Hey, everyone. Welcome to Yogipreneur Radio. It’s Racheal Cook here, founder of The Yogipreneur and I’ve got another incredible guest here with me today. I’m joined with Theresa Reed from The Tarot Lady.
Theresa is an amazing, amazing spiritual, heart-centered entrepreneur who I’ve had the privilege of getting to know over the last year. But, something you might not know about Theresa, if you happen to have come across her work, is that she’s a yogi and she has a top secret yoga studio that no one on the internet knows about.
But, as I’ve had the opportunity to get to know Theresa, she’s shared some incredible insights around what she’s seen happening in the yoga world, how she’s created this amazing yoga business that goes alongside her other main business and I thought it’d be really fun to bring her on Yogipreneur Radio and share some really cool insights about an alternative way to approach your yoga business.
Thank you so much, Theresa for joining me.
Theresa: Thank you, Racheal. I’m really, really pumped to be here today.
Racheal: We’re going to have so much fun. The first time I realized that you didn’t just have The Tarot Lady, which is what I think everybody knows you – especially in the online space – for. I was really blown away to know that not only are you running this really robust online tarot business, but that you have this secret yoga studio that no one knows about, but it’s thriving and it’s really an incredible story.
I’d love for you to tell us a little bit about that piece of your business. What’s going on with your studio and why is it so top secret?
Theresa: Well, the reason why – I do have a little bit of buzz online about it. There actually is a website for it, but I do really no marketing for it at all because the studio hasn’t needed it. When I created my yoga studio – the reason why I created it, is because I had a hard time finding a studio that I really enjoyed going to on a regular basis. A lot of times I would go into one and maybe the class was too intense or it was heated to 100 degrees or I went in there and maybe the teacher wasn’t sensitive to my needs or… I’ve been yelled at at yoga studios. Let’s put it that way.
I’m a little bit of a rebellious girl, so I started pretty much just hopping around doing yoga and doing it for a number of years to help me with my breathing issues. Then I decided that I think I’m going to take a teacher training program, see what I can do with this and create a studio that’s very, very different than all the other studios out there.
I wanted to create a studio for people who I felt were kind of yoga misfits.
Those of us who didn’t like being in a big studio, who wanted a more casual and laid back approach to yoga or who felt self-conscious about being in the yoga studio.
My mission was to have – I like to call it – the yoga studio for misfit yogis. Kind of like – did you ever see that one old cartoon where they had the island for misfit toys?
Theresa: Yeah! I wanted to serve people who really didn’t fit the typical yoga mold. Even the way I’ve worded everything on my site, the way I’ve marketed it – which is very minimal – which is mostly word of mouth, has been reaching out to people who want to do yoga, but they do not want to come to a regular studio because sometimes it’s a body issue or they just want a more casual, more intimate experience or maybe they have a physical ailment or a physical issue that prevents them from going into hardcore practice.
That was my mission when I started it and I wanted to only have three to four students at a time in my studio.
That’s why, also, I don’t do a lot of marketing because I actually have a waiting list of people who want to get in. It’s been going like this now, Racheal for… it’s going to be 11 years this year that the studio has been chugging along just fine and serving yogis who might normally not do yoga.
Racheal: I so love this! It’s amazing because I’m in the middle of – by the time this is out, it will already be out – but I’m in the middle of re-recording this big presentation called The State of the Yogiverse and it’s all about the stats of what’s happening in the yoga world.
What I see over and over again in the research and in conversations is that we all think the only people who are practicing yoga are these thin, white women who grace the cover of Yoga Journal and can do all the fancy poses on Instagram and they have, probably, a well-off husband who can finance their yoga education habit. But the truth is, there’s this insane desire for people who want to try yoga but they are completely overwhelmed.
They’re looking at the studio saying, “I can’t do this.” They’re looking at people’s Instagram feed, saying, “I’m not going upside down anytime soon.”
There is this huge disconnect and I love that you found that and tuned into it and made this really safe space for people to come where they feel like they’re welcome exactly as they are.
Theresa: Absolutely. We also have a big mission to make it fun. One of the things that I’ve found, too, that some of my yoga students had told me about is they would go into some of these studios and find these grim-faced drill instructors that made them feel like little kids being yelled at. I have one student who was at a studio where they weren’t even allowed to chit-chat or giggle a little bit. My studio is absolutely the opposite of all those studios. We treat it kind of like a tarot slumber party – not a tarot. Excuse me! Look how tarot-oriented – We treat it like a yoga slumber party here.
