The Body Electric Yoga Company, co-founded and operated by Jenny Miller and Katelyn Grady, is celebrating five years of transformative growth in St. Petersburg this Saturday. The road to this commemorative juncture has been punctuated with triumph, challenge, and some powerful business lessons along the way.
The few years leading up to the refurbishment and modernization of an old ice factory on 685 30th Avenue North served as a professionally formative time for Jenny and Katelyn. Having met three years prior at an Orlando yoga event, they gradually developed an affinity for one another’s strengths. Katelyn’s strong accounting skills, for example, have married well with Jenny’s tech background which helps to fuel the website and marketing work. Speaking of married, Katelyn and Jenny did just that in February 2015, and welcomed their son that May.
The Body Electric Yoga Company’s beginnings were humble, featuring four teachers and 16 classes. Now having grown to boast more than 60 classes weekly, supporting 30 teachers and 10 staff, Katelyn and Jenny reflect on the past five years.
Katelyn: Getting open was really hard. We went through several iterations of business plans and locations. It was hard to remain patient; we were really excited. Every property we saw, we thought “we could make this work.” I remember walking into our current studio for the first time. It had this terrible carpeted floor with cubicles and a drop ceiling. But when we saw the beautiful brick walls, we knew the potential right away.
Jenny: It took a long time to raise the money, as well as to find this right location. We were frustrated and chomping at the bit, but it worked out for the best. We spent that time teaching, networking, hosting retreats, and blogging. Because of that community-building, we were able to hit the ground running. And looking back, not getting those loans we wanted, and not being able to rent those first dozen places we looked at, was a blessing.
Katelyn: I still remember the dark days of the month leading up to opening. We did all the demo work, painting, flooring — it was dirty work. We were still hanging the lights in the lobby when our first guest walked in. When we opened, we were pretty much out of money. To solve that, we offered annual memberships and used that immediate influx of payments as operating cash. I thought to myself, we now have enough money to pay our bills for three months.
Jenny: When Katelyn and I first sat down to talk about opening a studio, I told her that I wanted to open by the time I turned 40. We opened two days before my birthday. I quit my job three months after that, and Katelyn quit hers about six months after. Everything has grown organically since then, and this yoga community has grown bigger and bigger. We’ve built the business and brand on a true economy of relationships, and it seems to be working really well.
The First Asana
Katelyn: Our first class, all four teachers co-taught. That was just an incredible, beautiful night. I remember thinking “we did it.”
Jenny: Since the beginning, I’ve remained consistently surprised and grateful about the great feedback we get. I’m always reading reviews, and they are just super positive. I feel humbled that so many people take the time to write them. You know, we pay attention to detail and love what we do, but we aren’t perfect and certainly can’t control everyone’s experience. It’s affirming to hear that people appreciate what we’re doing, and that our teachers are such professionals and take so much pride in what they do.
Katelyn: And the feedback isn’t just about the quality of the classes, or how beautiful the studio is. We hear things constantly about how people are growing and affected by their personal evolution in our space.
Jenny: It’s pretty amazing.
Beyond the Brick and Mortar
Katelyn: What’s also special is we’ve grown beyond our studio and into the community. We do a lot of offsite classes at other businesses that we call “Yoga On Tap.” Ideally these events are beneficial to both partners. They pull in a lot of new clients that are initially intimidated by studio culture. They also get us out there and in front of other people. Now that we are a more mature business, sometimes new small businesses want exposure so they reach out to us. We help bring attention to their space. It can be really synergistic, and it’s good to help each other out.
Jenny: Community building is what we are about. We find people that have similar philosophies, and also connect with businesses or establishments that we enjoy ourselves.
Our first Yoga on Tap happened when Green Bench approached us about hosting a class there. And then other people started asking us, too. We’re happy to check out the space and see if we can make it work.
How To Hustle
Jenny: I don’t know if I’m qualified to give advice, but I do tell people to embrace change. I was an English Major that accidentally got into tech, and now I do yoga. People are often afraid of change, and will continue doing something they don’t love forever. It’s the resistance to change that causes pain. And when you do decide to make that leap, go big. I think sometimes new endeavors fail because people are too cautious. They want to hedge their bets, keeping one foot in the old, and one foot in the new venture. As a result, they don’t drive enough initial revenue to be successful. Open big enough to make money – and go all in.
Katelyn: My advice: be brave. For people who are afraid to leave a career that’s working for something they might be passionate about, I would just say it’s worth a try. Worst thing that happens it that it doesn’t work, you’re back where you’re at now, but you’re no longer dissatisfied with that nagging feeling of “maybe this is possible” or “what if.”
Jenny: I’m so grateful to have Katelyn as my partner. I am not easy to work with. And neither of us likes working for anyone else. We are a good team, but finding that balance between work and personal life is a challenge. We’re working on it. We love the business, but talking business all the time is not sexy. And if we’re always working, always checking our phones, putting out fires, our son Hank is going to notice that. We don’t want that.
Katelyn: Yes. Our relationship is a huge motivator to work on refining our business to help us get clearer role definitions so we touch base less about work and enjoy some boundaries.
On the Horizon
Jenny: Things are great, but everything is also a lot harder now. Our operation was once really simple, and now it’s a lot more complicated. We did everything ourselves for a long time. But now we’ve evolved to the point where we’ve hired a business coach to help us move forward. Organization, systems, marketing, pricing, training – it’s a lot to manage, and we’ve finally figured out that we don’t need to reinvent the wheel. It’s a cliche, but we do want to work smarter, not harder.
Katelyn: We are trying to let go, and it’s tough when you’ve been doing it for so long and you’ve done a good job. We are spending more time now on training and getting good systems in place. Figuring out who are leaders are and trusting them to do their jobs. Figuring out what their jobs are. We’re getting there.