02 May The Illuminate Series: ‘Vital Beat Yoga’
With stiff competitions out there, standing out can really be a challenge, especially for startup small businesses. Learn how the owner of Vital Beat Yoga, Kaye Waterhouse, cut through the clutter—putting a twist to traditional yoga.
Kaye Waterhouse takes the concept of music as a twist in starting her own yoga studio. Not deviating fully from traditional yoga, the owner of ‘Vital Beat Yoga,’ wanted it to be more inclusive for all women (and men, too!)
Kaye didn’t have any experience in running a business and had to learn everything from scratch. In this interview, she shared details on her marketing strategy and how she was able to pull it off.
Be inspired with her story and the many insightful things that came with it:
What is your vision for Vital Beat Yoga?
My vision for the studios is that we pride ourselves on providing a fun, accessible, [and] unintimidating yoga practice. We recognise that people come to yoga for a great variety of reasons; psychological, physical, or spiritual and any of these reasons are as valid as any other. Vital Beat is not an overtly spiritual or philosophical studio, we instead choose to share the real human experience and prefer to be on this journey with our students rather than trying to be “spiritual teachers”. We also believe that the core essence of yoga is joy, and one of the fastest ways to get there, is through music. Our community is supportive, inclusive, and empowering, and our teachers are warm, kind, humorous, and genuine. We seriously have the best students in Perth!
Why did you decide to start teaching yoga?
I was unable to find a yoga studio myself that I truly resonated with and I saw a gap for the kind of yoga that made people feel welcome even if they didn’t believe in deities and chakras, and was still an accepting place for those that did. I set out to do my teacher training with the intention of opening my own studio and opened the doors to our first space in May 2016, 6 months after returning from my training! I opened my second location in May 2018.
What types of students does your studio serve? Do you cater to women only?
Because of our music-driven studio, we attract quite a lot of beginners who have said they were otherwise “bored” or “intimidated” by a quieter practice. Two years ago I would have said 70% of our student base was beginners but now that many of those beginners have grown with us, that has dropped to about 30-40%. Because of the different class styles on offer (from very chill to very strong), we attract a huge variety of ages, our youngest being around 20 and our eldest are in their 60’s – we strongly encourage men to attend but the nature of western yoga is that it does serve many more women than men… so in light of that, and our family-orientated outer suburban locations, we also offer a creche serve, plus Mums n Bubs Yoga, Pregnancy Yoga, and Kids Yoga classes.
How do you market your business?
There are 4 primary pillars to our marketing success;
- Community: by looking after those closest to us (our students) most of our growth comes from word of mouth. Many (many!) of our students come to class because of (or with!) their friends and family. We also offer free community classes, donation-based charity classes, and Student Scholarships (memberships for those with financial barriers to yoga) as well as give generously to local community groups. This aligns with my personal mission for a Karmic Yoga studio but also helps develop brand awareness & reach. How we look after our students, from our “refresh” stations of tampons & hair ties, dry shampoo and breath mints, to free fruit, tea, and free kombucha on tap, is always top priority.
- Technology driven marketing: I developed and launched a digital sales funnel that drives 80% of our new clientele to the studio through an incentivised voucher “trial” that, when people fall in love with the studio, converts to a direct debit membership. It’s been hugely successful in attracting clientele previously outside our reach and I can attribute our 60% growth in the last 6 months alone to that program! It also means almost 70% of our members are on direct debit, giving us more stability in our revenue projections.
- We are very active on social media and connect authentically on there. I’m upfront about everything from business financial struggles to my pregnancy morning sickness (!) and I think our community appreciates that. I’m also not afraid to drop a few swear words either (Haha!) Mastering social media, from FB Lives to Instastories and IGTV, [have] elevated our brand online very quickly.
- Collaborations and events: Hip Hop Yoga translates beautifully to public and live events (plus they’re super fun!). I teach (or send my staff to teach) at 12-15 events every year, from paid corporate gigs to charity jams. It gets us out in front of new crowds and allows people to truly experience the joy of beat-laced music-driven vinyasa yoga. Some things just need to be experienced! I’m also an Ambassador for Lululemon and work closely with them on events.
What makes Vital Beat Yoga different from other yoga studio in the area?
Music is a very important part of what we do and we put as much effort into playlist creation as the classes themselves. Music can help people shift away from the pressures of the day and into a relaxed state and promotes the production of dopamine (happiness!). Vital Beat is categorically a Hip Hop Yoga studio, that is, most of our tunes are urban & mainstream in nature; hip hop, RnB, Soul, Jazz, Funk, and Reggae but we also include acoustic, mantra and instrumental as a complement. The more intense the class, the more intense the music! There is no whale song and wind chimes at Vital Beat!
What were your struggles starting up?
Everything!!! What I can tell you, is the things I’d never done before starting Vital Beat in 2016:
Never: run a business, hired staff, rented a commercial space, designed & fit out a premises (shout out to my handy husband), designed & built a website including all its copy, operated a CRM system, developed a business plan or a financial budget (yep I opened without either of these), tracked financials, marketed a business in a new community, or wrote contracts, policies & procedures, press releases, or social media strategies. All of which I now know how to do – having learned them out of necessity!
Can you tell us about your business plan?
- Develop insane financial literacy
- Continue to build the business into a model that runs with low input**.
**I travelled around Australia for 4 months with my family when the first studio was just 12 months old and the business survived happily without my physical presence. This year we are selling our home in the Perth hills to live on a bus permanently as “nomads” and only be in Perth as much as the business requires, so the current iteration of the business plan is around the automation and self-sustaining capacity of a yoga studio. I believe it can be done! Success for me lies in the studios ability to run this way – my choices now much more reflect my dream lifestyle than a dream salary.
What style or pose of yoga do you recommend and why?
I have one pose that is the nemesis of my chronic anxiety and it’s a deeply relaxing yin pose called Reclined Deer Pose Twist. It’s a combination of a seated twist (very stabilising & balancing for the nervous system) and a forward fold (calming and down-regulating for an anxious mind). Whenever I have trouble sleeping, 5 minutes of this pose on each side helps my mind to settle (which as small business owner, can be very loud in my head with to do lists!)
The future ahead of you is dark. You are holding a ‘magic light bulb’, which has the power to illuminate any part in your future. (Means you can take a peek of your future) What part are you seeing?
I can see what we are building towards now, come to fruition. I live with my two children and husband (and dog!) off-the-grid in our 40ft coach, somewhere in Australia and I run the studios remotely, returning to Perth as needed. This also grants me the freedom to finish writing my book!