Last Updated Dec 15, 2010 12:30 PM EST
When I opened my first YAS Fitness Center in 2001, many people, friends included, thought: "Like the world needs another yoga studio--What is she thinking?"
And they had a point. When we opened, we offered Spinning and traditional yoga. We were the first studio anywhere dedicated to the combination. A few, rare gyms offered both indoor cycling and yoga, but none thought to combine them. So YAS was pretty unique. But it wasn't quite unique enough.
Type-A personalities came to take Spinning, not yoga. The people who came for their traditional yoga classes hated the Spinners -- their disdain was obvious -- and vice versa. I had two completely different clienteles. And it led to a sort of war in the lobby as the different classes let out.
Think about it. Spinning -- and most intense cardiovascular exercise -- hypes you up. Yoga calms you down. We had opposite energies coming together, and not so happily. In fact, my first instructor's meeting actually came to blows and ended in a fist fight. It was at that point that I realized, OK, we have a problem.
My business plan -- a mix of traditional yoga and indoor cycling -- wasn't working. I didn't believe YAS could make it as a Spinning studio alone. And I didn't want it to: I love the combination of yoga and indoor cycling. I've been combining the two activities since the 80s, basically running from one gym to another. That's why I created YAS.
So what do you do if half of your business plan isn't working? Well, in my case, I regrouped and changed -- fast. I created my own style of yoga called Yoga for AthletesÂ® to fit my clientele of Type-As and athletes that came to spin. I cut the class to an hour. And I trademarked it (I am, after all, a former lawyer).
It was the best thing I could have done. Combining indoor cycling with my own brand of yoga distinguished YAS in the fitness world.
Of course, by focusing more on the athlete side of the business, it did mean losing some of my traditional yoga clients. But sometimes you have to lose some customers to make sure you're focused on the right ones.
Now, my instructors have to teach both Yoga for AthletesÂ® and indoor cycling. I started my own training classes to teach instructors how to deal with athletes (and Type-A personalities in general).
If you're going into a crowded market, look hard at your business model to make sure you're offering something unique. Ask yourself "Why should people come to my business instead of the one down the street?" Then make sure you have a good answer.
Have a unique offering in your market? Tell me how you got started.
Kimberly Fowler is founder/CEO of YAS Fitness Centers, a growing chain of yoga and indoor cycling facilities. A motivational/business/fitness expert, Kimberly's a former pro triathlete and lawyer. Follow her on Twitter @kimberlyYAS