Rebecca Weible was enduring at a corporate job, slugging the days away while she realized the job wasn't for her - but after numerous interviews, it dawned on her that it wasn't just the job, but the corporate world that wasn't for her.
In the Yo Yoga! founder's story there lies an uplifting break from the Wall St-esque trundle of the corporate world to a calm, eloquent New York City rooftop that now houses the Yo Yoga! classes everyday. It is here that Weible created a mid-city sanctuary for the masses in the demanding heights of the Big Apple and has profited from the hyper-stressed and under active atmosphere of an office-laden Manhattan. We sat down with the flexible (in more ways than one) entrepreneur to find out more about her uniquely-positioned fitness-meets-meditation business.
Why did you get interested in Yoga? How did it start?
I had taken dance classes since I was about 3 years old and loved it but never quite excelled past an intermediate level. I grew up in South Carolina in the 80s and yoga wasn't prevalent at the time but I knew it about it from books and media and the calming, stress-reducing aspect of it interested me as much as the physical aspect, which seemed similar to dance. My mom bought me a book about yoga - it was one of those 'Eyewitness' brand informative books - and I poured through it learning more and teaching myself some of the poses including crow pose. There weren't many opportunities for me to take regular yoga classes but I took one at any chance. I began to practice regularly during college at a studio in Charleston, SC. The spiritual and peaceful part of the practice hooked me and, for me, the alignment and the more precise body instruction and mindful movement seemed to be what was missing from the practice of dance.
"There weren't many opportunities for me to take regular yoga classes but I took one at any chance."
Why did you decide to open Yo Yoga? What was your main point of difference?
From the first time I stepped into a yoga studio, I knew that I wanted to run a studio of my own one day. I was interested in creating a peaceful, sacred space to spend time in and share with others. After working for a handful of years in the corporate world, I wanted a career where I could see the impact I was making on people's lives. Opening Yo Yoga! was a way to offer something meaningful to anyone who was interested.
For those of us who can't be there can you briefly describe the space and the programs on offer?
Our space is clean and white with lots of windows to let in natural light. We keep the space relatively bare with minimal decor to prevent distraction, provide room to breathe and so anyone practicing can find their own version of zen during their time in our space. ur large, rectangular roof deck is accessed by sliding doors located in our lobby. This third floor roof top space is covered with green tiles that are firm and supportive yet yielding for knees and joints. We plant flowers every year and hang simple string lights. We also set up the mats so students can face the tree whose branches and leaves extend over the deck adding a touch of nature in the middle of the city.
Our main offerings are Open level classes and Basic level classes. Open level classes are vinyasa-based classes where we offer options for every level of yogi in the room so you can choose to make the practice more or less challenging as needed. These classes break down more challenging poses and offer the chance to remain in the most basic expression of a pose or take it deeper. Our Basic level classes are our beginner-level classes that break down the most common poses and move at a slower pace so you can learn how to do each pose correctly for your body.
Can you talk about the partnership with Sound Off? What does that entail?
Yo Yoga! is the first studio in NYC to offer Sound Off yoga classes as a regular part of our weekly schedule.
In these classes, students wear Sound Off Experience's Bluetooth, noise-cancelling headphones throughout class in which they hear curated playlists and the sound of the instructor's voice. This allows total focus throughout class and almost feels like getting a private lesson.
Students will wear the headphones throughout a 30 minute listening to ambient sounds and binaural beats along with guidance from the instructor. This allows space for the energy of a group meditation without the distraction of city sounds or sounds from your neighboring meditator.
Can you briefly discuss your transition from corporate to Yoga? Was it Zen or was it more difficult than you anticipated?
Strangely, I always felt more excited than nervous about leaving my corporate job and opening Yo Yoga!. When I began to feel restless and annoyed at my last corporate job, I began a half-hearted attempt to search for a new job. After a couple interviews it hit me that if I took any of these new jobs, I was going to find myself restless and annoyed once more after the initial challenge of being new wore off. I decided it was time to open my own business and the prospect of pursuing something I was passionate about gave me a sense of relief and happiness that overshadowed the fear of failure.
Walking out of the office building on the last day felt like I could finally stop pretending to be someone I wasn't whether Yo Yoga! was successful or not.
What was your first step to creating your own business? How did you get funding? How did you pick a location?
For me, the first step came in setting my mind to making this happen. From there, my business partner (my older brother who helped me open the studio and is now my silent partner) and I put together a business plan to get organized and solidify our vision. Our funding came from our savings and a small loan.
We worked with a commercial real estate broker to find the space. Initially, we wanted a space on an avenue and close to the subway but when we saw the outdoor space, we knew we needed to take it. Although at the time the roof did not look like anything special, my brother and I knew we could make it into something worthwhile and beautiful.
People tend to be afraid of Yoga. Can you tell us why they shouldn't be? What are the benefits?
Yoga's popularity has made room for lots of studios and different styles of yoga. This means that no matter what you're looking for from yoga, you'll be able to find it. From conversations I've had with those new to yoga, a big fear seems to be the unfamiliar and not knowing what you're doing. I always tell people to start with the beginner's classes which will break down the basic poses and move at a slower pace. These classes are designed for people that 'don't know what they're doing' when it comes to yoga and are the best option for learning your way around the mat.
The benefits of yoga are increased flexibility and agility, strength building and stress reduction. Flexibility helps prevent injury and keeps our bodies supple and mobile, especially as we age. Leveraging your own body weight builds strength without adding bulk. Stress is the number one cause of disease and illness and yoga gives us tools to handle stress as well as get rid of it.
What is your growth plan? Where would you hope to be in 5 years?
