Beth Shaw: Keeping Up with Yoga for Well-Being Amidst the Pandemic

Beth Shaw photo on Official Natasha Miller website

“I think a lot of people right now have fear. For me, the beautiful thing in life is to have your fear, but move past it because it offers a tremendous opportunity for growth and transformation.”

Author, visionary, and entrepreneur, Beth Shaw is a pioneer in the wellness, yoga, and fitness space in North America. Her dedication to spreading yoga throughout North America has been unparalleled and she founded YogaFit, the most prominent and largest yoga fitness education school in the world, which has certified over 200,000 instructors worldwide since 1994. Through the continued development of Yoga Fit, Beth is at the forefront of being CEO, creating innovative and educational programs and yoga teacher training courses.

Beth is also a best-selling author who has sold over 100,000 copies worldwide with her premier book YogaFit. YogaLean is a lifestyle program that provides tools for maintaining optimal health. The YogaFit Athlete, which was released in 2016, has influenced a 100-hour YogaFit for Athletes specialty track for instructors. YogaFit is a truly international brand, with all books being translated into multiple languages and provides universal appeal. Her latest venture is called Healing Trauma With Yoga, which was released in December of 2019.

I got to sit down with Beth and talk about YogaFit’s revenue streams, her approach to writing books, and how they had to make a 22-year business model when the pandemic hit.

YogaFit’s revenue streams

According to research by Wellness Creative Co. and Allied Market Research, the global yoga and pilates market is expected to grow at a rate of 11.7%. US$88 billion was spent on studio memberships as well as classes for customers worldwide in 2015; with their spending projected to reach $215 billion by 2025.

Being a lucrative industry, their revenue streams have varied throughout the years. Beth said, “If you were to ask me this question, 10 years ago, a quarter of our revenue came from books, DVDs, CDs, and clothing.” However, because of the emergence of e-commerce platforms and everything going digital, that part of their business has largely gone away.

They used to do 15 conferences a year which were attended by 200 to 300 people at most, as well as weekend training at health clubs, universities, military bases, and yoga studios. Following the heels of educational institutions during the pandemic, they also transitioned to online training to replace in-person training.

With so many employees now working from home, they started partnering up with organizations to offer corporate wellness webinars. According to her, this library of webinars and pre-done courses are “predominantly focused on mental wellness so that corporations can provide to their employees’ tools that are self-directed so that people can take control of their health physically and mentally by themselves with our guidance.”

Bringing a healthier, happier, balanced lifestyle to readers through her books

“At least every two years now I’m trying to do a book because I think it’s a very good discipline.”

In the hustle and bustle of our fast-paced world, we often forget to take care of ourselves. If you’re looking into improving your quality of life through wellness practices, Beth offers essential information on how to implement scientifically-proven techniques with yoga, meditation, breathing exercises, and Ayurveda in your daily life. Her books are the perfect guide for anyone who needs some assistance in self-care and habit development.

In terms of publishing, her tip is to “find a publishing company that is aligned with your core values and believes in what you do”. Currently, she is working on her fifth book with Dr. Nick Perricone called Yoga for Longevity. “It’s a super challenging thing to take on. It requires a lot of discipline. It requires a lot of focus. It requires a lot of things that I don’t really have inherently within myself,” she said.

Challenges faced during COVID

As the spread of COVID-19 continues to increase, it is imperative that we take steps now for our collective wellbeing. Ironically, our collective well-being is at stake, as remote working, and lack of contact with family and friends may affect our mental health and feelings of social isolation.

Beth expressed the far-reaching effect of the pandemic on their industry.  Back when YogaFit used to run live events and conferences, they could still entice new people to join and eventually become students. “They could see the vision and the possibility, meet people, and that precipitated, bringing more people into the network,” she said.

Although the emergence of Livestream yoga services has become a new digital touchpoint,  some consumers who crave connection find it difficult to stay motivated without their fitness clubs or studios. She added, “Now with everything on Zoom, it’s a little bit harder to get new clients, not to mention the fact that a lot of yoga studios and fitness clubs are still shut down.”

