How to Run a Profitable Yoga Studio (Without Losing Your Soul)

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Shannon Brasovan is a yoga business consultant at Two-Brain Business, a yoga teacher, the former chief yoga officer at Myriad Yoga and former co-owner of Naptown Fitness.

In this episode, we talk about why many yoga studio owners are oddly reluctant to be profitable, and we cover the one thing they can do today to bring in—and retain—more quality clients.

We also get into why “having it all” is not humanly possible and how to run a business with your spouse without ruining your marriage. Finally, Shannon tells the story of how yoga saved her life.

Tiffy Thompson: 0:05

Hey there and welcome to Women in Fitness Business. Today, I’m speaking with Shannon Brasovan. Shannon is a yoga business consultant at Two-Brain Business. She is a yoga teacher, the former chief yoga officer at Myriad Yoga and the former co-owner of CF Naptown. In this episode, we talk about the weird reluctance of many yoga studio owners to actually be profitable. And the one thing they can do starting today that will bring in and retain more quality clients. We also talk about why having it all is not humanly possible, how to run a business with your spouse without ruining your marriage. And we also get into the story of how yoga saved her life. It’s a good one. Shannon. Welcome to the show.

Shannon Brasovan: 1:00

Thank you. I’m so glad to be here.

Tiffy Thompson: 1:04

So when you were starting out and you were running CrossFit Naptown with your husband and you decided to integrate a yoga program into your gym, did you initially see that as a business in and of itself, or was it more of a hobby? What was your approach initially?

Shannon Brasovan: 1:28

Yeah, so I, my relationship in general with fitness has always been like, no, I don’t wanna do it as a career. And then it sucks me in and I’m like down the rabbit hole. So that was very true for the yoga business. At the time was working when, before I started full time, I was working for a marketing company and Peter, and JRA the owners of our prospect gym. My husband’s Peter. They were like, you know, you got your yoga teacher training, like just do a yoga class. I was very resistant. I was very nervous, but I always saw yoga as something that could help people. And it had truly changed my life. I mean, saved my life, not just changed it. So I decided, yes, I would do it, but I was staunchly against the idea of making any money from it. Um, I was a bit of an anti-capitalist <laugh> and so I was like, no, we cannot receive any or exchange any money for it. But what I’ll do is I will do it as a donation, canned good program. So you can come to class if you bring a canned good. And that, um, that was really how we started and <laugh>, and much to, I think my husband’s chagrin of like what, like this can be such a profitable thing for us to do. But that was how it got started. And I was the only teacher. Then I hired my best friend to her. Name’s KBY to help and, um, really avoided having a real business for a very long time.

Tiffy Thompson: 2:55

I get the sense that a lot of yoga teachers kind of see, I don’t know, being profitable is somehow inherently morally corrupt or something. Do you, did you get that sense?

Shannon Brasovan: 3:07

Oh, yes. That’s probably the number one thing. I coach yoga studio owners on and had to do a lot of work around for myself. Because I think there is something that feels like, well, first of all, yoga is an art and a science. And if you’re an artist, which I have an artist background, my, my degrees in music, theater and dance. So there’s something also about being an artist that there’s almost like a piety to your poverty. So there’s that, and then it feels appropriating, especially as so many teachers in the west are white people. It feels appropriating to take money for yoga. Um, but there’s a lot we can break down to like show the flaw on that appointment. And ultimately what I turned around on was if I really wanna make a difference, I’m not gonna do it. If I’m poor, like if I have nothing left to give, if I’m bankrupt in my soul and I’m bankrupt in the bank and I have nothing left to give, um, I’m not gonna do any good with it anyway, I’m gonna quit and I’m gonna stop doing it. And so I really turned around and I realized that if I made money doing it in an honest way, I could create jobs. And specifically I could create jobs for women, which there is so much data on when you give women money, the world changes for the better. So that really, that really turned it around for me. But yes, I, I have that conversation often with yoga studio business owners, because it feels wrong, but it’s actually a wonderful way to create change if you do it. Right.

