Yoga, Entrepreneurship, and Finding Your Niche: a Fireside Chat with Lauren Spearman, Founder of R&a
Lauren Spearman has been practicing yoga since the age of 14. As she explored different interests in college, she realized that her passion was yoga. After receiving her certification at a young age, Lauren began teaching yoga throughout the city of Chicago and eventually made a business out of it- R&B Yoga.
In this Fireside Chat, we spoke with Lauren about how she turned her passion into a career, tripled the size of her classes in just months, and how maintains a large enough presence to sell out every week.
How did you come up with the concept of R&B Yoga?
I got my certification when I was just 21, and I realized that there were not many young people teaching yoga. I was hanging out with friends after I had rented out a space to host yoga classes. I didn’t know what type of classes I wanted to teach, but I knew that I wanted it to be different. I wanted to stand out. So when I was hanging out with my friends, a Drake song was playing and I asked them if they would do yoga to it. They all said yes. So that’s where the idea came from.
R&B Yoga is my young, millennial twist on things. It’s not just yoga, but it’s music, drinks, and brunch. Those are all things that are very in, and it’s everything that people love. To come up with the concept I just thought of the things that I like, and incorporated them into my classes. It’s my business, but it doesn’t feel like work.
How did you make the transition from having an idea to having a company?
I guess it all started when I rented the studio space. After I finished college I was teaching yoga at a fertility center, which I loved, but I felt as though I wasn’t utilizing my certification in the way that I should be. I wasn’t my niche. I was thinking about what my niche would be, and I rented out the studio space without even figuring that out. I had no clue what I would do, but I knew that I work well under pressure, so I just rented out the space and gave myself the pressure of having to think of something. I kept saying that I wanted to do things, and there was one day that I told myself that I was going to do all of the things that I kept talking about.
Anyone can be a yoga instructor. It costs a bit of money, but you can take classes and be certified within a month. Because there are so many yoga teachers these days, you have to think of something that will really set you apart from the rest, otherwise it will just be another yoga class. Yoga is yoga, and it’s awesome, but the teacher is what makes or breaks the class. Not only do I have to make people want to come back, but I have to pull people in to keep business flowing. R&B Yoga definitely pulls people in, and once they come to the class, and see all of the benefits of yoga, they have a good time. Plus, it helps that I’m super energetic.
Tell me about some of the groundwork you had to do in order to get started.
The first studio came to me. They were looking for instructors to rent out the space. After seeing that my classes were filling up, I realized that I needed to invest in a booking system that would help to legitimize me. I needed something that was efficient but also affordable for a small business, so that was the first real step. That was my first venue. R&B Yoga really started to bloom when I started hosting rooftop classes at Whiskey Business, which is a beautiful bar in Wicker Park with an enclosed roof.
How do you promote your business?
Instagram. Surprisingly, I get my smallest pool from Instagram.
Facebook. Our largest pool comes from Facebook. They have a sponsor feature for small businesses, and you can pay to sponsor your own ads. Once I started doing that, my classes began to book to capacity. I’ve met people who attend my classes all the way from Wisconsin. I talk to people after the classes and get to know them, and I’ve realized that the reason I am able to reach so many people from so many different places is because of Facebook.
Group Me. There’s a large GroupMe for Chicago and it has over 1,000 members that tell you things to do in the city. I never thought that I could post a yoga class. I was in the group to see what was happening around the city, but I never joined it to promote my classes. One day someone in the group asked, “who is the girl that does the R&B yoga class?” I responded, and from there I just began posting it within the feed.
R&B Yoga is a huge success, but what are some of the challenges you face?
The financing aspect can be difficult. I have a team of three people, and I have a friend, Fred, who handles the monetary part of the business. If I didn’t have him, I wouldn’t know what I was doing. We are a sole proprietor, and one day we will get our LLC, but in my opinion we are still relatively small. We are also working to legitimize the business.
Another challenge would be coming up with new ideas. I started with the in-studio classes, which had a capacity for 15 people and would always sell out. When summer came along, I began to host the rooftop classes at Whiskey Business which can fit 45 people, which also sells out. Now I have to think of something else. Plus, when the fall comes along I won’t be able to do rooftop yoga so I need to think about how to keep everyone’s interest.
How did you go about finding the right people for your team?
They are actually my friends. In the beginning it was tough because I had to differentiate between our friendship and the business. Fred, who handles the finances, graduated with a degree in Finance from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, and I knew his background and that he was really passionate. I thought he was brilliant and I knew I needed someone like that on my team.
The DJ is a friend of mine and he is literally my favorite DJ, so choosing him was a no-brainer. R&B Yoga is based on music. It’s yoga, but the music is what differentiates us, and I knew he would be perfect.
Then there is Madison who is the head of check-ins and social media. She is my best friend and I trust her. Our photographer is on the team on an as-needed basis, but I still count them as being a part of the team. He is the reason why people are attracted to the page in the first place and is why we do so well on social media.
In general, everyone is someone who I trust. I definitely prefer quality over quantity for building out the team.
What advice would you give to other young entrepreneurs?
Being an entrepreneur goes way beyond the business. It also involves your emotions. Your whole life becomes your business. I represent R&B Yoga at all times, and there is a certain way that I have to handle myself at events, and there is a certain presence that I need to maintain. We are young, but I have to keep a professional look at all times.
Expect your whole life to change. You have to be strong and have the thickest skin. People will try to bite your ideas, they will say that you can’t do certain things, or that what you are doing isn’t of any purpose. Through it all you just have to be strong and believe in yourself.
Book a class with Lauren and experience R&B Yoga for yourself.