Hi Samantha, can you tell us more about your entrepreneurial journey?
We currently have four studios in Central, Wan Chai, Tim Sha Tsui and Sheung Wan with more than 2,000 students visiting a month. My yoga journey began way back when I was still in secondary school. I was always interested in yoga partly because of my parents’ influence. They, too, learned yoga when they were young and that was actually how they met each other. I however started my journey as a yoga teacher only back in 2015 when I decided to change my career path from being a registered nurse to doing something that I am really passionate about – yoga.
What inspired you to start your company?
Working as a registered nurse in the operation room was extremely stressful and I felt that my life was turned upside down. My mind and body was not in the right balance. I had lots of negative thoughts constantly and I realised that was not the life that I want.
Completely by chance, a friend of mine asked me one day if I wanted to join her for a yoga session. And it was how I get reconnected to yoga. Later I did my teacher training. Even then I wasn’t sure if I should make a career change and become a yoga teacher. I was afraid of the uncertainties. However, something completely changed my mind. I was reading the book the Alchemist and I always remember the courage I found from the line – “when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”. That was the moment that I decided to start my own yoga studio.
When I started my yoga studio, yoga was reasonably popular but not nearly as popular as it is today. There weren’t many options for people who wanted to practice yoga outside of the major chains. I wanted to promote yoga and make it affordable for everyone. People could come try it out and decide how regularly they want to practice it without having to pre-commit to a 2-year contract. In a way we are offering flexibility to our customers.
So far, what's the most challenging part of your journey?
Like many businesses, the most challenging part is how you build your brand and reputation with customers; Also, how to balance the business and non-business goals. As you could imagine, being a boutique studio, it is not easy to reach out to your target audience and we struggled at the beginning with the turnout rate. Thankfully, with the help of our team of really passionate and dedicated teachers, we managed to build a solid following over time. I think if you deliver good service with passion, people can feel it, it helps shape your brand image. I still remember the day when we had our first full house. It was a very satisfying experience.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned whilst building One Yoga and Samantha Yoga?
Yoga is a dance between control and surrender. I think business is the same. You have to have perseverance and believe in yourself. Trust the journey. But you also have to be flexible enough to adapt to changes when needed.
A FEW WORDS OF ADVICE
On growing teams
I think it is very important to make sure that you hire people who share the corporate values. It may sound obvious but a lot of time people prioritise other things over it. It is much more important to hire right than to hire fast when you are growing. My experience tells me that it is much better to have someone who is passionate about the job and shares the same values than just someone who is good at the job. If everyone in the team shares the same core values, the vibes would be much better and even if conflicts arise, it is a lot easier to resolve. I have been really fortunate to have a group of very passionate yoga teachers who genuinely love yoga and believe in its value. This is our biggest asset and I am really pleased with the strong bonding of the team.
On building credibility
I always believe that honesty, sincerity and respect are the most important things in building trust. Fundamentally, trust is built upon mutually understanding and respect. At times, in a business context, it is tempting to over-promise to win deals or induce actions. You have to resist these temptations and think long term in order to build trust. Reputation and trust are hard to built but easy to destroy. We never promise anything that we know we cannot deliver and we always make sure deliver what we have promised. It is fine to set a challenging target for yourself or aim to over-deliver to your client and stakeholders. However, you should never exploit the trust.
On the top three things to consider before starting your own business…
Commitment - There will be a lot of late nights, work during weekends and public holiday;
Courage - willingness to take risk and embrace uncertainties;
Believe in yourself - There will be a lot of self doubt and nay sayers telling you this is not working. But you have to have faith in yourself and what you do.