lady startup

'I'm a small business owner. I'm begging you to stop asking for free stuff.'

I’m a small business owner and I provide a service. 

When we think about women in business, many of us think about those making or selling goods. For this reason, I wanted to highlight what you might not see about those of us in the service industry – specifically, in my case, as a yoga studio owner. 

I’ve been teaching yoga for almost 20 years and run my own studio for nearly 15 years. And things have changed in that time!

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These days I often see women in Facebook groups or social media platforms asking, “Where can I get free online yoga classes or content?” And on the surface, that might seem like a perfectly reasonable question.

You’re at home, you want to do some yoga and you know it’s probably out there for free. But have you ever thought of this? 

Would that question - “Where can I get a free… jacket/coffee/take away meal/pair of sneakers etc” ever cross your mind?

You see, we often view what we ‘get’ from a business as valuable only if we can bring it home and put it on. 

I’m exaggerating, but my point is, we often think of a purchase as an exchange for some ‘goods’ e.g. your take away coffee. 

But service businesses, like any other, are real businesses too. And they need your support – now more than ever.

Often those of us providing services have trained for years (and years) to get a qualification or experience. 

In the style of yoga I teach - which is Iyengar Yoga - it takes a minimum of three years (not a typo – yes years not months) to become a teacher. We need to be able to charge for our expertise.

As businesses we also have expenses just like any other - rent, overheads, staff, marketing… the list goes on. All of which need to be paid for. 

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And by sourcing a service for free, this cuts so many women who rely on paying customers to survive, totally out of the picture.

Right now, it might be tempting to turn to YouTube for a free yoga class but I can assure you, they don’t need more views. 

On the other hand, your local Yoga / Pilates / Fitness studio needs you now more than ever. During the COVID-19 pandemic, much of the focus has been on tourism or hospitality, and how those industries are doing it tough. No doubt about it, they are.

However, very little has been spoken about boutique fitness studios. As a business sector, we have been lumped in with ‘indoor recreation’ and have had the strictest restrictions of all. 

My studio is based in Melbourne and apart from one tiny window where restrictions eased for what seemed like a split second, we have basically been closed since March. That's almost five months.  

Are we teaching online? Yes. Is it enough to pay all the bills? No. But we are doing it because it keeps our community together and provides a very real support structure for our students in these especially difficult times. 

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We get to see each other (on screen) and will often have a chat and a check in at the end of class. In every class, our students are given individual adjustments, encouragement and guidance. 

We have cultivated and continue to maintain a strong and connected community. And that is not available for free on YouTube! 

As service industry providers, businesses like ours also understand that everyone is in a tough financial position right now. So if you really can’t afford to pay to learn a skill, why not approach your local business and see if they will offer you a discount? 

At my studio, for example, we have a financial hardship policy where we never turn away anyone who can’t pay – in the good faith that maybe down the track when things turn the corner for them, they will be able to become a loyal paying customer. 

So please, don’t go on YouTube, contact your local studio and please support small business Startup services.

Bronwyn Rust is the Owner and Senior Teacher at Yogaville in Melbourne

Image: Supplied / Andrew Wuttke

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