For many, the term spa conjures rich scenes of indulgent pampering carried out in exclusive spaces designed to transport clients into a world of elegant, serene luxury and sensual pleasure. On the extreme side, images of excessive, cosmetically driven services can seem a bit off-putting, especially to yogis hoping to find therapeutic, healing results from the treatments they seek.
In actuality, the modern spa offers a world of breadth. Embodying many different forms and satisfying an amazing variety of needs and purposes, a spa can range from a single room to a city block, from a place to indulge in aesthetic pleasure to a space for awakening spiritual awareness, from a haven to escape the world to a community where we can reconnect. Discovering the benefits of adding spa services to the menu, many yoga studios are beginning to stretch the meaning of the word even further. The increasing popularity of the yogic spa is creating opportunity for studio owners to strengthen their services, funnel in more business and boost their bottom lines—provided they have the vision and tools needed to make their dreams a reality.
If your yoga studio has been considering making the jump into the spa world, it can be a lucrative move, but will take more than a leap of faith. Eager to roll out new services to clients, studio owners may find themselves racing to unveil a new business without taking a step back to properly consider fundamental positioning and marketing strategies.
“We often have the idea that if I build it, they will come,” warns yoga business
coach Al Lipper. “That rarely works. It’s more of a myth than a reality in business. If you build it, you don’t market it and you don’t have an audience for it, they won’t come.” Embracing both intuitive and business faculties in the planning process will assist you to make the choices that are right for your studio while maintaining the broadened perspective that will allow you to make informed decisions as your business grows.
Taking a mindful, thorough approach to expanding your yoga business will pay off tenfold as your studio evolves. The first step in the planning process is to narrow in on your vision and determine the receptivity of both your current and prospective customers to your intended offering. In order to get an initial handle on interest, it’s important to do your homework. Visit other spas in your area and take notes on what they are offering, what they are charging, who they are attracting and how their business is doing. Determine who you would like to target and what kind of competition you will inevitably face. Coming out of the research phase, you should feel confident there is a local community your spa will appeal to, and that they have the money to pay for the services you intend to provide.
The easiest way to make a smooth transition into spa services is to build a sturdy bridge from the yoga business you are already nurturing. Yoga Business Coach™ Alón Sagee suggests offering services that inherently compliment yoga to create an immediate customer base, or your current clients. Striving to maintain a cohesive environment for both your yoga studio and spa services will not only offer a more enriching, holistic experience for your clients, but will allow you to propel your business forward with the opportunity for seamless crossover between disciplines.
Many yoga studios
that have successfully expanded often express having been fueled by the desire to better serve their current students by offering a multitude of different holistic services. Christine Burke, founder of Liberation Yoga
, describes the role of Liberation’s spa services by stating, “I loved the idea that people would be able to support themselves in a number of ways in addition to the yoga practice.” Burke has described the process of expanding services at Liberation as completely organic. Making decisions from a mindful, intuitive place has allowed her to maintain the essence of Liberation Yoga throughout the spa. Voted the best Yoga Studio in 2006 by City Search, Liberation Yoga occupies a cozy, welcoming space. Purchased in the summer of 2004, the existing yoga business came complete with a private room and a shiatsu massage therapist. By 2005, Liberation yoga was offering a host of massage services including chiropractic, Shiatsu, deep-tissue massage and pregnancy/post-partum massage. Liberation has added garden pedicures to the menu, which come complete with Reiki, reflexology and aromatherapy in the soothing garden. Creating a noncompetitive environment was an important consideration for Burke. Each of Liberation Yoga’s practitioners specializes in their own unique discipline, creating more services for clients and a harmonious environment within the space. Taking a percentage of each practitioner’s fee, she has allowed practitioners flexibility in determining their own rates. Supplemental income from the spa has helped to bring in more money to the business. Burke estimates that 10% of Liberation’s total profits are generated from spa services.
If you are interested integrating new spa services into your studio, but aren’t sure of the market and don’t have experience, you may want to take a cue from Liberation Yoga and start small. By testing the waters, you will have a more accurate view on whether or not the inclusion of spa services in your studio will be well-received. Sagee suggests handing out surveys in your yoga classes to gauge whether your current audience will be receptive to future plans. After you have confirmed interest, all you need to get started is a secluded room, ideally the same room currently use for yoga privates. If you decide to rent this room to spa practitioners, there won’t be any startup costs. In fact, if your private room isn’t already occupied during the times during the day you decide to rent it out, you stand to start making an immediate profit.
