Meet Africa Yoga Project studio Partner, YO BK owner, Kate Davies! She and her community have committed to supporting Africa Yoga Project this year through fundraisers, hosting the Handstands, Hugs, Happiness Tour, offering a workshop in Nairobi, and more! Read on to learn about how she turned her passion into a successful business that also gives back.
Kate is originally from New York, where YO BK is located, but she found yoga in Texas when she was in college. Hot yoga, specifically, became non-negotiable to her college life, and later, life in general. When she became a teacher, she returned to work with the woman who had first taught her yoga in Texas, who also walked her through the process of opening a studio.
When she moved back to New York, she opened YO BK in Williamsburg – a rare business at the time – now Williamsburg has a host of yoga centers to choose from. Kate recruited her friends to teach and run the studio and was open for business in 2015.
What started as a Bikram studio, now offers a variety of forms of fitness under one roof which Kate says is the key to their success. YO BK offers the discipline of Bikram, the challenging, community oriented and playful Baptiste Yoga and the higher cardio PIlates.
Kate describes her studio as, “really fun– the teachers are both passionate about their craft and approachable to students.” Plus they include a wide range of ages, and backgrounds (including many men who come to practice at the studio). At YO BK there is a Karma Yoga Program, where individuals can exchange volunteer hours for yoga classes making yoga accessible to all. Kate describes the students as interesting, respectful, smart and fun.
Kate’s commitment to service also goes beyond her local community. When she attended a Baptiste Level 2 training she met Paige Elenson, founder of Africa Yoga Project. Kate immediately wanted to get involved and it was the perfect time as the studio had been open for 3 years and she was expanding to a new location. “This was an opportunity to really connect to the “why” in a global way - making yoga more accessible, not just to people we know on a daily basis, but across the globe” she shared. Kate then designed a very unique way to fundraise for Africa Yoga Project that also solved a problem for her studio.
“Our classes sell out.” she shared. Students are able to sign up online, and every class, at least a few sign up and don’t show up, this presented a problem as it wasn’t fair to students on the waitlist. YO BK had a policy to charge cancellation fees, but they were getting a lot of push-back from the students. The ingenious solution she came up with was to donate the cancellation fee. “Now students know that if they miss the class for some reason, their money is getting donated to an amazing organization!” Kate explained.
That is an ongoing way that YO BK supports AYP, but they also stepped up last fall hosting two AYP Teachers on the bi-annual Handstands, Hugs and Happiness (HHH) Tour. “We make the cancellation donation very clear to our students, but hosting the HHH tour connected them to that on a whole new level when they met Millie and Eliza,” Kate added. YO BK are committed to raising $10,000 this year to support Africa Yoga Project. “It gives us a reason to do fun things, that are out of the box for our students,” Kate shared. For example, every first Friday is a rave class with power yoga, pilates, black lights, a disco ball and body painting!
As her company has grown to two locations and tripled the client base, Kate enjoys seeing different people every day. She reduced her teaching schedule from 16 - 14 classes per week to 5-6 and is now able to focus on her passion which is teacher development. In November, Kate is planning to bring some of those skills to Africa Yoga Project by leading a workshop in Kenya for the AYP Academy!
Since opening a yoga studio is a goal for many AYP teachers, I wanted to hear from a pro what it takes to find success as she has. “I would only recommend opening a yoga studio if you are willing to work really hard and you like people.” Kate told me. “There is a big service aspect to this job and you are always “on” whether you are taking a class, teaching or changing a roll of toilet paper.” She also added, “The only way to open a business is to open a business. And then you learn along the way.”