Updated: Feb 23
Neighborhood: South Lake Union
May 2020: In a time when physical touch is at best, discouraged, and at worst, feared, how do you find a place for yoga? And, how do you work to ensure more in our community have access to it, to heal, thrive, and connect?
These are the questions Michel Spruance is digging into as she works tirelessly to pivot her business for the COVID-era, amidst the uncertain future of SLU and a recent transition to Utah, to care for older family members.
Be Luminous Yoga recently celebrated its tenth year and had excitedly signed a new 10-year lease, ready for continued growth. How did this all start? What was the vision that propelled you forward?
My ego would like to be a lot of different things but, I'm a teacher. It’s what I'm here to do.
I 100 percent believe in this practice to upgrade people's lives and not only because it has changed my life, but because I hear the story over and over and over again, from others.
People start for fitness. They start because of whatever health benefit they believe they’re going to get. But they keep coming because it's changing their lives and it's helping them to love being parents, be more confident in their work, be less reactionary, and feel like they can make more empowered choices in their lives.
You’ve had to move that experience to online, how is that working? How is that serving your customers?
We tried this before and it did not work. No one would sign up.
And now people are discovering they can go to that 6 a.m. class because they only have to roll out of bed at 5:55. They have kids and didn’t think could carve out two hours a day for commuting, practicing, getting home. But now they can do this and their kids might even participate or maybe they're going to crawl around them but, that’s fine. Because they’re actually moving their body and doing something healthy.
It freed us in a way, that people didn't know they wanted. They couldn't imagine that it could be this good.
In what other ways are you getting this practice out into the community?
It’s been possible to pivot because our clients all, by and large, are online and can still afford to practice. And, now we can expand that to reach more people.
We are giving yoga away to the entire employed-body of any medical community that will take it.
And, we can again serve people who used to live here but who are now practicing with us in France, India and Germany. They’re back.
You’ve been able to pivot but you were also in a strong place before COVID, so how have your finances been affected?
Our sales have plummeted. We’ve lost about 50% of our monthly subscriptions, on top of the loss of individual classes.
How are you tackling that?
The system is gone. It no longer works. So, I’m working more than I’ve ever worked, to keep it going.
We have launched a $39 monthly pass for online classes.
What we have to learn to do now is volume.
And to do that we have to learn how to do online marketing. We never had to market. We saw a hundred to one hundred and fifty people a month through our doors who were new to us, who found us because of location or word of mouth.
As a small business, we just don't have the skill set for the new reality. We have the skill set to translate yoga beautifully online. We can move people physically, emotionally. But, we need to reach more people.
So, we are creating at an incredibly intense rate. We did a 21-day yoga and meditation challenge that started April 1st. And it was free. We are putting our 200 hour teacher training online. I am developing a course called Mindful Reentry.
Tell me more about the mindfulness training, how does that work to connect this new client base?
It’s about envisioning what you actually want your life to look like on the other side of this, then taking the best parts forward and setting healthy boundaries. These are the tools we’re all going to need, in order to function with each other on the other side.
What keeps you going through the stress of plummeting sales and the creative drive of developing all of this new content?
It’s service. The business maybe won't survive in its current form. But, I know that these are the tools that we all need and now is the time people are ready to ask for them. And so now is the time to step up and meet the need.
The fuel for me is that this is what I’m truly here to do. And, I have a platform to share the tools that people need right now.
In what ways have you been successful in building connection for both your previous clients? And, how are you building that connection for new clients – how are you introducing them to who you are and your vision for change?
That's what my yoga teachers do all day, is connect. That's what we're about. We've spent a lot of years honing our skills at seeing human beings, not just people on mats or boxes on screens.
That’s a translatable skill.
It’s how you start class and bring students into the class. It’s how you create the connections. And it’s what good yoga teachers do - they see human beings and they make human beings feel seen.
What support have you received, to keep the business afloat during this pivot?
We didn't get the first round of PPP but we did get the second round. But, I don’t get paid through that. I’m working these long days and nights to keep this running, but I’m not getting paid.
My landlord has been reasonable and supportive – they know that if they get me through this, they have a 10 year lease. But, I also have a 4000 square foot space in South Lake Union. If we can open and only operate at 40 percent capacity, then I need also a different rent structure. The space is no longer has the value it had.
And, the state is doing good work but deferring the B&O tax doesn’t actually help me. I’m not even making money for them to tax. It sounds really nice in a soundbite, but it's actually not meaningful.
Throughout all of this, how have you taken care of yourself?
Ha! Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, I work, work, work, until I hit a wall. And, then I wake up around every Thursday morning, and I realize I haven’t done anything for myself. So, I start again. And Thursday through Sunday, I make sure I move my body. I make sure I meditate. I make sure I have budgeted time for my kids: truly spending an hour doing whatever my three year old wants to do. And, then Monday starts and I repeat the cycle.
What do you wish the government understood about where your business is at right now?
That we're actually working insanely hard. Not just to stay afloat, but to serve.
On a national level, what I wish is that there was clarity and one consistent message that would allow us to move through this without battling.
I guess what I really want the government to do is figure out how to help people, not be terrified of people. Because our lives do require us to interact. And the fear with which human beings are moving through the world now, is going to make it even more impossible for us to do the work of rebuilding our economy.
I want them to know: You guys hold the PR strings, so get a clear message and make it powerful. A message that allows us to stay safe and not keep being afraid of each other. Because everyone's going to keep going further down the rabbit hole until we figure out how to interact.
Our leaders need to figure out how to get past their own fear and stress.
Throughout the challenges you’ve faced and the opportunities you’re tackling, has there been anything that's really surprised you about, like the capacity of your business or the capacity of your team?
I already believed that these tools make a difference for people, especially in moving out stress and moving into possibility and joy. Or holding what is difficult and complicated, but still find joy, which is not a skill we teach in school.
And that's what we're giving people: de-stress, hold what is difficult, find joy.
I'm discovering is that what I believed was possible is what people all of a sudden, need.
The world wasn't ready for this. But I'm seeing the capacity of the community to discover something new as possible. when one new thing is possible, how many other new things are possible that we didn't even know? So, what else is needed? And how can we meet the need?
We need to get really good at making bold requests…of our communities or of our employers. We need to get really good at self-compassion and compassion for other people. It's sub looking at the person in the grocery store. This is a call to action. How are we going to be human beings together? And, that’s exciting, if we do the work.
Hey Seattle, here's how you can help!