How To Build A Successful Online Yoga Platform & Community – with Keela Williams

May 12, 2021
Lucas Ennis
7 min read

When the pandemic arrived, many wellness professionals made the move to take their business online.

When we couldn’t connect in-person, digital offerings such as classes, workshops, trainings, or retreats, opened up a new world of value to people seeking wellness, possibly at a time when they needed it the most.

All of a sudden, they were able to enjoy the benefits of wellness content on-demand at accessible rates. Perhaps the most attractive aspect, though, was interacting with an engaging and supportive online community.

Now, even as in-person events and classes cautiously begin to open up again, many wellness professionals plan to continue aspects of their online offering. The shift to the internet has, in some cases, made these more accessible and proven successful.

One business that moved its yoga offering online and built a strong community around it is New Love City. We had an opportunity to speak with the studio’s owner, Keela Williams, to learn how to build a yoga platform and community online.

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About Keela Williams and New Love City

NLC is a yoga studio above Greenpoint in Brooklyn that provides movement, meditation, education, and community to curious like-minded individuals looking to learn, connect, and grow.

Keela completed her 200- and 300-hour yoga teacher training in Thailand and New York, respectively.

Prior to becoming a yoga teacher, she worked as a project manager and strategist for 12 years. Her expertise at creating processes that ensure project success set her up perfectly for small business ownership. Keela took over the ownership and management of NLC in January 2020.

When she’s not running the studio or teaching classes, Keela leads yoga retreats all over the world. Through NLC, she also co-leads multiple 200-hour yoga teacher training programs yearly with students attending from across the United States.

Tips To Build A Successful Online Yoga Platform and Community

Build Successful Online Yoga Community

1. At First, Taking Your Offering Online May Feel Unfamiliar

Keri: Pre-pandemic, and before you owned the studio, New Love City didn’t have any online offerings. How easy or difficult was it to get that set up so quickly? Was going online something you had ever considered implementing before or was it not really on your radar?

Keela: Because we really are in-person and a sort of big personality studio, it wasn’t on our radar before. Obviously, though, it had to be pretty quickly.

Setting up our online offering was difficult in the sense that everything was challenging in the pandemic.

We didn’t know what the future would hold, so it was a little bit like, what do we do? How do we do it quickly? And for how long do we need to do it?

It wasn’t easy because these decisions would determine what equipment to buy. We weren’t sure whether to really invest in this or if we were just shutting down for two weeks, which is what everyone thought.

2. You Don’t Have To Start With Everything Figured Out

Keela: Immediately, we started filming on my phone on Instagram Live. We knew everyone was scared, and everyone was disconnected. We wanted to bring them back together as fast as we could.

So, we did Instagram Lives every day for about six months.

While we were doing that, we were trying to determine what the on-demand platforms looked like.

We reviewed a lot of different platforms and eventually went with a percentage subscription model. That way, the platform just took a percentage of whatever money we did make, which was safer for us.

Build A Yoga Platform

3. Don’t Be Afraid To Ask Your Network For Help

Keri: Did you end up going the route of investing in camera equipment then?

Keela: We had the whole lot. I’m very fortunate that our community is made up of talented people who raised their hands to help. I had audio engineers, photographers, and everyone coming to me saying, please let us help.

Our photographer who does all our website photography and portraits pivoted to a live stream kit model during the pandemic. We were his guinea pigs.

He decided on the equipment that we should buy and then set it up for us. After that, we discussed how we were going to record and what platform to use.

I did all the editing and logistics on the back end because I have some experience with that. Whatever I didn’t know, I taught myself.

With all the input, we immediately started getting content up so that people could subscribe and do classes in their own time.

Keri: It sounds like the moral of the story is to use your network and ask people for help.

Keela: Yeah, people have these talents and skill sets that you may or may not know about. Don’t be afraid to ask for help; ultimately your community does want to support you.

4. Experiment To See What Works

Experiment With Online Digital Formats

Keri: Was it difficult to add online teacher training to the classes you offered?

Keela: We started with what we called Home Schooled. This was a mini-training or mini extension of our yoga education.

So, we dipped a toe in to see if there was interest and if it worked.

Yes and yes.

I think people were really craving things to do and community. The training gave them something to work toward every week where they could meet with a group of people and be social.

Once we knew the training worked, we then shifted the entire teacher training online. There was an option to be in-person on Saturdays, depending on if it was safe and what was going on at the time.

We also tiered pricing to suit what was going on in your financial world. A lot of people lost their jobs and had time to do the training, but not money. So, we made that more accessible.

5. Building A Business Takes Time, So Does Building An Online Community

Keri: Looking back at how you have built your platform, do you have any advice to give people who might be working on building a community of their own?

Keela: I think it would be to follow your instincts and give yourself time and space to make big decisions.

Also, studio or business owners take a long time to build up their business. So, it’s going to take time to build an online community as well.

Be consistent, trust yourself, and trust your teachers.

Let their personality come through because that keeps people coming back; a connection to the studio and a connection to the teachers.

Tips For Creating An Online Wellness Community

6. The Human Connection Goes A Long Way

Keri: That kind of segues into my next question. So much of yoga, fitness, and anything wellness, is in-person where you meet teachers, other students, and become part of the culture.

How have you kept that culture alive virtually? Do you have advice for people who might be starting out?

Keela: I think it comes down to our community and our teachers.

Our community is very loyal; fiercely loyal. The moment we had to shut the physical doors, they were ready and waiting for whatever we had to offer online.

In our live streams, you can have a conversation and greet people as they’re coming into class, just as there would have been a welcome to our studio. So, we still have that sense of connection.

Our classes aren’t the most polished from a digital standpoint, but they’re authentic. They are also shot in our studio, which is very pretty. And I think the students are then reminded, that’s my studio. So, I think the connection to their home studio helps people come back.

We have also had an incredible surge of new people.

I used to teach for ClassPass live, and some people found my classes there and then moved over to NLC.

Some of it is just word of mouth. People find us through our online platform and become new lovers, as we like to call them.

Human Connection In Digital World

7. Take Care Of Your Community & It Will Take Care Of You

Keri: My last question is about giving back. I know you guys have been doing a lot of classes and giving back to charities or local communities that you are passionate about, which is amazing.

And I think it’s tough to give back all the time and also be able to survive as a studio right now. I am so proud of you and want to know if you can give people any advice?

Keela: The studio is not really set up to be very profitable. Our sort of mantra is to take care of our instructors and teachers and pay them well, which means the studio isn’t super profitable.

But that’s okay. It’s not our end game.

So, when we have a little extra money, we give it away. We partner with Naaya Wellness, which is a friend of mine. She does a yoga meditation offering for people in the black community.

We love them, and they’re doing an amazing job. So, we try to give them as much as we can or partner with them as much as we can.

We also do classes with Take Back the Night Foundation, which is yoga for people who’ve experienced trauma.

When people come to us and ask, we’re always willing and want to help where we can.

Final Thoughts

It was incredible to speak with Keela and get her advice on how to build a successful online yoga platform and community. It’s amazing to see digital wellness communities rising up at a time when people are seeking connection.

If you’d like to get hold of Keela, reach out to her on any of the following channels:

Instagram: @newlovecity