Interested in starting your own journey in health and wellness but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Michael Greenfield, Executive Director of Asheville Community Yoga, located in Asheville, NC, USA.
What's your organization, and who are your members?
Asheville Community Yoga is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization committed to making a healthy lifestyle accessible to all. Our vision is to offer a space for individuals to flourish and for community members to connect. We offer services that promote a mind-body-spirit connection, such as donation-based movement & meditation classes with mats and props supplied at no charge, trainings & workshops with financial aid, and affordable pre-loved clothing.
Tell us about yourself
Asheville Community Yoga first opened under the name of “Free Yoga” in 2009. I am Asheville Community Yoga’s Executive Director and was the only teacher at that time. I offered free early morning men’s yoga classes and general public classes on Monday and Wednesday evenings in a warehouse located on Merrimon Avenue in downtown Asheville. The cold concrete of the warehouse and the raw condition of the space didn’t seem to matter to anyone, and these free evening classes were soon packed with mats spanning wall to wall. Students requested more classes, I expanded the schedule, and more people came.
It soon became apparent that a larger, better-equipped space with a community of teachers to support the demand was needed. The center moved to its current location at 8 Brookdale Road in North Asheville in March of 2010 and created the name Asheville Community Yoga Center to reflect that the space was inclusive of everyone and truly a “community” of people gathering to practice. I called on a few close friends and family to help out financially and took out loans to renovate and create a beautiful new state-of-the-art center that many today consider a second home. The center took $30,000 in loans and was able to pay those back within three-and-a-half years.
As soon as the space was completed, local teachers began offering their wisdom and energy in the spirit of Karma Yoga, teaching entirely free of charge. Teachers teach for free, and students give what they can, when they can. Ten to twenty dollars is the suggested amount per class. This model has turned out to be not only a beautiful example of cooperation and love but also a financially viable enterprise.
What's your biggest accomplishment as an organization?
Failure. The many failures that naturally arise as a business owner helped me to learn better how to do things and how to adjust and adapt in order to continue to serve the community. These failures made me more committed to our mission at Asheville Community Yoga, deepened my relationships, and supported me in being in the right relationship with myself and others.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being an organization?
The level of responsibility for a community of 22,000+ members and making executive decisions that take into account each member of the community, the 100+ volunteers, and the staff can, at times, be challenging. At the end of the day, we are all here to support one another, to lean into the community, to serve a mission greater than one individual. When we come back to the reasons why we are here, to be of service, the challenges begin to diminish.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow an organization today?
- Practice! And be with people who are also in practice.
- Keep the body, mind, and heart open so you can work through whatever may arise.
- Live your passion & love what you do.
- Serve without expecting anything in return.
Where can people find you and your group?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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