A few months ago, Free Range Yoga owner Dawn Piper realized her studio had a problem to solve: It was running out of space in the small town of Macomb, Illinois. “It just got to the point where either you expand, or it’s going to squash the fire and go in the opposite direction,” she said. “It was just to that point.”

So Piper made the decision to expand the studio into a building next door. The timing wasn’t ideal, however. She had recently invested a chunk of money into a Yoga Therapy Certification program, resulting in scarce resources for an expansion project.

To help split the difference, Piper turned to the community, creating a GoFundMe account nicknamed a “Virtual Barn Raising.” The goal is $5,000, and since launching the GoFundMe page, the studio has raised a little over $3,230 in just 20 days.

Once the expansion is complete, the benefits will be triple-fold. Instructors will have twice as much space for classes, and renovations will make the space more accessible to individuals who use mobility devices. In addition, extra space can now be used for yoga or massage therapy, resulting in an additional source of revenue.

The expansion marks a milestone for Free Range Yoga, which launched three years ago. At that time, the studio offered only yoga and Zumba, but has since continued to grow in both class variety and now space offered. “We’ve got a lot more teachers teaching and we’ve got a lot of different things going on,” said Piper.

Piper explained that diversifying the class schedule beyond yoga made sense when she considered the fact that many of her members were taking classes like Tai Chi or strength training elsewhere. And the addition of each new class and extra space serves to further her goal of creating a safe and welcoming space in the local community.

“My vision was to bring something that was very positive to our downtown square and help people in a very ego free way so that they can connect better to their mind, their body and their spirit,” explained Piper. “The people that come in are all ages, all sizes, all shapes and the growth that they have had is an incredible thing to see. A lot of times they’ll start with one class and they’ll get enough of their sense of power that they want to start branching off and start trying new things.”

The large variety of class offerings would not be possible without Free Range Yoga’s diverse roster of teachers, which are all encouraged to teach classes in their personal style. In fact, each instructor is hired as an independent contractor, which Piper explained empowers them in a variety of ways.

“It’s like a co-op, and that’s the way I teach it,” explained Piper. “Everyone has their own control over money. We do have a joint calendar that we put together, but everyone decides what they’re going teach, how they’re going to teach it and when they’re going to teach it. It’s really a community of teachers, and I think that’s very different than a lot of other places.”

According to Piper, her system allows her to spend less time on bookkeeping, freeing her up to focus more on the things she loves most — like teaching classes and investing in her continuing education.

“Eventually we might get to the point that [the studio] gets big enough that [we need full-time instructors], but it would have to be agreed upon by all the teachers that are here now,” said Piper. “I want it to be a win, win, win, because this is not just a little thing that I’m doing — this is something that I’m not going to retire from. I’m 45, and this will be the thing that I do for the rest of my life.”

As the expansion project continues, Piper is excited to see what opportunities the project will bring to the studio. Until then, she’ll continue to enjoy watching her students and teachers grow. “Through the studio they get their power back, they get a new lease on life, and they get really excited about all the things they can do,” she said.

Dawn Piper’s 3 Pros For Having Independent Contractors

Employees are invested in the studio:

“They make a good amount of money and they’re very invested. We have people who want to teach here and want to stay teachers here, but they have to do more work for it. They have to do a lot of their marketing and getting things out on Facebook and getting people to their classes — but they’re truly invested in what they do then. It’s not like me telling anybody what they need to do.”

Less paperwork is required. 

“Since they’re independent contractors they do all their own taxes. Part of it is, I wouldn’t have time. Like a lot of teachers and owners, that’s not my strong suit. Bookkeeping and all that stuff is not where my creativity resides, and that’s not what I love to do. So if I were to have to manage all of these little bits of everyone’s money and do all this employee stuff, it would take all the joy of it for me.”