Currently, we're working on catering to our growing community at our current location by adding more classes to the schedule along with more workshops and innovative offerings such as Sound Off yoga and meditation. We led our first retreat in Fall of 2016 and have a Costa Rica retreat scheduled for the end of January as part of our plan to offer retreats on a regular basis. From here, the hope is to franchise to another location(s) around the tri-state area.
What is the biggest learning lesson you would tell to young entrepreneurs hoping to follow in your footsteps?
Get yourself a good accountant, one who specializes in small businesses, who can go over your business plan with you and answer your questions along the way. No matter how hard you work or how creative your vision is, numbers don't lie so make sure you have a handle on them.
What is your business and life philosophy?
Im a huge believer in work/life balance. Opening a small business certainly sways your life towards work but it can still feel balanced if you love what you do and recognize when you need to take a break. Life is too short to spend 40 hours a week wishing you were somewhere else or clock-watching the day away.
"Steal the mesh underwear you get from the hospital," a friend said upon learning I was pregnant with my first daughter.
It was the single best piece of advice I received before giving birth in December 2013. My best friend delivered her daughter eight months previously, and she was the first to pass along this shared code among new moms: you'll need mesh underwear for your at-home postpartum recovery, and you can't find them anywhere for purchase. End result: steal them. And tell your friends.
My delivery and subsequent recovery were not easy. To my unexpected surprise, after almost 24 hours of labor, I had an emergency C-section. Thankfully, my daughter was healthy; however, my recovery was quite a journey. The shock to my system caused my bloated and swollen body to need weeks of recovery time. Luckily, I had trusted my friend and followed her instructions: I had stolen some mesh underwear from the hospital to bring home with me.
Unfortunately, I needed those disposable underwear for much longer than I anticipated and quickly ran out. As I still wasn't quite mobile, my mother went to the store to find more underwear for me. Unfortunately, she couldn't find them anywhere and ended up buying me oversized granny panties. Sure, they were big enough, but I had to cut the waistband for comfort.
I eventually recovered from my C-section, survived those first few sleepless months, and returned to work. At the time, I was working for a Fortune 100 company and happily contributing to the corporate world. But becoming a new mom brought with it an internal struggle and search for something “more" out of my life--a desire to have a bigger impact. A flashback to my friend's golden piece of advice got me thinking: Why aren't mesh underwear readily available for women in recovery? What if I could make the magical mesh underwear available to new moms everywhere? Did I know much about designing, selling, or marketing clothing? Not really. But I also didn't know much about motherhood when I started that journey, either, and that seemed to be working out well. And so, Brief Transitions was born.
My quest began. With my manufacturing and engineering background I naively thought, It's one product. How hard could it be? While it may not have been “hard," it definitely took a lot of work. I slowly started to do some research on the possibilities. What would it take to start a company and bring these underwear to market? How are they made and what type of manufacturer do I need? With each step forward I learned a little more--I spoke with suppliers, researched materials, and experimented with packaging. I started to really believe that I was meant to bring these underwear to other moms in need.
Then I realized that I needed to learn more about the online business and ecommerce world as well. Google was my new best friend. On my one hour commute (each way), I listened to a lot of podcasts to learn about topics I wasn't familiar with--how to setup a website, social media platforms, email marketing, etc. I worked in the evenings and inbetween business trips to plan what I called Execution Phase. In 2016, I had a website with a Shopify cart up and running. I also delivered my second daughter via C-section (and handily also supplied myself with all the mesh underwear I needed).
They say, “If you build it, they will come." But I've learned that the saying should really go more like this: “If you build it, and tell everyone about it, they might come." I had a 3-month-old, an almost 3 year old and my business was up and running. I had an occasional sale; however, my processes were extremely manual and having a day job while trying to ship product out proved to be challenging. I was manually processing and filling orders and then going to the post office on Saturday mornings to ship to customers. I eventually decided to go where the moms shop...hello, Amazon Prime! I started to research what I needed to do to list products with Amazon and the benefits of Amazon fulfillment (hint: they take care of it for you).
Fast forward to 2018...
While I started to build this side business and saw a potential for it to grow way beyond my expectations, my corporate job became more demanding with respect to travel and time away from home. I was on the road 70% of the time during first quarter 2018. My normally “go with the flow" 4-year-old started to cry every time I left for a trip and asked why I wasn't home for bedtime. That was a low point for me and even though bedtime with young kids has its own challenges, I realized I didn't want to miss out on this time in their lives. My desire for more scheduling flexibility and less corporate travel time pushed me to work the nights and weekends needed to build and scale my side hustle to a full-time business. If anyone tries to tell you it's “easy" to build “passive" income, don't believe them. Starting and building a business takes a lot of grit, hustle and hard work. After months of agonizing, changing my mind, and wondering if I should really leave my job (and a steady paycheck!), I ultimately left my corporate job in April 2018 to pursue Brief Transitions full-time.
In building Brief Transitions, I reached out to like-minded women to see if they were experiencing similar challenges to my own--balancing creating and building a business while raising children--and I realized that many women are on the quest for flexible, meaningful work. I realized that we can advance the movement of female entrepreneurs by leveraging community to inspire, empower, and connect these trailblazers. For that reason, I recently launched a new project, The Transitions Collective, a platform for connecting community-driven women entrepreneurs.
As is the case with many entrepreneurs, I find myself working on multiple projects at a time. I am now working on a members-only community for The Transitions Collective that will provide access to experts and resources for women who want to leave corporate and work in their business full-time. Connecting and supporting women in this movement makes us a force in the future of work. At the same time, I had my most profitable sales quarter to date and best of all, I am able to drop my daughter off at school in the morning.
Mesh underwear started me on a journey much bigger than I ever imagined. They sparked an idea, ignited a passion, and drove me to find fulfillment in a different type of work. That stolen underwear was just the beginning.