However, even though things have lightened up a bit, especially with vaccinations and other safety measures in place and more fitness clubs reopening, people are still a bit hesitant to attend in-person events. “People have Zoom fatigue, and they’re in that very strange place between having Zoom fatigue, but not quite ready to go to live events yet,” she said.

Don’t miss my full conversation with Beth on the Fascinating Entrepreneurs podcast. Subscribe and tune in!

Transcript from Podcast

​​[00:00:00] Beth: I think it’s important as entrepreneurs to push yourself out of your comfort zone and as many ways as possible so that you grow as a person, as a spirit, as an entity.

[00:00:11] Natasha: Welcome to FASCINATING ENTREPRENEURS. How do people end up becoming an entrepreneur? How do they scale and grow their businesses? How do they plan for profit? Are they in it for life? Are they building to exit? These and a myriad of other topics will be discussed to pull back the veil on the wizardry of successful and FASCINATING ENTREPRENEURS.

I’ve written a book, a memoir that starts with my challenging upbringing with all the twists and turns and inflection points including saving my company due to the pandemic. It will be published this year. So please go to natashamiller.co and sign up on my mailing list so you’re the first to know when it’s available.

Today I talked to Beth Shaw, founder and CEO of YogaFit Worldwide. She talks about all of their revenue streams, what they’re working on now to scale and grow, and how she approaches writing and publishing her books. Now let’s get right into it.

[00:01:17] Beth: I think my journey to entrepreneurship really started when I was in high school. My boyfriend and I at the time made gloves for a Michael Jackson concert on my mother’s sewing machine that was coming to town and we thought we were going to sell like thousands of them in the street and we ended up not, but that was probably my first early entrepreneurial thing.

I was always doing things like dog walking, babysitting. And I’ve been working actually since age 15. My first job was with a travel agency that used to bring people to Europe and then leave them there on charter flights. So that got shut down rather quickly. And then I went to work after school and during the summers for a giftware a company where I was doing collections. So I think that was a great early primer for entrepreneurship.

[00:02:08] Natasha: And at that time, did you think that you would continue being an entrepreneur or did you think that you would eventually go to work for someone else? And that would be your life?

[00:02:17] Beth: Probably when I graduated from college, I tried to get a number of different jobs working for other people.

I ultimately secured one and I did advertising sales for a number of years, which is almost like being in your own business because you’re pretty much in control of your own income. But then the name YogaFit came to me one day on a bike ride when I was living in Southern California and I trademark the name immediately. I went and did a cable TV show.

Although I had no idea about how to do that. I started a mail order clothing company for yoga wear I didn’t really know much about that. Either went to a couple of trade shows with my staff. One thing led to another, and I got one of my students to become an angel investor and help me raise money. And that’s when we started YogaFit the school.

[00:03:04] Natasha: That’s a great story to get a student to invest in your company. Pure gold. I want everyone to think about that because when you’re an entrepreneur and you’re building a company and you need capital, you might be hesitant to ask friends or family or your students, but you did it.

So, YogaFit. I have been deeply enmeshed in your website and your company. And I’d love to talk to you about all the revenue streams that you found within this brand. And what has really risen to the top?

[00:03:36] Beth: We are an education company where the largest yoga mind body school in the world. On a good year, we’re training anywhere from 10 to 12,000 people world.

I have a team of 75 master trainers predominantly located in north America, but some in other countries. So our revenue streams have varied throughout the years. If you were to ask me this question, 10 years ago, a quarter of our revenue came from books, DVDs, CDs and clothing, but thanks to Amazon and everything going digital, that part of our business has largely gone away.

We do conferences pre-COVID. We were doing 15 conferences a year across north America. That typically got 200 to 300 people at each conference. Everyone from fitness instructors to yoga instructors, to mental health professionals, or really anyone who just wanted to learn. And how to incorporate into their lives for better health and wellness.

