Can the centuries-old practice of yoga find harmony with cutting-edge ideas for fundraising, marketing and business operations?
Three local entrepreneurs believe so, confident that crowdsharing fundraising, an L3C corporate framework, and social media marketing will allow them to open a Rock Hill studio where the emphasis will be on the benefits of yoga rather than exclusively the bottom line.
I dont want to own a yoga studio, I want to help people, says Garland West.
West, a 31-year-old Lake Wylie resident, is the marketing and organizational guru of Rock Hill Yoga.
Michael Richard of Indian Land brings an entrepreneurial background as well with eight years as a yoga instructor.
Gina Castillo, 31 and a Charlotte resident, has a television production experience and is getting certified to teach yoga. During her training she has taught at the Salvation Armys Center for Hope Women and childrens shelter, as well as their overflow shelter, the Elizabeths Caldwell House.
West started yoga to help her with back pains. She found that it helped with the pain but also helped her sleep, helped her focus, helped her be excited about everything.
They hope to open a studio by November.
They took their first steps on Sunday posting their project on Indigogo.com one of several crowdsharing websites. Crowdsharing is the practice of funding a venture by raising many small amounts of money from a large number of people, typically via the Internet. On Indigogo.com they share space with people seeking funds for artists, causes and other entrepreneurial ventures.
One of Indiegogos biggest successes was raising more than $700,000 to give Karen Klein, an upstate New York bus monitor, a vacation after videos of middle school children taunting her surfaced on the Internet. The goal of that fundraising campaign was $5,000.
Rock Hill Yoga hopes to raise $45,000 through crowdsharing. A yoga book project recently raised more than $70,000 through Indiegogo, surpassing a $60,000 goal.
Their online fundraising campaign lasts 30 days. Those who invest will get a t-shirt or other items with their logo.
Rock Hill Yogas owners hope their methods pique interest such as the desire to incorporate under L3C status.
L3C is a new, hybrid corporate structure that allows businesses to organize around a socially beneficial or educational mission but still make a profit. L3C is shorthand for low profit, limited liability corporation.
Jaclyn Cherry, assistant professor of law at the University of South Carolina, said L3Cs have been described as a for-profit company with a non-profit soul.
Vermont passed the first L3C law in 2008. North Carolina passed L3C legislation in 2010. South Carolina has not passed legislation for L3Cs. Nationally, about 600 L3Cs have been incorporated.
A couple of years ago no one was talking about them. I went to a recent convention in D.C. on tax-exempt organizations and the room was packed with lawyers wanting to know about them, Cherry said.
The newness means all the legislative and tax law kinks are still being worked out, she said.
L3C status will allow West, Richard and Castillo to make the money that need to pay their bills while pursing the social goal of bringing the benefits of yoga to more people.
It also fulfills one of Richards original ideas of starting a non-profit yoga studio to help out local animal shelters.
They say the L3C status will allow them to create a studio that falls between the two yoga studio extremes. One option is yoga taught at a fitness studio, which they say lacks the necessary environment. The other option is a non-profit studio thats operated more as a hobby than a business.
They plan to offer the first yoga class for free to attract customers. The per-class fee would be $15, but they plan to adjust their fees based on peoples incomes.
To get investors and clients, Rock Hill Yoga will extensively use social media, sending emails, tweets, newsletters, videos and other appeals in their outbound Internet marketing effort.
What they are counting on is inbound marketing where people will pass their information on to others because of the interest in the content or because they feel it has value.
You have to have excellent content that can be discovered, West said.
They hope that their inbound marketing people coming to them will be four times as much as what they send out.
We want to create a space that goes viral, she said.
They hope the marketing will get them to their Internet funding goal. Having $45,000 or more in hand could be helpful in seeking funding from charitable foundations. One of the perceived benefits of L3C incorporation is the ability to solicit foundation funding.
They hope the Internet marketing and crowdshare funding builds excitement and awareness which will translate to customers when they finally open.
In reaching that final stage, Rock Hill Yoga wants people to understand that yoga is a disciplined method of obtaining a goal.
Its not about losing weight, West said. Its about being you, being the best you can be.
And, in a bit of marketing genius, they even hope to trade on South Carolinas motto, Dum Spiro Spero, which is Latin for While I breathe, I hope.
I breathe, I hope, I relax, its a great day in South Carolina for yoga.