Posing like trees

Yoga business grows, flexes to deliver corporate classes

FEDERAL WAY, Wash. – When successful small business Three Trees Yoga determined to offer classes in the workplace, it needed to learn how to attract companies, rather than individuals, as clients. An ongoing relationship with the Washington Small Business Development Center (SBDC) provided support the expanding yoga business could rely on.

The new corporate wellness business in South Puget Sound, Work Well NW, delivers services to help employees learn techniques to increase resiliency and decrease burnout in a wide variety of workplace settings – from medical offices to machinist shops.

“Work Well NW‘s goal is to help employees improve their sense of well-being in both mind and body,” said Suzy Green, a co-founder of the business. “Through both yoga and mindfulness training, we teach participants how to practice self-care and reduce stress. It is a proactive approach that has an impact far beyond work life.”

Classes are based on the work of Jon Kabat Zinn at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center and are backed by 30 years of clinical research, she said.

Advising eases way through recession

Green and her partners, Jeni Martinez and Karen Schwisow, first opened Three Trees Yoga in 2005 after meeting with Maryanne Budlong, SBDC advisor in Des Moines, Wash. In 2008, when the recession was hammering businesses across the country, the yoga business owners met with Zev Siegl, the advisor after Budlong retired.

Three owners of Three Trees Yoga

Three Trees Yoga owners: Jeni Martinez, Suzy Green and Karen Schwisow

“The fact that we survived the recession was in direct relation to our work with Zev,” Green said. “We needed ideas and perspective from a seasoned business mind.”

When Siegl left the SBDC, the owners began meeting with his colleague, Rich Shockley. The studio has since grown to a staff of 25 instructors teaching 40 classes every week. In addition, Three Tree Yoga offers both a 200-hour and 300-hour Yoga Teacher Training Program.

The Washington SBDC (http://wsbdc.org/) is a network of more than two dozen certified business advisors working in communities across the state to help business owners start, grow or transition a business. The SBDC was established in Washington more than 35 years ago and receives support from Washington State University, the U.S. Small Business Administration and other institutions of higher education and economic development. The SBDC center in Des Moines is located at, and receives support from, Highline College.

Advisory board, continuing education credits

Three Trees Yoga’s decade of experience with the SBDC reinforced the value of working with professional business advisors, Green said.

“When we started to talk about developing Work Well NW, a consultation with Rich was our first stop,” she said. “We had a vision and a couple of clients, but not really a plan.

“The three of us are really proficient at teaching, but we don’t always love putting our business hats on,” she said, but Shockley helps them do that: “We never leave his office without at least three great ideas, three action items and renewed focus and energy for our businesses.”

SBDC advising, Green said, was key to their decision to set up an advisory board of healthcare professionals for Work Well NW. Shockley also helped them create a marketing plan and encouraged their efforts to get Work Well NW workshops accredited by the appropriate governing bodies so that participants could get CE (continuing education) credits.

Work Well NW started in 2014 with a couple of classes at a local hospital and has grown to nearly 20 classes a week in a variety of businesses.

“We know we are on the right track because the clients we have established so far have renewed their contracts for yoga and mindfulness classes multiple times,” Green said. “The feedback they are getting from their employees about the benefits they are experiencing from doing yoga at work has been very positive.”

by Hope Belli Tinney, Washington SBDC

News media contact:
Suzy Green, Work Well NW co-founder, Suzanne@WorkWellNW.com