Yoga: the ultimate flexible business

Cheryl MacDonald loves her job. She has turned what was a hobby into a business and is now offering her business model to other mums. Workingmums.co.uk talked to her.

Cheryl MacDonald loves her job. She has turned what was a hobby into a business and is now offering her business model to other mums.

Cheryl has been teaching yoga for around eight years and practising it for 14. She was working as a business analyst and used to teach at the weekends and in the evenings as a hobby.

Five years ago she started thinking about having children and became interested in pre-natal yoga. She decided to do training to be a prenatal yoga teacher. Then she was made redundant while she was on maternity leave with her first child. “It worked well,” she says. “It gave me more time to devote to growing the business.”

She set up Yogabellies and was back teaching within seven weeks of giving birth. She started with one class and built it up. Her studio is on the bottom floor of her house so she was able to take classes after her son went to bed at 7pm and his dad was home.

Cheryl says the demand for classes built quickly. She started teaching baby massage and yoga and took her son to some of the classes until he was too mobile. He now goes to a childminder one day a week.

She follows the mums through from the prenatal to postnatal stage. The classes include breathing techniques for the birth, relaxation and self hypnosis. “There’s a lot of anatomy and physio,” she says. Her husband is a cardiologist with an interest in the medical benefits of yoga and he takes part in some of the classes.

“Baby massage is all about bonding and communicating with the baby,” says Cheryl. “It doesn’t feel as if I am at work. The mums who have been to the prenatal classes bring pictures of their babies. They become friends. Many come to mum and baby yoga. The yoga builds the babies’ muscles and helps to rebuild the mums’ pelvic floors and abdominal muscles. It’s nothing too strenuous. For babies, the massage helps with colic and other problems. It helps build mums’ confidence.”

She is just starting yoga classes for mums and more mobile babies and hopes there will be as much interest in this as in her other classes.

She thinks her Yogabellies classes have been so popular because they are “very easy going”. “Seventy to eighty per cent of my mums have never been to yoga before. They don’t have to be big hippies to do it. I don’t want to scare people,” she says. “There’s lots of humour. It’s for everyone.”

Franchise
Demand for mum and baby yoga and baby massage grew so fast that last autumn that Cheryl realised she needed more people to give classes for her in the Glasgow area. She advertised on Facebook and says the response was “overwhelming”. She had 130 applicants to train with her.

She says she was planning to franchise her business from the beginning, but when she saw the response in Glasgow she opted to go ahead straight away. She has nine franchisees already – in Scotland, Northern Ireland, Eire, London and Derby – and is looking for more.

Cheryl says she accepts yoga teachers and mums with some yoga experience. “I’d rather have a mum with some experience as yoga can be taught, but you can’t teach someone to be a mum,” she says.

She recommends franchisees have no more than 14 people in a class.

Franchisees get a Yogabellies birth pack which includes a self-hypnosis CD and booklet. When would-be franchisees fill in an application form, Cheryl gives them a call to check they have the right experience and everyone is happy. The first step after they have signed up is to begin the training course, which is accredited by official yoga bodies. They can choose which type of class they want to teach and can do further training at a later stage. They also get some business training. Cheryl has a degree in international business and modern languages. They get their own email and web presence. Cheryl provides support whenever they need it.

Franchisees pay up to £2,000 for pre-natal yoga training if they have no previous experience. Annual registration costs £600, but Yogabellies does not take a percentage of earnings. Baby massage training costs is £425 and less if you are taking yoga teacher training too. Annual registration for this costs £95.

Sophie McCandless was made redundant last year and had always wanted to be self-employed. She found Yogabellies when the logo popped up on her Facebook page after she put yoga down as one of her interests. “Within five minutes I had booked a place on the training course,” she said.

She qualified in April. An events manager based in Northern Ireland, she is not yet a mum, but says she adores babies. “ I can’t think of any other way I could impact people as readily.” she says. She adds that Cheryl provides a lot of support and is even coming to a baby show Sophie will be attending. “She is inspirational,” says Sophie, adding that she hopes to build up her business so that when she does have children she can fit her work easily around her family life. “It’s a huge lifestyle choice,” she says.




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