It is fun and all the students eventually become friends, get to know each other. It really fosters community when you have these intimate things. Racheal, one of the things I see happening a lot with businesses – not just yoga businesses, but businesses in general – is there’s a craving for this intimacy. There’s a craving to feel included. How wonderful to have little pockets where people can feel like, “Wow. I can belong to something, too.”
Racheal: Absolutely. I think, in general, just out modern lives, we’re very disconnected. It’s so funny. I’m in my 30s now, but I remember when I left college, there was this huge discussion going around like, “How do you find friends when you don’t live in the same dorm next to them?”
I feel like that’s only become harder for people the longer they go in their life. We’re so busy with work, we’re so busy with family.
How do we find like-minded people that we enjoy if they’re not there by default?
How do we consciously find people we can connect with?
I think creating these small, little intimate communities is so incredibly powerful. That’s meaningful change in people’s lives.
Theresa: Absolutely. I have students now who’ve been with me from the beginning.
Racheal: That’s amazing.
Theresa: Yeah. That’s pretty crazy when you think about it because what happens to most of us when we go to a yoga studio? We’ll go there for a while, then we get busy, drop out or maybe it doesn’t resonate anymore. I’ve certainly done that. I’ve walked away from studios for whatever reason.
To have somebody stick around that long, it’s because they’re feeling seen, they’re feeling heard, they’re feeling witnessed where they are right now.
Racheal: I love it.
Theresa: I think it’s important.
Racheal: It’s absolutely important. Tell us a little bit about… you’re calling it a studio. You said there was only two or three students at a time per class. Is this an actual brick and mortar studio? What is the setup for this business and how do people come to learn from you?
Theresa: I set up my business in my home.
Racheal: I love it.
Theresa: Yep. So, again, it has this intimate space. I can let it reflect exactly my personality, so when people come in they know exactly what they’re getting into. There’s even a little Hello Kitty welcoming at the door.
Racheal: I love it.
Theresa: I do it in my home and, again, we have enough space to hold three or four students.
It’s so funny, Racheal. When I first came up with my concept, my husband said, “Well, why don’t knock open a wall and you can have a bunch of students in here?” I even had other people say, “This is going to fail. This is not going to wash. You cannot possibly keep a business going like that.”
I’ve proved everybody wrong, including my husband.
Again, it’s coming back to what feels right. What is going to feel right for me? What is going to feel right for the people I want to serve?
I really thought about that long and hard and set up everything in my home and opened the doors and, really, pretty much I just told a couple of people about it and it just came from there. That’s all it was.
Racheal: I absolutely love it. I think this is so smart and I’m all about these innovative ways to create a business that really works for you, your personality, your lifestyle and what you’re ultimately trying to create.
I think in the yoga world there’s this big misconception that the only way to have a studio is to basically drop a quarter of a million dollars into renovating a brick and mortar storefront. I’m going to be really transparent, people. If that’s what you’re thinking, you better be prepared for five years of not paying yourself. It is a hard business model.
But, there are so many ways to create a studio by – like you’ve done – create it in your own space or even have a traveling studio where you find these really cool venues and you let your students come with you wherever you’re going that are low overhead, allow you to be, honestly, I think more personality-driven and more community-driven than anything. Take off all that financial pressure of needing to have something that generate 20-50k a month just to keep things moving.
Theresa: Right. Those big studios, too, you have two different options. We assume we have two different options – let me rephrase that. We think we have to open one of these big studios – like you said – and invest money or we have to go work for someone else.
I did work for another studio for a very, very short period. I’m an introvert so being in front of a group that was that big wasn’t really for me, number one.
Number two, it also meant that I didn’t have control over how I was going to show up. This studio that I worked for really wanted to go corporate and wanted us to all wear polo shirts.
Racheal: Oh, my gosh.
Theresa: If you know me at all, you know that is not the way I roll. I had to quit after a few months because I’m like, I don’t want to sign a non-compete contract. I don’t want to be told that I have to be teaching a certain way that looks exactly identical to everyone else and I want to know who I’m working with. I want to intimately know my students. I want to know what is going on with them physically each time they’re in my studio so that I can customize every single practice that we do based on what my students need, not on what somebody else tells me to do or what I just assume needs to happen.
