By Laura Klover
In 2018, when I took a special early retirement package from my Fortune 50 employer for 22 years to go start a yoga and Ayurveda business, I thought I was an entrepreneur. Over the next 18 months, I built a nice little business teaching about 28 classes a month for 14 senior living communities and two different yoga studios. To create this business, I had made up flyers and spent time networking at numerous senior community support events and holding Ayurveda 101 workshops at different yoga studios. I did monthly billings and collections and thought since my revenue stream came from 16 different sources that I was well-diversified. Even if my original business plan was off by half (seniors wanted 30 minute classes, not 60 minute classes, and I could not physically deliver as many classes a month as I originally planned) and I had to take a part-time job to fill in the financial gaps, I was still an entrepreneur, right?
Enter COVID-19 and Trump’s 3/11 Address to the Nation, in which he advised nursing homes for the elderly to “suspend all medically unnecessary visits.” Literally, overnight, my entire senior yoga business bubble burst and evaporated. I taught my last senior yoga class the morning of 3/12, and as I walked out the door, this community told me they couldn’t have me back at this time. By the morning of 3/13, all of my senior classes had cancelled, the vast majority “indefinitely.” By 3/16, the yoga studios I taught at had closed under the “non-essential” business closures. Like everyone, I was shocked, stunned and shaken to the core. This was half my income, and all of my desired livelihood. What was I to do?
Luckily, I had experience with Zoom, the online video conferencing service. I’d used it for some training over the last year and knew how it worked. Somehow, I started hearing about yoga teachers teaching classes online, probably from my Facebook feed, which is filled with fellow yoga teachers. I listened to a Yoga Alliance webinar they put on with The Institute of Yoga Sport Science (IYSS) on “How to Teach Yoga Online” and ultimately signed up for an IYSS online course of the same name. I joined some Facebook groups with hundreds of other yoga teachers across the country, all of whom were trying to figure out how to take our classes online.
And there was much to figure out, such as liability insurance, student waivers, lighting, microphones, wide-angle lenses, computer set up, how to see your students, how and where to post a calendar of classes, how to take payments, etc. etc. While many in America were surfing Netflix and Amazon Prime and possibly becoming bored, I was scrambling day and night. I learned how my rear-facing phone camera gave the highest quality picture and how to use my phone for the video and audio for the students and my computer hooked to my big screen TV via an HDMI cable with a separate Zoom login so I could see my students, no small feat indeed, what with all the settings on different devices and apps. I learned that many yoga liability insurance policies did not cover recorded classes, so I gave up that idea and decided to just teach live. I learned I needed some method to offer waivers to students and get their signatures before teaching them; oddly enough, this was a rather major stumbling block for me for a while until I found a program that would do this for me electronically (Schedulicity). Taking payments was also a challenge. I first had to learn about calendar and payment program options and then evaluate several different programs. I did not know what I needed so I had to figure it all out.
Before I started to take my business online, the biggest lesson I learned was that I did not have my own students. Since I taught at studios, the studios “owned” the students and their email addresses. For my senior students, I had worked with the Community Activity Directors and knew all of the first names of my students but very few of their last names and certainly did not have their email addresses or phone numbers. While this latter was a painful lesson, I am glad I learned it only 18 months into my business creation rather than say 5 years in.
When it came time to teach my normal first Sunday evening meditation class, on April 5th, I knew I wanted to find a way to do it online. While I still did not have the online teaching thing all figured out, I also felt that meditation was desperately needed at the time and was certainly a gift I could offer. I did the first couple of meditation classes for free while I figured everything out. With the help and support of IYSS, I slowly pulled it together. I took baby steps and had to do things simply at first (such as having people pay via Venmo) and then upgrade a week or two later when I learned more. Basically, I am starting my business over from scratch, building an online yoga and Ayurveda business. I have the yoga and Ayurveda content and technical pieces down and am slowly building my own list of students. I have a calendar of classes and a way for people to sign up, sign a waiver, and pay. I am stumbling through marketing and still have much to learn in this area. Boy, if I thought there was a lot to learn to teach online, I seriously underestimated what it takes to learn about marketing online! I am still a neophyte in this whole area. The key thing is that I am committed to learning and improving and to “failing fast.” There have certainly been days when I’ve been discouraged and have wondered if I can really do it. After all, competition in the online yoga space is fierce and filled with almost celebrity teachers and plenty of free yoga as well. The jury is out as to whether I’ll make it AND I certainly plan to! Time will tell.
If you know a yoga teacher who has taken their business online, please go to their classes and support them. They are busting their bums to try to serve you and bring you classes and practices that can deeply calm and center you through these rough times. If you’ve never tried yoga, I encourage you to do so. Yoga is absolutely the best practice I know for building resiliency and dealing with stress. You don’t have to be really flexible to do yoga; in fact, honoring where you are is a big part of the whole process. And if you don’t have a yoga or meditation teacher, I’d love to hear from you. You may follow me on Instagram: @livingyogaprime. Visit my site www.yogaprime.com.
In the meantime, at this point, I definitely believe I am a conscious entrepreneur.
Laura Klover founded Yoga Prime, an online and on-location Yoga and Ayurveda business to help you live the prime of life. A student of yoga for nearly three decades, Laura became a Yoga Alliance Registered Yoga Teacher in 2015. Laura is also a Certified Ayurvedic Yoga Specialist and can coach you to personal abundant health via 1-on-1 Ayurvedic consultations. When not teaching, Laura likes to hike and weave scarves. For more information on how your daily choices can affect your life, please schedule an Ayurvedic consult or sign up to attend one of Laura’s online yoga classes using https://schedulicity.com/scheduling/YPLLMW to make an appointment.