Recently, became the only yoga studio in the state to rely strictly on donations for income. Ashley Burton, owner of True Harmony, said there were other studios that take donations for some classes but not all. On average, a yoga class can run from $12 to $20, Burton said.
“I have always felt called to open my own studio and make it accessible to everyone,” Burton said. “Yoga was meant to be accessible to all. The very nature of what yoga is is to be open to all people regardless of their financial situations. It's not meant to be about money, instead it should be about community.”
Burton said her passion comes from wanting to help others on the path to good help. After she had her daughter, she lost the 88 pounds she gained during pregnancy through doing yoga.
“I have learned to slow down and enjoy the beauty in all that life has to offer, not just the obvious,” Burton said. “This has made me a better mother, better wife, and overall more fulfilled in my life. At True Harmony Yoga we want to help each person on their path to finding personal strength, good health, and overall life balance.”
Why did you decide to become donation-based?
We opened in June of 2011 and originally we opened with a regular business model of standard fees per class. However, I continued to feel as though I was cheating myself using that business model. I always knew in my heart that i wanted this to be donation based it was just getting past my brain and all those people in my life who told me not to do it because I would get taken advantage of.
Then, about a month ago, I woke up one morning and told my husband that I was going to change everything and follow my heart. Hands down the best decision i have made yet! The first day we transitioned over I felt great and just knew it was the right thing to do. To all those who have said and continue to say to me "you're not afraid you're going to get taken advantage of?" I say no. First of all, I already feel fulfilled so there is nothing lost for me personally in doing this. But most importantly, I believe that if I give to the wonderful community of East Cherokee, then they will give in return to us. All of our members are like a family to us. We truly are a community here at the studio. Many of the members have hosted us at their home for events and one of our members is even hosting an after-Thanksgiving potluck for everyone at the studio to join. I must say that this has been the best yoga community I have taught in yet!
What services are offered at True Harmony Yoga?
Power Vinyasa, Yin Yoga Fusion, Tai Chi, hot sequence, Hot Hatha Yoga, Zumba, Hot Pilates, Pole dance, Bootcamp Yoga, Basic Yoga, Deep release and restorative. They also offer workshops on the foundations of yoga and foundations of Pilates, runners and athletes workshop, mommy and me, yoga for tots, pole dance 101, integrative health talks and partner yoga.
What is the hardest part of being a small-business owner?
The hardest part, I think, is educating the community on the differences between a large gym and a small studio. The personal experience is far greater with a small studio. It’s kind of like a bank—the big banks don't really know their members (except for those "big" act holders) but the small single branch locations know you by name and know what you do for a living and how many kids you have. Most people realize that they are getting their monies worth after just one or two visits to the studio and most return because they like the community and highly trained instructors we have to offer. Unlike the gym-business model where they want people to sign up and never come back, we are just the opposite we want you to sign up and we ask about you when you haven't been in a while. We want you in our studio, regardless of what you have to give financially per class or per month.
What is the best part of being in this community?
The community of East Cherokee has been overwhelmingly embracing to us! From the moment our studio opened we have been honored to work with some amazing and inspiring members. We have every kind of student out there—beginners, advanced yogis, those recovering from injury, and those with permanent health complications. We have helped members recovering from partial paralysis and spinal surgery to those who need to lose 50 pounds! Because we can offer more personalized classes we are able to connect with more members of our community. I feel truly blessed and honored each day to be working in this community!