Tiffy Thompson: 4:47

Do you think a part of it is because so many yoga studio, owner owners are women and there’s something about women like giving, but not demanding payment for what they’re doing?

Shannon Brasovan: 5:07

Yeah. I think there’s a couple of things. One it’s that we don’t believe in our own value. We intently think we’re not worthy to receive money for, for something that we’re probably very good at. I can tell you now, like I’m an excellent teacher and I should be adequately paid for not just my gift, but the years I’ve put into studying my craft. Right. So I think that is latent in the socialization of women as you’re not deserving. And then also like culturally, I think people think, I think people often conflate yoga is almost like a religion. And so you haven’t in the religious world, the same thing. You have televangelist who are make, who are raking in millions and robbing people. And then you have people who are, as we would say, here in Alabama preaching the good word who, you know, won’t take anything from it and then are robbing themselves. And so yoga kind of gets a little messy because it is from a religion. Several religions that I think people also get in that mindset of like, well, it’s something I should just give. And I, I think there’s, there’s a lot that we can unpack about why that’s not correct.

Tiffy Thompson: 6:21

So when you are working with yoga studio owners -you’re now a business mentor for yoga studio owners. What are those sort of like mindset blocks that they have and how do you go about challenging them?

Shannon Brasovan: 6:38

Well, the number one we just hit on is money and making money and not creating some side sort of like language of money and villain, you know, like you’re not a bad person for taking people’s money. The deeper root of that is beyond what we talked about is you are helping them. People are coming, asking you for help. And it is now your job to help them. If they’re presenting you with a problem and they say, I I’ve heard this thing could help me. Can you help me? You’ve got to help them. And so many people that come to yoga know it’s a life changing experience. It’s a life changing practice. And so you’re armed with that when somebody comes to you and says, I need your help. And one of the greatest ways to build accountability is to have somebody pay for something and, you know, we can give things away, but that doesn’t hold the other person accountable to what they say they want to accomplish. So that’s a big hurdle, not just the money perspective, but also remembering that you’re here to help. And so you’ve gotta structure your services, your memberships, the way you run your business from a help first mentality. And so often it is presented from, and I already know mentality and yoga class is presented as if everybody already knows how to do all of this. And that’s a really flawed way to think of something that’s thousands of years old that has thousands of ways to do it. So that’s probably the second biggest like mental hurdle we have to work through.

Tiffy Thompson: 8:21

You mentioned in passing, I want to go back to that. How yoga saved your life. Are you comfortable talking about what that means?

Shannon Brasovan: 8:30

Oh, totally. So I was a dancer and a theater nerd and, um, and I think, I, I think like all young people, so this isn’t unique to me. I didn’t know who I was and I went to college because I was really good at something, but not because I loved it. I knew that I hated it. I hated performing. I’m introverted. I’m, I’m someone who presents like an extrovert, but I’m deeply introverted. I knew that, um, I, I love art, but I didn’t want it to pay my bills. I didn’t want to like taint my art, you know? And yeah. And so I was really unhappy in college and I was told from day one, I’ll never forget it. You have the perfect body cuz you’re skinny. Um, so you’ll always work. Like you have horrible feet, like you’re, you’re not actually that good and didn’t know who I was. And I think everybody goes through a version of that in college, but mine was so low and I had a lot of suicidal thoughts and contemplated suicide and going through with it many times and I went to a yoga class. The greatest irony is the teacher who said, your only value is your body. Um, was the yoga teacher for that class. And um, totally different person when they were teaching yoga. And the opening of the class was something like you are enough, like as you are, no matter, like without fixing yourself today, you are whole, as you are. And I guess I just never really received that message. Maybe it had been told to me, but it was the first time I heard it and received. And it just changed the way I looked at everything that I didn’t have equate my value with my job or my role or my body that like, just as I am I’m enough. And so I made it my mission kind of unconsciously then much later consciously to give that back to other people that you are not, you’re not here to be anything other than exactly as you are. You don’t have to fix yourself. And um, and that like that saves my life every day. The moment I like start to spiral in anything that, that helps me.

