If you can’t beat ‘em, buy ‘em? As yoga continues to grow, so does the number of yoga-offering venues, but how many of them will soon be owned by the same corporate companies?
Though more people are practicing yoga, ironically, the yoga studio business is not exactly a hot venture (except for maybe the hot studios – see CorePower), and it’s usually the “mom and pop” spaces that end up struggling, or closing just as quickly as another new one opens. Or…being bought up by a bigger corporation like YogaWorks, which is what happened to San Francisco’s Yoga Tree and their nine studios, and most recently Back Bay Yoga Studio and Sweat and Soul Yoga in the Boston area.
With the latest Mass. acquisitions, YogaWorks brings their total count of yoga studios to 40 across the country. “We really believe that we do a good job of integration and bringing in other studios,” YogaWorks chief executive Phil Swain the Boston Globe. Acquisitions “let us pick up a lot of teachers, students, and existing studios in the market,” he said. (40 is a LOT, but they’re still not caught up to their biggest competitor, CorePower Yoga, who have 104 studios as of September 2014.)
YogaWorks is owned by Great Hill Partners, a Boston-based private equity firm who bought them last year from Cambridge, Mass.-based venture capital firm Highland Capital Partners for about $45 million, according to the Wall Street Journal. So, yeah, it’s a very corporate company with a very corporate responsibility to keep growing and adding value – yay, capitalism. (We’ll note that being bought out is not always a bad thing but we counter that with, is corporate-owned yoga a good thing? We don’t have the answer but it’s something to think about.)
So what happens to the little guy? They become podcast stars! Kidding. Or we might be prophets, because Back Bay Yoga’s Ryan Cunningham may have a bright future ahead of him in internet radio. In this latest podcast from Brooklyn’s own J. Brown – also a studio-owner navigating its unreliable landscape – Cunningham gets to share his story of he started practicing yoga as well as the struggles and risks of not only being an “indie” yoga studio owner but also an indie yoga teacher today – another group enjoying a skyrocket rise.
J sits down with the former manager of BackBay Yoga Boston, Ryan Cunningham, to discuss how he got to yoga, became the manager of BackBay, and the surprising announcement that Yoga Works bought the center three days before J got there to teach workshops. They also discuss the realities of conducting yoga teacher training, the role it plays in a yoga education, and the dawning realities that independent yoga teachers and centers are facing.
As for YogaWorks, they’re still making plans for further expansion. Stay tuned.
image via rady.ucsd.edu