“I believe yoga changes people’s lives,” says Shelley D’Amico. “It’s a way to gather self, and create calm amidst the chaos.”
The Vancouver Island-based entrepreneur operates Namaskar Yoga Studio. The studio is a popular hub in the rapidly growing community of Parksville, with both locals and visitors attending a wide variety of yoga classes.
Namaskar is located in downtown Parksville, across the street from the town’s famous sandy beach and a popular public park. Equipped with showers, meditation chairs and an abundance of yoga props, the studio was professionally designed and built — including an arched entry reminiscent of the Taj Mahal.
“When I leased the space in 2016, I invested everything I had into creating my dream yoga studio,” says D’Amico. “I wanted to merge the amenities of a big city studio with the charm and humility of a small island town.”
“My builder gutted the space and started from scratch. All the carpeting was ripped out and new laminate floors were installed in the reception area, while cork floors were installed in the studio,” she says. “We have a beautiful feature stone wall with backlighting in the room itself, built in wall to wall shelving, pot lights, surround sound stereo and a state of the art heating system.”
While expensive to run throughout the year, the heating system is an integral part of Namaskar.
“Namaskar Yoga Studio offers both hot-yoga and non-heated classes,” says D’Amico. “Rather than using forced air or space heaters, we use infrared heating, which heats the room evenly. There is also an air-return system, so the air in hot yoga classes is clean, and the room does not get stuffy.”
Before relocating to Vancouver Island from Toronto in 2011, D’Amico spent 25 years working in the corporate world, specializing in marketing and communications. After resigning from her position in 2014, D’Amico got serious about her yoga practice. It changed her life so dramatically that she decided to become a teacher herself so she could share her learnings. Upon graduating, D’Amico quickly found work as an instructor at a Parksville yoga studio, which has since gone out of business.
“Before the ink had dried on my teaching certificate, I knew I wanted my own studio,” D’Amico says. “I was fortunate to work at a studio where I could observe things that worked well and things that didn’t. I said to myself, ‘When I have my own yoga studio, I’m going to do things differently.”
Since then, D’Amico’s hard work as an entrepreneur has not gone unnoticed: in 2018 she was recognized in two categories as a top 10 Small Business BC awards finalist. Namaskar also received the 2017 Small Business of the Year award from the Parksville Chamber of Commerce.
The Challenge: Developing Reliable Cash Flow Throughout the Year
Besides investing considerable resources to create the perfect yoga studio, D’Amico also put a lot of thought into developing a revenue model that is aimed at providing a reliable cash flow throughout the year. To attract customers, Namaskar offers a wide variety of class styles, including gentle yoga, beginner yoga, power flow, yin yoga, restorative yoga and more.
“Namaskar also works with teachers who have different teaching styles,” D’Amico says. “We all bring something to the table, and our clients love our diversity of approaches.”
Interest in yoga classes tends to be seasonal, and this affects her revenue, according to D’Amico. Late December and early January, when people are thinking about New Years’ resolutions and getting in shape is the time when Namaskar experiences a rush in signups. Interest then slowly ebbs for the rest of the year, although D’Amico says September and the back-to-school season typically sees another surge in memberships.
D’Amico must also factor weather into her business plans.
“In the fall and winter it’s cold or rainy and people are happy to practice indoors,” she says. “But as the spring arrives, and into the summer, most people would rather be active outside and enjoying the weather, rather than spending time inside.”
This waxing and waning of cash flow throughout the year is a common problem when it comes to the hot yoga industry, D’Amico says.
In order to generate revenues during the slower summer months, Namaskar has partnered with the Beach Club, a popular beachfront resort in Parksville, to offer outdoor yoga to their guests. Select Namaskar members are eligible to participate in outdoor yoga classes at the resort, which helps retain them until the yoga high season of fall and winter.
“Namaskar Yoga Studio offers a variety of plans, classes and passes in order to attract the maximum number of customers,” says D’Amico. “We want to make yoga accessible for every body and of course, make it easy for customers to pay.”
While there are drop-in plans and passes at a wide range of one-time fees, Namaskar offers two monthly unlimited plans, where members can attend as many yoga classes as they want throughout the month, at two different price points. One monthly pass costs $150 which is paid as a lump sum at the beginning of each month. However, Namaskar’s “Auto-Pay Yogi Membership” also offers unlimited monthly classes, but for substantially less, at $105 a month.
“Auto-pay, or auto-renewal, where a customer signs up to automatically renew their membership by credit card each month, is my primary way of generating reliable recurring revenue,” D’Amico says. “As a business owner, auto-renewal makes it easier for me to budget and forecast revenues.
To provide an incentive to sign up, Namaskar’s auto-renewal program also includes several perks, where members can enjoy discounts on services from other businesses in Oceanside, such as restaurants, retail, massage or spa treatments.
Small Business Loans Help Get Through the Lean Down Season
As D’Amico has worked to diversify her revenue streams since opening Namaskar in 2016, sometimes her savvy business acumen has not always been enough to get her through the lean down season.
“I invested everything I had to launch my yoga studio,” says D’Amico. “As a result, I haven’t yet built up a substantial cushion to cover every expense that comes up – particularly the ones that are unexpected.”
Even though D’Amico’s revenues might decline during the summer, her overhead costs remain the same. “It’s a heated studio, so the electricity bill is quite expensive even in the summer,” D’Amico says.
Despite having been in business since 2016 and being a top 10 Small Business BC awards finalist, as a small business owner D’Amico has not always had the best experience with banks or credit unions.
“When I was starting out, at a time when I needed money the most, nobody would lend me anything,” says D’Amico. “As a small business owner, that’s very frustrating.”
D’Amico says the paperwork that banks and credit unions require before even considering small business financing is a significant headache.
“It takes quite a bit of time to fill out the forms and gather all the documentation the banks demand when you ask for a loan,” says D’Amico. “It can feel overwhelming and quite frankly, impersonal and judgemental.”
She says Company Capital is a great alternative for small business loans for bridging the gap over the lean months.
“Company Capital makes it so easy. There is an online process you fill out, and they also promise to promptly let you know if you qualify,” says D’Amico. “My account manager is so friendly and quick to respond to my inquiries. There is no hassle with Company Capital, and it’s always a positive experience — I don’t have to go on my hands and knees and beg for money.”
D’Amico says the experience of working with Company Capital has helped her make better business decisions.
“Having funds available alleviated so much pressure and so much stress, and gave me the space to think and to plan better.”