Tiffy Thompson: 10:51

Cause I can imagine that there’s a certain amount of pressure, um, to look a certain way when you are a yoga teacher or studio owner or gym owner, did you combat that by kind of repeating that you are enough as you are mantra?

Shannon Brasovan: 11:10

Oh yeah. We, our mantra when I owned my studio or ran my studio was you are enough or I am enough. That was like our key phrase. And then the second one, which I still use in my own consulting and entrepreneurship is give yourself permission to be yourself. Those things are fundamental to how I operate my life and what I share with my clients. And I think something that female entrepreneurs, something that’s unique to women and then something that’s unique to entrepreneurs and then something that’s unique to people in the fitness industry. And then if you hold all of those identities, it’s compounded is that we’re told you can have it all. Like there’s this idea that we can have it all and you can do everything you put your mind to. And you know, you look at kids these days and they’re in 40 different sports and they have no social life because they’re going from this to this, to this, and then they’re in piano and they’re in this. And it’s like, well, I don’t think we’re made to do that personally. And so as a woman I’ve always received and I’m Southern. So as a woman from the south, I’ve always received that my, to have it all means I need to look perfect all the time. I need to serve everybody all the time. I need to put everybody ahead of me all the time. And then as an entrepreneur, my, um, messaging has been, you’ve gotta be rags to riches. Like don’t be too smart, stay humble. You know? Like these are the things that mean to have it all, but be a millionaire. <laugh> don’t tell anybody you are. And then, and like take all the trips and like never actually work. And then, and then like as a fitness professional, it’s not only should you look perfect, but like, you should be internally perfect. You need to be the healthiest most well person I’ve ever met. There can’t be anything wrong with you. And you better know how to cook everything from scratch. And it needs to be paleo and vegan and raw. Like its just crazy. It’s just, it’s so crazy. And so that languaging has given me the gift of like, Nope, I can’t do all those things. Oh. And then later on, if you have children like goodbye, like you, it’s just not even, this is no nowhere possible. So yeah, that language has really saved me and being able to think I cannot have it all and I’m okay with that.

Tiffy Thompson: 13:30

Right. It’s it’s, it’s especially true in like a heavily mediated society. Like we have now with social media being this constant need to project this image of yourself. But I mean, you gotta, you have to do like social media and you have to do branding, but like how do you have that delineation of like, uh, I don’t have to be at all and I don’t have to.

Shannon Brasovan: 13:56

Yeah. I just have to be right with myself and like, know that the, the per like the things that matter to me are all that matter really right at the, the end of the day. And I’ve got to preserve those boundaries with the world. Cause I think that’s what the media frenzy that we’re in and this like portrayal that we’re in, which I do agree. You, you have to play the game. You have to do, but you have to know one when it’s enough for you. Like, I think there’s also this insatiable. Okay, well I’ve gotten a thousand followers or whatever metrics you use to identify success, then like you’re onto the next one. Right. And it’s like, maybe that is enough. Can you hold that line? Yeah. Um, so I think that’s also something that embracing you cannot have it all and like your enoughness gives you is like, you know, the threshold of like, okay, well this is what I need to do. Let me make space for another woman to come in and rock and like do her thing. Um, that’s also given me permission not to feel like I need to occupy all the space.

Tiffy Thompson: 14:59

Right. When it comes to yoga studio owners, do you get a sense that they have issues like delegating tasks and, and kind of getting them to step away from trying to do it all and teach all the classes and do all the things like, is that a, is that a common thing that you see?

Shannon Brasovan: 15:22

Oh yeah. Like the two ways that people come into a yoga business is as I’ve observed is one, there are a business owner who wants nothing to do with teaching. Like they buy a building and they hire a staff. And like that goes well, except it’s usually a little soulless, right? Like there’s no heart to why you’re doing what you’re doing. Or you have the opposite, which is the icon problem. Somebody who’s been teaching, um, maybe like out of their house or, you know, in community centers who has a following and wants to own a open a studio. And they open that studio and they dunno how to run a business. And so now they are teaching all the classes, cleaning the toilets, you know, checking people in, trying to get their head above water, to maybe hire another teacher to maybe help them. But then their students are like, oh, we love you. Um, I, I encounter that more often. And, um, and the great thing is people who come to yoga are typically incredibly bright and can, you know, move past that phase. But that’s usually where people that’s where I usually meet people at.