If you have a handle on the research and have confirmed the potential for success, the next phase toward unveiling your spa includes a comprehensive planning process. As you plan your spa, you will have a number of things to consider: What would you like to offer your clients? How much physical space will your spa require? How will you decorate? A crucial part of your future success will depend on how clearly you will be able to define a compelling concept. “Each aspect of your business needs to link to the next,” advises Porshah Dayton, owner of Seattle’s The Sanctuary and Soul Ease yogic spas. “There needs to be a story to tell. I’ve seen spas fail because they think, OK, this seems like a relaxing space, but there is no story to it.
There is no reason why the place is there besides we’re going to give you a massage.” Defining an unmistakable, differentiating positioning for your space will make your spa memorable and create the buzz you’ll need to take off.
Building cooperative relationships between the studio and spa, yogic spas Soul Ease and The Sanctuary have manifested thriving businesses. Pioneers of stress management and detox programs that incorporate yoga, spa treatments and workshops, owner Dayton and yoga director Amber Tande have found success in promoting cross-discipline packages to nurture the whole individual. The stress management program provides an integrated solution to ease the affects of stress and curb its interference in our daily lives. The program includes two unlimited months of yoga, two stress reduction massages, two wellness consultations and four 90-minute seminars. The program, along with the popular detox class, has been a significant force in introducing clients to both spa and yoga aspects of the business.
After an incredible health turnaround from participation in a detox program, Barry Allen teamed up with massage therapist Porshah Dayton in 2003 to create Soul Ease, a holistic yogic spa. Balancing yoga with a plethora of other holistic services, including a more robust detox program, Soul Ease became an intimate, healing space for Seattle residents. When the opportunity to purchase The Sanctuary, a yogic spa three times the size of Soul Ease, presented itself in 2005, Allen and Dayton jumped at the chance. During a somewhat sticky transition period, Dayton, Allen and Tande worked to develop and communicate a place for yoga and the spa to live together beyond The Sanctuary’s previous confines of an intense, physical yoga program and cosmetically driven spa.
Moving into deeper, more spiritually infused yoga and a holistic, healing spa, The Sanctuary emerged from the transition a strong, integrated wellness center. In addition to stress management and detox programs, Sanctuary offers a broad array of services including hot stone massage, reflexology, Thai massage, deep pore facials, Zen acupressure, microdermabrasion, naturopathic medicine and body treatments complete with a Vichy shower. The more intimate Soul Ease offers a similar range of services and also includes Traditional Chinese Medicine practices such as acupuncture and sound meridian therapy among others. Dayton was able to price services based on her prior experience in the industry. She relays a solid management team with prior spa experience is vital for success.
Another spa, which has undergone a beautiful transformation over the past few years, is Golden Bridge
’s wellness center Amrit Davaa. Transitioning from a one-room office to a thriving community of wellness practitioners, the Amrit Davaa wellness center, directed by Dr. Natalie Nevins, has emerged as a vital part of Golden Bridge Yoga’s vision for a spiritual village. Working together with Golden Bridge owner Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa, Dr. Nevins constructed the concept for the wellness center for two years prior to moving into Golden Bridge’s current space. The space offers a wealth of healing services including acupuncture, acupressure, homeopathy, naturopathic medicine, Reiki, speech and language pathology, psychotherapy, hypnotherapy and massage therapy among others.
With 30 years of experience in Los Angeles, Golden Bridge’s service, aesthetic and sense of community are unparalleled. Creating a holistic, integrated sanctuary for clients, Golden Bridge’s beautiful space features an open, expansive layout that naturally flows from one area into the next. The large, central yoga floor, wellness center, side studios, organic eatery, tea bar, herb store and even the bathrooms seem to naturally unfold as you move through the elegant, open space. “We’ve wanted Golden Bridge to feel like a spiritual village—not just a yoga studio,” says Dr. Nevins. “A place where people can come and feel safe for their food, for their physical body, for their spiritual body and their mental body—all of it together balances as much as humanly possible. It’s really meant to be as inclusive as you can be in a realistic situation.” Taking their philosophy and spirit east, Golden Bridge opened a three-story studio in New York City earlier this year where they host yoga, Pilates, meditation and chanting classes.
As spa expansion begins to actualize, there will be several factors to consider, such as new technology needs, upgrading your insurance policy and personnel needs, including practitioner payment methods and strategies to curb turnover. Hiring an excellent staff willing to stick with you through a potentially sticky start-up can be chief among concerns for new spa owners. Practitioner turnover can be a common occurrence in new spas working to attract business. In order to retain quality practitioners, it’s important to be up front with your new staff regarding current realities and the potential for future growth. You may consider temporarily working out an hourly payment plan until you are able to consistently fill rooms and work out other popular payment options such as room rates. Once you have built up your list of clients, training your staff to represent the spa and effectively interact with clients is another important consideration. After spending marketing dollars to bring new clients into the spa, your team should be working to enhance relationships, thereby increasing retention.
