Allison Harrison is a yoga teacher, and the owner and manager of Hot Yoga Edinburgh. On today’s episode, we talked about Allison’s 18-month journey to opening her own studio space, and how she found mentors and supporters along the way. We also talked about using a Facebook Group, and Instagram, to grow a community around your business, and how to tell if it’s all working.
Hot Yoga Edinburgh is about 8 years old, and Allison has owned it for the last five of those years. Allison bought the business from a Finnish couple who were yoga teachers, and ran it as a side hustle for about a year and a half before realising she was ready to expand. Because she was still working full-time, Allison recruited another teacher, Heini, to run most of the classes while Allison ran the business itself. Five years later the two are still working together!
Taking on the business felt like a huge leap for Allison, and opening a studio was another leap too. Allison and her business mentor are both very cautious people, so it felt to her like a real vote of confidence when he encouraged her to go ahead and expand, quite dramatically, with the studio. It took a long time to find the right space, and even then it was 15 months before they signed the lease! After signing, Allison managed a 3 month project to have the space fitted out exactly the way they needed. It was a very stressful time, running the project, and the rest of the business, whilst still full-time employed and travelling all over the place. But although it was very scary, Allison left her job over Christmas of that year, and opened the studio on 6 January 2017.
How to find a business mentor
Allison and I would both really recommend finding mentors and supporters to help you, particularly in the early stages of starting a business, or during any kind of transition. I found my first business mentor through the Princes Trust – and if you’re under the age of 30 and in the UK, you may be able to get support from them too. Allison found hers a different way though. The first step was to have a look at her own skills and where the gaps were, to figure out what support would be most helpful. Recognising she needed help with finance and understanding her numbers, Allison approached someone she knew and respected who was an accountant and had run businesses and even mentored other people.
Throughout the last five years, Allison’s had support from others as well. When planning to leave her corporate job, she asked her boss to continue mentoring her as he knew what her strengths were and she knew she liked to work with him. At one point, Allison also invested in professional coaching services. Jenn Fenwick, of Rebel Road coaching, is a transitional coach. She worked with Allison through the last three months of lease negotiations and fit out project. They met once a month, and worked on the transition from Allison’s current situation of ‘full-time job with side hustle’ to her new focus on the studio. She helped Allison to really believe in herself all the way through the process.
Friends and family can also provide support and mentorship in a less formal way. Allison’s sister and husband are mentors, as the members of our mastermind group. Having a mentor is great, of course, but you as the business owner still have to do the work and make the decision, but it’s so helpful to have a village of people who are willing to help out, and are willing to pay it forward.
Marketing a yoga business on Instagram
The Hot Yoga Edinburgh Instagram page is full of pictures and videos from around the studio. Allison tries to post on the feed is 2-3 times a week, and on the stories she’ll post every day. The regularity has paid off as the number of people who watch the stories has increased dramatically over the last year. The main thing to share are all the the times and titles of the next day’s classes – because a lot of students have memberships, or can come to a variety of classes, this helps them to work out what fits into their day and when they can make time to practise. After that, they also like to share behind the scenes snippets of life in the studio, working, cleaning, and yoga practise.
Allison found it was quite scary to let people in behind the scenes initially, especially with videos. She found it all to easy to get hung up on her own mistakes and flaws. Over time, and with support, she was able to really hold on to the idea that other people aren’t paying that much attention. People ultimately are looking for insight or information – it’s not about Allison herself.
“Don’t forget to drink water and get some sun. You’re basically a houseplant with more complicated emotions.”
Facebook Groups for a yoga business
The Hot Yoga Edinburgh Facebook page was part of the business that Allison bought over. It’s very useful as a broadcast tool, but engagement is not nearly as good as it used to be 2-3 years ago. So in the last year, Allison and Heini have been working on a group for students, or potential students. From a practical perspective, people engage far more with group posts than with anything from the page. Some of this is because Facebook’s algorithm now shows people more community and group-based content.
Customers love the group because it’s a key part of the community at the studio. They create specific content for the group like Q and A videos that helps people to get to know them. As well as that members can post with questions, issues and ideas, and chat there with other students. Because there’s no there’s not a coffee lounge or social space at the studio, the Facebook group kind of works to fill that gap for helping people make friends in their community.
How to know if your social media marketing is really working
Allison does look at her Insights on both Facebook and Instagram, but it’s hard to know exactly what’s working, so we talked through a few ideas to get started. For some business you can see very quickly and simply – do you make more money when you do more social media? For other business you need to think a bit harder. You have to work out what behaviour you want to see from your customers – what has a tangible benefit to the business and is leading towards more or bigger sales? Once you know that, you can figure out what you want to measure. Then, and only then, should you go into Insights to see the numbers for what you’ve decided to track. If you have some ideas, you can treat these like little science experiments. Test out your ideas or “hypotheses” about relationships between behaviours and income. For more on this, check out Episode 8 on Instagram Insights.