It seems strange to see those words and even stranger to say them out loud. But it’s true. After being the sole proprietor of Om West Holistic Centre for five years, I am choosing a new path. This is no doubt a huge change for me and it was a difficult decision. I have spent 17 years at this yoga centre.
How I came to own a yoga studio
My yoga life began in the dimly lit, carpeted studio at 46 Ste Anne Street in Pointe Claire Village, which is about 25km west of downtown Montreal. It was circa 1996 and no one cool had ever tried yoga expect maybe the Beatles 30 years prior. I’m an awkward teenager working part-time for Gigi, the owner of said yoga studio. With her encouragement/enforcement, my friend and I start practicing Ashtanga yoga with Mark Darby, who is fresh from India and impatient with awkward teenagers. (By the way, Darby is now a renown world-traveling yoga teacher, but he had his Western debut at Gigi’s humble little studio, as did several other yoga masters.) For some reason, I stick with ashtanga yoga, although I distinctly remember not having much affinity towards it back then.
A few years later, at age 18 or 19, I end up on a deserted island in British Colombia learning yoga from Claire, a spirited 24-year-old who had taught yoga in Costa Rica. I’m mesmerized by her soulful beauty and I wanted to be like her, so because of her prompting, I started teaching yoga to kids. The summer ends and I’m back in Pointe Claire. Gigi puts me in charge of the kids yoga program at her Centre. I have no idea what I’m doing, but I borrow a book from the library and I make it up as I go along. (Admittedly, making things up as I go is a tactic I continue to rely on to this day!)
Two years later and I’m in Australia for a year. I’m at RMIT university. I am teaching adult yoga, and I attempt to record my first yoga cd (alone in a basement radio booth). It’s January 2003 and I’m back again at the Centre in Pointe Claire Village. Gigi convinces me to stay in Montreal and manage her centre. Good call, because in the year I was Down Under, North Americans go crazy for yoga.
My evening classes quickly overflow. Pretty soon and I’m all over the place teaching 6000 classes a week and I LOVE IT, but I don’t really have much formal training. So after briefly flirting with the idea of moving to Norway, I commit to living in Montreal for another year, and register for Mark Darby and Hart Lazer’s 200 hour yoga teacher training. It’s there I meet my best yogi friends Mark Laham and Jamie Lee. I’m extremely tempted to follow Mark’s path of nomade yoga teacher, but when Jamie decides to buy Yoga Source, a studio in the South Shore, getting a studio of my own seems like a good idea. In 2005, Gigi offers to sell me her studio. I say, no. When she asks again in 2006, I say, yes, and acquire a bank loan.
What I discover
I discover that owning a studio is a lot more complex than managing one part-time. Argumentative staff, a dissatisfied client, and big bills, there are moments I am sick with anxiety and stress. Someone says, “Why don’t you try some yoga? Ha Ha,” and I want to scream. However, I then find Marianne, a wonderful mothery manager, who helps me get organized. A few years go by. The studio grows, and my responsibilities continue to increase. I’m overwhelmed and I really can’t think straight. I need guidance.
I find Lisa Lajoie, a spiritual mastermind, and she and I become pals. “I’m not sure if I want all these responsibilities, and I’m not sure I’m meant to be a yoga teacher. Sometimes, I feel like I poser…” I rhapsodize. Lisa and I talk a lot. But I still I don’t know what to do. I pray for inspiration. I meditate. I write. I decide to embark on an inner pilgrimage, a mala of 108 practices. On April 15, Lisa suggests I start on the 108th day of the year, which is three days later. I protest I’m not prepared, but she shoots me her ‘Don’t mess with me’ look, so I go home and freak out all night. Nevertheless, on the morning of April 18, 2010, I start my journey of 108 daily sun salutations in company of my friend Ron Cherilus, I AM Coach and some of the students of Om West.
Of course, what transpires next, are the 108 days of surya namasker that are already outlined in the pages of this blog. During this time, it becomes increasingly oblivious to me that I no longer want to run a yoga centre. But I feel like a mother afraid to admit she is too young to raise a child, so I keep my mouth shut, and force my way through hours of tedious administrative tasks. The 108 days end with a 32 hour consecutive yoga marathon at Om West. It’s the most amazing experience of my life. I am doing my favourite thing in the world, I’m in my studio, and I’m surrounded by my favourite people. I am so in love with each moment. I don’t want to let it go.
Changes and New Studio Management
Marianne and I part ways in the fall and Tasreen joins me as studio manager. Working with Tas is great. Along with my new business advisor, Blair, we implement procedures and systems. I’m learning a lot about business, and the studio is becoming busier. Sales are going up, but I still feel burdened with decisions and tasks. By Christmas, it’s clear I need a radical change. At first, I think getting a partner would be helpful, and I toy with this concept for a few months. Unfortunately, a good partnership candidate fails to appear, so I start exploring other options like selling yoga studio Om West. I sign-on, then quickly sign-off with a business broker. He doesn’t understand the needs of the studio, and I’m determined to find someone who will care, really care about the well being of my Centre and the students who come there. My goal is to find new owners before I turn 30. I don’t know the first thing about the business of selling yoga studio. With no broker and no leads, I worry, then I pray and meditate.
Selling Yoga Studio Om West
What follows is rather serendipitous. One quiet Friday afternoon in May 2011, I get a Marma Point Massage from Antoine. Afterward, we sit and have tea. He tells me how much he and his wife, Pamela, love Om West, and he says that if I ever consider selling yoga studio, to tell him first as they would be very interested. From there, we meet and exchange non-disclosure agreements. I spend the summer organizing more paperwork that I have in my entire five years of business ownership. But then things fall into place, and here I am. Pamela and Anotine officially take my place as owners Jan. 1, 2012.
I have to say, it feels good to share this story of selling yoga studio. I am grateful beyond words to my parents, my friends, my teachers, my advisors, who have been there for me every step of the way. I have learned so much and grown so much. I feel I understand business now and I want to help other yogi entrepreneurs. I am a little nervous, but also excited, about what lies ahead.