Francesca Kleanthous came to teaching yoga after 12 years in Public Relations (PR) for a number of leading advertising companies such as Lowe Lintas and McCann Erickson. She shares the actionable tips of how her professional background has helped to build her yoga teaching business.
Francesca’s PR work led her to become involved in the Special Olympics, little did she know this would lead to a new phase in her life. After some time, she decided that her heart was no longer in the corporate world so she gained a degree in Special Education. During this time Francesca’s experiences working with some amazing children completely reshaped her way of thinking and after building up her yoga teaching experience, including with some special needs children, she jumped straight into the yoga franchise business Yogabugs.
10 years later she runs the South East & South West London areas under the Yogabugs umbrella. With classes in over 50 schools and nurseries in the area and team of 9 teachers, they are are spreading the word and our ethos to 1000s of children.
Francesca’s personal company, Sound of Yoga (SoYoga), covers her private adult and children classes, special needs classes and retreats abroad. They run 3-4 retreats every year mainly in Europe and the UK, including their successful parent and child yoga retreats.
What did you learn in your corporate career that has helped you in your yoga teaching business?
PR is all about creating a positive public image and relationships with other bodies. When I started YogaBugs and SoYoga I knew that the competition was high and somehow I needed to make space for myself. So the first thing I set out to do and still do is make sure that the relationships I have with my clients comes first. I make sure that the experience they have with both companies is positive. Over the years I have gained a number of new nurseries and schools just through recommendations from other schools and that is one of the most rewarding feelings, when you get a call out of the blue from a new establishment that has been recommended to you. I have also been very fortunate with my private 1:1 clients. I have never really advertised as all the clients now have come through recommendations and that is when you realise how important PR and relationships really are.
What are your advertising / PR type practical tips that a new or recently qualified yoga teacher can implement to help boost their ability to attract & retain students?
In this day and age when everything is readily available and when we have so much choice it’s the little things that make the big difference. I think the main reason SoYoga and YogaBugs has been so successful is because I drew from my PR background from the beginning and treated every client the way I would love to be treated. They are not just another client but they are all special. Every school and nursery will receive Xmas gifts personally wrapped and taken by myself to each school and nursery. Welcome back to school cards, Easter eggs or something symbolic. You need to have a budget set aside specifically for these occasions.
With my private clients I make sure that as well as getting the tailor made yoga classes that each individual needs, they also know how much I respect and cherish their business and dedication. As I said it’s the little things that count i.e at Christmas they all receive home made xmas cookies wrapped and decorated. It’s not the expense,it’s the fact I spent my time to prepare and make and wrap these special little gifts. At our yoga retreats we make sure that the experiences are over and above the normal yoga retreats offering special little touches and gifts to take away with them.
It’s hard work sometimes and time consuming but the proof that it works is the repeat customers I have on all my retreats as well as schools and nurseries, the recommendations I receive and the loyalty. I have customers that started 10 years ago and we are still learning and growing together.
My biggest tip is be yourself, enjoy what you are doing and don’t take yourself too seriously. A smile and a positive outlook is much more important than any extra or freebie you can offer. Not everyone you teach will be on the same wavelength so you need to be able to offer them an experience and allow each and every one of them to extract whatever it is they feel they need or are ready to take.
As an entrepreneur, what are your favourite resources?
After 12 years in PR I became Anthony Robbins‘ Logistics Manager for Europe which provided me with a good dose of personal development and tools to work with; I have an extensive library from that time of my life. I also follow websites like Elephant Journal, The Yoga Lunch Box and Yoga International. A book that I absolutely loved and would highly recommend is “How Yoga Works” by Geshe Michael Roach and Christie McNally.
I love reading about people’s personal experiences and how circumstances have helped them change, evolve and also sometimes the courage and pure determination you need to succeed or just survive so another great book was “Warrior Pose: A War Correspondent’s Memoir” by Brad Willis aka Bhava Ram.
I also love searching the internet sometimes with just a word, thought or concept in mind and then having the opportunity to read everything that comes up.
How has your personal yoga practice helped you as an entrepreneur?
People that try and sell something that they have never experienced is like being a chef and not trying your own food. I always try and get to as many workshops and classes I can, always experimenting with different styles, teachers and locations. And as such, this year I had the opportunity to travel to India and being able to immerse myself completely into a country, culture and lifestyle was a big eye opener and I have to admit it changed my perception on a number of things.
Just being able to have a yoga mat open and ready in my room at home offers me the the opportunity to retire to that space whenever I feel the need either physically or mentally. It’s a place that will provide me with the peace and grounding I may need, or the energy and the inspiration. Although my cat has also taken to retiring to my mat, we normally manage to accommodate each other’s schedules!
It pays dividends to build good personal relationships with your customers and clients. What can you do that’s a little different that either adds value to their experience with you or shows that you see them as humans rather than just customers?
Word of mouth recommendations are an extremely strong PR tool – what can you do that will help people want to share stories about their experiences with you with their friends, family and colleagues?
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