As you gain a solid customer base, another great way to bring additional profits into the spa is through product retail. A spa store can be a terrific financial supplement to the spa business itself. Items sold in the store turn a bigger profit without the tax of factors such as practitioner payments and supply fees taken out of your other services. Dayton speculates that spa sales at Soul Ease and The Sanctuary bring in a total of 30% of total spa profits. A carefully selected array of inventory can support business and assist customers in discovering organic products. Turning clients on to new products recommended by your spa can serve as another point of contact between you and your customers, building your relationship even further.
Once the spa is up, running and ready to go, focused marketing will play a vital role in generating new business. The first place to activate spa recruitment is within your own building. Sagee proposes utilizing free or discounted spa service incentives for your current yoga students. This type of promotion can be effective in attracting initial crossover business from within the spa. Once you have achieved a measure of crossover, a referral program can entice spa clients to spread the word. Offering free or discounted service incentives to clients who bring people into the spa is a great way trigger word of mouth in the community, generating new business in your spa. Selling gift baskets including spa gift certificates can be another way to prompt new introductions to the spa.
Generating business from within will not only lead to more business both for your studio and spa, but it will greatly increase the retention
of your current students. When clients are able to enjoy a series of different disciplines and to interact with fellow students and practitioners in deeper, more meaningful ways, the studio and spa transcend services and become enriching experiences yielding loyal customers.
Branching out to new clients in the community, the Internet can be an invaluable tool for getting the word out about your spa in a relatively cost efficient manner. “The Internet today is what the Yellow Pages were 10 years ago,” says Lipper. In order to ensure you are being seen by the people who would be interested in your business, you need to ensure your spa comes up when potential clients in your community search the Web for services you are providing. To ensure your business pops up on popular search engines, learning more about SEO (search engine optimization) will be highly beneficial. Understanding the SEO process will better allow you to build your site so key words are indexed and extracted by top search engines. Because gaining optimal results is directly related to your Web site’s coding, it will be best to consider the SEO process as you create or update your Web site. For more information on the SEO process and what might be right for your company.
As you begin to gain more hits and information requests via e-mail from potential clients, nurture the connection and stay top of mind by creating an email relationship. If a prospective client requests information via your site, it’s important to build that relationship even if they won’t be visiting your spa anytime soon. If they have inquired about massage services, Lipper suggests deepening your connection by sending them actual articles regarding the benefits of massage every 4-5 days. This way you are adding value and building a relationship. Best of all, the next time that person decides to get a massage, you will be a prime candidate for their business.
As business continues to grow, you can enhance and nurture additions to the spa using the same principles: maintain your vision, determine potential interest and position services in a unique way. As you move forward, heed the advice of those who have gone before you. Lipper advises future spa owners to refrain from the desire to reinvent the wheel. “Someone else knows how to do this, they’ve spent years figuring out all the pitfalls here; they have lost all this money because they did A, B and C and it didn’t work. You don’t need to do A, B and C anymore.” To avoid the mistakes of others, pick a phone and talk to spa owners in noncompetitive regions. Choose spas that are in line with the vision you have created for your future spa and ask the owner to spend five minutes talking to you about potential pitfalls you may not have considered.
If you are looking to create a small spa, Christine Burke suggests future studio owners ensure they refrain from making isolated decisions. For a harmonious environment, services added to the spa menu should be congruent with your yoga studio so that the spa naturally becomes part of the business. For those looking for larger expansion, Dayton cautions new spa owners to be ready for turnover and suggests combating it by hiring spa managers with experience so they can mentor practitioners, helping them to build business skills and work toward goals. She also suggests adding value for employees, aiding them with career incentives by giving them the opportunity to gain further training and education. Dr. Nevins reinforces the need for a strong planning process. If you have a vision for the services, but don’t have the space to support it, you won’t be able to realize your plans.
At times overwhelming, the process of expanding or building a spa can be daunting, but the rewards for you and your clients are priceless. Whether it’s providing organic facials, Thai yoga massages or Eastern medicine, there is opportunity. Wherever you and your clients interests meet can be fertile ground. As elaborate as Burke Williams or as simple as a cozy room, if your intuition and business sense can agree that your decisions are right for the company, you are on your way to a thriving yogic spa.