Like many local businesses, the fitness and wellness industry has seen many new tools to manage backoffice/scheduling, demand generation and social media/community building. Our mutual friend Rob Bailey connected me with Natasha Ivantsova who, as founder of San Francisco’s Glow Yoga, made the jump from a world of finance modeling to yoga poses.
Q: Founding Story – how did Glow get started? You were working in finance prior, right?
The Glow Yoga & Wellness has started as a fortune that came out of the misfortune of the economy crisis in 2010. The investment company I worked for has been dissolved and everyone was let go. I realized during the unemployment time that the thing I loved the most was practicing yoga and there my dream was born: how wonderful would be to just do yoga for living and never go back to the office job, thinking each morning which one of those uncomfortable office outfits to put on again. So I sat at my coffee shop for next few months writing Glow Wellness business plan, and for my breaks I was going to every yoga studio in the city for ‘marketing research’ 🙂
Q: How has technology played a role in customer acquisition? Have you ever run deals via Groupon, others?
When I was thinking of opening Glow Yoga, marketing tech tools as Groupon and Facebook and Twitter were the part of my business plan. You can not really start a company without using the e-mail contact lists and all the wonderful online community that is so easily accessible with minimum costs – the only smart solution for small business start up. I didn’t have a luxury of have 20 thousand local email contacts to shout out : Hey, there is a sparkly new Yoga and Pilates studio opened in North Beach, now use this awesome offer to check it out! I really am grateful for such great and easy to implement marketing tools.
As I was opening GO! Indoor Cycling studio last year, I used Indiegogo to fund it! We run a successful campaign, with home made silly video clip that I put together in, it was a very fun project http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/help-glow-open-spinning-studio
Last year my friend CEO of DataSift Rob Bailey has introduced me to the crowd-funding industry, I think it was a Kickstarted that he showed me one day. I was absolutely fascinated by these new social funding industry, and now I really don’t remember which idea was first – to use Indiegogo for ANYTHING or to open a premier spinning studio. Just kidding!
Q: Can you share some of the software tools you use to run your business? Scheduling, payroll, etc? Why did you select these services?
I am using Mindbody Online for our scheduling, payroll management, all business reports, transaction processing and contact management. I chose this Mindbody because they were showing amazing growth since they started, taking all yoga studios and fitness centers on board by storm offering simple management tools and database, a complete information system for small businesses that is actually affordable. They provide useful mobile app too where people throughout US can locate yoga, spin, pilates and other sports providers. I also love Wix – website design and management, I think its a company that actually started in Israel, but what a heck, the guys are doing great job keeping it clean and simple!
Q: Social media seems to be big in the fitness world – both the studios and clients sharing their workouts. How have you approached community building for Glow?
For my marketing needs I use all the available social media companies as Facebook, Twitter, Instragram, Foursquare and Constant Contact for marketing campaigns. Its a invaluable tool to get clients involved and keep them updated with the latest and greatest services and products. People LOVE seeing their pictures doing healthy activities, one of the best things to brag about right? 🙂
Q: If a startup was selling a new technology, how do you like to be pitched? How important is word of mouth? Free trial plans?
You can not go wrong with a free trial plan, I prefer being approached personally, with a phone call and well done Prezi if its a brand new service that is over $100/monthly priced. Don’t bother with mass email – work of mouth is great if you can get it. I believe that as a new technology provider, you’ve got to make sure the trial is limited to 1 week/month and you are not acquiring millions of customers that are on a free basis, who have no concept of the service’s value and then have trouble figuring out how to monetize your great idea.
hunter’s note: SMB SaaS & other retail tools are a focus of our Homebrew seed venture fund