Charmaine Cowling had just opened a Yoga studio on the Sunshine Coast in November 2019 and things were going well. Then Covid came along. “Do you know you’re closed tomorrow from midday?” Charmaine’s husband asked her, after watching the news.
“We didn’t sleep much that night,” says Charmaine. “Yoga and Pilates studios in Queensland weren’t clear on whether or not we fall under the umbrella of fitness studios.”
Charmaine joined the Hustle & Heart program in September 2019, when she was still working as an Assistant School Principal. Charmaine had engaged a few marketing people to help them get their business idea off the ground. “Then my husband started watching Brook’s Facebook Live videos and we started following Brook. We read her blogs and emails and realised Brook’s advice was aligned with what we needed to get moving,” says Charmaine.
“We loved Brook’s focus on ideal clients. We didn’t want to attract everyone. We wanted to create a culture of kindness in a boutique setting. It was important to bring the right people to us.”
Making the studio financially viable as quickly as possible
Charmaine used her one-to-one business coaching time that’s part of the Hustle & Heart program to brainstorm how to sell 60 foundational year-long memberships to Haven Yoga Studio, to make the studio financially viable as quickly as possible.
“I had no experience in sales and was a bit intimidated at how to sign up clients to our year-long memberships, but Brook’s advice was gold – we created a plan for selling those memberships more easily, and ended up with 65 annual clients within three months.”
The studio is built on memberships, with the vast majority of students becoming members. Introductory passes are an easy way for new clients to experience classes with as many of the studio’s teachers as possible before deciding which membership to commit to.
“I quote the Hustle & Heart program all the time, especially when meeting new and evolving business owners. I love reminding them that free is not always the best way to grow clients and that it’s okay for your prices to be higher if what you’re sharing is high quality and in demand,” says Charmaine.
Charmaine found her graphic designer to design her new Haven Yoga Studio brand within the Hustle & Heart program community. Business was humming along fairly well, despite new studio competitors opening nearby. Then Covid hit.
From bricks-and-mortar to online studio, overnight
“On that first day we closed, we rallied our yoga, barre and mat pilates teachers together and invested in equipment for teaching online. My husband and I raced around buying and borrowing AV equipment. Overnight, I’m learning about microphones, lighting, streaming video. We built a ‘studio within the studio’ and offered 17 live, online classes a week with our teachers filming in the studio,” says Charmaine.
“Our teachers were absolute superstars. We wanted to support them, continue to pay for classes and engage them with our clients. It was amazing that some of our teachers refused payment for teaching because they had income from other places and wanted to support our new small business.”
Despite acting quickly to provide an online studio alternative, the financial fallout was swift as the Sunshine Coast closed down, like the rest of the country.
Every day the studio would lose at least one payment, as clients placed their memberships on hold or asked for compassion. In the end, Charmaine decided to offer a pause to all members and amazingly many continued to support the online studio through continuing to pay their membership. Three yoga studios on the Sunshine Coast closed their doors during this time, not to reopen. In the midst of the chaos, Charmaine turned 40.
“The Hustle & Heart program group on Facebook was a godsend during Covid,” says Charmaine. “All of us were dealing with the same issues and upheavals. I had so many questions, as did everyone.
“It was a steep learning curve and invaluable to have the support of Brook and others who were more experienced in their businesses. As I hadn’t yet opened my business when I did the program back in September, I was probably a little different to others in the group. I was able to apply some of the wisdom from the group and program before heading down certain paths such as setting my price and marketing my value.”
Haven Yoga Studio now has a storehouse of 180 videos and are on a steady path to recovering following the fallout of the studio closure. After 11 weeks of online classes, the studio reopened on June 8.
When asked about what she found most valuable about the program, Charmaine says, “Knowing who our ideal clients are, and who they’re not, was invaluable from day one. It helped me better focus my marketing, understand who my ideal client was and what they were seeking, so I could tailor the studio to attract the right clients, who make it a joy to come to work!”
“The program covered so many things! But probably the most valuable was not to undersell or underestimate our value. Also, the power of email and following up with clients in a personal manner. Also, that your brand has value and values, and that you determine these and stay consistent with them.”
Says Charmaine, “Of course it’s stressful starting a new business, especially in 2020! But I’ve found it immensely rewarding. To be unapologetic about what you believe, and how you act. It’s really shifted my whole belief, as seeing money as something you earn from work, to earning money doing something you love, without needing to change who you are or what values you hold dear.”
“The Hustle and Heart program strikes such a wonderful balance between feeling extremely supported, yet independent to really do what we want with our own businesses, because every person and every business is unique.”
When asked what she’d say to anyone considering the program, Charmaine says, “Be prepared to thoroughly enjoy the program, the modules are entertaining and practical, the conversations are interesting and unexpected, and Brook not only is an exceptional mentor, she’s also a hoot who loves to celebrate small victories with us.”
Is it your time? Whether you’ve not-yet-launched, or are an experienced powerhouse with decades in self-employment, the Hustle & Heart program helps you magnify your impact. Open for a limited time.