The Studio Space:
Featuring Janis Bowersox of Yoga for Everybody in Fairfield, Connecticut.
How did your studio, Yoga for Everybody, come into being?
In 1999 I got a vision to open a clean, quiet, well-equipped yoga studio. It took five years before I opened my studio, because I spent a long time preparing so I could do it right. I ran three focus groups, one each with teachers, yoga students, and people who had never taken a yoga class but had an interest. I worked for two years with Marleen Salko at her yoga studio, Marleen's Yoga Studio, which was one of the first Kripalu Affiliate Studios, and we discussed the possibilities of my buying or merging with her business. I became trained as a yoga teacher at a Yoga Alliance-approved school, Yoga Haven, in Tuckahoe, New York.
In January 2004 I opened my studio in a beautiful light-filled space in downtown Fairfield, between the Community Theatre and the train station. A year later Marleen called and told me she was ready to sell her business and merge it with mine. She brought in her students and teachers in May 2005, and my business doubled. We felt like we were getting married and we were bringing all our stepchildren together, and we wanted them to get along! We had a celebration and sharing circle and it has all come together beautifully.
Unlike many yoga studio owners, you have a background in management and marketing, including a master's degree in management from Yale. What have you found to be the most successful marketing tools for your studio?
Along with my website at www.yoga4everybody.net, my biggest and best marketing tool is my e-mail newsletter, which I send out to 2,000 people weekly through an online newsletter service called Constant Contact (www.constantcontact.com). The newsletter includes photos, schedules, coupons and special offers, testimonials, special events and workshop listings, inspirational articles, new teacher introductions. I can track how many people open and click through it and I can send slightly different versions to different subgroups in my mailing list.
I also use OmSoft, a computerized registration system. Every student has a key tag that they swipe when they come in to the studio, and it brings up a screen on the computer that shows how many paid classes they have left, how long it's been since they've been to the studio, even medical alerts.
Another tool I used recently was an online survey, which I developed with the help of Megan McDonough, KYTA's marketing consultant. The results helped me decide what types of workshops to offer.
For help with management and marketing, studio owners might want to explore the free mentoring available through various agencies. I worked with a coach provided by Connecticut's Small Business Administration, and I also had a mentor from SCORE, which matches retired executives with small business owners.
How about those first focus groups? Is there anything you learned from them that you've incorporated into your business?
I still have the tapes from those groups and I take them out and listen to them once in a while. One thing we found out was that students want attending class to be as easy and low-pressure as possible. So we don't run sessions or series; our classes are ongoing and when you buy a five-class card you can use it anytime over the next three months.
Another thing the focus group revealed was how fanatic people are about cleanliness! I have to put in a plug here for my Roomba, which is a little robotic floor vacuum (www.irobot.com). Twice a day I put it in the yoga space, close the door, and let it do its thing. It does a fantastic job. It's like my little pet.
What is your vision for the future of Yoga for Everybody?
My fantasy is that the center runs itself and I just get to think about the big picture! I'd really like my center to be a resource for the town. We're near a high school and two middle schools, and we've offered yoga classes for teachers and a poetry forum for students. Our center can transform this community. I have a vision of everyone walking around town with yoga mats slung over their shoulders.