Tiffy Thompson: 16:32

So when you’re, when you’re working with these with a new studio owner, for example, what are, what are the first things that you, you work with them on to get them off on the right trajectory?

Shannon Brasovan: 16:45

Um, typically we’re looking at operations. I think, um, the first thing that people want, the first thing that people wanna do is get more members cause they need to get outta the red. And that is absolutely a focus, but usually yoga studio owners haven’t thought through just the day to day, how do I, what are the systems that run this business? And so that’s a big part of what we do first is just getting the systems run. Are you even charging enough to cover your rent? You know, things like that. And then yes, we’re gonna talk about getting new people in here. But if you don’t have a solid foundation for what happens once they come through the door, then uh, we have no business getting other people in the building until what we do in the building runs well.

Tiffy Thompson: 17:36

Right? So if there was one simple thing that yoga studio owners who are listening can implement today that can improve their business right away. What would, what would that be?

Shannon Brasovan: 17:50

The number one thing I would love for every yoga studio to stop doing immediately is to stop offering intro offers. So the most common one I see is two, anywhere from one to four weeks, uh, of unlimited yoga for $30. I’m not sure why 30, but that is usually the number and it is absolutely ruining your retention. Right? And it is not serving your long term clients. It’s not serving the people who if you’ve been open for a while who have committed to you it’s and it’s marketing the wrong thing. So a lot of people think, well, everybody’s tried yoga and I don’t have the numbers right here, but I can send them to you. But the reality is like 8% of the United States actually practices yoga. Like have they tried it? Sure. Like 8%, which actually isn’t that much at all. Right, right. So, um, people think I put this thing out, they’ll come well, if 8% of people practice yoga, that means 92% either have tried it and didn’t like it or are too afraid to do it. And so this sort of general wash $30 for, let’s say two weeks thing incentivizes the 8%. You’re just incentivizing the same people over and over and over again. And you’re not sharing with people who don’t know how to do it, who are too intimidated to do it, how to actually get into it. And the other thing that you’re incentivizing is new people and not the people who consistently come and stay. You wanna incentivize those people. The people who practice like that’s a tenant of yoga is consistent practice. Those are the people. If you’re gonna do an incentive, incentivize them, don’t incentivize people just because they showed up for the first time. Um, incentivized people who are continuing to show up and also cater to the people who are afraid to show up the $30 thing doesn’t do either of those things. And it’s, it, it doesn’t make you money and it doesn’t serve your staff and get rid of it. <laugh>

Tiffy Thompson: 20:01

So what would they, what would they implement as an alternative then if, if they’re looking at getting new clients in, for example,

Shannon Brasovan: 20:10

One is to have a solid private program, private session program so that people who are new to yoga can start confidently and safely. If you’ve ever been to a class where somebody tries to teach chatter, well, it’s a 15 minute moment. Like you can’t, that is a, that is a nonsensical movement. That’s a whole nother topic. I have deep feelings about chatter, but it is a complicated movement. And if you’ve never lowered your body with grace to the floor, or haven’t in a while, and then you are asked to hover, like the matrix, like that is a complicated movement. Yeah. So that’s not something you’re gonna learn in a group and that’s not something you are going learn, um, in even a small group. Well, that’s something that needs to be taught one on one, really getting to know somebody’s body and capability. And then also giving them modifications if like that’s just not for your body. So the first thing that I would suggest to people is to start a private program and start one specifically for beginners. So there is a safe entry pathway to your studio. The second is to really think about the life cycle of your students and, and take teacher training out of the equation. So what happens is the general path of entry for a yoga Stu student into a studio is you do the three weeks for $30, and then you either get a punch card or maybe they have a membership and then you go for about three months and then they start selling you on teacher training and you go through a teacher training and then you burn out of practicing and you quit the studio and then you go to open your own. And that’s how the cycle of yoga works and is sold to us. And instead I encourage you, if you’re listening to this, your yoga studio owners to think about like, what does it look like for somebody to practice for 10 years? I’ve been practicing for seven, 16. Yeah. 16 or so years now. Like what would it look like for me to be a part of a studio for that long? Like, I haven’t lived in the same place for that long, so that’s why that’s not happening, but I’ve had the same teacher for a decade.

