I’d like to introduce you to my friend Jen Jones, pictured above exactly one week after opening her very own yoga studio. Like a lot of the podcast guests, we met on the Internet through a mutual friend. We kept planning to get together, somehow the inertia of New York’s crazy go-go-go lifestyle prevented it from happening for years. Lucky for us, it was fate. As time passed it became apparent, mostly through Instagram, that our interests overlapped more and more. I’d see Jen comment on my IRL friends’ photographs and I’d reach out, or vice versa, attempting to schedule coffee or tea. We interacted with the same real sincerity you’d express on a dear pal’s post, exchanging high vibes whenever we could. It was a special relationship, it had meaning without ever having met, like pen pals circa 1997. Four years later, we managed to be in the same place at the same time. I learned that she’d gone through yoga teacher training at Prana Yoga, taught there for a while and made some ladyboss moves to the now world-famous I.AM.YOU yoga, which in my experience is part yoga part bootcamp in the living room of a very swanky downtown gal, Lauren Imparato. After honing her skills under Lauren’s leadership, she opened up a beautiful studio of her own, New Love City. Since many of you are yogis and are interested in opening your own business, I asked Jen to tell her story for us here — she relays the highs, lows and how-tos of a successful studio. I couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful delivery. Without further ado, here she is.
“Let that be ENOUGH for today,” says Emily, firmly. It’s not a suggestion. I have nothing left in the tank with which to protest anyhow, so I splay my arms and legs out wide, giving the whole of my weight to the floors, the gorgeously cranky and questionably patched old hardwood floors that I love so desperately. If there’s a more heart-wrenching way to love a floor than desperately, I don’t know what it is. “That’s enough,” she repeats. “Close your eyes.”
It is enough. It is more than enough. And so am I.
My name is Jen Jones and I am the owner and founder and an instructor at New Love City, a brand-new baller yoga studio and co-working haven in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Emily is one of the teachers at my studio, home of the aforementioned heartbreakingly good floors. I picked her to teach here because she’s every bit as epic as the floors and I wouldn’t have anything less. Similarly, I opened the studio because I felt like I had something epic to offer as a business person, a yoga teacher and a general human, and I was tired of not caring enough and offering less than all that I had. After years and careers spent fighting for scraps of purchase, I decided that I would have room to be louder if I went it alone (and god knows I love a bit of volume). So I did, and here I am, sitting cross-legged on the couch at New Love City. It’s week two of operation and I am between classes, completely exhausted and terrified and happier than I’ve ever been, writing to you about my experience as a business owner in New York. Simply put, it’s the greatest and worst but mostly greatest thing I’ve done with my life so far, keeping in mind that I don’t have any children.
Here’s how it went down.
About a year and a half ago, I was a year out of my yoga teacher training and a year into teaching, trying to balance my advertising career and my obsession with feeling great and helping other people feel great, too. Weirdly enough, after years of hating my various ad gigs, I was actually in an job that I super liked, working for an amazing group of smarties called Ikon3 (they just changed their name to Noble People, which they are, and they still rock). They paid me a lot of money and thought I was smart and gave me all kinds of space to run my shit, which is basically unheard of in agencies. Regardless of this remarkable cush situation, I just couldn’t quite push the yoga out of my brain during the day and I stopped caring about advertising, my once-true-and-only-love. I was absolutely half-assing it, which, as a perfectionist, is troublesome. Also, my job was keeping me from being able to focus on becoming a better teacher, and I really wanted to give teaching my whole ass. As luck or fate or whatever would have it, I tripped over an opportunity to become a lead instructor and manager at a studio in SoHo called I.AM.YOU. (which you should check out immediately) and decided to take a leap. I left my wonderful job in April of 2014 to focus on me, full-time. I went to yoga classes two, three times a day. I taught a LOT of yoga. I started to build a student community at I.AM.YOU. and fell head over heels in love with teaching, found my voice. I cleaned my house and took vacations and long naps, caught up on all my Netflix. I took freelance ad jobs when I needed extra cash and I stopped wearing pants with waistbands. I loosened up considerably and became a nicer person. I started standing up taller. I know it’s not always feasible to quit your job, and I definitely had a lot of help and support, but I am telling you. If you hate the way your life is going, CHANGE IT. Oh my god, please change it, as soon as possible. Do not, please please do not disregard the value of your own wellness. Your body and brain will thank you.
