“[LivePlan is] pretty—it's not just spreadsheets. It makes it actually almost fun to play around with the technical parts of it!”

Like most successful businesses, Good Elephant was born from a need within a community. Yoga teacher Allison Reitz noticed not just one need, but two.

Allison saw a need for flexible, cost-effective yoga classes in her community, where everyone would feel comfortable and welcome. She also knew firsthand that yoga teachers were often uncomfortable with self-promotion, and therefore struggled to make a living.

So, Allison started Good Elephant, a community-based yoga business. Good Elephant connects students with accessible, pay-what-you-can yoga classes, and gives yoga teachers an easier path toward building growing, financially-sustainable practices within their communities.

Image of Allison, leading a Good Elephant yoga class
Allison, leading a Good Elephant yoga class.

From yoga teacher to business owner

Allison had no plans to start her own business—much less create a new, innovative model for community yoga.

“It really was mostly because I saw that need,” says Allison. “I was just planning on being a yoga teacher. But then [the idea] popped into my mind, and it wouldn't go away.”

She saw that many people felt alienated by fancy yoga studios with unaffordable price points—but they were still deeply interested in the idea of starting a yoga practice.

“[The idea] popped into my mind, and it wouldn't go away.”

“When I started teaching yoga at a studio, I realized how many people are interested in yoga but were kind of intimidated to come into the studio, and also couldn't really afford to go there,” says Allison.

“I also realized that I wasn't going to be able to make a living teaching yoga at a studio, either. So Good Elephant solves both of those problems, by offering classes in more welcoming spaces like coffee shops and art galleries, community centers, breweries, and places like that.”

In addition to offering yoga in a less intimidating, more accessible environment, Allison wanted to offer flexible class costs. “Everything's choose-your-price for all the students, so they can try it for free if they want, and there's also suggested pricing. So, the teachers actually end up getting paid more than they would at a [traditional] yoga studio.”

Image of Allison Reitz, founder of Good Elephant
Allison Reitz, founder of Good Elephant.

Creating a new business model with students and teachers in mind

Good Elephant started small, with one class in Carson City, Nevada at a local coffee shop. The business has grown substantially since, with classes in Reno, Carson, and South and North Lake Tahoe.

But Allison is still based in Carson City—and she's not the one leading all these classes. How has all this been possible? By creating her “city leaders” program.

“I realized how many people are interested in yoga but were kind of intimidated to come into the studio, and also couldn't really afford to go there.”

“At first I was basically the city leader for Carson and Reno as we were growing,” says Allison. “In the beginning, all of the teachers were very passionate about the community.” However, as the business grew and Allison's workload increased, she realized she had less time to support all the teachers individually, and that the community aspect of Good Elephant was suffering.

“We realized that we needed to have a person in each city that could really help them out with each class individually, because they're all so different—which is part of what's cool about it,” she says.

In each city, there's a yoga teacher who steps up as the city leader, and is in charge of networking with and supporting other teachers.

“The city leader's job is to know their own city, and find very cool spaces to have classes in, and to also network with different teachers, and find the right teachers, and help connect them with those spaces so they can start classes,” says Allison. “They're helping do what I did when we started, in supporting all the teachers in their own cities.”

By creating her “city leaders” program, Good Elephant has done something truly unique to the yoga studio business model, and created something scalable.

This makes it possible for Good Elephant to expand their classes into a wider range of cities, but also helps support the yoga teachers themselves—who, Allison says, sometimes feel a reluctance to market themselves. “We help the teachers lean how to promote their own classes, which is a big learning thing for yoga teachers to do,” says Allison. “It's hard to promote ourselves.”

All of Good Elephant's teachers also earn a large percentage of revenue from the classes they teach, and they benefit from Good Elephant's city leaders' networking efforts and assistance with promoting classes.

Image of Good Elephant holding yoga classes in creative spaces
Good Elephant holds yoga classes in creative spaces.

