Female Entrepreneur Builds Biz w/ Zero Capital; Barters all the way!!
This is a story I've been wanting to tell for awhile. I've held off because I wanted to be sure what I started could actually be considered a business. But, after over one year of continued success and promising opportunities on the horizon, I now feel I can call this a business. Volo Yoga.
A little history to begin. I am a single mom of two beautiful half Costa Rica and half United States children who are little people of "the world". I raised them for the majority of their childhood in Costa Rica, living the dream on the beach. We woke up to keel-billed toucans off our back balcony and scarlet macaws flying past our front balcony nearly everyday, the kids were in a private school studying 3 languages, we surfed for sunset and traveled the country on our free time. Hope that description paints the picture that was our reality.
I was a very successful sales executive for a responsible luxury beachfront developer until the crash of the real estate market hit and had it's effect worldwide. After staying loyal to the developer and trying to ride thru the tough times, I realized I had better "think out of the box" before every dime in my bank account diminished. I built and opened my own boutique yoga-fitness fusion studio in the city. The experience I gained from this project was priceless and a good thing, since I didn't make a "colon" from it. Everyday I felt success, because I built something from nothing and made it something. It was a place where a community of friends gathered and improved their health and lifestyle. The studio is still in operation and I am proud of what I created and hopeful that someone is becoming prosperous from it. What did this studio give to me? It gave me the practice of yoga everyday, a balance I needed in life while battling through tough times in a broken marriage and major financial distress. It gave me purpose. It offered me the position to give opportunity to those starting their careers in fitness and yoga, which was an intrinsic reward. At the end, it granted me the experience and knowledge of operating, managing, and developing a business on all levels.
After a two year battle to get permission to return home to the United States with my children after living 14 years abroad, I found myself in Denver, Colorado. My home state; my roots. We live with family that had never gotten to know my children. It is beautiful. Every day is like a blessing for us.
I don't slow down, EVER. So, after my first week back in the U.S., I found myself walking down the street in Cherry Creek with my backpack on heading to the nearest coffee shop. I look up and see a sign on a very nice building that reads, "PURA VIDA". I'm thinking this is crazy, that is the common greeting in Costa Rica, where I had just moved from and spent half of my life. I have to find out what this place is all about. It takes me about 10 minutes to find my way into the building after climbing three flights of stairs. I walk through the doors to this beautiful oasis of a five star health club and spa. It is the essence of my boutique studio but on a much larger scale with a slight upgrade in finishes. I review the programming and it is very similar to the programming I had developed in my own studio. I felt at home. I was greeted by the most attentive sales representative, John, who showed me all around and had me sold. Whatever it took, I was in! I'd find a way to make my budget work for a membership. After taking my first class, the instructor and I connect and start chatting. She asks what I do and I told her about my studio in Costa Rica and that I was an aerial yoga instructor. She immediately put me in touch with the right people in the club and within weeks we were discussing how I could help them launch their suspension program in the studio on the 4th floor. I was IN! I became part of Pura Vida from the moment I first stepped through the door; it was serendipity. I am forever grateful to the owner, GM, and managers who as a team all had faith in me and brought me on board.
Now let's talk about how my entrepreneurship drove me to launching a business with zero capital and solely on barters (excluding the inevitable funds I had to pay to register my trademark and print business cards). I knew that the last thing I wanted to do was come to the U.S. and start a business. I needed a mental and financial break. My astrologer even warned me not to come and follow my natural instinct of launching a new project that would give unnecessary stress and financial overhead. But, for some reason all the signs were pointing in a direction of leading me to initiate this project. So, I thought and I thought. And then almost organically it all starting unfolding in such a perfect way that made perfect sense. The health club wasn't interested in paying huge consulting fees that were necessary to launch a full suspension studio in the club, so I proposed to them that I would take on the project in return for letting me launch my own brand/method of yoga that I would own 100%. They provide the perfect launch pad/venue and I put in the work to make it all a reality. A win-win for both parties. Zero out of pocket for the health club in consulting fees and staff fees as I served as the director of the program, and in return I had the most beautiful suspension studio in the state, if not the country to launch my own creation and method of aerial yoga.
I've worked for over a year and half to develop my brand/method, Volo Yoga. It began with trademarking the name. This is the one expense I paid cash for on my own, in addition to the actual printing of the business cards. I initiated that process immediately. Next, I knew I'd need a logo. I reached out to friends, who were a husband-wife team just getting started in their careers, they offered to develop my logo for trade of services (aerial yoga lessons). This was perfect! Next, to do was develop my program, my method, my concept. I got it all on paper and with drawings. I knew I needed to create an education program so others could learn to instruct my method. This means creating a teacher's training manual. Most manuals need images to be effective and hit all learning styles. Therefore, I tapped into my network and came across a studio photographer who was willing to be trained in my method as trade for her photography services. She attended my first training and provided the photography for my Level 1 training manual. Now, the clock was ticking as the launch of the suspension studio at the health club became closer to completion. I knew I had to get my manual complete and ready to kick off the launch of the program with a teacher training, so I would have some instructors besides myself in this new method of aerial yoga. Backtracking a bit, moving back to the photography sessions for the manual. I also knew it was important to have a beautiful and talented yoga model featured in the manual. Again, I tapped into my wide network and found the perfect girl. She is "the face" of Volo Yoga. She too agreed to barter services and offer her modeling in trade for receiving my training free of charge. We took it a step further and she actually became my right hand girl and helped me launch the first training, this also was part of our trade of services. So, now I've bartered with 4 people for the following: Graphic design & logo development, photography, modeling and a personal assistant. In addition, the trade with the health club for my consulting & director of program services in return giving my brand/method of yoga recognition and a launch pad. With the help of all of these very special and wonderful people, Volo Yoga launched successfully in April 2015 at Pura Vida Fitness and Spa. I continued to offer my services as the director of the program at no cost to the health club for 6 months following the program launch as trade for providing the venue to launch my brand/method, Volo Yoga. This month is my one year anniversary month for Volo Yoga! I have held 4 teacher training's and am preparing to take Volo Yoga nationwide and internationally.
I hope this inspires others that hard work and strategic business alliances can happen even if you don't have capital to invest in a project. All you need is your brilliant mind and the world is yours! Build your network globally and don't limit your social contacts to a closed group, that will just limit your possibilities. I have friends all over the country who are successful in many different paths. We help each other succeed.
That's my story. If you have any questions or want tips, feel free to email me. I don't consider myself an expert, just want to share how I made something from nothing and hope it can inspire others.
Happy Anniversary Volo Yoga!!