A Flexible Approach – spotlight on a yoga entrepreneur

Yoga has burst onto gym class timetables around the western world with speed not seen since the advent of Mr Motivator. Yet its goals couldn’t differ more from our work-hard play-hard day to day existence. In fact, yoga sticks out like a sore thumb in an exercise world dominated by spinning classes, boxercise and other such frantic and sweaty pursuits. Aimed more towards achieving inner balance than washboard abs, yoga represents an altogether different approach to exercise and indeed life.

This begs the question, who is the driving force behind this new and indeed lucrative exercise industry? Who are the people seamlessly joining spiritual awareness with building successful companies? The waif-like yoga instructors with incense in their gym bags? Surely not…

Mike Carthew of Cuckoo Vine, a new online marketing platform for UK businesses, delves a little deeper into who’s driving this new breed of yoga-based businesses.

Hayle in West Cornwall is a hotspot for counter-culture and free-living individuals, many of whom have turned their backs on city life and 9-5’s in favour of self employment and a slower pace of life. None represent the antithesis of fast city life more than Nat Bennett, a 28 year old yoga instructor and entrepreneur with a difference.

Nat started her working life as a textile designer and was working in design houses and as a stylist in London. By all accounts, Nat gave conventional working life a fair crack of the whip before following the less trodden path of self employment in an alternative sector. Perhaps this experience in the cut-throat ‘real’ world helped shape Nat’s approach to bringing her passion for yoga in line with her can-do approach to business.

Nat’s company, Live Love Yoga, was founded in 2009 and has since grown into a successful business offering a lot more than your average gym class.

“I realised I needed to look beyond my core audience if I really wanted my business to flourish. This meant looking towards those who wouldn’t normally consider yoga as something they’d take up.”

Nat approached the challenge of widening her client demographic with an open mind, and as a result found opportunities working with students with  physical and mental health problems, learning difficulties and challenging behaviour as well as amputees, the over 60’s and women during pregnancy. As well as now being a cornerstone of Live Love Yoga’s business, these alternative client groups are a major source of inspiration for Nat.

“I found that the demand for yoga had spread beyond the typical gym-goers and into the wider population. My next challenge was to access these people. As a start-up with very little marketing budget to speak of, I had to look towards the most effective routes to market. This question of cost efficiency led me towards marketing online, through Facebook, Twitter and recently bringing it all together on Cuckoo Vine.”

The umbrella business model of Live Love Yoga now encompasses Yoga Retreats as well as Yoga for Surfers, both of which knit in extremely well with the local communities of Cornwall as well as the seasonal tourist economy. With these well-tuned additions to the company, the growth of Live Love Yoga ultimately became a marketing challenge.

Yoga for surfers with Live Love Yoga’s Nathalie on Porthtowan Beach

Live Love Yoga’s expansion was basically limited by access to consumers. I knew that without the big advertising budget I had to be extremely efficient in my spending but still reach a targeted audience.”

When this was examined more closely, it became apparent that what this audience want is proof that companies are trustworthy and get good feedback from clients. Consumers basically want a window inside a company from the comfort of their own front room.

“I wanted people who were interested in yoga to know that my students are really impressed with what Live Love Yoga has to offer, so I needed them to see real feedback from real people. The reviews on Cuckoo Vine are unbiased and I can’t edit them so everyone can see that I’m legit and have something great to offer.”

Nat also wanted to make sure that her company was there to be found when people were looking!

“I’m still a small company, so don’t have fortunes to spend making sure I come on page 1 of Google. The Gold account on Cuckoo Vine puts me to the top of the list for yoga and Alternative Therapies so for £48 it was a really efficient way to make sure I get noticed. All the reviews left also feed straight to Facebook so even if people don’t search for me on Cuckoo Vine they’ll find out about me through their friends. It’s like word of mouth but way faster and a lot more efficient!”

One of the real plus points Nat found with her Cuckoo Vine listing was the truly democratic setup of the review system.  It’s a real danger with online review sites that unjust reviews can be seriously damaging to businesses, especially in the services sector. Nat explains how this doesn’t trouble her as a company that puts its customer service before anything else.

“I had one lady leave a negative comment actually because she turned up to a class that I stopped running a year ago! She hadn’t checked the website or gym timetable but saw fit to leave a bad review on Cuckoo Vine regardless. Luckily, on Cuckoo Vine I was able to respond politely and direct her to the new timetables. However, 5 of my other clients saw the rogue review and clicked on the ‘thumbs down’ which meant it automatically dropped off the site. I feel pretty safe with my listing on Cuckoo Vine because I know it’s a fair system like that. Oh and I’ve since uploaded a document of my timetables to my Cuckoo Vine listing too!”

It’s clear that Nat is far from the popular stereotype of a yoga instructor, and is using her passion for yoga and a keen business sense to take her company in an interesting, socially responsible and profitable direction.

Over the next couple of years my focus will shift more towards yoga for sports (like surfing) as well as mental health, disabilities and pregnancy. I teach Vinyasa flow, but use the breath to encourage relaxation, so whilst the style is traditionally very active I tailor my practice to suit the needs of my very different client groups.”

It seems that Live Love Yoga is really challenging the common conceptions of yoga, and in the same way Nat is far from what you might expect of a yoga instructor. Under Nat’s direction Live Love Yoga has a thorough understanding of its role in tackling the challenges of everyday life. Live Love Yoga’s offering sits very comfortably as an ancient practice moulded into a truly contemporary business.

Find out more about Live Love Yoga, leave reviews or market your own business on http://cuckoovine.com/listing/live-love-yoga-tr27-4dx