Using LivePlan to pitch her business

To grow her business, Allison needed to learn the ropes of entrepreneurship and business planning. Though she planned to fund the business through her own resources and with help from friends and family, she knew that she needed to take her planning process to the next level.

“I had never started a real business,” she says. So, she visited her local SCORE office in Reno, Nevada, where she took part in a Business 101 workshop. During the workshop, the teacher introduced her to LivePlan.

“He suggested that we use LivePlan to help us start [our business plan] because it gives you so many awesome prompts to help you organize your thoughts,” says Allison.

“[LivePlan] gives you so many awesome prompts to help you organize your thoughts.”

From there, she began using LivePlan to validate her idea. But, it wasn't until she took part in several pitch competitions that Allison really took advantage of its tools and features.

“I used it a lot when I was creating my pitch,” she says. “Because I was doing a pitch camp, and we had to really get it together! We had to say, ‘this is our growth, these are our numbers, this is what I'm asking for,’ and I had no reference for that.

“So I started using LivePlan more, and it helped me to map out what had happened [with my business] up until then, and then also what our expenses would look like moving forward. And just playing around with, ‘what would it look like if I did this? What would it look like if we got that investment? What do we do with it?’ And all of that.”

Participating in pitch competitions helped Allison clarify her goals and hopes for Good Elephant While she did win a small sum of money, the real value came from learning how to write a business pitch, create a real strategic plan for her business, and build connections in a valuable network.

“My intention wasn't really to get funding at that point in time,” she says. “But then when it ended up happening, a couple of my mentors ended up becoming investors, just from working with them over time.”

Image of Good Elephant participants
Good Elephant aims to make yoga accessible for everyone.

Everyday financial tracking with LivePlan

“Now, I'm at the point where it's time to actually think about doing real fundraising,” says Allison, who hopes to expand Good Elephant into many more cities, “like Airbnb for yoga.” So, she's been using LivePlan to track her financials regularly and plan for growth.

“I go back to LivePlan about once a month, and I update the numbers and see the difference between what was in there and what is real.”

“I have a much better idea now of what we've been spending, and what it costs to go into a new city, all of those kinds of things. I go back to LivePlan about once a month, and I update the numbers and see the difference between what was in there and what is real.”

She also loves LivePlan because it's easy to use—the software guides her through what to include and track. “As a person building a platform, LivePlan is really beautiful and well thought-out, and it feels good when you log in because you are like, ‘oh, they know me, they know what I need,’ she says. “And it's pretty—it's not just spreadsheets. It makes it actually almost fun to play around with the technical parts of it!”

Image of Allison striking a tree pose
Allison strikes a tree pose.

Using entrepreneurship to bring yoga to communities

For Allison, one of the most rewarding parts of starting and running Good Elephant is the feeling that she is contributing something positive to her community.

“I used to do freelance audio interviewing, and when I was doing that work, I always felt like I didn't understand my bigger purpose,” says Allison. “It's so easy to promote yoga because it's so pure—I'm not promoting myself or even the business. All we are promoting is mindfulness. So there's never any qualms or anything about what we're doing. It just feels like it's more like service rather than entrepreneurship.”

“It's so easy to promote yoga because it's so pure—I'm not promoting myself or even the business. All we are promoting is mindfulness.”

When the challenges of being an entrepreneur arise, Allison comes back to gratitude—toward her community, the work that she does, and all the things that have come together so beautifully to help her create Good Elephant. “If I am thinking, ‘oh, this is going wrong,’ I try thinking more like, ‘okay what is there right now that I can be thankful for?’” she says.

Viewing her experience of starting a business through this lens of gratitude has made Allison appreciate the resources that have helped her start and grow her business—from tools like LivePlan, to the relationships she has built with mentors and the local small business community.

“It was just mentors who are part of these wonderful programs that just want to help people like us entrepreneurs,” she says. “They are just so awesome—even here in Northern Nevada where you wouldn't think there would be so many resources. It's overflowing. It's just wonderful.


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