by Jim Catapano
There’s no yoga class without the instructor, and yet most of them are struggling, burning themselves out just to eat and pay the rent. Alex Klein has an answer: get on the YogaTrail.
“We have a masterplan to disrupt the word of yoga by empowering the teachers,” says Alex, Founder of the YogaTrail App, which is currently the subject of a SeedInvest campaign— an opportunity for investors to not only fund its growth but actually own a share in the company.
“The reason that people go to a particular class is the teacher,” says Alex. “YogaTrail is a platform that connects students with teachers — the providers who are the key to the whole yoga market.”
If the membership statistics on YogaTrail are any indication, 80 percent of those teachers are women, operating as freelancers. “By and large, throughout the world, they can’t make a living teaching yoga full time,” says Alex. “They have to have day jobs.”
That leaves little time to create a brand—Alex notes that many yoga teachers don’t even have personal websites to promote themselves.
“Teachers throughout the world are freelancing, teaching in all different studios and having all kinds of stuff happening, and they don’t really have the proper tools,” observes Alex. “Right now about half of all yoga teachers have their online presence defined by having a Facebook page, and that’s it. The problem is that everybody’s on Facebook, so it becomes completely ineffective. Nobody sees anything they post!”
After discovering yoga in India with his friend Alex Jaton, Alex realized that teachers needed a real guiding hand. The two joined forces with Sven Ernst to launch YogaTrail in 2013.
“We think the yoga community is a special animal that needs its own network, so that’s what we’re trying to do,” Klein says. “We offer a whole bunch of tools for yoga teachers to post their classes, to describe themselves, to try to attract new clients, but also provide tools for them to communicate with their students and help them manage their business.”
One of the most common difficulties an instructor faces is three-fold: 1) letting everyone know when they’re teaching a class; 2) letting everyone know when they’re canceling a class; and 3) finding a replacement in case of 2.
“We’re very teacher-centric,” says Alex. “We try to make the tools very easy. If they cancel a class, they have a check box option to notify all students, either on their phone or in an email. We also have a ‘Kula,’ where teachers can have a network, and if they need a sub they can send a call out to their Kula to find one, and they can be offered opportunities from others in their network.”
And of course, at the other end of the yoga trail are the students. “It can be your own personal yoga world,” explains Klein. “You can follow your favorite teachers and studios, and get all their classes and upcoming workshops aggregated into one view. So instead of going to individual websites and looking through the schedule to see when your favorite instructor is teaching, or who they’re substituting for, you get it all in one single page.”
And while YogaTrail has been profitable in the last year, (“barely,” adds Klein), the fundraising aims to take things to the next level. One of the points driven home in the seed-invest campaign is the notion of empowering a female-centric community, independent and free of the system.
We think there’s also a big social impact to be had here, not just a way to make a lot of money, but actually empower teachers to manage things more independently so they’re not so dependent on studios and gyms. And help them to succeed—we think we can also create more opportunities for yoga teachers.”
Alex points out that to lead a yoga class you don’t actually need a physical studio.
“You just need some space and maybe a little bit of insurance, and tools to help you be organized,” says Alex. “And we think we can provide those things to teachers so they can organize classes in all kinds of places. We can perhaps connect them with alternative venues — even people’s houses. So imagine intimate classes with six or seven people. Each of them paying what they would pay in the studio, except now the teacher takes most of the money, so it’s actually more lucrative for them to do these smaller classes. And because the classes are smaller—you can’t jam 40 people into somebody’s living room—so right now you need four teachers teach the same number of students. There’s more demand, so that can be a win-win kind of situation. The yoga students get more intimacy and personal attention. We are planning out scenarios where like a yogi who hosts the class can get it for free.”
The YogaTrail team is hoping investors can help them to take over the world of yoga for the good of all.
“We want to help to make it very very easy for them,” Alex says of the teachers. “To at least make a decent living so that they can do what they love, and not have to wait tables or work in an office or something like that. So that’s our big mission.”
To learn all about YogaTrail and how to be a part of it, please visit http://www.seedinvest.com/yogatrail.
Jim Catapano has written over 300 articles about all things yoga, and hopes his love for the practice and community shows through all of them. He is also an actor, drummer with the Opposition band, creator of “The Dave Dimension” online comic, and professional social media snarker (for balance!).