by Rebecca Weible, founder of Yo Yoga!
When you’re opening a business with very little money, you know logically that this will make an already hard thing even harder and require even more work. But you don’t actually know until you are in the thick of it. At some point you will think that you know nothing at all except that you are a total idiot for taking on this endeavor and you will curse money, anyone who has it and yourself for not just being satisfied by the good corporate job that paid you, gave you decent health insurance and made you feel like you were dying a slow, painful death for 9 hours a day.
So now that we have the obvious laid out, you will also learn more than you could have ever imagined about yourself and running a business along with many other small trades such as laying down laminate flooring and how to use a pressure washer.
I’ll expand on that last bit along with other lessons I learned along the way:
Lack of Energy.
When you are bootstrapping a small business, you are not only the boss, you are also the person that cleans, greets customers, makes sales and, depending on your business, provides the service offered. And this is just a short, general list of your responsibilities and does not include the million chores, issues and projects that you did not anticipate, no matter how careful and thorough your planning. Your to-do list is never complete and you are never, truly, off work. No matter how prepared you are to work hard, no matter how much coffee you drink or meditation you practice, the body and the mind will reach a point where you are exhausted and burned out.
While everyone has a difference capacity for how much work and stress they can handle, the bottom line is that everyone does have a limit. On the rare day or afternoon off, you may find that you want to do absolutely nothing besides lay on the couch or in your bed – give into it.
Learning New Skills.
When you have very little money to work with, you have to figure out how to get projects done yourself as cheaply as possible instead of hiring someone else who knows what they are doing. In opening Yo Yoga!, we did the renovations to the space ourselves. Through this, we learned that construction garbage does not go out on the street with the regular garbage. It is also quite expensive to dispose of (one of many examples of the unforeseen costs people talk about in relation to opening a business) or you have to drive it, in several trips, to the dump in New Jersey.
My business partner and I laid the laminate wood flooring for the entire space ourselves based on the instructions that came in the boxes along with some helpful YouTube videos. We did not have the proper tools for cutting said flooring, and probably couldn’t afford them either, so we figured out a way of measuring the space we needed to fit and either using snips or scoring the planks with boxcutters and bending them until they broke off into the shape or length desired. This resulted in a lot of swearing. It took longer than it would have taken a professional and at one point after about 10 hours of laying flooring, while my business partner was struggling to bend an unyielding piece of laminate, it finally snapped and the end came up to slap him right in the face with a resounding smack. But, we did it. We saved a lot of money and to this day I am proud of the accomplishment.
Create a pricing structure that benefits the clients and business.
We opened Yo Yoga! during the recession and had high hopes for offering affordable yoga classes, certain that this would result in packed classes. It did not and we were not charging enough money given our overhead. We also found that because we were low priced and were advertising ourselves that way, we often attracted customers that did not want to spend money and complained about ‘extra’ charges like $1 for a mat rental or bottled water. We had to raise our prices a few times over the years in order to keep our doors open. It took time but we learned how to structure our prices to benefit our regulars – the cornerstone for a business model like ours – and attract new customers while still generating enough money to stay in business and become profitable. We found our voice and style as a business and based our marketing and advertising on what we do and how we do it rather than what we charge.
Opening a small business with no idea how to run a business and very little money is the hardest thing I have ever done and despite the hardships, the stress and the massive amount of work, even at the worst times, it has always felt worth it to be my own boss. Like people always say about kids, it’s different when they’re your own. My mom told me that getting my MBA or opening a business would probably cost about the same amount and that I’d learn the same things and I think she was right (although I don’t think they teach you how to lay laminate flooring in grad school…but maybe they should!).
With bootstrapping a business, at the end of the day as you’re cleaning the toilet and the floors, you can still say to yourself ‘I’m the boss, I make the decisions, I’m the CEO!’
Rebecca Weible is the founder of Yo Yoga! in New York City. Although her teaching style focuses heavily on alignment and even-breathing, she never loses the elements of fun and humor during classes. Rebecca is recognized by the Yoga Alliance as an experienced teacher due to the combination of her extensive training and hours taught. Yo Yoga! is also the first studio in NY to offer weekly Sound Off Experience yoga classes. Rebecca has been featured on PureWow, Men’s Journal, the New York Times, Yoga Digest, Brit+Co, Rodale Wellness and much more.