Evolving Passion Into Business: Yoga’s Kathryn Budig
Think you know more than a 29 year old yogi when it comes to business? Unless your DVD sold out shelves at Target, you’ve scored a major book deal with Rodale, been featured on the cover of major magazines, been the face of an advertising campaign, and write recurring columns for major media outlets, you may be able to learn a few things about building your passion into business from one of yoga’s rising stars (with tips that have nothing to do with meditation, a mat, or Downward Facing Dog).
The untrained eye might be tempted to label Kathryn Budig as a typical all-American girl, but look beyond appearances, and you’ll find a savvy business woman who has built an enviable career that encompasses the goals that many strive for– but struggle to achieve: Getting paid for your passion, traveling, giving back to others, and keeping the mind and body healthy. I caught up with the popular yogi to see how she’s gained respect and notoriety in an industry that’s arguably as saturated and dictated by tradition as any corporate gig–all before the age of 30. In her story, you may find some success secrets to inspire your own career endeavors in 2012.
Find the Ties that Bind
The economy may be stalled, but whether as a result of the stress, or a matter of reprioritization, Americans are seeking an outlet for wellness, indicated by the upward spending trends in areas like gym memberships, organic foods, and yoga since 2009. (According to Yoga Journal, consumer spending in the yoga industry has exceeded $5.7 billion, representing an 87% growth in the industry since 2004). While being a yoga instructor may sound like a relaxing job spent meditating on the mat, the reality is, yoga teachers, studios, and teacher training programs abound, and building a brand in the yoga industry is just as challenging as it is in “the rest of the world.”
How did Budig begin to set herself apart? Partnerships. While other yoga teachers were featuring images of calm, outdoor scenery to promote their classes, Budig approached photographer Jasper Johal to shoot images for her website as she was just getting started. (Johal is known for show-stopping images of dancers, yogis, and the human art form–often in the nude). The move not only set her apart from other teachers, it became a defining brand image that proved even more valuable when the company ToeSox approached the two of them to “recreate” some of the images from Jonal’s “Body as Temple” exhibit for an advertising campaign that would feature Budig in arm balance postures–wearing only the ToeSox product. Though she admits some initial trepidation at shedding her spandex, Budig trusted in Jonal’s art and ability-so much in fact, that she didn’t even require final approval of the images. It proved a worthwhile leap of faith. The campaign, which still runs regularly in Yoga Journal and other trade publications, gained media notice from circles beyond the yoga community, and has been reproduced into posters.
Budig also boosted her exposure by partnering with “online yoga studio” YogaGlo, which helped to build her reach far beyond her “home base” at YogaWorks Santa Monica. Press coverage through major health media outlets and her own blogs on The Huffington Post and Elephant Journal have also helped her to reach students around the world, making it easier to fill retreats and workshops. “They all go hand-in-hand if you’re willing to be patient and make a strong foundation,” says Budig.
Talent Doesn’t Equal Success
Budig clearly has yoga skills—but so do millions of other yogis who never make a name for themselves among the masses. She credits mastering “the hustle” as part of her successful rise, and until recently, managed every aspect of her own career, including booking and negotations. “If there was a photographer I wanted to work with—I contacted them. If there was a teacher I wanted to learn from—I found a way to work with them. If there was a magazine or blog I had ideas for—I sent them my work,” admits Budig. “Many people are under the impression that opportunities will fall into their lap just because they’re good. Being talented is always rule number one, but you better be ready to work.”
Give Something to What You Love
Though yoga has increased in mainstream popularity for cliché benefits like developing a “yoga butt” or “Madonna arms,” community work is a major part of being a yogi, and for many, can be the “secret sauce” in developing a love and passion for work beyond money. It can be also be natural fit into any business–when the partnerships make sense. Budig is the co-creator of “Poses for Paws,” a non-profit that supports local animal shelters. As a result of her successful contribution to their business, ToeSox approached her to collaborate with a “sox” that would donate a portion of proceeds to animal charity.
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