Every employee of I Love Yoga Studio in Dania Beach, Florida, is in the Energy Exchange Program.
Zayna De Gaia, a co-owner of the studio, said the Energy Exchange is a lot like what other studios call work exchange or work-study. The program trades work in the studio — teaching yoga classes, manning the boutique — for free classes or merchandise. But, De Gaia said many studios have issues with the program. “The biggest complaint about that is people don’t show up, they don’t show up on time, they don’t treat it like a real job because they’re not getting paid for it,” she said.
De Gaia explained I Love Yoga Studio relies entirely on the Energy Exchange Program for staffing. “Everything, the studio and the boutique, is run with Energy Exchange. So we have people who are there all day long who work in exchange for classes and all of those people get assigned to different things and we have team leaders for different things,” she said.
Currently, about 10 people are in the Energy Exchange program, and most are enrolled in I Love Yoga Studio’s teacher training. In fact, Energy Exchange participants will get half of their teacher training paid for by the studio.
Those in the program are training to be teachers, cleaning the studio and running the boutique. De Gaia takes assigning roles to Energy Exchange participants seriously. She explained she always sits down with someone to get to know him or her. By finding out what employees are passionate about, what they’re up to currently, De Gaia can better understand what they are looking to get out of the Energy Exchange.
One of the ways De Gaia has found success in her Energy Exchange Program is by treating each employee like a manager — even as an owner — of the studio. This makes her staff really care about the business. And in turn, De Gaia cares about each person. “If you have people working with you, whether it’s Energy Exchange or you’re paying them, you’ve got to be interested in people,” she said. “I spend most of my time talking to my people and finding out what goes on in their lives, coaching them, meditating with them and supporting them.”
The idea for the Energy Exchange program at I Love Yoga Studio was born from Landmark Worldwide, a company rooted in training and developing personal and professional growth. De Gaia has been involved with Landmark for the past 10 years, and said the idea for the Energy Exchange came from Landmark’s assisting program — volunteers help with the program in exchange for being around the courses offered.
Ultimately, De Gaia wants to train people in integrity, communication and leadership. And the Energy Exchange is providing her this opportunity.