Yoga franchise, business of yoga, franchise yoga studio

“I am so over franchises.”

I recently had the opportunity to sit on a call with Gary Vee! If you haven’t heard of him, now’s a great time to familiarize yourself with one of the most influential entrepreneurs of our time. Gary is very much a yogi in his approach to entrepreneurship. He encourages self-awareness and is process-driven instead of being strictly outcome-driven. He said, he keeps it simple, his “engine” is gratitude, he maintains humility and he tries to learn everyday!

After being on a call with someone like Gary, it is easy to find motivation and I was very motivated to set some big plans in motion for Thrive Yoga. This included plans for new studios, new buildings, plans to raise capital and open the conversation to potential investors. I took a short pause from heart-storming and checked to see how a post was doing on Facebook. Per usual, a different post caught my attention. It was a post about a new chain of yoga studios that is “exploding” in the United States. I read through the post comments and saw a handful of existing studio owners post things like, “I am SO over franchise yoga studios,” “when will franchise yoga studios cease to exist.” My heart sank into a pit. I felt so sad that fellow studio owners, aka those I would consider to be ‘my people,’ could have such disdain for the type of business that I am building. Then I realized something, as a fellow yoga studio owner, I also had a negative reaction towards franchises

I quickly recognized that I was feeling profound resistance to the franchise concept. After years of practicing yoga, I recognized my resistance as a great opportunity to learn (yoga off the mat, wahoo!)! I started to lean into the feelings a bit more and I uncovered a lot of things that I dislike about franchise yoga studios:

  • I don’t like that they are known for making empty promises about; profits, revenue streams and profit margins.
  • It makes me feel uncomfortable that owners of franchise yoga studios have come out and said that they were taken advantage of and lied to. 
  • I don’t like that they tend to offer and sell fitness, fusion or luxury yoga
  • I don’t like that they aggressively commoditize yoga by turning it into luxurious lifestyle expenditure, or design yoga studios to be trendy social spots for those that “have.”
  • I don’t appreciate that they don’t ever take their seat in the yoga industry, or become a voice for driving the value or normalization of yoga.
  • It is unacceptable that they move into a community and deliberately poach teachers from other studios instead of cultivating their own unique staff.
  • Furthermore, it is truly awful that some of the largest franchises have become infamous for not supporting their staff and teachers. So much so that they all have numerous pending lawsuits from former staff!
  • Lastly, I don’t think it’s ethical to expect their owners to go heavily into debt on a building renovation in order to match their franchise model. As an example, some studios spend close to 50% of what it would cost to build out a franchise such as Starbucks or McDonalds but they will NEVER have comparable volume of those stated franchises. The math doesn’t add up. 

It is always easy to pick apart, complain or dissent. Unlike those facebook comments, I didn’t stop there because upon reflection, I realized that there are a lot of things that I DO like about the franchise model. In fact, there are many aspects of franchising that I think can help yoga studios at large. 

What I like about franchise yoga studios:

  • I like that they seem more organized than the average studio
  • I like that they work as a team and…
  • I like that they can afford to hire the best talent in the industry. 
  • I am impressed that they are able to obtain the necessary capital investment. That means they did good work to convince investors that yoga has a rightful place in a multi-billion dollar health and wellness industry. 
  • Though their branding is underwhelming, I can appreciate that it is recognizable. 
  • I can appreciate that the owner had more support in opening his/her studio than the average yoga studio owner. 
  • Theoretically, it is appealing that franchise yoga studios could be profitable sooner than individual studios.
  • It is likely that their overhead is significantly more expensive than a smaller studio, which means they SHOULD (in theory) keep the cost of classes higher, which I do believe is a good long-term plan for yoga studios everywhere
  • I think they create healthy competition. If they didn’t exist, it is likely that another studio could move in right? Or worse, there could be no studio at all!

As I wrote down this pro’s and con’s list I started to realize that Thrive Yoga fits somewhere in the middle of franchise and individually-owned studio. We offer the solutions that a franchise can offer as well as the depth and care found in an individually-owned studio. I love what we are building at Thrive Yoga; it is unique in the franchise yoga marketplace and offers more solutions than the local individual studio or the franchise. Furthermore, our foundation is built on truth, care, and community. 

In summary, I realized a few great things:

  • Disliking franchises inhibits our ability to learn from them. 
  • When we dislike something, does that mean we dislike all of it? For example, if you dislike a franchise model, does mean you also dislike the studio owner, the teachers and the students that go there? Of course not! 
  • It will better serve us to honor the journey of the franchise yoga studio owner and befriend them. There is a chance they share the same goals, but they are more risk averse than the rest of us! 
  • Our aversions can show us our blind spots. In this scenario, I had the chance to learn more about myself and my business. I would encourage all studio owners that dislike franchises to answer the following:
    • What is it about them that really annoys you? More importantly, what is at the core of those triggering emotions?
    • What is it about franchises that make you feel like you fell short, or what you’re building isn’t good enough? 
    • What is it about franchises that feel threatening to you?

Maybe by now you’ve realized that it could be beneficial to you and your studio if you could have access to similar infrastructure and benefits that franchise owners have. If so, I recommend that you read the next blog, “I don’t love franchises, but I love Thrive Yoga.” and get a better idea of what we are building in service of all yoga studio owners. 

It is my hope that in building our networks at Thrive Yoga Studios and the Thrive Yoga Collective, we can comfortably come to terms with the fact that franchises are not going away any time soon. Furthermore, I hope that the impact of Thrive Yoga is one that makes it so that franchises are not the only leading studios in America. There is room for all kinds of studios to excel and succeed, it’s just a matter of who is going to show up and claim their share of the marketplace.

With Hope & Encouragement,

Brittany P.

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