In 2011, five years practicing Power Yoga under the Californian sun and with a communications diploma in hand, Laure Bouys returned to live in Paris. She accepted a job in a webmarketing agency, only to realize shortly thereafter that she no longer saw the light of day and was seriously neglecting her yoga practice.
In 2015, Laure launched Yoga Connect, the 1st platform for yoga classes in French, created for women who, like her, who lacked the time or means to attend studio classes on a regular basis.
Today, Yoga Connect has nearly 2,500 subscribers and as it celebrates its 4 year anniversary. We speak to Laure about her career as a young entrepreneur, future projects and community.
INSIDE/OUT: Tell us about your journey.
Laure Bouys: I discovered yoga when I was a student living in Los Angeles. I started practicing at Bryan Kest's Power Yoga and Meditation Studio in Santa Monica in 2009. The classes were by donation, which suited me well and enabled me to go there quite often. In 2011, I returned to Paris because my Visa was up. I had studied communications as UCLA, but it was a broad topic and I didn’t really know where to go from there. I started an internship at a web marketing agency and ended up feeling totally disconnected and lost.
In agencies, people are generally not very well paid and the schedule is intense. I was often stuck in the office without being able to attend my yoga classes. So I started practicing online using an English site that still exists today. I would do a little in the morning, a little at night or on the weekends. I did this for a year or two, while attending my classes at Montmartre at Yoga in Paris.
And how did Yoga Connect come to be?
Well, I learned a lot of things at the agency, including how to navigate social networks. Overall, I enjoyed myself but I realized little by little that my work did not fully make sense for me. Then in the summer of 2014, on the last day of my holidays I had a revelation. I couldn’t see myself going back to work, sitting on my computer in an office. It became clear that I had always had a desire to set up my own company. So I decided to launch a site with online yoga classes in French. I got out of the water and spoke to my boyfriend, a director. What if I manage the site and he shoots the videos? A week later, I asked my agency boss for a ⅘ work week. He accepted. The elements aligned and I launched the project in October, completely independently.
How did you recruit your team?
I tested a lot of classes and teachers, whereas so far I had only practiced at the Yoga in Paris studio. I also asked around for word-of-mouth recommendations. I started with four teachers: Susanne Haegele, Sandrine Martin, Oriane Rousset and Lucie Boyer. We filmed in Susanne's apartment every Wednesday. The platform was released in June 2015 and following that more teachers started contacting me. Today we have about 25 regular teachers and a dozen guests.
How did you select the yoga styles you want to focus on?
Obviously, there were trends like Strala, Jivamukti, Voga. But now we are organized around three main pillars: dynamic yoga, gentle yoga styles and yoga for women. We receive a lot of specific requests for prenatal, postnatal, yoga for babies, for children, hormonal yoga… Women are also increasingly curious about how to practice yoga according to their cycles, in particular around the time of menstruation, so we created courses specifically for this. We also added classes to assist with treating hormonal problems as well as ones for women approaching menopause or for post menopausal women.
How do you stay in tune with what your subscribers want?
We exchange frequently with our subscribers via social networks and emails. We regularly put questions out to our community. And we get a lot of response. This season, for example, we decided to create series of courses because we realized that many subscribers - even for the most confirmed ones - were looking for more guidance. We learn a lot from our customers and this is reflected in our longevity.
What do you consider to be the main benefits of Yoga Connect?
We appeal to a few different profiles of people. Those who do are short on time. Those who do are short on finances. But in no case does the platform replace the studios. For me, it is an excellent complement; moreover we remind our subscribers that it is necessary to take live classes with competent instructors from time to time in order to ensure that their alignment and form is correct.
We have a lot of beginners - that was a surprise at first. People who were intimidated because they didn’t have the experience, the outfits or the flexibility that would give them the confidence to walk into a studio class. Yoga Connect allows them to dive in in the privacy of their own homes, in a comfortable place where they feel secure. In light of their lack of experience, we realized that we needed to help them learn to be careful not to hurt themselves. We created short 10-minute videos where we explain to them how to move and position themselves. Everything is broken down into simple steps. Like sun salutations, for example. At the end of this course, we encourage them to go take at least one or two studio courses in the studio.
Our other important demographic consists of people who do not live in a big city and don’t have access to solid studio classes and teachers.
How do you build your subscription base?
We are just starting to advertise online via Google, Facebook and Instagram. We partner with influencers who correspond to our brand image. But our best influencers are our teachers. Yoga Connect allows them to stay connected with their communities when they are away or on vacation, for example. It is also a good way for them to motivate their students to keep it up! We also see that some people are very attached to particular teachers.
What are your plans for Yoga Connect?
We are looking for offices for the team - there are five of us now - with a yoga space that would be managed by our teachers and would offer classes at a fair price, because the cost would be partly absorbed by the fact that we have an office space there as well. The idea is not to compete with the existing studios in Paris, but rather to offer our subscribers a chance to supplement their digital experience with IRL courses with the teachers they already follow.
This said, I like doing things at my own pace and taking my time to consolidate what already exists. This is how I was able to develop independently, without the need to raise funds. So, this season we are working hard to anchor a regular practice into our user’s daily lives so that the platform becomes their wellness tool par excellence.
A new version of the site and the application will be launched in 2020 and in preparation for that, we will start sharing some information in May. The idea is to support our subscribers, even the ones at an advanced level, by developing courses that they can follow in a specific order, kind of like watching a series on Netflix.
Finally, the event dimension is very important. We sponsor events, such as KIND FESTIVAL, a big festival that takes place at the Bellevilloise this month and that brings together lots of great Yoga Connect teachers, with all profits going to an association for women in India.
The idea of creating a marketplace is in the back of my mind, especially with so many French brands out there these days.
But our main goal is to give more motivation to our subscribers so that they stay committed to their practice for the long run.
Tell us about your community.
They are mainly women, at 80%. Women living in the Paris region or in dynamic provincial cities. They are around 30 years old, have active lives, sometimes one or more children and want to take care of them. They have a holistic approach to well-being, want to learn about alternative medicines, Ayurveda, essential oils, yoga, stones and love to discuss these topics. They have a less dogmatic approach to yoga and want a premium experience (I'm thinking in particular of the New York studio where you pay a 30 euros course to sweat in a dubious proximity, without there being a shower available). allow themselves gaps to have a balanced life). It is said that the French are late in their approach to well-being, I actually think that we live at a different pace, with less obsession.