Tiffy Thompson: 22:21


Shannon Brasovan: 22:22

And he has a very clear life cycle of things that I can experience, uh, through his programs. And yes, I’m a teacher, but I keep coming back as a student. So I urge studios to think about what does it look like for somebody to be a lifelong student? And how do you foster that in your, in your studio ?

Tiffy Thompson: 22:40

Interesting. So I I’d like to switch gears a little bit and turn to this prospect of, of going into business with your spouse, which I, I think is a big topic for a lot of women in the fitness business. Did you ever dream that you’d go into business with your partner? Like how did that come about and how did, how did your dynamic work when you were co-owners like that?

Shannon Brasovan: 23:05

So I knew I was gonna marry my husband the day I met him and I knew the moment we said we were gonna open a business. I wanted to work with him. I just, I just adore him. He’s just my person he’s I could gush about Peter forever, but he is, I just always wanna be around him. So yes, I did know. Um, I didn’t know that it was gonna be a horrible idea. Um, somebody once said to me that they, they were in our wedding, they said, I y’all getting, I don’t know how y’all are getting married. Cause you have nothing in common. Um, Peter and I are night and day. We are, I’m in, I’m a Pisces Aries. He’s a Virgo. Like we are just so opposite of each other in every way. And that’s actually what makes us work really well. But in the beginning, I would say our biggest flaw, I’m gonna share what didn’t work <laugh> is, um, boundaries. We had zero boundaries around work. And if you own a business, you know that the line between your clients and your friends can get muddy. Yep. Um, so we had no boundaries between our business and each other. Then we had no boundaries between our friends and our clients. And basically it turned into us working 24 7 and we were never working on our relationship. It was always working on our business. Um, and then when we had children, uh, we were schlepping our kids to the gym. And so our kids had zero boundaries on those things. So now no boundaries in parenting, like, um, there are a lot of things that we messed up in that way. And, and it’s all wonderful. We’ve grown so much from those learnings, but the biggest two things that now work so well when we work together is one creating boundaries. Um, we have a like no work policy after certain hours before certain hours, we don’t bring our phones into our bedroom. Um, we, when we’re with our kids, we’re with our kids and we are parents. Uh, and then the other thing is we, for a long time, our communication was a problem. We did not one. I had a ton of shame around money and that goes back to what we talked about earlier, but making money. I also internalized from culture that like hiding money is a thing that women do. Like, don’t tell your partner, it’s okay to go shopping. And like, you know what I mean ? So we had a lot of that, but we had a lot of that and I would buy stuff for our business and like not small things, like things that he would say, cause Peter is our CFO. So he would say like, no, we don’t have the budget for that. And I’d be like, but don’t, we <laugh>, I would just go buy it. And it was, it was so unhealthy. And so now, um, we have very clear boundaries and we are rock stars at communication. And we schedule, you know, like we work from home now together all the time. And we schedule meetings, financial meetings in our house, you know, and like get clear on like, what room is that gonna be in? And, you know, things that you would have to do in a business. And it has made us so much stronger as a couple and, um, and function so much better in our business relationship.

Tiffy Thompson: 26:25

Was there like a critical point where you had to like consciously make this shift or what kind of led you to setting these boundaries?

