Getting your Ducks in a Row (or Opening a UK Yoga Studio)


For the last 10 years (since managing a number of Bikram yoga studios in London), I have wanted to open my own yoga studio. Life threw some curve balls along the way before I achieved my dream, but every single ball ducked (‘scuse the pun) has given me a life, or work, lesson; enabling me to face the challenges listed below!

It takes money, hard work, superior organisational skills, guts and grim determination … However, the payoff is that I am opening the first yoga studio in Folkestone, Kent (a town that has been in existence since before the Magna Carta was written) and will be offering affordable yoga as a not-for-profit community investment company (Smai Tawi CIC).

The much edited steps below are 5 months of my life, but will hopefully inspire or help those who also wish to achieve the same dream!

1.    Know your strengths and weaknesses. You may be a great yoga teacher, but not good at writing, using social media, excel spreadsheets, etc. Either get help, or a business partner who does have these talents. Yoga is a business, and if you care about yours you will be professional across every aspect of it.

2.    Determine whether you will be a charity, social enterprise, or commercial yoga studio, and if you will be a sole trader, limited company, or partnership. Each has different tax and legal requirements. There is masses of help on the internet and at Companies House – to start you off, visit: ‘Setting Up a Social Enterprise’.

3.    Once you know what form your business will take you need to write a business plan, once again there are hundreds of templates on the internet. View a ‘Health Spa Sample Business Plan’.

4.    SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) – a technique credited to Albert Humphrey, who led a convention at the Stanford Research Institute in the 1960s and 1970s. If you want to be a social enterprise you need to be aware of this – and who you are benefiting and why you are a social enterprise rather than a commercial operation. Check out this great booklet ‘A Business Planning Guide to Developing a Social Enterprise’.

5.    Once you have written your business plan you will also need to produce a cash flow. For this, as a yoga studio, you will need to have created a timetable, evaluated how many customers you will have at each class, how much they will pay, how much your staff and the premises will cost (rent and rates), software, utilities, accountancy and audit, marketing, and upkeep of the building. Then you will know your estimated income as compared to your expenditure. I’ve done this for years and you can be incredibly accurate with forecasting!

6.    Your business plan and cash flow will determine if you have a viable business on your hands – and also help you be aware of start-up costs and what rental you can afford. This will then determine the size of space you look for.

7.    Space – this must have D2 (leisure usage in the UK) planning consent. If you rent space without the correct usage you will be immediately closed down. If the space you want doesn’t have the correct usage it can cost anywhere from £1,200 to £5,000 for change of use, so add this to your start-up costs along with the costs of any renovations required.

8.     Once you have your space remember that generally you have to pay an upfront deposit and rent for the lease as well as legal fees, and you must remember that you will be paying rent even when building work is happening – and before you have opened the doors to the public.

9.    Next you will be auditioning and hiring yoga teachers which requires checking their qualifications, insurance documents, whether they have first aid certificates and in the case of working with children that they have a CRB/DBS certificate.

10.    You will require public liability insurance, data protection registration, a fire risk assessment (please make sure your fire extinguishers work) and electrical certificates. Ensure relevant documentation is displayed onsite to the general public.

11.    You will need to open a business bank account and if you intend to accept card payments – organise a chip/pin reader.

12.    Create staff contracts, studio hire forms, noise awareness forms (my insurance doesn’t cover me if noise goes above 85 decibels) and new client forms which should include a liability waiver and information about the customer’s health.

13.    Determine what software you will use. This is necessary for creating classes, payment plans, teacher invoicing, and a customer database. I am using Mind Body Online, which also connects to Constant Contact, an email service provider and Optimal Payments, which allows online booking.

14.     Create your website once you know which software you will be using and linking to. Your website – as well as telling your customers about you and the classes you offer must contain terms and conditions, a cookie policy and data protection policy. You will not be allowed to have online booking without these!

15.    Market through social media (it’s free!), particularly Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. Create a Google Places for Business listing and list yourself with relevant websites, including specialist websites (that focus on your business type) – it is important to understand how to build relevant traffic to your website – make sure you hire a digital marketing expert!

16.    Talk relentlessly to everyone – don’t forget schools, medical/health centres, the police, local companies, local shops, and leaflet everywhere …

I started the above list on 9 January 2014 and Folkestone Yoga opens on 6 May 2014!

Believe in yourself – anything is possible!


From De-Mining Landmines to Folkestone Yoga

Welcome to Folkestone Yoga!

How wonderful to have you with us.

Not only are you reading the very first blog on our new website, but you will be able to follow me on my fascinating new journey, opening Folkestone’s first yoga studio, building a community investment company and hopefully sharing with you some laughter and tears as I (try to) practise yoga!

Angelina Jolie

Angelina in Kevlar


Me on the K5 mine belt!

As you can see from the pictures (above) – by the way I think you’ll spot Angelina and not confuse her with me, she’s looking fabulous in Kevlar and a de-mining helmet – whereas I look overweight, grubby and petrified – my background in charitable work started with the Halo Trust.

I am on the K5 mine belt on the border of Cambodia and Thailand. Behind me is a Guyata 64, a landmine laid by Vietnamese slaves during the war and safely diffused with a little help from my digging – and a lot of well-trained Cambodian de-miners.

The reason for letting you know this, is because from that day on I was unafraid of anything. The sheer terror of never seeing my children again had kept me awake the previous night. Not being blown up meant I realised very swiftly all most of us need is love of close friends and family, love of ourselves and our health.

Why not join me in my journey to a healthier life through practising yoga? I’d love to meet you.