We do individual trainings. Weekend trainings at health clubs, universities, military bases, sometimes yoga studios. And that is a big part of our revenue as well. That of course has now gone pretty much 95% virtual. We also do sell some product, not that much. We license our name. We had a deal licensing our name for YogaFit Studios a few years back, didn’t work out that well.

So I took the name back there and then we have affiliate companies that we get a little bit of revenue from. Ancillary products, related products in the health and wellness space, body care products, vitamins, biohacking stuff. And because of COVID now we’ve added another revenue stream and that is we’re doing corporate wellness webinars, predominantly focused on mental wellness so that corporations can provide to their employees tools that are self-directed so that people can take control of their health physically and mentally by themselves with our guidance.

[00:05:33] Natasha: That’s wonderful. So in my core business, Entire Productions, we actually do bring in experts like you and your team for our corporate clients, Facebook and Google, et cetera, et cetera. It’s so important. At some point in the pandemic, they really got sick of the funny party hat Zooms, or the happy hour cocktail Zooms, and they wanted something of more substance. And it’s so wonderful that you were there to fill that space when it was so needed.

[00:06:01] Beth: Yeah, it’s funny because I’m a member of a variety of professional organizations like EO and WPO. And I was teaching like sometimes five classes a week for WPO members. During the early days of the pandemic, we were getting super great attendance, 60, 75 people at class through the WPO network, just because people really needed a mind and body activity and also movement.

[00:06:28] Natasha: Yes, I agree. And it’s so great. I’m in EO too. So at some point we meet each other in the EO world. So that starts to answer the next question I have for you.

So as someone who’s in the physical and mental wellbeing space, you’re not necessarily educated on starting and running a business although you had some great experience in advertising and marketing and some of the other things that you did.

So how do you go about gaining business operations? You have a huge company, you’re a visionary. How do you learn all the things that you need to learn to be a CEO of your business?

[00:07:06] Beth: The standard answer is find people that are good in certain roles. For example, I am definitely not an operations person.

So I now have someone who’s been on our team for over 20 years. Who’s great with operations and everybody owns their corner of the businesses. The business actually runs seamlessly without me, although I am the marketing person, the business development person, the person who comes with new ideas and trying to get into new markets, whether it’s international or corporate or whatever. I have personally, over the years, gone back to school on numerous occasions to try to educate myself more.

And that’s something that I really wished that I had done in the earliest stages of the business. I’m at Harvard in the OPM program. I’m supposed to finish up my last three weeks this August, if that happens. And I did the Goldman Sachs 10,000 small businesses program, obviously joining organizations like EO, WPO, and now I’m just a learning junkie because I feel, even though I’ve had my business now for over 23 years, I still feel like maybe somewhere I’m missing the boat and I need to learn more.

[00:08:14] Natasha: Okay. So here’s the deal. We haven’t met before today, but I also did the 10 KSB, the blended program at Babson in 2015 and following that, my business grew 65% year over year for a couple of years. And through EO, which I always want to plug EO, Entrepreneurs’ Organization, I’ve used it to really catapult myself in education.

So I’m doing the entrepreneurial masters program at MIT. And then I did their Harvard program last November and in 2019. And I actually met a handful of people that are doing the program you’re doing. That’s very intense. So that’s great.

So as an author of a handful of books, I’d like to know how you approach writing. Are you doing it all yourself? Are you using a ghost writer or using a great editor? So for those people that want to write a book, give them your best tip.

[00:09:12] Beth: I use a good editor and content organizer. At YogaFit and within myself, there’s no shortage of content. For me not being the most organized person I always have to write.

And I’m working on my fifth book right now with Dr. Nick Perricone called Yoga for Longevity. So what I typically do to get started as I will do table contents, the chapter outlines, and I usually write the preface, and then I usually have whoever’s going to write the introduction, has been Dr. Pam Peeke for a couple of my books, like YogaLean, and then I just really start to fill in the blanks.

And it’s a super challenging thing to take on. It requires a lot of discipline. It requires a lot of focus. It requires a lot of things that I don’t really have inherently within myself. So at least every two years now I’m trying to do a book because I think it’s a very good discipline. Just like going to the Harvard program.

