10 Years, 10 Lessons

Last night was a big night for me. As I left the studio and locked up, I realized to myself, “The next time I walk in, the studio will be ten years old!” It’s such a big milestone for me, for the studio and for our community. A lot has happened over the past ten years – it seemed only fitting to share a few things I’ve learned over time.

Here are the top ten things I learned since opening the studio ten years ago:

1.     We GET to light the incense (or in Baptiste terms, Shift Your Vision).  About five years ago, we were having difficulty getting everyone on staff to do the non-teaching tasks before and after class (light the incense, fill the humidifiers, vacuum, etc). At a teacher meeting, one of my teachers said, “It’s not that we have to light the incense, it’s that we GET to light the incense. It’s a privilege to be the person responsible for creating the environment for our students.” This forever changed the way I personally approached every task as well as the way I manage others today.  Be above nothing. Be willing and excited to do everything.

2.     Let people help. Being a Type A “I will do it all myself” kinda gal, I learned over the years that in order to grow the business (and avoid a nervous breakdown), I needed to ask for help. From asking my parents for financial help when I needed it to keep the doors open to asking my staff to take on bigger roles as I go on maternity leave (!!!), I have learned that people are not only able but willing, and honored, when you ask for their help.

3.     Trust Your Gut. Confession: I never wanted to put mirrors up or play music in the studio. I only had them because I was a terrified 26-year-old studio owner and knew all the other power yoga studios in Dallas used them. I assumed people wouldn’t come if I didn’t follow suite. Then one day many years ago, S Factor, a pole-dancing company out of California called to rent the studio for a weekend. On Saturday morning, we came in to find stripper poles and sassy, purple crushed velvet covering up our mirrors. The morning classes LOVED it. So, we did away with the stripper poles (thank goodness) and my Mom made us more attractive curtains, which we still have today. Voila – no mirrors! We soon took it a step further and stopped playing music and in year three, we even started to Om. And man, The YSC rocks Oms! I’m glad I went with my gut and turned YS into the studio I always wanted, because it makes us very unique today.

4.     Mexican food and power yoga do go together. Seriously, good old Gloria’s and YS are two of the longest standing businesses in the 4140 Lemmon Ave Douglas Court building.  I am not sure what we would do without queso runs while we remodeled, repainted and dressed up the studio.  I can still remember the first YogaSport Yoga School reunion at Gloria’s.  I had a sangria that evening. You’ll often find us yogis meeting, connecting and drinking sangrias and margaritas down there. I mean, hey, you gotta indulge!

5.     Don’t Be Afraid To Have Tough Conversations. Over the years, I’ve had to have a lot of challenging conversations. The first time I fired someone. The first time I told someone they needed to wear deodorant in a heated yoga studio. The first time I told a student that we would no longer play music in classes. And even the first time I sweet-talked Baron into teaching a class at YogaSport (he is my mentor, but he’s kind of famous and doesn’t frequent small studios like YS). Not to mention all the sharing we do during classes. You think us teachers are zen yogis all the time, but sometimes it’s tough to share with our students, even when we know it’s the best thing to do.

6.     Work Your A** Off.  I have learned that owning a business is extremely hard work.  Having the willingness to work late nights, early mornings (hey, I taught a lot of 6ams in the early days, ask Andy D!) and doing the work even on the “I don’t wanna” days, is what will help you succeed. Besides queso, of course.

7.     Be Willing To Let Go When Things Aren’t Working.  Throughout the years I tried several different class formats and teachers, trying to be the studio for everyone. I kept thinking that if I just tried harder, marketed more, paid more, etc. I could make it work. Then I realized, hey sometimes things don’t work and you just have to let them go. And that’s OK. Trying something and letting it go isn’t failure. It’s part of the growth process. Now we only offer Baptiste Power Yoga and it works. And wow, it’s so much easier to manage, go figure!

