Kat Robinson opened Active Kat Yoga in Doniphan, Missouri, 15 years ago. Doniphan is a considerably much smaller town than the large metropolitans of the state like Kansas City or St. Louis. Because of this, Robinson has had to work much harder and in more unique ways to generate clients and revenue at her studio.
At the time of opening, social media wasn’t relevant and there was no Yoga Alliance. And while Robinson had grown up in this small town, there was still a setback of convincing the community that yoga was for everyone.
“We are in the heart of the Bible Belt,” explained Robinson. “We heard everything from I was starting a cult to I was converting Christians to Hinduism when I first opened. Yoga had helped me a lot with various illnesses and I knew it could help people in my community, I just had to get them to understand that.”
As with many small towns, becoming a part of the community is key to seeing benefits. Robinson would curate newspaper articles in the local paper and take out a few ads to ensure the people in Doniphan would know of her studio. She also made her presence known by interacting with those who lived and worked in the town.
“I taught teachers at the school and gave them classes for free,” said Robinson. “I taught to the doctors at the hospital, too. I did a lot of stuff in the community and all it cost me was a little time. That helped a lot. We would explain the health benefits and the non-dogmatic form of yoga that didn’t have any religious or spiritual aspect. It was more about connecting with yourself and your own body.”
On top of getting acclimated with your local community, consistency should be at the forefront of your mind as a studio owner in a small town. Robinson always aimed to be consistent in her willingness to help, her location and her growth.
“Go for consistent growth instead of starting off with a big studio and paying big rent,” said Robinson. “I’ve known studios to do that and they haven’t lasted long. They get to a point where they can’t sustain it, even though they anticipated a lot more people coming in, it just didn’t work out that way. Keep it simple. Try to find a place that you can teach a few classes for free to get your footing in the community.”
Finally, Robinson advised studio owners in small towns to stay true to themselves, and not try to be something they aren’t just because it seems to fit in with the yoga market.
“You really need to find your niche and what works for you, even in a small town,” said Robinson. “Don’t be afraid to get out there and let yourself be known and that you are here. What is going to work for a studio in a city isn’t going to work for a studio in a small town.”