We start at 7:30 AM and we’re going till late into the night. And I’m not used to working on a schedule and I like to be on my own schedule. And I think it’s important as entrepreneurs to push yourself out of your comfort zone and as many ways as possible so that you grow as a person, as a spirit entity.

[00:10:29] Natasha: So I just have to ask you at the Harvard program, I can’t remember the name of this professor, but he looks very young and you know how they like to run around the room and scribble on the chalkboard. There must be a Harvard business school, like mandatory, but this one guy would jump up on the ledge to write up at the top. I don’t know his name. I wish I could have. That was funny.

[00:10:50] Beth: Was that Boris?

[00:10:51] Natasha: I don’t think it was Boris. It was a guy that looked really young, like Doogie Howser type young.

[00:10:56] Beth: I’ll have to think about that.

[00:10:59] Natasha: Okay. So anyway, along the lines of publishing, I see that you’ve published with Human Kinetics and Blue River Press. What is the determining factor in deciding which publisher to use?

[00:11:10] Beth: Wow. That’s a great question. I’ve actually published two books with Random House Penguin Press also YogaLean.

[00:11:15] Natasha: Oh, I missed those. Yes. And I’d love to know the differentiator between a large publisher and these other publishers, because I think there’s a misnomer, but you tell me what your experience is.

[00:11:27] Beth: Let’s start with my first book, YogaFit with human kinetics, which is a great publishing company. They really focused on sports and fitness. They have great traction in universities and all of that. But at the time when I went to them and I want to say, this was like 2001, and I was like, I want to sell a hundred thousand copies of this book.

They had let their PR person go for six months. I had brought my own PR person in, who actually almost got thrown off the airplane for fighting with the flight attendants on our way there from LA. But that was a funny story.

[00:11:56] Natasha: Not exactly your brand.

[00:11:58] Beth: Yeah, not exactly. And she was wearing a coat too. But they were like, no yoga book’s going to sell a hundred thousand copies. So I guess my first thought was really find a publishing company that is aligned with your core values and believes in what you do. Random House Penguin Press, great company. Big. I’m not a huge author. So my book came and went. I think they also said don’t hire marketing firms.

And I really wish that I had, because YogaLean in particular is a wonderful book for everyone. The title is a little misleading. It’s really a lifestyle book, a diet book. It’s based on ayurveda. It’s got recipes in it and workouts, and it’s a really fabulous book. But I think it didn’t probably get the attention that it should have from a very large publishing company because I’m not one of the top 1% authors.

My last publishing company, I have to say it was very much of a disappointment, but I just wanted to get the book out. So I just did it for that reason. And it’s good because Healing Trauma with Yoga, which is this book, that came out right before the pandemic and good timing, because everybody needs to heal from anxiety, depression, PTSD.

If you weren’t traumatized before 2020, you probably are now.

[00:13:18] Natasha: I’m going to be ordering that book right after this call. And I have to share with you. I’d love your response to this. When I first started doing yoga maybe 15 years ago, I would be hesitant to do it because toward the end, when you’re relaxing and I would start to cry and I was so embarrassed because nobody else was, I was so emotional.

And my boyfriend at the time was a fitness instructor. He’s like, “That means you have to do it.” Is that something that you find in a lot of people?

[00:13:47] Beth: We hold all of our issues in our tissues. Every life experience we’ve had, thoughts and emotions, they all get trapped in the physical body. And if you believe that we’re carrying generational trauma in our DNA, in our cells, that also can be released.

I share a very personal story in this book, but I’m not going to share today, but of a memory that came to me from childhood during final relaxation in my early twenties. And it was rather shocking, but stuff comes up for people and it’s a safe space to release. That we train our YogaFit instructors, not to console or comfort or try to do therapy on people who are crying, but just let them have their emotions.

And I think that anything that brings us closer to our hearts, to our feelings to healing is a very worthwhile practice to engage in.

[00:14:39] Natasha: Thank you for responding to that. I think this is the first time I’ve ever said that out loud, but I think it’s important to say these things out loud about how we’re feeling.

