Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey by launching a yoga business, but not sure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Eli Walker founder of Drunk Yoga®, a community dedicated to fun yoga experiences with a beverage in NYC/LA + Virtual.
Tell us all about your business...
At Drunk Yoga®, we’re all about connecting communities and cultivating joy through uplifting, interactive yoga experiences, both virtually and in-person. We specialize in curating accessible corporate yoga programs that build camaraderie and make wellness fun. We’re famous for being the first yoga company to offer classes that include a beverage in-hand—often wine, sometimes juice or coffee, and always fun. We invite you to let your hair down and enjoy this potent union of yoga and social ritual. #namasteresponsibly
What's your background and motivation to grow as a solopreneur?
In 2017, I was in a bar that I used to work with some friends in Lower Manhattan late one night—one of those nights when your friend drags you out for “one” drink and all of a sudden it’s 2am—and the owner (my former boss) said, “Oh, Eli, you’re a yoga teacher now? You should teach me yoga! I can’t even touch my toes.” And then he bent over to prove it, and sure enough, touched his toes. “Oh,” he said, surprised. “I guess I can do it when I’m drunk.” In jest, I said, “Let’s do Drunk Yoga!” And that was my lightbulb moment.
I quickly realized that there’s no better way to make yoga fun and accessible to newbies than by taking it out of a conventional setting and into a communal space (like a bar) and infusing it with games, storytelling, and of course, the social ritual of a happy hour. I started teaching my new, edgy “Drunk Yoga” classes at the bar the following week, and within a month, my concept had gone viral.
My background is in experimental storytelling. I went to NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts for performance, and for years I’ve had an affinity for community-based theater and finding unique ways to use the art of “play” to bring people together. I use a lot of the same improv and theater techniques I learned at Tisch and infuse them into Drunk Yoga experiences.
Doing this makes our events interactive, conversational and lighthearted—and, subsequently, uplifting. Icebreakers, partners games, nostalgic “throwback" music combined with our performative yoga teachers—(who I personally train to be the “host” of our “yoga parties” rather than just “fitness instructors”)—work to create an immersive entertainment experience that cultivates joy through shared belonging. We just so happen to do this through the vehicle of yoga with a fun beverage in-hand;)
We’ve pivoted from public classes to corporate yoga events amidst the pandemic in a big and exciting way. We’re now offering customized team-building experiences (both virtually and in person), as well as long-term corporate wellness contracts that help hybrid teams across the country keep their employees happy and health through camaraderie-building yoga classes.
It’s been a wonderfully fun transition for us. Additionally, I’ve been stepping into a new role as a keynote speaker, offering talks and workshops on “The Power of Play,” “The Art of Getting Over Yourself” and “The Performance of Belonging,” to help companies dive deeper into my core philosophy behind Drunk Yoga—that if we rethink conventional “rules” that keep us safe but isolated, we break through the “4th wall” that stands between us and a feeling of deep belonging and joy.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Just before the pandemic, Virgin Hotels Dallas bought exclusive rights to Drunk Yoga, which was a legitimizing milestone for us. Through thoughtful branding, great customer service and strategic partnerships, I'd worked hard for years to bring integrity to a company with such a provocative name that deviated from convention in such a triggering way for traditional yogis. Signing a contract with such a well known brand like Virgin was a proud moment for my small company.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a solopreneur?
I have to be cliche and say it's the lack of stability. Everything else that comes with owning a business...the problem-solving, the learning, the late nights, the ups and downs, the managing of humans, ideas and emotions, I actually love. But entrepreneurship, especially in the event space, involves a high level trust and tolerance for long moments of uncertainty, which often affects other arenas of one's personal life. It's manageable, but not always fun ;)
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run or grow a small business today?
1) Don't let perfection be the enemy of good
2) Make a plan and be ready to change it tomorrow
If there was one thing you could do repeatedly to help grow your business, what would it be?
I'd be better about posting on social media more consistently. *Famous last words* It's easy to let something as simple as engaging with your audience daily fall off of your to-do list when you have incoming business that needs attention, but it's important and shouldn't be taken for granted. Drunk Yoga wouldn't be what it is today if it wasn't for social media.
What are some of the things you put in place to maintain a healthy work/life balance and to keep it all together?
I've only recently improved my relationship to work/life balance. I follow the Arianna Huffington-recommended recipe: turn off my phone by 9pm, I stick to a nightly routine of herbal tea and an epsom salt bath, and I meditate daily. I'm finding that if I slip up on my nightly self-care routine even for one day--thinking "I'll just work late tonight...I'll get back on the horse tomorrow..." I'm thrown off for days. I've also found getting out of my apartment to work at a cafe or a co-working space is great for my productivity (and subsequently, health and mindset.)
Who are some of your favorite entrepreneurs and best business resources/books?
Arianna Huffington, Mindy Kaling, and of course, Oprah.
Where can people find you online?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solopreneur that you'd like to share then email firstname.lastname@example.org, we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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