What sort of business would you start, given the chance? Anais Alvarado decided to start a yoga studio - Retreat Yoga Studio, a wellness space where everyone is welcome. Still in the process of starting up, and launching in the new year, we thought we'd ask Anais a few questions as she gets ready to open her doors to the public. Read on...

What's the ethos behind your business?

Retreat Yoga Studio will offer yoga and meditation classes as well as workshops, mini retreats, counselling and Thai massage to help local residents release tension and stress, in a place where they feel nurtured and comfortable. We aim to offer a space where people can come together and be themselves, find calm and connect with others through wellness. It is located a two-minute walk from New Cross station, a perfect location to help East London residents fit in an hour of wellbeing before or after work.

How long have you been preparing for the launch?

I started looking for a commercial space in January 2017 and didn't find the right one until August. Since then, it has been a long process of applying for a change of use, negotiating the lease, meeting with architects and contractors and raising funds. Overall it has taken much longer than I would prefer, and I couldn't wait to welcome everyone in and start building a community around wellness and shared principles. It's not long now until we open, so I am very grateful to be able to launch the studio just over a year after I started searching for the space!

Did you choose the time of year specifically?

Not really, but then again we weren't sure how long it would take for the space to be ready and all the paperwork in place. I like these cold months when people are charging their batteries - yoga offers the support needed during this season. It's very exciting to open the doors and offer a nest for people to recharge in anticipation for spring.

What are the key things you've been doing to build awareness beforehand?

I organised a yoga event in the summer that brought people to a beautiful art gallery in Clapham. We had four sessions with some of the best yoga teachers in London, and that was the first time I mentioned the name Retreat Yoga Studio publicly. Then, when it was all a bit more certain with the commercial property, I decided to launch a crowdfunding campaign to raise awareness about the studio and to have an online platform I could refer people to, instead of the website. I didn't have a timetable ready by then, so my website wouldn't have offered much content. Instead, the crowdfunding campaign had videos showing people where the space is located and explaining what we plan to do with the space, as well as photos and more information. Also, through the crowdfunding campaign we managed to secure some early sales and create some interest for what was coming in the new year.

What do you have planned for the launch itself - event, soft launch?

We are planning a weekender of free classes where people can trial different teachers and styles. I also hope to have a guest teacher come and bless the space with some group meditation in an intimate opening ceremony.

What is the most important thing this experience has taught you?

To be patient. Things won't always happen as you want them to. It is important to see these circumstances as opportunities to be creative and think outside the box, rather than become frustrated and waste valuable time. 

Any other tips?

Make sure you are very passionate about your idea. There will be obstacles in the way that will test your commitment towards your project. But if you genuinely believe in it and you know in your heart that is what you want to do, you will overcome these obstacles and find success. I have been very lucky to be surrounded by a collective of friends who infused this process with lots of positive energy. Being a sole trader it can feel lonely at times, but if you welcome people into your project and let them be a part of it, you'll be surprised with how far you can go!


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