So back to business and tactics, I would love to know with this wonderful large humming company that you have. And I say large, because you have so many facets and so many people involved today. What is your number one challenge in business that you are trying to overcome or working on?

[00:15:09] Beth: My number one challenge, I think right now is getting new students because we used to run live events and conferences, and we would run a level one training or YogaFit warriors training, which is our trauma-based training.

We would get new people who were coming in. They would get to interface with people who have, going for their ROIT 500 or people who are in our 900 hour yoga therapy track. And they could see the vision and the possibility, meet people, and that precipitated, bringing more people into the network. Now with everything on Zoom, it’s a little bit harder to get new clients, not to mention the fact that a lot of yoga studios and fitness clubs are still shut down.

[00:15:47] Natasha: Yes. And of course this will rebound but in time. And it’s the businesses that were fortified or the pivoted in order to stay alive that will see that resurgence of the in-person events. So that leads me to the next question is, currently this year, what is your number one strategy to both stay in business, but to grow and thrive? What is to scale and grow? What is your strategy that you’re really doubling down on?

[00:16:16] Beth: The strategy really is to get out there doing more corporate wellness and to expose ourselves to individuals who may not have ever heard of us. Our goal is to make partnerships with companies in related spaces and just look for business in unusual places right now. We had to pivot a 22 year business model to all virtual within two weeks after the lockdown. We did that successfully.

Last year was a great year for us because everybody was trapped at home and people were finishing up their certifications. This year, things have lightened up a bit because I think people have Zoom fatigue, and they’re in that very strange place between having Zoom fatigue, but not quite ready to go to live events yet.

And we were supposed to have a conference next week in Minnesota, Minneapolis, and we had to cancel it because of the rioting. We’re like, three miles from our host hotel. We’ve got a conference coming up in July in Scottsdale. We’re just going to run it no matter how many people show up. I had a retreat here in Fort Lauderdale, Florida in April.

I had about 20 people. We kept it small. I had about 20 people come and it was so great to be in person again with people doing yoga and dancing and doing things on the beach and interacting. And people were really happy. I think a lot of people right now have fear. And for me, the beautiful thing in life is to have your fear, but move past it because it offers a tremendous opportunity for growth and transformation.

But I think a lot of people are not in that space right now.

[00:17:48] Natasha: Maybe not yet. It’s going to take some time for the healing to set in. So in going after more of the corporate wellness, how does your team go about that outreach?

[00:17:58] Beth: There are many companies that distribute corporate wellness to corporations. So we have partnerships with some of those companies and I’ve done some one-offs for Cigna Insurance company, like an hour and a half webinar on volunteer fitness.

Then they record it and they distribute it to their employees. We have some relationships with different insurance companies. We have a, hundred pre-done classes that we’re selling to them, and then they distribute it to their networks. So it’s a case by case thing, but it’s something that I’m very passionate about because even if corporations truly don’t care about their employees, they should at least look like they do and provide these mental wellness tools because people are really, I’m struggling with anxiety and depression because of the pandemic.

And I live in Florida and still have a business. I can just imagine for my friends, like in Canada, who can’t leave their house or in some of the other states that have been severely locked down, you can’t escape this whole COVID thing. Even if you don’t watch the news, even if you’ve deleted all the news apps off your phone, it is pervasive. It’s ever present.

For me, it’s like a big, heavy weighted blanket hanging over all of us. So it’s the daily things like for myself, like exercising or standing on my head in my headstand machine with my red light in my face for 20 minutes. Or shocking myself with my EMS suit or, whatever I can do to keep the mood high.

Because like I said, I have all the tools. I have all the tools and I have still been struggling. So as you can imagine..

[00:19:28] Natasha: Somebody like you has the secret sauce to remedying some of these things and you still have struggle then of course, then those that don’t have access to it, they’re in need of your services.

I have just recently learned a little bit more about biohacking. It’s not really something that I paid that much attention to, but I’ve recently discovered this device. And I’m just wondering if you’ve heard of it. It’s called happy and you wear it around your neck. And I guess..

