When Emily Ridout and her sister Christine Russell founded 889 Community in 2007, they knew exactly what their studio would stand for: community.
While the studio has evolved over the past 10 years, the intentions from the beginning have stayed strong, making their space a home away from home for many members.
We chatted with Emily about 889 Community’s business philosophy and future. In the process, we learned how the studio has stayed true to its brand, and makes an impact beyond its walls. Read Emily’s story below, and look for the key takeaways you can apply to your business.
Emily Ridout (above).
Can you give us an overview of your business and how you got started?
My sister and I always knew we wanted to start a business together. We come from a long line of entrepreneurs. Our father is an entrepreneur, both of our grandfathers were entrepreneurs and our husbands are entrepreneurs as well. We were inspired to open up a studio as we both shared a passion for yoga, and were practicing together in LA. We noticed that no businesses in Toronto offered anything like what we had envisioned, so we decided to start our own yoga studio.
We launched 889 Yoga with our brand focused on providing a welcoming environment and community feel that would appeal to new yoga practitioners and beginner-intermediate students; our target audience.
Takeaway 1: have a clear vision of what your brand represents, and its target audience
Takeaway 2: research the market to ensure a need exists before starting a new business
How did 889 Yoga become 889 Community?
We have an active online community on our Facebook Page where we have authentic conversations with members. The same energy exists within the studio. The staff have in-depth conversations with students that make us feel like a tight knit family. So naturally, we decided to put the focus on community.
The next step for the business is making sure the community stays accessible. To do so, we are always creating new content for Facebook. We have different 889 teachers use our Facebook Live to lead short meditations or exercises for 15-30 minutes, so you don’t have to be in a class to participate in the 889 Community. It’s been very successful.
Christine and I are also into essential oils, and share information about the oils we use on Facebook Live. Every week or month we post about how customers can use essential oils, for example, to detoxify your home or get the best sleep. We sell essential oils in The 889 Shop, so it's been a nice tie back to the business.
Takeaway 3: You can use digital technology to simultaneously connect with customers in real time (like using Facebook live) and create evergreen content (such as videos from Facebook live) that can help you grow.
Can you tell us a little more about essential oils?
Sure!Essential oils are now our top selling product in the shop by a landslide!
They can be used for many different purposes. For instance, you can use essential oils to get ahead of your child’s temper tantrum or mood, and use the oils to calm them down. No other remedy has ever worked as fast and efficient on my children.
In August, we will be diffusing a blend of peppermint and wild orange essential oils in the studio. Peppermint promotes clear breathing, digestive health and abundance, while Wild Orange is purifying, cleansing and uplifting.
Takeaway 4: Finding ancillary products that you’re passionate about and that match your brand can be a great way to grow revenue, both by marketing them and selling them in your store.
How do you decide what products and services to sell?
All of the products we offer in The 889 Shop come from Christine and I’s personal experience.
The props we use in our yoga, pilates, and meditation classes are made by brands we support for their quality and integrity.
We added Pilates to our offering after my chiropractor recommended it, to strengthen my core, after my first child was born. I became evangelical about Pilates and we introduced it to the studio. Not only did we attract a whole new customer base, but it also provided our existing customer base with a new way to enhance their bodies and minds.
When meditation was launched six or seven years ago, it was because my sister and I had started meditation to manage the stress of running a business. We were fulfilling a need, but eventually wanted customers to know what it felt like to meditate as well.
Christine and I only promote products and services that we love, and as a result, have been able to keep the brand authentic, organically.
Takeaway 5: keep the brand authentic. For instance, provide offerings that you personally love.
What are your goals for the rest of 2017?
We are always looking to improve the customer experience, and will continue to do so this year with the 889 Happiness Team. That’s what we call our front desk staff who help members decompress as soon as they arrive.
The Happiness Team greets customers at the door, remembers their names, checks them into class, and acts as a listening ear for each and every customers. Recently, we gave our Team the opportunity to submit proposals for special events. As a result, we’re going to host an open house at the end of summer, and a yoga and arts event this fall.
Takeaway 6: get feedback and input from the staff that are closest to your customers.
What marketing strategies do you use to keep up the brand?
We have noticed that Facebook and Instagram have a big impact on our business. Therefore, we make it a priority to post on social media in a way that is genuinely authentic. We won’t say “try this” or “buy this”,but instead, we give our customers free content from 889 Community that they can take into the world.
Another regular practice we use is conversing online with people who are inline with our values and really love the 889 Community. It shows our appreciation for members, and other customers can read about what’s happening to people in our community as well.
Takeaway 7: use social media to have authentic conversation with your customers.
What software helps with your day-to-day operations?
We run our entire business online with MINDBODY, and use Sprout Social to organize our social media at least one quarter in advance. Our customers also love their Perkville perks! We reward them with points for attending classes, events, referring friends, and for their birthdays. Our guests can save up their points to receive a free class for themselves or a friend, one month of unlimited classes, or a free Thai Yoga massage. Perkville is a fun way for our customers to feel positive, and we love recognizing them for contributing to our business and being a loyal member of our 889 Community.