This Yoga Studio Is Operating In Survival Mode — Not Profit Mode — to Keep the Lights On

Warrior One

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We’re speaking to small businesses and entrepreneurs across the country to better understand how they’re adapting to stay open, how they’re keeping their community safe, and how we can support them now during this time, and beyond. We’re focused on keeping Australia open for business, even if doors are closed. #OpenWeStand

Nova Brown is a yoga teacher and the creator of Warrior One, a yoga studio in Melbourne.

Brown launched the business with her husband Dustin five years ago and since opening the doors on their first Brighton studio, they’ve opened another two — a larger studio also located in Brighton and one in Mordialloc. Between the three studios, Brown and her husband have 25 staff working with them.

Keeping them employed while the studios were forcibly shut by the Government was obviously important to Brown. The team at Warrior One recently launched online content, which features on-demand and live-streamed yoga classes, in order to keep the business rolling.

“The concept was that we’re not so much in profit mode, we’re in survival mode so what money do we need to just keep the doors open, the lights on, the heaters on, keep the bills paid and our teachers employed?” Brown told TheLatch—. 

In order to continue to be of service to its clientele, Warrior One has also priced the online content at an extremely affordable rate.

“We decided to move to a very lean online model,” Brown said.

“So we charge $49 a month — so basically $1.60 a day — because we wanted to make the price point really accessible to people so that it was a no-brainer.”

We chatted to Brown about how she’s taking care of herself at such a stressful time and the new skills the team has learnt in the last few weeks.

Alexandra McCarthy: Thanks for chatting with me today, Nova! Let’s start from the very beginning — can you tell me about your business and why you launched it?

Nova Brown: We’ve been operating for just over five years — we opened in March 2015 and we opened because we felt there was such a gap for yoga in this area — in Brighton — and me and my husband Dustin just really wanted to work together and we really wanted to do something that was of service

And actually, when we opened the doors we thought it was going to be just a little bit of a side hustle business [laughs] and we quickly realised that there is no such thing! We were very much all in and we created a really beautiful community down here and then just last year, in November, we opened our biggest studio in Brighton.

AM: Off the top of your head, what are a few highlights you’ve experienced since launching Warrior One?

NB: I think opening the doors to the studios is such a buzz. When we first opened the doors and watched people walk through and explore the space, and see how it becomes their new home, that’s a pretty special moment. 

To be honest, it’s the little things more than anything. It’s hearing people’s stories and how yoga has transformed their life. That is what drives us to get up every day.

We’ve done some cool stuff and we’ve got cool PR — we were on [the TV show] Postcards recently — and we’ve done a lot of festivals, but it’s the every day that I think is the most fulfilling. 

AM: When did your business first start to feel the effects of COVID-19?

NB: I’d say probably in early March. We started to get the drop off of clients feeling not as safe and wanting to protect themselves and self-isolate at home.

That was kind of the beginning and then mid-March it started hitting heavy with a lot of people pausing their memberships and class numbers decreasing quite heavily. And then, of course, we got shut down by the government on March 23. 

“It started hitting heavy with a lot of people pausing their memberships.”

AM: In what ways have you had to pivot your business?

NB: So originally when they announced the closedown it was only a three-week shutdown and the reopen date was actually Tuesday April 14.

So when we thought three weeks, we were trying to stay optimistic and we thought ‘Well, we’ll just stay free and we’ll just offer free content for the next couple of weeks that we’re closed’ but that very quickly escalated and the Prime Minister obviously started talking about months rather than weeks so we decided to move to a very lean online model.

So we charge $49 a month — so basically $1.60 a day — because we wanted to make the price point really accessible to people so that it was a no-brainer.

We launched that about two weeks ago now and the concept was that we’re not so much in profit mode, we’re in survival mode. So what money do we need to just keep the doors open, the lights on, the heaters on, keep the bills paid and our teachers employed?

And to also create a consistent practice for our community that are all home. So that was kind of the concept of it and something that’s sustainable for us. If this potentially does last six months, [it was like] ‘how are we going to sustain it and make sure that everyone has food on their plate?’

“We wanted to make the price point really accessible to people so that it was a no-brainer.”

AM: Was it hard to make those changes?

NB: Yes, it was. It was learning a whole new set of skills.

We hadn’t really played in that online space before so we had to go from running classes to figuring out what mics to use and what cameras look best and how we’re going to film it and make it decent quality that people would want to rewatch it.

And choosing the online platform was probably the biggest decision, you know, how are we going to house all our content? And how are we going to price it to make it affordable?

So, there was a lot of iteration and thinking about ‘OK, how are we making this accessible to all our clientele?’ I think we’re over the hump now and now it’s just about making sure that we are supporting the people who are on it and that we’re listening to what they need.

And we’re really creating a service, we were always doing this with our studios but  now more than ever, we’re really curating a service that people want and need so everything is pretty much derived by the community. 


AM: Having to consider where to house your content is obviously something you’ve never encountered before, so Warrior One has done so well to pivot so quickly!

NB: We definitely took two weeks to sit back and we delivered free content in that two weeks just to give people something, and then we made quite a purposeful pivot in that way.

AM: How’s the feedback been from your clients?

NB: Amazing! I think people are so grateful to have something. Our platform is at a very low price point and we are offering on-demand and live-streamed classes every day and they’ve been amazing just to see people’s faces every morning.

We get really playful with it and do little dances across the screen and just have fun with it and bring a smile to people’s faces and we’re very grateful that people are letting us into their homes.

It’s a big thing for people to turn their cameras on and show us a piece of their world because that’s not something that we were doing before.

And then really the biggest part of our platform is the on-demand classes. So, the concept is because we are really affordable, we can’t live-stream all day, every day but we can pre-record on-demand classes and we have now over 70 classes available to practice at any time.

“We’re very grateful that people are letting us into their homes.”

AM: How can customers support your business in the short term? Is it by liking and sharing your content on social media or signing up to your classes?

NB: Yeah, pretty much all those things! The people that have been early adopters and have signed up to our content, we’ve been so thankful.

There’s a lot of people out there that can’t afford it so we’ve been gifting it to them for free and in return, we just say if you could share your practice on social media or share it with a friend, then we’d be really grateful.

So we’re also looking at how we can support the community because they’re supporting us. It’s only $1.60 a day but not everybody can actually afford that at the moment.


AM: Do you think the way you operate your business will be changed for good?

NB: That’s a million-dollar question! Look, I think so.

I think that as hard as it was to get to this point, it’s going to be equally as hard to get back to where we were. Not only might we be in this for a while, but when we re-open, there might be a certain restriction on how many people you can have per square metre and that kind of thing — just in the reverse of how it started.

So for sure, you know, before we closed down we were down to, I think, 18 mats a class because of the social distancing. So I think that will happen in reverse on the way back up, so yes I do think it will have an impact in the long term.

AM: What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs who are navigating this time as a business owner?

NB: Try and keep balance, I think that even though there is all this “free time” — I say that in air quotes — a lot of entrepreneurs are probably facing the fact that they are working more than ever.

Screentime, as a collective, has gone up. I think I read the statistic the other day — it’s gone up by 60% so just to keep balanced and go out as much as you can, go outdoors, go for a walk or a run or do an online class yourself.

I’ve definitely had to carve out space for myself every day, I’ve been doing a lot of online dance classes and kind of shaking off a lot of energy — that’s been really helpful — so just creating that because otherwise, I could literally spend 18 hours a day on a screen. That would be my advice.

And to think of that famous quote, ‘this too shall pass’. It’s only temporary, it’s not a forever thing. That’s a quote I think about every day. 

Sign up for your next yoga class with the team at Warrior One.

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