Going with the flow.
Located in Miami’s Design District, Ahana is a yoga studio owned by Dawn Feinberg. Dawn and her team of Yoga Alliance-certified instructors teach classes in a variety of yoga types, as well as meditation, comprehensive retreats and teacher training. “I take the classic lineage of yoga,” she explains, “and layer it with scripture from yogic philosophy. It’s high powered, Ashtanga-based and imbued with a spiritual message.” When circumstances quickly changed, Dawn realized that adapting fast was key to the survival of her business — and the community she’d created. “I recognized that Ahana as I knew it would have to close,” she recalls, “so I decided we’d put the studio online.”
A virtual Yoga studio, a welcoming vibe.
Dawn had already begun the initial moves for a virtual studio to complement her physical one. Now, she threw herself into creating a simple, friendly online experience. “I’m 45,” she says, “so as one not as hip to technology I wanted to make our platform easy and accessible to all.” Working with her videographer, assistant and fellow instructors, Dawn mapped out the site and rolled camera. “We filmed for two days and got so many classes — beginner yoga, Ahana flow, Ahana power flow, Ashtanga and some classes in Spanish, as well as English.” When they finished this initial round of filming, Dawn spent three days shaping the content and then flicked the switch. “Six days after I signed the contract we were up and running.”
New skills for a new platform.
With teaching-focused businesses like Ahana, going online means learning new ways to best convey the knowledge of a physical classroom. In filming this initial set of classes, Dawn found that, in order for a class to come across effective and naturally, she had to create the right atmosphere for herself. “I really need music and it’s hard to lay it in post-production,” she recalls, “so I played music in my earbuds. Doing that gave me the right context and drive so I would be able to authentically teach the models.” She also realized that while her students range in skill, those she had modeling poses needed to be advanced so her videographer could catch the subtleties of technique. “I tried to do a class with a beginner,” she explains, “and it was really difficult because they lacked the exactness of form that the camera needed — so in terms of filming, it’s best that they’re a bit more advanced.”
Supporting her customers and her people.
With this initial foray into bringing her business online, Dawn wasn’t sure what to expect, so she’s thrilled that in less than a month since launch, Ahana’s online studio has over 400 subscribers. “I don’t really know what to compare that to,” she says, “but it seems like a lot, and with the tools I have I can learn stuff like how many minutes students have actually practiced. It’s great feedback the entire Ahana staff can use to refine our classes.” What’s especially satisfying is to see a mix of new students and familiar names on her subscription list. “I have one student who’s been with me forever, I just adore her. And she’s been doing my yoga classes five days a week while bringing up two little kids. She’s like, ‘I’m doing the class in the bathroom and I don’t care what happens outside these walls. This is my only opportunity and I’m going to it. That’s what noise cancellation headphones were made for.’” Of course, Dawn misses the contact that only in-person teaching can provide. “The connection that comes with human touch and the exchange of energy that I feel in a class isn’t there. So that’s challenging.”
Another challenge is caring for her Ahana family. For example, in shifting her business model she reconsidered how to properly compensate her teachers, who operate as independent contractors. “I’m paying them to teach classes online in addition to their hourly salary,” she explains. “If Ahana becomes profitable, I’ll give them more money for their videos.” To have more cash on hand as the studio transitions, Dawn is navigating an expanded pool of loan sources. “We’re going to make it,” she says, “but it’s by the skin of my teeth.”
Strengthening her core.
So much has changed so fast. For now, Dawn’s focused on putting the studio on solid footing. When she feels that the time is right, she’ll branch outward. “Everything has gotten pushed back six months to a year and that’s okay. I’m just going to continue pouring all my energy into this space and then, once this blows over, see where everything else lands.” Her advice to other entrepreneurs is to keep your chin up and remember that sometimes what looks like deviating from the plan is just evolving. “I feel like people are very married to business goals and projections for a ‘perfect world’ scenario. And then you have all of this happen. Trust your instincts, but stay flexible.”
It all boils down to your hustle. We’re not in a time where you’re going to get feedback from other people. You just need to really believe in yourself.
Dawn B. Feinberg