How did you get into the health & wellness industry?
I don't really think of it as getting into the industry. Health and wellness have been a part of my life as far back as I can remember. I come from a very yoga centered beach town in San Diego and my parents were hippies back in the 60's. Growing up there wasn't a "health and wellness" industry. Spirituality, clean living and physical activity were just life. Starting Yoga 216 was less about getting into an industry then deciding to share what I have learned on my journey so far.
Tell us about Yoga 216. What inspired the idea and what is your vision for the company?
I have been practicing yoga for a long time. I received my first teacher training certificate back in 2008, about a year later a good friend of mine asked if I would help him open his restaurant. I said sure, as a bridge into my teaching carrier and out of the restaurant world I had been in for so long. 3 years and 3 restaurants later I was the director of operations for what is now Major Food (Torrisi, Parm etc.). During my time there my yoga practice was a very important part of helping me do my job well and making it to the mat was key. It was also however, over crowded, stressful getting space and frankly most studios I was going to really needed a kick in the hospitality pants.
I decided to leave the restaurant world and return to my original passion of yoga. My experience starting the restaurants gave me the guts to say YES when the opportunity to open the studio came about.
Part of what makes us really special is that we have no more than 6 students per class. It was really important to me to provide a new yoga studio experience to people. One that included attention from the teacher, space to move around, friendly staff, hospitality and a full host of sundries. Professional New Yorkers work so hard that we wanted them to feel taken care of from the moment they walked in the door, not like sardines stuffed in a yoga can ;)
What strategic partnerships/marketing strategies have you implemented that have attributed to Yoga 216's success?
We have been really lucky and gotten to partner with some great companies! We did an event with Joie in the Meatpacking that was really fun and have an ongoing partnership with the Soho House, offering members only classes the studio. Partnerships like those are great for us because we share the same customer mentality. Our client wants something unique and is seeking a specially curated experience in all aspects of their lives. Yoga 216 is that for the yoga studio.
What industry trends are you noticing and how do you capitalize on them?
Yoga started as a one on one practice thousands of years ago and remained that way for much of its life. It is relatively recent that the giant class thing came into the picture. I think overall people are starting to question wether more is always more. Our mission addresses this "trend".
You have to jump, the net will appear!
Yoga 216s Motto?
Your greatest success as founder/Chief Yogi of Yoga 216?
Being brave enough to take the first step. Leaving the Torrisi boys and starting my own thing, because I knew in my heart I needed to, even though it didn't make any "sense".
Most difficult moment-how did you overcome and what did you learn?
About a week after we opened hurricane Sandy hit, and hit us hard. We flooded over a foot in our entire space. All those months of construction and labor and there we were, my husband and I in the dark with mops and towels and sludge. I over came it because of my yoga practice. I never questioned that it was happening for my higher good- even if at the time I couldn't see it. In the end we offered free candlelit yoga to all the people working to help with the clean up. I think going through that with our neighbors was a big part of getting us traction in the beginning. - So there you go!
Your advice to an aspiring entrepreneur?
It has to come from your gut! If you don't have an clear, undeniable, uncrushable faith in what you are offering- you will crumble.
How do you motivate your employees?
That's a great question, you would have to ask them! I would say leading by example. I hope I do that.
One food and drink left on earth, what would you choose?
I should say kale, but that would be a lie- its toast, I love me some perfectly toasted bread and butter
What literature is on your bed stand?
Meditations from the Mat.
Role model - business and personal?
For both- Mario Batali, I worked for him for years and my husband still does- he has been able to create an amazing empire, great lives for his employees, do what he love and he has a blast doing it!
Ayurveda. The sister science of yoga. We have a new amazing Ayurveda practitioner at the studio, Cynthia King, she is so inspiring and inviting that I am finally adding Ayurveda to my daily rituals. It's all about simple home practices to balance our lives, stay healthy and vita
What's next for Yoga 216?
Our first tropical retreat is in March. We are so pumped! We are going to this remote island off the coast of Mexico. No cars, only crystal warm water, lots of yoga, great local food and paddle boarding- I mean how amazing is that!