8.     Don’t Listen to the Dream Crushers.  If you are willing to do number 6 (and you mean it), then you must also ignore the dream crushers.  I still remember several people, including someone I considered a mentor, warning me not to open a studio. They said the market was saturated, there was no money in owning a yoga studio and I was too young to run a successful business without a partner.  I am grateful for my stubborn Italian heritage, and my incredibly supportive parents, who gave me the gumption and drive to ignore the crushers, and my own fears, to see what happened.

9.     Share The Big Stuff.  From having my fiance dump me just months before our wedding, to going through grueling fertility treatments, I have shared the deepest secrets of my life with The YSC both in class and through my writing.  I remember when I opened, my website bio talked about how I used yoga to help with my depression and anxiety in my early 20’s. A friend asked me if I thought I was being a little too personal.  To that, I said no. Sure, there are things that will stay off limits, but there’s also a cathartic and connective result when you’re open and honest about life’s challenges.

10. Time Really Does Fly! As I look back on 10 years, I can still feel the mixture of excitement and anxiety as I opened the doors on May 15, 2004.  And tonight, as I closed up shop for the last time before YS turns 10, I feel like a completely different person.  The person who locked the doors tonight has become a strong, confident and accomplished woman. A wife and mom-to-be. A lot can happen in 10 years (even 10 months or 10 minutes) and if you don’t pay attention, you will miss it. That means getting your nose out of the computer, tablet and phone, looking up and enjoying the people and things around you.

A lot has changed for me personally and for the studio over the past ten years. Two things that haven’t changed though, is the power of my getting on my yoga mat and the power of our community. No matter how hectic or stressful a day, no matter how many people join us, it’s still, and always will be, my second home. This studio and the people in it have helped me live! And I hope it helps you live too. Make sure to enjoy every moment, because another ten years will be gone before you know it.

I invite you to share in the comments how your yoga practice and The YogaSport Community has helped you live.

In love and light,
Angela

COMMENTS
John Wagner
I’m so proud of you for following your dream and being successful at it. Congrats on 10 years of successful business!
Love, John

liza Collins (lizadenton@yahoo.com)
Congratulations my friend! And just think: when the studio turns 20, Baby Wags will be in 5th grade. Whaaaaaat? Xoxooxo!
So much love, Liza.

Rebekah Feather
Congratulations my dear friend! I am so thankful to have been a part of the wonderful, life-changing YS Community you have built over the last 10 years. Well done. You certainly deserve to celebrate!!!
-Rebekah F.

Andy D
Oh sweet Angela! While you were working your a** off at our 6 am classes (which were often just us!), you were giving me more than you could ever know. Not only did you cultivate in me a love for yoga that has kept me coming back to the mat for ten years, but you quite literally saved my sanity. That is not hyperbole. In 2004 I was facing a personal and marital crisis so severe that I did not even know how to get out of bed. I promised myself I would let everything go except 3 things: I would breathe, take care of my dog, and go to yoga. Those three things got me through and instilled in me the tools to find lightness in the most uncomfortable situations. Although I love living in Austin, I miss YS! And now, even my hubby has taken up a practice. So cool!

Melinda (pmroland@swbell.net)
Ten years is an incredible accomplishment for a yoga studio in Dallas, since most of them don’t last past 2 or 3 years. You are to be admired Angela for your ability to market like no other, keep going when it seems everything is falling a part, to sharing so much of yourself with so many. I personally , thank you, for being my first yoga mentor, teacher and friend many years ago. Best wishes for the next 10 years, the upcoming birth of your first son, and many more blessings to unfold.
Namaste,
Melinda Roland

Amanda
Love this and you…I have learned so much in my journey so far with yoga at YogaSport, here is one of my favorites:

Love & Yoga. I see so many different version of love in our community at Yoga Sport and it is so amazing how everyone is embraced, it gives me such hope to know I have a community and wonderful people around me rooting for me. Who knows if I get on the airplane later today and sit next to a cute guy (I am just putting this out in the universe), but what I do know is through gaining the courage to sign up for 40 days, waking up to attend 6am classes before I leave for work trips, walking into yoga studios around the US, signing up for teacher training, turning in my notice to my landlord here in Dallas and signing a lease in Austin…I have such a loving support system and a place that will always feel like home, anything is possible! I also know that is on my mat anywhere is home, but more importantly in YogaSport.

