. We’re in 20 states and we’re definitely going to go into a few new markets this year.
What do you look for in the communities where you bring CorePower?
Places that are fitness-oriented, relatively educated, young professionals in urban settings. Now we’re having a lot of success in the suburbs, too.
When CorePower comes to town, do you see that other yoga studios – perhaps more traditional, smaller, independent studios are forced out?
In other businesses, a lot of times you look at where there’s a prevalence of similar businesses or a lack. Frankly, we don’t look at either of those because we really are a unique offering in the boutique fitness space – it’s this juxtaposition of a really unique, kickass physical workout and the mindfulness of yoga – intensity with intention.
Do you hear any complaints as CorePower becomes more commercial?
It’s easy to say, ‘Oh, that’s a chain and that’s bad.’ I think once people get into this brand, they have consistent experiences, and yet there’s also a local community feel in each studio. But the challenge is maintaining quality and consistency of what we offer; that’s easier to do with the physical space than with the experience.
What are the greatest challenges you and your team experience in your goal to expand the brand?
The most beautiful thing we do and the biggest challenge is that what we offer is not a product, it’s an experience. It’s one thing to make T-shirts and ship them all over the country and know that the quality is consistent. A yoga class that is taught by one of our 2,500 instructors – we want to make sure every class, for every student is of the same incredible quality.
Talk about some of the sponsors and partners you’ve brought into the CorePower experience.
I think people love the idea of being able to do yoga in different places. Yoga on the Rocks is one of our iconic events … with 2,000 people coming to each of our four classes to watch the sunrise. [Recently] we hosted this awesome class at the Great Divide Brewery and we had over 250 people there and everyone stayed afterward and had a beer. We also have a phenomenal partnership with Uber, where we’re finding cool ways to engage the community.
How does being Colorado-based impact your business?
We love how incredibly active our base is here and how progressive it is, to embrace something like yoga perhaps earlier than the rest of the country. Colorado is reflected in the company, as the state ranks among the healthiest in the country.
With the move to INDUSTRY, we were really looking at up-and-coming neighborhoods of Denver, and clearly RiNo is this urban, happening spot. We’ve watched it change, and it’s been fun.
What can student-customers look forward to in the future?
In fitness, there’s obviously a constant evolution. If you look across decades, it was running, then aerobics, then big box gyms. Now there’s boutique fitness, starting with spin, and there’s rowing and treadmill classes; they had an underwater spin studio, naked yoga.
To us, it’s really about rounding out what our offering is as we see fitness trends evolve. One of the hot words is high intensity interval training, so we now offer Core Cardio Circuit.
What’s the market potential for CorePower?
If you look at the yoga market now, it has almost doubled in the U.S. within the last three years. There are 37 million people participating in yoga; it was about 20 million in 2012. There are also another 80 million Americans who said they’d love to try it. When you think about it, an hour where you can get this really intense workout and mindfulness, where you can get inner peace and flat abs in an hour? What else do you want?