So I did the teaching/being a bum thing for a while and then I started to get antsy again. I’m a girl who likes a project. A friend had started to put seeds in my brain around the idea of opening a studio and I was very, very gently considering it. Not even, really. Well, I had this tiny idea about a thing with a warehouse and co-working and I had a name that I had been sitting on for a while, but. Eh. Seemed like a lot of work (spoiler alert: it is). But I do like looking at real estate on the internet, so I started futsing around with that. And then at some point drew up a bit of business plan and started to look at the numbers, see what it would take to put that kind of thing together. It looked like it would take a lot. Investors and money and effort. I went back to Googling real estate and kind of left it at that. Commence deep-dive into non-reality.
About a week later, I was tooling around on Craigslist, daydreaming about a rusty old gorgeously-graffiti’ed-up Williamsburg warehouse that my team of investors (not real) and our millions of dollars (even less real) and I were going to rehab into a sick yoga space. Right by the water, soaring ceilings, light pouring through scores of wavy old miniature glass panes, vintage plank floors and tags strewn across the walls in a rainbow sea of scrawled expletives. I had a name that I had been sitting on for a while, just waiting to be put to use. I could basically hear the boots and cats bumping and smell the eucalyptus towels chilling, warrior twos for DAYS, etc. It is fair to say that I was perhaps dangerously far into this daydream, but I’m pretty sure that’s how all the best stories begin. I’ll let you know.
Anyhow, for at least a moment or two the very real possibility of this dream studio space/ investor team/ wads of cash was shimmering right there in front of me, just like heat off the pavement. Seemed legit. Also, did you know you can rent a warehouse on Craigslist? True story. Apparently all it takes is a dream and the internet and a bit of shimmer to get me all hot and bothered about something, so here we are.
To cut to the chase, my Dream Yoga Warehouse did not, in fact, pop up in the search results. What I actually found were a whole bunch of dark old garages and factories and, owing to the pure magic that is Craigslist’s questionable search engine, a slew of pretty boring-looking office spaces in Williamsburg and Greenpoint. One of which was listed for a surprisingly reasonable amount, about a quarter of what I had originally ballparked for space rental. And looked kind of like a basic uninspiring white box that could be reimagined into pretty much whatever. It was in a pretty great spot, neighborhood-wise. It maybe had decent ceiling height; hard to tell from the pictures. But it definitely, 100%, unless the photos had been significantly falsified, had a skylight.
So I shot the realtor a note, trotted over for a peek, and fell Truly/Madly/Deeply in love with some white brick and exposed beams and vintage castle-y looking doors and, not one, but FOUR BEAUTIFUL SKYLIGHTS, as one does. With my family behind me, I then plunked down my life savings and signed a lease without looking at any other spaces or considering any other options. This all happened within a window of about 48 hours. I can’t say with any certainty that I recommend going about choosing a space this way, but this is how it happened for me. I suppose it would also be true that it was in this brief time frame that I chose to leave behind my wonderful job and partnership and amazing students in SoHo to run a small business, something I knew very little about, in a neighborhood where I did not live or often spend time.
So far I regret nothing.
In the depths of the panic attack that surrounded this decision, I truly wish I could tell you that I chose to fold myself up into a pretzel and meditate my brains out until I had the inner calm to manage the task ahead like the coolest of warrior queens. What actually happened was that I promptly marched myself over to SoulCycle, where Jenna, my punk rock fairy godmother guardian angel pumped positivity and some pretty loud techno directly into my skull and ribcage. It took hold. I sweat and cried it out on the bike until I was empty, and then I went back for some more. First empty the tank – you’ll need some space, if you want to fill it back up. Adrenaline is a very real thing, and courage is not far behind. I spent a crazy amount of cash at SoulCycle that week. And then I sat down at my computer, put on some Beyonce, called my accountant and we got down to business.
There is a lot of Business that goes into starting a business. This includes paperwork, signing things, calling lawyers and bankers and insurance brokers, setting up trademarks, tax forms on tax forms on tax forms and mostly paying a lot of people a lot of money. Every time you think you’re done for two seconds you will inevitably find a new Business Item that needs addressing, and this goes on as such for a while. However, it’s really pretty easy to do as long as you can muster up a bit of patience and respect for the process to carry you through it. Despite ditching my ‘real job’ for yoga jobs, I have always liked Business, and this kind of cascading to-do list suits me pretty well. Also, rustling yourself up a phenomenal team helps considerably. I think my accountant set up my LLC in the space of maybe two hours, which made me want to stand and applaud. Celebrating success, no matter how small, is thoroughly great for mental stamina. Every time I had to sign a thing and saw my name and title printed next to the line for signature – Jennifer Jones, President/Owner/Founder/
So Business is doable, and it gets done, and that’s that. The far more taxing part of getting the thing up and running was the creation of the space itself. This took place as two separate but irremovably interwoven efforts, which were the physical manifestation of the space and the continual shaping and refinement of the vision behind it.
