During darker times it’s important to remember there can be light at the end of the tunnel. So today’s Perkville success story is one about perseverance. We spoke with Sweet Serenity studio owner Jenine Lehfeldt, who overcame a career-ending injury and other adversities, and found healing and business success through yoga. Jenine shares her inspiring truth below.
How did you get started with your studio?
I discovered yoga late in life through recovery from an on the job injury. I got electrocuted on the set of a movie where I worked as a hairstylist. The injury was career ending - it permanently damaged the ulnar nerve in my right hand. This led me down a dark path where I became an alcoholic, attempted suicide and was mandated into recovery, which is where I discovered yoga. About six months from that fateful day I found a local yoga studio that was shutting its doors. My mom jokingly mentioned I should buy it. I wrote a detailed business plan and received a loan through the Women’s Enterprise Center to begin my own journey as a studio owner. Sweet Serenity Yoga will celebrate its 2nd year this June. We are welcoming to everyone as a space to heal and reconnect with the self.
How has the last year and a half been?
Amazing! The studio is self-sustaining. The first year was a slow climb and then we doubled our membership sign ups for the whole year in September 2019. Word of mouth, especially online reviews, and social media marketing helped our growth. We also started Perkville a few months ago and that’s helped us. The time bonus motivated customers to attend class during slots that were previously slow. Perkville is also integrated into our branded MindBody app which customers really like.
Did you do anything differently at the studio leading up to September 2019?
We had a successful back-to-school sale that offered commitment specific passes as opposed to the usual five class pass. We explained to customers that if their goal is to feel better mentally and physically, then coming in only five times in three months won’t cut it. A commitment specific pass would better help them to attain their goals. Our commitment specific passes are recurring 6 and 12 monthly memberships or a 10 - 20 class pass.
Circling back to how online reviews helped the business, it sounds like you have good ones. What do you attribute that to?
Word of month for sure. I also learned from Perkville people are really motivated by points and prizes. We held a contest for people who review us on Facebook or Google. They were entered into a drawing and a winner was randomly selected to receive a free month of membership.
In addition to Perkville and MindBody, what other software has been helpful to the business?
I use Quickbooks for accounting and Later.com to schedule our social media posts.
What Perkville rewards excites your customers the most?
Many of our customers are aspiring for the $25 off retail which covers the price of our t-shirts or half off a mat. Most customers have already used the first reward which is $5 off retail. Not only do they enjoy it, but it also helps the studio move retail easier.
What is your aspiration with the business?
My long-term goal is to create a franchise that retains its community aspect. So not something on a grand scale, but rather studios in small towns with reasonably sized populations. Community and connection would be the priority. That said, our current goal as a young studio is to have 100 autopay memberships. This would allow me to finally pay myself.
Any advice for someone thinking of owning a yoga studio?
It’s a more expensive endeavor than people think. So my biggest piece of advice is perform a cash flow forecast to help predict how much money is necessary to survive that first year in business. Chances are you will need more than you think. I did not future-cast and realistically could have used 2x my initial $50,000 investment.
Don’t schedule too many classes out of the gate. People won’t know about your studio yet and instructors may still need to be paid even if no one shows up to class.
Keep track of your class attendance. You may love the instructors and classes, but running a studio is still a business. It wasn’t until recently that I reviewed our numbers properly and realized some classes had never done well and were bleeding money. This led to hard, but necessary conversations with staff for the sake of the business.
Be an employer that people want to work for - this means pay your instructors a fair wage, value their time, and be transparent with them within reason so that particularly tough business decisions don’t come as a surprise. All in all be the boss you’d want to work for!