A Q&A with the founder of a badly needed niche service, in the yoga world and beyond.
Tell us a little bit about yourself…
I’m Melissa Van Emden and I founded Yogadmin; a flexible administration service for yoga teachers, studios and small companies in the wellness industry. Yogadmin helps with diary management and day-to-day admin, event planning and retreats, invoicing and bookkeeping, marketing and social media. I’m based in leafy Ealing but work with people throughout London and the South East.
How did Yogadmin come about?
I previously had a career in events management, but became disenchanted working for companies I was not passionate about and the associated poor work-life balance. I had practised yoga on and off for over 10 years at this point, but during a particularly stressful period at work in 2013, I started practising weekly again with the amazing Ladan Soltani. Six months later I gave my notice, went travelling in Southeast Asia and took part in my first yoga retreat.
When I returned I ended up working on reception at The Power Yoga Company (where I still work part time now) and quickly went from covering a few shifts to working full time as the Studio Coordinator. I soon knew I wanted to keep working within this arena rather than return to events and toyed with the idea of opening my own studio. However, it was just too risky financially and becoming a teacher was not for me, so I started thinking of other ways I could use my skills. Being around so many teachers at the studio and seeing them try to squeeze in admin between classes and wanting to run retreats but having no idea where to start, I realised that there wasn’t somewhere obvious for them to go for this sort of support, and so Yogadmin was born!
What’s been the most surprising admin task that yoga teachers struggle with? What advice can you give to help with that?
For new teachers, it’s the realisation of just how much admin they need to do. I think many are unaware going into their teacher training that they will need to keep on top of class planning, covers, invoices, insurance, social media, events organisation and marketing as well as travel all over the place, teach at antisocial times, make time for their own practice and keep studying. I would suggest when they are starting to shape their schedules, to make sure to keep at least one morning or afternoon free for admin.
For more established teachers I was shocked that many don’t have defined Terms & Conditions surrounding the cancellation of privates, events and retreats. I know a few that have lost money on essential non-refundable costs such as retreat accommodation due to last minute drop-outs. This could have been easily avoided by 1) spending a little extra time on their budgets to work out the key costs and how much income is needed to avoid being out of pocket and 2) getting participants to sign a simple set of T&Cs and pay by a defined deadline so that these costs are covered should they cancel at short notice.
What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve ever received?
I went on a business start-up course with Enterprise Nation when I was still thinking about opening a studio, and the best piece of advice was find your niche. It always stuck in my head and made me realise that Yogadmin could work when I first had the idea. There are numerous admin and virtual PA services around, but none with industry experience and specific knowledge of the London yoga scene; how teachers, studios and retreats operate. Having a niche doesn’t prevent you from working outside of it, I work with an avid yogi on his finance company, but it does set you apart from the competition and, for me, aids word of mouth within the yoga community. If you don’t already know what your niche is, then I’d urge you to have a think what it could be!
What business focused resources would you recommend and why?
I don’t have much cash to spare on training or digital resources, so I seek out free or low cost options. Here are some of the best I’ve found:
- There’s a great range of workshops, webinars and courses at the British Library’s Business & IP Centre.
- HMRC’s webinars help you work out what you can claim as expenses, what records to keep and which type of accounting to use.
- Canva is a user friendly drag and drop, browser based design program with lots of free templates and photos to utilise. Fantastic for designing flyers, business cards and social media ads.
And finally a note on everyone’s favourite task – the dreaded tax return! It is so much easier to do a little monthly than all of it in a panic in January. Speak to your accountant to see what software they use. Many modern programmes, such as Xero, Wave and SageOne, have phone apps that allow you to take photos of receipts, upload and categorise them straight away, and offer extra benefits such as the ability to issue invoices.
What do you know now that you wished you had known when you started Yogadmin?
How well received it would be! So many friends, colleagues, yogis, acquaintances and even strangers on Instagram have been incredibly supportive which I am so grateful for. I wish I had just bitten the bullet and started sooner. I pondered the idea for a while, when I came up with the name I bought the web domain straight away, but it was a good few months after that before I started putting anything concrete into motion. There really is no point in waiting, there is never going to be a perfect time to start, so whatever it is that you have floating around your head, just start doing it now!
What are you most excited about now?
The future! There are some exciting projects on the horizon, including a day retreat with Mona Lisa Godfrey, that I can’t wait to see come to life. I’ve already met some amazing people through Yogadmin and look forward to getting to know them better and working collaboratively to help them achieve their goals. The London yoga community is one of the best in the world, I just want to get out there and make connections with the inspiring yogis and entrepreneurs I haven’t had an opportunity to meet yet.
Where can we find you?
The serious stuff is on Yogadmin, a more light-hearted glimpse into my daily life can be found on my Instagram account and Facebook page. If you want to say ‘Hi’ in person, you can often find me behind reception or hanging around at The Power Yoga Company in Parsons Green.