Meet our office hero: Lara Estrada. She's a full-time Manduka employee who opened a yoga studio of her very own last year. Read all about how she turned her dream into reality -- or better yet, visit Yoga Bliss in Los Angeles and see for yourself what a little love and a lot of hard work can make.
Can you describe your role at Manduka?
I’m an International Sales Rep. I work to bring our high-quality Manduka products to yoga studios and retailers all over the world!
When did you realize you wanted to be a yoga studio owner?
I completed my teacher training in 2009. At that point I knew teaching yoga was something I wanted to pursue but my career goals have evolved so much since then -- always in an organic way. I started thinking about opening a studio in 2012 but it didn't come together until a few years later.
I came on at Manduka in 2013 and continued teaching yoga. It was amazing for all of my work to revolve around yoga, and to be a part of the best yoga brand in the world, but I still yearned to create a business of my own. When my realtor called me and said she found the perfect space for me (literally down the street from my apartment), I knew it was the right opportunity to take a chance on the business of my dreams. Yoga Bliss finally opened in 2015.
What was the very first step in opening your studio after you decided?
I put together a very basic outline of a business plan to research the financial side. I considered costs for construction, equipment, retail, and leasing. I thought out everything I could: class schedules, pricing, pay structures for instructors, marketing strategy, workshops, and events. I would work on all of this for fun, but I took it very seriously. I wrote the majority of my website content, registered my business name, reserved a website domain, and had my brother create a logo for me in 2012.
I wanted all of these things to be taken care of so that there would be as few barriers to entry when I found the right space. I also saved all the money I earned from teaching, and would consistently put away a part of my paycheck for my future business.
Yoga Bliss has such a bright beautiful vibe. How did you concept the space?
I love Bali, tropical locations, and the ocean. I wanted to capture the warmth and kindness of the people I’ve met in my life and around the world. My favorite color is bright teal. It’s the color of my phone case, art pieces in my home, and often my nails… So naturally, I wanted the studio to be this color. It’s a calming and peaceful color too, which is perfect for yoga.
A lot of the small décor pieces – like the baby golden Buddha statue – were things I had in my room. I have a beautiful painting by my friend Rhonna Del Rio in the lobby. All of her artwork is inspired by her own practice, and I knew I wanted her creativity in the studio. When people who know me come for the first time, they always say, “This space is so you!” I just tried to bring in a lot of things I love.
What were some of the challenges about opening Yoga Bliss?
The most challenging thing in the beginning was making the decision to sign the lease and go through with my business plans. It was such a huge financial investment and there were a lot of unknowns. I am proud to say that I opened the studio completely on my own. That being said, I had to save a lot of money, run a IndieGoGo campaign, and get a small business loan before opening. I had to take a leap of faith that the business I envisioned would thrive.
And what's difficult now that the studio is up and running?
Now the challenge is in managing my own time and personal energy. I still work full-time at Manduka while teaching many of the classes at my studio and managing every aspect of the business. I am busier than I have ever been!
There are days when I’m at the studio at 6:30am, I go through a full day of work at the Manduka office, and head back to the studio until 9:00pm. If I’m not physically at the studio or office, I always have other things to do, like responding to emails and phone calls, planning events, and keeping social media updated. I am literally working all the time! It makes me really value any time I get to spend with family, friends, and loved ones. I also value any time that I get to spend by myself!
What is your favorite thing about being a studio owner?
It’s amazing to watch a community grow from something I am so passionate about and worked so hard for. When I see full classes, happy yogis, and connections being made, I know that all the hard work is worth it. The studio recently celebrated its one year anniversary on October 10th. I remember in the beginning, there would be less than a handful of people in each class. It’s amazing that we now have so many regular practitioners, classes and workshops getting full, and we still get new people at the studio every day.
What advice would you give to yoga teachers thinking about opening up your own studio?
Talk to other studio owners. This was the most helpful thing for me! When I was getting closer to opening Yoga Bliss, I met with other studio owners that I worked for or had taken classes from. They were all so open, encouraging, and inspiring. They answered any questions I had and told me the things they wished they had known when they first opened their studios. I still reach out to them whenever I have questions and find them to be the greatest source of knowledge.
And what about advice for anyone else who wants to make a dream come true?
If you are consistently working towards your goals and taking your dreams seriously, you can create a business and life from anything that you are passionate about. Things will always work out in their own perfect timing if your heart is in the right place. One of my favorite quotes by Paulo Coelho is “When you want something, all the Universe conspires to make it happen.” There are too many people in this world who say they want to do something and never do it. Don’t be one of those people! Believe in the power of your thoughts and actions to create the life you desire.