Jenny
Wow, just wow! Very powerful lessons learned and shared. YogaSport has come such a long way, and is a blessing to so many. Happy birthday, and here’s to 10 more years! 🙂

Molly
I love this, Angela! Especially love the picture from 10 years ago. So you asked how YogaSport changed our lives…YS has given me so many new, incredible friends, I’m 8% less body fat since the first time I walked in the door a year ago and your Teacher Training program has completely changed my world. I’m a better person because of the studio and especially, because of you. Thank you so much for opening the studio and for being so welcoming to everyone who walks in. Congrats on the anniversary, here’s to 10 more years (and then some)!

An Army of Support

Eight years ago today, I was a terrified 26 year old, opening a yoga studio on Lemmon Ave. I remember being so scared that I couldn’t sleep. What if no one shows up? This question has haunted me in my life. What if no one shows up to my party? What if no one shows up to my step or spin classes? What if no one shows up to my yoga studio? Oh crap, this is a really big deal. I can get over a scarcely attended party and a step class with only a few dedicated divas. But an entire business? What was I thinking?

These were the thoughts in my mind and in my heart on May 15, 2004. I knew that my dedicated few from 24 Hour Fitness and the seven other places that I taught would at least come by for a class. I knew my super awesome friend Holly H. would come as much as she could (and she did for 30 straight days). But then what? My dad had given me a small business loan, a set of wings and essentially said, “Fly Baby Girl.”

I will never forget the first few days and even the first few years of the studio. It was exciting, don’t get me wrong, but it was challenging. I was shlepping towels to my condo to wash them every few days, getting there early to clean the space, learning how to HTML code my website (blog website? not available yet!) and oh yeah, teaching a lot of yoga! There were many days and nights where I thought, ‘Is this worth it?’ The sexiness of owning a yoga studio had disappeared and reality had set in. I wasn’t a full time yoga teacher with a cool space. I was a small business owner, marketer, maid, tech gal, designer and oh yeah, I taught some yoga too.

At year three, I was done. Mending a very broken heart, alone, broke and tired of having crappy health insurance, I was OUT when my three year lease was up. My dad, who had been my biggest supporter (but silent partner letting me make all decisions thus far) said, “I really think you are so close. Give yourself just one more year. Ask your landlord if he will extend one more year. Do everything you have ever wanted to do. Drain the bank account and if you are going to go out, go out BIG.” I thought long and hard and really didn’t want to keep going but the Barrese’s have a skillful way of convincing you to do things you never thought you could or would do. And being my Dad’s biggest fan, I just couldn’t let him down.

It’s Real!

So I extended my lease. ONE YEAR. That’s all I had in me. I told my yoga students and staff. I rallied them, was honest about my decision and asked everyone to show up. Ask? I had never thought of that! I hired a brilliant woman to re-brand the studio and the yoga man logo was born. With a fancy new design, new website, testimonial video and an army of support, YogaSport took off. Year four was a true breaking point in my career and in my life. I realized that I can do this and that asking for help is not only OK, it’s necessary for success.

On May 15, 2012, I look back on a roller coaster of eight years that I simply wouldn’t trade for anything. I have grown so much as a person, friend, daughter, partner and yoga teacher/mentor. Today, I look at The YogaSport Community (YSC) and am in awe of what she has become. Our incredible staff of teachers, and assistants and pretty much the coolest people in Dallas all work, play and sweat at 4140 Lemmon Ave. Aside from my home with my hubby and fur babies, it’s my favorite place to be.

So I thank each and every one of you who has shown up at YogaSport. You probably thought you were showing up just for you. But here, you are never alone. Without even knowing it, you were also showing up for me, the teachers and The YSC. YS is no longer my studio. She has a life, energy and excitement all of her own. I look forward to eight more years of sweat, smiles and seriously awesome yoga. In the comments below, I invite you to share what YS has meant to you.

In love and light,

Angela Wagner (formerly Barrese, I also found the love of my life in year 5!)