Yoga business pivots through the pandemic


9th October, 2020

Moving a health and wellbeing business forward during COVID-19

Myall Yoga & Wellbeing Studio is a health and wellness centre in the Perth CBD specialising in yoga, Pilates, meditation, and massage, with wellbeing principles and other services incorporated into the mix.

Emma Pugsley founded the studio as a space where people, particularly those working in corporate positions, can take a step toward a healthier lifestyle.

Clients learn about balanced and approachable ways to integrate physical, mental, emotional, nutritional, and social facets of life.

People can use their time at Myall as a preventative measure to counter the typically sedentary and stressful nature of office environments.

As you can imagine, though, Emma’s business, like so many others in the wellbeing sector and beyond, was significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and the related restrictions that came into play in March 2020.

Within a short space of time, Emma and her team had to close the doors to the centre’s physical studio and look for new ways to move forward.

For Emma, this meant making significant changes to her venture after only around a year of operation.

The warm up: Choosing to stay or go

MyAll Wellbeing, open day. March, 2020.
Photo: Sabine Albers

“The challenge posed by COVID-19 for the business was that if we closed down completely for two, three, or six months, we would lose our members, clients, and our community,” said Emma.

This was not something she was willing to see happen.

“We had to act quickly to put in place a service that would be valued by our members and also provide a sense of community for those who needed it in these trying times,” Emma says.

To pivot operations and achieve these new aims in a hurry, Emma and her team turned to online options.

“We went from a standing start to live video streaming in only three days from the announcement of the government restrictions,” she said.

This pivot wasn’t effortless, as you can imagine, with new technologies to master at the same time.

Today, though, Emma is building capacity in her team to improve video production quality and content, so that online programs and other offerings are as user-friendly and high-calibre as possible.

Delivering more offerings to Myall clientele means that varied needs are catered to, too.

“We see that we can extend our business reach using online services to go beyond our existing studio,” says Emma.

“Doing this provides flexibility to our members. They can participate in-studio, via live stream from their home, and/or on-demand with our class recordings.”

The big stretch: Revising your business model for future success

MyAll Wellbeing continues to invest in new team skills.
Photo: Sabine Albers

To make the best out of a tough situation and also to take advantage of the new reality of the current business reality, Emma is investing in employee training and various other areas.

“We need to invest in training to familiarise our team with new online service skills,” said Emma.

“Plus, we have to buy new equipment to improve the quality of our productions.”

Marketing is a point of focus, too.

“We have to enhance our website to market video offerings and programs, and invest further in digital marketing to reach our new customers.”

The last few months have been challenging and full-on for Emma, but she knows this is part and parcel of being an entrepreneur.

“Like any start-up business, it has been a lot of work to cover everything. Wearing many hats and being in crisis mode most of the time — that’s just the way it is with a new business,” Emma recognised.

There are certainly good things to focus on, though.

“We have established a fantastic team, a wonderful studio, and a supportive community.”

The business has seen steady growth since it began, too.

Plus, Emma reports that Myall qualified as a small business participant in the government’s JobKeeper program.

“We were eligible for JobKeeper early on and expect it will continue through to the end of September.”

Another area of support has come from the firm’s commercial landlord, for their business premises.

“We have benefited from rent relief from our landlord during this period,” said Emma, “and expect it will also continue in line with the government guidelines through to the end of September.

“This has helped us to keep afloat during this challenging time.”

Knowing your strengths means getting into the numbers

Moving forward during tough times also requires you to pay extra attention to financial matters, especially those relating to cash flow and forecasting.

Fortunately, Emma has an extensive accounting education and experience, making this aspect of running a business much easier.

“My background is as a Certified Accountant, and I spent 29-plus years of my career in finance roles in large corporates before starting Myall.

“I am well-versed at best practices for maintaining the appropriate systems and processes for monthly and financial year accounting activities.”

Of course, business owners shouldn’t have to build a career in accounting before they can be confident in managing their own accounts, but it should serve as a reminder to seek out the skills and knowledge you lack before making any potentially costly business choices.

Emma oversees all systems and processes in her business, but she also enlists help in order to expand her operational capacity.

“I work alongside a registered tax agent and bookkeeper to ensure we are efficient, effective, and compliant.”

For other business owners in the health and wellbeing sector, and more generally, Emma has some tips for staying focused and moving forward during difficult times.

“A major change, such as the one caused by COVID 19, means that business is disrupted.

“However, out of the disruption comes change and opportunities. To make the most of these opportunities, businesses must take wide and honest views of their positions before jumping into a new direction.”

It’s essential to evaluate not only the status of the organisation but also market conditions.

“Develop an effective strategy that considers the SWOTs (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) of the business and its environment,” said Emma.

“After that, setting out a clear and practical plan for its implementation is key. Remember, though, that this also takes time.”

You can’t adequately invest in your business if you’re not also invested in YOU

Emma also suggests remembering some tried and true business – and life – sayings.

“My advice is to “never say never”, “face the fear and do it anyway”, “be courageous and step outside your comfort zone”, and most importantly, “give it your all”. All very clichéd, I know, but valid.”

To not only survive but also thrive these kinds of market conditions and uncertainties, Emma recommends making sure you don’t try to do everything alone.

Myall's Emma Pugsley.
Emma’s tenacity and dedication to supporting clients and staff is a core attribute to her success at a difficult time. Photo: Supplied.

“Paramount to survival is ensuring you have the right support, resources, and systems in place. And, more important than anything, practise what you preach, especially at this time.

“Take good care and invest in your own health and wellbeing.”

One last word of advice for other entrepreneurs from Emma is to seek specific advice and assistance from experienced people who have “been there and done that”.

“Engaging a mentor can be of great benefit in this situation,” she acknowledges. “Mentors provide ‘cold eyes’ and a different perspective, as well as a wealth of experience. Also, the skills of the mentor can help you to focus on critical priorities and assist with avoiding the feeling of overwhelm.”