The space needed to be physically altered. It had a bunch of rooms and walls dividing it up which definitely had to come down in order for yoga to be beautiful or even remotely doable. The space also needed to be fitted out big time, trying to land somewhere between an amazing loft apartment and that sick graffiti warehouse of my daydreams. Also, the clock was ticking, as my teeny-tiny start-up budget could only support the rent for so long. So yeah. I’m not looking for a medal or anything, but this part was kind of a lot.
Knocking down the walls.
Opening the studio space.
Choosing a paint color.
Testing for mat capacity.
I do not want to belabor this process, because I could do that and this would become a very long post, indeed. Here are the highlights:
- My designer friend helped me to hire a team of contractors who were, incidentally, just about the nicest guys I’ve ever met
- Said contractors came into my space and ripped out the walls and I died a little bit on the inside watching them ruin the thing I had just paid a crazy amount of money for
- Said contractors removed the wall-stuff (or in the case of the 100-year old sugar pine original construction in the studio space, re-used it) and my faith was restored when I saw how crazy beautiful it was in here without the unnecessary rooms
- Said contractors painted and shined and embellished and tweaked
- I spent a stupid amount of time choosing light fixtures and yoga props and sitting in chairs in furniture showrooms and Zipcar-ing to and from Ikea and giving away all of my money
- I whitewashed a wall by hand in 90 degree heat
- I learned how to install a light fixture, and then installed 16 of them
- I lost and have yet to regain sensation in my right thumb-pad from the garbage allen wrenches that Ikea tosses in with the un-put-togetherable non-furniture
- My husband and I relocated pretty much all of the actual nice furniture from our own house to make this place look presentable
- I cleaned and dragged things up countless flights of stairs and sweat and cried a LOT. Still blasting Beyonce and heading over to SoulCycle, rinse and repeat.
- The renovation/demolition process is very boring and is nothing like what you’ve seen on HGTV. The reveal is super exciting and exactly like what you’ve seen on HGTV.
- The more you sweat in a place that you’re trying to fix up, the cuter it starts to look, even if it’s not anywhere near completion. Love really is the secret sauce.
- When your brain is absolutely cooked and has nothing left whatsoever, there’s something really lovely and poetic and HUMAN about doing a bunch of manual labor, specifically, whitewashing a wall in the heat. Muscles carry on, even when the mind needs a break.
- You can install a light fixture. Maybe not perfectly, but well enough so that the light turns on and probably nobody will notice that it looks a little funny.
- Being a female business owner seems mostly normal, except that people are constantly questioning your every decision and the delivery guys call you “hon”. They might do this for dudes too, but I’m not sure. It’s perfectly fine to not listen to any of these people. Being polite and firm is empowering.
- Owning a ladder is also pretty empowering, especially as a small person. Lean into that metaphor.
- Do not underestimate the power of paint and plants and nice toiletries.
These are the main points.
So that was that, and the space took on some substance. Even better, I would go so far as to say that it’s beautiful. I hired four of my favorite teachers in the city and put our schedule on ClassPass, FitReserve, Sosh, the works. I slapped together a super simple website while my designer continues to work on branding and visuals (you can’t rush art, people). My family and friends showed up with bells on and rallied around me until I was a veritable fortress of spitfire and courage. I instagrammed an obnoxious amount and twisted some arms and opened the doors. Our first class was last week Sunday and was certainly one of the most rewarding experiences of my life so far. We had the most wonderful brunch afterwards at the Glasserie in Greenpoint; please go there immediately and eat everything.
And that’s the story of how New Love City came to be! Now everything is perfect and students come in droves and I sleep all the time while my team of genius teachers feed me grapes and fan me gently. Nah, but what kind of fun would that be? It is enough, and in that knowledge I can close my eyes and find the way forward.
New Love City has been open for about a week and a half now. Since the day I went to see the studio space, it has been just under 8 weeks, which, apparently, is enough time. We are part yoga studio and part co-working space, offering a place for freelancers and artists and work-from-home types to rejuvenate their weary brains in a space filled with great music and killer natural light. Our yoga program supports incredible teachers with strong compensation and a thick root system in continuing education and community. Our yoga classes are exhilarating, ass-kicking and straight-up great. Our couch is wonderful. We look forward to welcoming you into our new home, even if it’s not quite done yet.
Enjoying the couch.
It is enough. We are ready to begin.