Yogis Share Secrets of Success for Building a Small Business
Two Fort Collins entrepreneurs reveal dos and don'ts to launch and maintain a boutique yoga studio
Small business owners in the wellness industry have the initiative and drive to create something personal and individualized for the community. It is within these spaces that individuals feel relaxed and have the opportunity to step outside of the daily hustle to do something restorative for themselves.
As an outsider or community member, small businesses like Meraki Yoga Studio in Fort Collins, owned by Rachael Butts and Adrienne Hoxmeier seem to operate effortlessly.
WHAT’S THE CATCH?
The two entrepreneurs promise the picture of seamless operation is in fact an illusion, and that starting a brick and mortar business is more vexing than one would expect.
The two yogis have made their mark on Fort Collins and the boutique yoga studio is a source of fulfillment for Butts and Hoxmeier.
SO, HOW DID THEY DO IT?
If you’re interested in opening a small business in the wellness industry, there are some very important dos and don’ts that will ensure sanity and success throughout the process.
DO: GET EXPERIENCE IN THE INDUSTRY
Hoxmeier came from a background of business management in retail and yoga studios.
“What it takes to run a successful retail store and yoga studio are completely different," she said.
Having experience in the exact industry you intend to open a business in is vital. It helps to have a decent understanding of how businesses in the industry function and what the numbers look like on the back-end.
Hoxmeier and Butts have each been teaching yoga for five years and confidently structured their own business based on that experience in the yoga industry.
DON’T: WAIT TO WRITE A BUSINESS PLAN
The business plan can be the first thing you do, before establishing a space because, as Butts said, “The most important thing is to get clear on your vision.”
This involves establishing the mission and values, and having tough conversations with your partner to make sure you’re on the same page.
The business plan is a living, breathing facet of building the idea and will be edited throughout the process.
Hoxmeier said, “Absolutely do not be afraid to write and rewrite the plan.”
DO: GET TO KNOW YOUR NUMBERS
Meraki’s owners said creating a performa, or document with financial information is 100 percent necessary for a small business to thrive.
The performa should include your break-even point as well as projections of how the business will do month-to-month. You can gauge this off yearly traffic data for similar establishments within the wellness industry.
Both yogis stress the importance of staying on top of and updating your performa regularly to prepare for slow seasons, which allows time to create a cushion for slow months.
DON’T: EXPECT TO BREAK EVEN IN UNDER 5 YEARS
“People think that businesses have a lot of money, and that’s not true," Butts said.
Meraki is funded through personal investments from both owners, as well as loans. Hoxmeier and Butts have chosen to invest everything into their business, and their passion clearly shows through the community they’ve created.
“The biggest mistakes are to not think far enough in advance and not being realistic about your numbers,” Hoxmeier said.
Find someone in your life who can be a resource for realism to your idealism, especially in regard to overhead costs.
DO: CHOOSE A LOCATION STRATEGICALLY
If you want to build a brick and mortar business from scratch, choose an area of town that allows for growth. Residential areas that are in-development can provide a prime platform to foster new businesses.
As an example, Meraki Yoga Studio is on Timberline Road near an expanding residential area.
“Looking at the traffic an area receives is a good indicator of how much traffic your business will see,” Butts said.
DON’T: TRY TO DO EVERYTHING ON YOUR OWN
“Your internet presence is your first employee,” said Butts.
Both owners agree hiring a graphic designer to create an easy-to-use and appealing website is key to marketing success.
The two also point to hiring a professional photographer to document the completed space and market the brand.
Having a website that screams professionalism is a make-it-or-break-it for some businesses. Invest in your business by employing the right designer and photographer for your brand.
Reach out to local businesses and area organizations before you open to get the word out through pop-up events. Meraki did numerous pop-up programs from retail stores to garden events to make opening the yoga studio’s doors a little easier.
Hoxmeier said, “We used pop-up yoga events to put ourselves in front of our targeted demographic so that the community knew of our brand and offerings.”
“People are more likely to want to join your community if you utilize experiential advertising,” Butts added.
By Meraki’s grand opening the studio had 40 members, a quarter of which came from partnership events in the community.
DO: FIND PEOPLE THAT BELIEVE IN WHAT YOU DO
“Finding people [who] are passionate about the brand makes the community in any business stronger,” Hoxmeier said.
Meraki has also found a diverse collection of teachers who believe in the studio’s mission, as well as a team of brand ambassadors that work to spread the aesthetic of the boutique studio beyond its established walls.
Hiring the right people is necessary to avoid employee turnover and inconsistencies throughout the brand.
DON’T: EVER THINK YOU’RE ABOVE CLEANING THE TOILET OR TAKING OUT THE TRASH
This is your business. You should have a tight reign on the way things are run and should be familiar with the protocol and tasks you are delegating to staff.
“As a business owner, I want to be deeply apart of everything that goes on,” Butts said.
Hoxmeier added, “It’s also necessary to delegate, because we can’t do everything all the time, and that’s why we have amazing people to help us.”
If you’ve got an idea, dream big and plan hard. Success in the wellness industry is attributed to hard work, diligent planning, being resourceful and creating a team.
Aliya Gorelick is a student at Colorado State University, majoring in journalism. She participated in a partnership between the University and ColoradoBiz magazine that brought students from Fort Collins to Denver Startup Week 2018.