Before SKY TING was a three-location yoga studio in New York, it was an idea on a napkin.
Krissy Jones and Chloe Kernaghan had been teaching at a vinyasa studio in the city and started training with the same mentor, Nevine Michaan. After working together for several years, the idea to open their own studio started. It could be a place where teachers were free to teach what they loved in a beautiful space. “One of the main things Chloe and I were feeling down about our old studio was there was no room to grow,” said Jones.
Toward the end of 2014, Jones was sitting with Kernaghan talking about New Year’s resolutions. Jones began to write hers on a napkin. After jotting down, “get a dog,” she wrote “open a studio,” not really thinking it would happen.
But in 2015, Jones and Nick Poe, the designer and third owner of SKY TING, found the perfect space, signing the lease on a whim. “I trusted the idea and the need for this sort of space in New York City,” said Jones. Kernaghan came on board shortly after.
Since, SKY TING has become a platform for teachers’ personal careers. The studio’s yoga practice is a blend of different traditions — vinyasa, Iyengar, kundalini and Katonah. They encourage instructors to infuse their personal training style into class, giving students something new every time. Teachers are also given opportunities to run workshops and retreats, and maybe one day, they could also own their own SKY TING location. It’s a career path both Kernaghan and Jones wished they’d had in the studios where they taught.
But when it comes to pay, both owners recognize it’s hard in New York City with the typical amount yoga teachers receive. They lived off of that pay themselves for a time. As such, Jones said it’s key to look at what your market is paying and then aim on the higher side, which is what they’ve done.
This also brings in the caliber of teachers the owners would want to practice with, said Kernaghan. And, giving teachers an incentive — SKY TING also pays its teachers per head in class — helps instructors want to grow their classes. “We like the incentivization,” said Kernaghan. “That made sense to us, as both teachers and owners.”
Jenn Tardif has been part of the SKY TING family since day one. She teaches weekly classes, leads global retreats and workshops, and lectures in their teacher training program. Jones’ and Kernaghan’s cultivation of an environment that embraces and celebrates diversity is something Tardif loves about the studio.
“Rather than hand teachers a set of sequencing guidelines or enforcing a mandate for how to structure a class, they encourage us to do whatever it is we do best, which results in an offering that’s truly from the heart,” she said.
In fact, Clarke Thorell, a longtime member of SKY TING, said he notices the diverse classes and teachers the studio has collected. “They’ve managed to curate the most amazing collection of teachers, drawing from vast influences that provide structure and foundation, but also continue to evolve and expand,” he shared.
And like the amazing collection of teachers, Jones and Kernaghan said they have an amazing community of members.
The owners shared they’ve learned over the years that the members who come to SKY TING the most are the best ambassadors for the brand. As such, they work hard to value them. For instance, every month Jones and Kernaghan co-teach a special member’s-only class, which is usually fun, wacky and involves a lot of adjustments. It is a way they can say “thank you” to those students for signing up for an unlimited package.
Members also receive 20% off retail items, and discounts on retreats and teacher trainings. Plus, the studio will host fun events here and there, like a tie-dye in the park. “The main thing we’ve learned is support your main customers who are coming over and over again,” said Jones. “Those are the people you really want to treat well and make sure they know you care and you know their names and know they are important to you, because those are the people vouching for your brand — online and in person.”
But SKY TING’s space also allows for the connected community to thrive. Kernaghan said when they were first opening, there were two extremes of spaces in the industry: very clean and corporate, or deep into yoga Indian tradition with incense and Hindu gods on the wall. “For us and our style of practice especially … we wanted something that felt more secular, just open and available to anyone,” said Kernaghan.
Poe is the genius behind SKY TING’s design. Each location highlights the original architecture of the space. Thorell described the studios as clean, bright, open and airy. He said features such as a jacuzzi-like pit couch encourage socialization. Tardif explained the spaces are beautiful and minimal. She noted SKY TING prioritizes communal spaces that reflect what you’d find in a friend’s living room. Plants were brought in, as was something else: each location has its own mascot — a giraffe, a panda and a flamingo.
Kernaghan said the mascots are quirky and fun, but weren’t in the initial plan. “Those came on accident initially with the giraffe, which was an art project of Nick’s, which we moved into the space because the ceilings were so high and it seemed like it was a nice space initially,” she explained. “And then when we opened and everyone loved it, it became a trademark of the space.”
The owners also know not everyone in their local community is as deep into yoga as they are. As such, they look to offer community events for people who even kind of dislike yoga. These include meditation trainings, book events and sound baths, plus an annual talent show.
Jones and Kernaghan got the idea for a talent show after attending a retreat upstate where a mock talent show was held. “It was so fun for an adult to lose their inhibition and their cool factor and just get weird and fun on stage,” said Kernaghan.
Members can participate once a year in SKY TING’s talent show. The owners have seen a variety of talents from their members and teachers: fire breathing, rapping, poetry reading, dancing, singing and more.
Ultimately, all of the above that makes SKY TING what it is wouldn’t have come about without a clear vision. That was a tip the owners gave: know what you believe in and build everything around that.
With the vision driving everything they do, it’s clear the studio is comprised of three main ingredients: good yoga, good design and good community.
That in and of itself is a recipe for success in New York City.