Shannon Brasovan: 26:35

I think it was kinda an evolution, but one, I had maybe two major moments. One was like I had bought, I can’t even remember what it is now, but it was like thousands of dollars, something that like was ridiculous that we were in a meeting with our entire staff. And I mean, the look on his freaking face, he was like, you did what was like, no big deal, just use my savings. So everyone’s like staring at us as we’re having a full on marital breakdown and

Tiffy Thompson: 27:05

<laugh> right. Like

Shannon Brasovan: 27:07

Talk about, no, I can’t talk to you. So that was probably the financial moment’s like, no, we are no longer about this kind of stuff. And, um, that was an intense day. And then, you know, like, I’m sure a lot of people are having these reckonings, but COVID was such, um, I hate to say beautiful because I know that it’s also marred with trauma and, and horrendous times. But for me, in my experience, it was such a powerful opening to, wow. I, we have no boundaries, we have no separation of our lives and it, it was a catalyst to creating those boundaries and, um, and I’m, and I’m so grateful.

Tiffy Thompson: 27:51

Mm-hmm <affirmative> I like to ask this question. Um, what, what do you view as your entrepreneurial superpower?

Shannon Brasovan: 28:01

I, one of my marketing materials I used to use for our studio used to be called practice in the, uh, was a hand, a pocket mirror. And I would give those to new students as an intro or welcome to the studio. And the idea is that we are all just reflecting each other’s brilliance. Like I’m not really, especially as a teacher, as a facilitator of entrepreneurs or a teacher of yoga, I’m not really teaching you anything new. I am helping you see what’s already within you. So I think that’s my, my superpower is not that I have any more knowledge than anybody else. I am just really good at seeing what’s in somebody that maybe they can’t see for themselves and just like flipping it back and showing them the mirror. Um, and it’s, and it’s so awesome when you see somebody see themselves for the first time or after a long time to be like, wow, I am capable. I am unlimited potential. Um, that’s what I think I can give to people.

Tiffy Thompson: 29:03

That’s awesome. So what’s, what’s next for you? Like what’s part of your sort of five year vision.

Shannon Brasovan: 29:10

Yeah, well, I’m loving, I, we actually, um, are moving out of our prospect and yoga business. OK. And moving, um, exclusively into consulting and also urban farming. It’s a side thing, but <laugh> um, so yeah, five years from now, I hope to eradicate the problem of the intro offer and yoga businesses. <laugh> I hope to, um, I hope to help studios diversify the bodies and the people that come into their studio because they are offering they’re offering they’re offerings, help people start the practice safely and confidently. So from my, like my goals as a, as a facilitator of entrepreneurs, that’s, that’s a big vision for me in five years is like, I help move the yoga industry forward in that way. And you know, if you’d asked me that even like two years ago, I would have all these big lofty goals and I have really turned the other direction. I think five years from now. I wanna be at the pace I’m at right now, which is slow and intentional. Um, I have been given the gift through our, we moved from Indiana to Alabama through COVID, um, the ability to move slowly, to move with great presence. And I hope to maintain that I’ve become a Sentinel, uh, to my habits. I just really, I’m very guarded with them and they help my mental health so much my physical health. Um, and I hope to be helping to grow my small town. We’ve moved to a smaller town in Alabama, and I hope to be an integral part in not making it bigger, just making it fuller, you know, or, or sustaining it. Um, I wanna be a big part of something small, if that makes sense. Um, and then the I’m an urban farmer, so I hope in five years to be growing all of my own food.

Tiffy Thompson: 31:20

Awesome. So if, if people wanna get in touch with you, if there’s studio owners listening, how would they go about doing that? I can post your, your booking link in the show notes, but if there’s, if there’s anywhere they could follow you online, what, where would that be?

Shannon Brasovan: 31:36

So my booking link is the best way through like a business capacity. I have an account that’s Yoga Business Owner, DM me. I put up, like parody videos of like what not to do as a business owner. Um, they entertain me, so  Yoga Business Owner. If you wanna follow along kind of my yoga, urban farmer journey, um, my personal public account is Be.So.Grow.

Tiffy Thompson: 32:15

Mm-hmm. <affirmative> awesome. Thank you for, um, chatting with me today. There’s a lot of good information in here that I think people will be able to, to really work with, or at least get a start into becoming more profitable as a yoga business owner. Thanks a lot for your time.

Shannon Brasovan: 32:33

Thank you for having me.

Tiffy Thompson: 32:34

That’s it for Women in Fitness Business. Thanks for listening.