[00:19:56] Beth: I’ve heard of it.

[00:19:57] Natasha: Some sort of vibration and I ordered it. I’m dying to see what it can do. Do you have any experience with those kinds of technologies?

[00:20:05] Beth: Yeah, I practice a lot of biohacking. In fact, in a week and a half, I’m going to a biohacking studio in Tampa, a woman who came on our retreat, who is part of the YogaFit network owns. And I’m very excited cause she’s got all the choice.

I use red light therapy, edgy cryo, thinking about buying a NanoVi. I know a lot of people who have all of those gadgets and they say it helps them sleep better. It comes in anxiety and depression. And the good news is with biohacking. There are a lot of quick fixes that you can do.

In fact, pre COVID, I started a non-profit called the Center for Conscious Healing. And my goal was to open up kind of high tech, low tech biohacking plus yoga and meditation so that people could go there to deal with their anxiety, their depression, their trauma. If they’re in recovery, trying to stay sober, or if they needed to get sober, it was going to be a great resource for that as well.

I was going to start fundraising again when I left my Harvard program in February 2020, but then COVID hit some, a little bit behind and all of that.

[00:21:06] Natasha: Everything in its time though, right? I think COVID put me and a lot of people into a space of reinvention and ideation and creativity. So I had tons of plans as well for 2020, and a lot of them fell to the wayside, but so many things grew from that open space, that white space that we have.

[00:21:29] Beth: That’s awesome. Congratulations.

[00:21:31] Natasha: Thank you. So the last question I have for you is in how you are thinking about, or are you thinking about an exit plan of any sort for your business?

[00:21:42] Beth: I’m approached a lot for people who would like to purchase my business. And if I was a smart person, I’d sell it before the end of the year to avoid the capital gains increase that’s coming our way.

But my goal right now actually is to find a company in a related space that does certification and training and purchase that company because I had never had the experience of purchasing a company. And I’m very eager to have that experience and add onto our existing offerings.

[00:22:08] Natasha: That’s so exciting. If you don’t know this person, I would suggest that you look into, you probably know this person already, but Roland Frasier. He teaches people how to acquire businesses and he’s just so brilliant and he’s full of incredible information and he may have ideas of how to source and qualify that specific entity that you’re looking for, but other than that, he can teach you how to figure out the deal and how to do the buy.

And it really got me thinking about, wow, I developed my core business from the ground up. So did you. But what if we, back then, acquired a business? And jumped over the 10 to 15 years of learning that we probably both had to do.

And that’s the whole point is I’m seeing a lot now that acquiring businesses is greater than creating a startup. Now, I don’t know if I agree with that because I love creativity and ideation and innovation, but it sounds like that’s something that you really tapped into.

[00:23:10] Beth: I see what a lot of my EO colleagues too, they may have a business, but they’re like buying a franchise on the side or someone in my EO forum group just bought a business and did their own due diligence looking at different businesses to buy.

So again, it’s out of my bucket list of things that I would like to as a business person have experienced. So I’m on the hunt. If anybody knows anybody anybody who wants to sell a certification or education company in health, wellness, recovery, or addiction space, reach out to me at beth@yogafit.com.

[00:23:42] Natasha: That’s wonderful. You’ve put the ask out. I’d love to see what kind of response you get. That’s it Beth for me, unless you want to talk about something that we didn’t touch upon yet.

[00:23:52] Beth: Just everybody take care of your health. It’s your most valuable asset always. So make it a priority.

[00:23:59] Natasha: Beth was a breath of fresh air and such a lovely and smart entrepreneur who can mix both the movement, healing arts with serious entrepreneurship.

To learn more about her, go to the show notes where your listening to this podcast.

For more information about me, go to my website, natashamiller.co. Thank you so much for listening. I hope you loved the show. If you did, please subscribe. Also, if you haven’t done so yet, please leave a review where you’re listening to this podcast now. I’m Natasha Miller and you’ve been listening to FASCINATING ENTREPRENEURS.

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