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Triangle Posturing

YogaFit joins Snap, 9Round in quest for three 1,000-unit brands


First there was Snap Fitness, compact 24-hour workout facilities, then 9Round, small circuit boxing clubs, and now the trifecta, YogaFit, 24-hour accessible yoga classes.

Jodi Sussner

Jodi Sussner, executive director of YogaFit Studios, in triangle pose.

The new addition to Chanhassen, Minnesota-based Lift Brands’ portfolio is “our third opportunity for a brand to hit the 1,000-unit mark,” says Steele Smiley, chief officer of Lift Brands. Snap Fitness has already exceeded that mark with close to 2,000 locations, and “9Round is well on its way,” says Smiley, who just recently sold his personal training company, Steele Fitness, to Lift Brands.

It’s a big market: More than 20 million people practice yoga in the United States, according to Yoga Journal, up 30 percent in four years.

Beth Shaw founded YogaFit 17 years ago as a way to train instructors to teach a less-intimidating version of yoga without the chanting or ancient Sanskrit terms. Her mantra is: “If you can breathe, you can practice yoga,” and instructors mostly taught in group exercise facilities, like the YMCA. Since starting her company, Shaw has certified more than 200,000 yoga instructors worldwide.

“She approached me about putting a franchise around (her concept),” Founder and CEO of Lift Brands Peter Taunton says of Shaw. The name value, plus a pool of 200,000 potential franchisees, presented a promising endeavor.

Taunton has the franchise rights to the concept, which incorporates Lift’s proprietary virtual fitness-on-demand kiosk used in its other concepts. Shaw will continue to run her separate yoga certification business, including training instructors for the franchises. 

YogaFit’s first studio opened in Excelsior, Minnesota, and Smiley sees the 24/7 model as revolutionizing yoga. “It’s a game changer for the industry,” he says.

The stripped-down studios have a full schedule of classes. There’s a reception area and studio, complete with props, but no showers, since Smiley says, “98.7 percent of people have no interest in showering” at a facility. Like other yoga-only facilities, one person checks in students and then locks the door to teach the class. In this case, however, students have keycards as part of their membership and still can join the class if running a few minutes late.

Another game-changer: The cost of opening a studio is much less than traditional studios, Smiley says. Total cost is $80,000 to $110,000, compared to CorePower Yoga which lists its investment level at $214,700 to $427,000 on FranchiseHelp. But qualified candidates who bring $20,000 to the table can get financing for the rest through Lift.

And in case you’re wondering why anyone would drive to a studio to exercise to a video—even a large one—Jodi Sussner, executive director of YogaFit Studios, says it’s that age-old problem: We have exercise equipment at home but don’t use it. We like getting out of the house to exercise, even if it is virtual.


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