Katelyn and I were on conference call this morning with the Urban Yoga Foundation‘s founder, Ghylian Bell, and Clayton Sizemore, senior instructor at UYF’s Florida branch. We’ve known them for a couple years, but it only recently occurred to me to reach out to them for help. I guess we always thought a diverse and inclusive community would just kind of happen organically at The BE, and in some ways it has, but there’s obviously room for improvement. There’s a need for improvement in fact, if we want to be an agent for progress in this city. So, Ghylian and Clayton kindly agreed to help us out, and we’re grateful for their assistance and partnership. I’m personally really psyched to dig in and get proactive about ways we can make yoga and The BE relevant and welcoming to a broader range of people across St. Pete’s racial, geographic, and economic lines. We’re really just starting, but we hope to eventually be leaders in creating health equity in St. Pete.
I’ll keep y’all updated on that endeavor, but Clayton said something today that I am so grateful for, that I want to share. I won’t try to quote him exactly, but the gist of it was, The BE is a great business, and you all are hustlers, and you’re really busting a nut over there. I can’t tell you how awesome it feels for someone in the yoga community to give us props for our work in being a successful business. Some yoga people seem to think we’re not authentic or some shit because we try hard to not be broke! Man, Katelyn and I have been plenty broke in our lives and we hold no romantic notions about its limitations and stresses. We went into business to make it, not to fail. When we do well, we can support more people in sharing their gifts with more people. We can say YES to things: yes, we can support your cause, provide free classes in the parks, sponsor Girls Rock Camp, hire more staff, provide paying gigs to musicians, keep our prices down, run dozens of events a month. We have the bandwidth to address our weaknesses. Why do we do it? Because we want to make the world a better place. It usually doesn’t bother me but sometimes it does, that there are folks who want us to apologize because we market, or offer classes at breweries, or whatever the holier-than-thou crowd is upset about today.
Lately The BE has won some industry awards, and in a way they’re silly, but they’re also validating. Because we could easily run a simple business. But The BE is not a simple business. Saying YES takes time, money, and resources. It took years for us to make enough money to employ desk staff. Because we do, our customers get a much better experience, and, our teachers can focus more on teaching. A few years ago we were pretty much forced into embarking upon a risky and expensive (for us) expansion. That project created a ton more practice space, allowing us to almost double our offerings to members. Because we hustle, we’re able to invest in our teachers, with bonuses dedicated to continuing education, brown bags, regular evaluations and feedback . Behind the scenes we have a programming team, an operations manager, a partnerships director, and yes, a marketing team. And we work a lot, because we want to provide the best experience we can in the most welcoming and supportive environment possible. In a nutshell. Because we believe in the power of yoga, and we want to spread that good stuff far and wide.