Racheal: I love this. You actually just hit on something that’s going to be making waves in the yoga community very soon because all of this news coming out about classifying yoga teachers as independent contractors versus employees. More people are going to have to classify as employees. It’s legally the thing that’s just going to happen whether they like it or not.
Which means studios are going to have pretty much complete control over how you teach, what you teach, who you teach, when you teach. Every single element of your class, they have more control over it now if they’re going to move to that employee model. Which again, legally and tax-wise, they’re going to end up doing or else they’re going to have a real hard time proving that they’re not.
Theresa: Right on.
Racheal: I think it’s really powerful – and this is the difference between, I think, people who are being a yoga teacher just part time, occasionally, for the fun of it versus this is something that’s really your mission in the world and you want to be able to do it in your own way. Being able to have your own travel studio, a studio at home – whatever it is – is an amazing way to do it your way.
Theresa: I think it’s a smart way. I do see more yogis getting burned out on some of these studio models and these big business models. Not just owners, but even the people who work for these owners and wanting something different; they want the freedom. That freedom is so important because, ultimately, what is yoga about? It is about getting to samadhi. What is samadhi? It’s liberation. It’s becoming a Jivamukti, a living embodied, enlightened being.
If we are chained down to some model that doesn’t fit for us or if we’re chained down to being told, “This is the only way to do things.” I don’t think that is really samadhi living. I think that is really the opposite of what we’re trying to do here.
Racheal: I love it. I absolutely adore this. Such a great conversation. It’s so funny, Theresa, I don’t know if I ever told you this but my first yoga class that was not a VHS tape of Rodney Yee – which is how, I think a lot of people first come to yoga. In the 90s, the only way I had access to yoga was through VHS tapes that I found somewhere.
But, my first actual class with a real teacher was when I was in college and it was a woman who did the same thing you did. She was a local yoga teacher who lived near the university. She would literally flier the university with information about her yoga and belly dancing classes and we would show up to her home and she had transformed her garage into a studio.
It was amazing and, literally, I went all four years of university to that studio. I still keep in touch with her. I became friends with her kids, who were my age and still keep in touch with all the women who I met in those classes because it was our group. It was our crew. We loved showing up and seeing them and hearing about their lives and laughing and going to each others weddings. All these things. It’s a real community and it’s something that I think a lot of studios that have gotten bigger are definitely lacking.
I’m so thrilled to hear that that’s the route you went and being another living example of walking your talk. Thank you so much.
Theresa: Thank you.
Racheal: I love it. Any big chunks of advice you would give to anybody who’s considering doing what you’ve done in creating a studio in their home?
Theresa: First of all, make sure you have plenty of insurance because – I’m real big on insurance – you never know.
That is the one thing that you want to make sure is that you are protecting your business. It’s wonderful to be a yogi, but you must be a smart yogi, too. That means having home insurance – additional home insurance – but also having yoga insurance because the one thing is people can and do get hurt in yoga.
I’ve never had it happen, but – knock on wood – I really think it’s important not be naïve.
Make sure that you do still run it like a business. Even if you’re having a good time and bringing cookies for your yoga students – which I do often – you still want to make sure you are managing your money, your affairs and all of that all on the up and up. I think that’s really important.
Again, if I can give one piece of advice, it would be:
No matter what treat it like a business and do have the proper insurance to protect yourself.
Racheal: Absolutely. You don’t want to lose said house because somebody gets hurt.
Theresa: Right on. If you’re going to have it in your home, be smart.
Racheal: Absolutely. I so love it. Thank you so much, Theresa, for joining us. Everybody, if you want to learn more about Theresa, I highly recommend checking her out online. She’s at TheTarotLady.com. What’s the website for your yoga studio?
Theresa: Sure! If people want to take a little peak at my rebellious little yoga studio – they’ll love the web copy on that. It’s really designed to turn people off so I don’t have a lot of students. You kind of have to check it out once. It’s at InnerDivinityYoga.com.
Racheal: Perfect. I’ll make sure to link that up in the show notes. Thank you so much for joining me. Such a pleasure, as always, chatting with you.
Until next time, we will see you on Yogipreneur Radio.
Episode 4 Show Notes::
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