Yoga studio owner delivers value to customers amid challenging times
Claire Zovko is the owner and founder of Lighthouse Yoga and Wellness in Miami Lakes, FL. We first got to know Claire when she shared her story with us about how she went from being a lawyer to turning her passion for yoga into a full-time business. You can read that story here.
We recently caught up with Claire to learn how Lighthouse Yoga and Wellness is faring since the outbreak of COVID-19 and the mandatory closure of non-essential businesses in Florida.
On March 18th, Claire shifted the studio to a virtual platform as she unexpectedly had to close the doors of her yoga studio. She knew there were things she would need to do immediately to be sustainable during this time. This meant decreasing her most expensive costs: payroll and rent, so she applied for a loan through the Paycheck Protection Program.
But she also started planning for the long-term. That meant rethinking her business model. “Our old model was no longer efficient,” Claire told us, so she asked herself, “how do we create a new one?”
Giving value to customers even during a quarantine
Like many yoga studios right now, Claire pivoted her business model to start offering classes online. But unlike others, she has formed a new network with four more yoga studio communities across the country to deliver online classes on a rotating basis.
This approach is allowing Claire to provide quality and value to her customers even amid a lockdown. Although they cannot reap the benefits of in-person classes at this time, students can now take classes from four talented yoga teachers that they may not have had access to pre-quarantine.
Claire also felt it was important to offer one class a day instead of a full schedule. If the timing of the live stream fits with peoples’ schedules, that’s great, but if not, students can access the recording at their convenience. This ensures the quality of the classes and that they are not flooding people with too much content.
Showing employees their value
In the short-term, Claire had to furlough the managers and yoga teachers. The studio simply could not afford the payroll costs if the business was going to operate long term.
This did not sit well with Claire. So she asked herself, “How can I make sure that the teachers know how much we love and care about them?”
Claire felt compelled to give the teachers a cash bonus as a small token of appreciation. Another senior teacher at the studio graciously matched the bonus. One week later, Claire sent the teachers a bonus check in the mail large enough to cover what they would have made at Lighthouse Yoga in one month. She used her personal money to fund this as it was important to her to show how much she as an owner values the teachers.
As Claire described it, “Lighthouse Yoga is what it is because of the teachers, not because of me.”
Fortunately, she has now received the PPP loan and is able to bring the managers back on staff.
Managing a work-from-home schedule
Being away from the studio is new for Claire. The energy it takes to teach virtually is different and than what it takes teaching in the studio. "It is more challenging to feel the energy of the students and the collective experience when looking at a screen ... Being in the studio, it gives me energy,” says Claire.
For that reason, Claire still visits the studio a few times a week, but she finds it strange as “this space was built for people to transform and grow daily and it is sitting empty.”
Through this experience, Claire has learned a lot about her business. She has plans to improve certain processes the moment they are allowed to reopen. She also says that their class and workshop offerings will be a “hybrid” between in-person classes and online ones.
After setting up a private Facebook page for active members across all five studios, friends from other states reached out asking to sign up for the classes, so the group has expanded greatly. Given the new network that has formed during quarantine, Claire plans to foster that community even after the studio doors are open again.
“I am grateful,” Claire says. Even after having to furlough staff and shift her entire business model, Claire knows this is a major turning point for everyone. She has been able to take the lessons that she learned throughout this experience and apply them to a new business model, so that when they do reopen, Lighthouse Yoga and Wellness will be even stronger and brighter than before.
For more inspiring stories from small business owners, check out our celebrate courage page where we spotlight entrepreneurs from all walks of life.