Entrepreneurs often seek to start their own businesses with a market analysis and elevator pitch — on the other hand, Allison Reitz, CEO of Good Elephant, set out to solve three challenges unique to yoga instruction, and while she accomplished her goals just happened to create a new sharing-based company that has now expanded to four states and counting.
“We do have a business plan in place, we have our financial projections, but I’m also trying to practice being a yogi as I do it,” Reitz said. “I’m a very spiritual person, and so I feel like a lot of this is kind of coming through me, instead of, you know, me having these ideas.”
GoodElephant.co connects yoga, meditation, and t’ai chi instructors with creative spaces — coffee shops, art galleries, community centers, parks, and other places — to offer ‘pay what you can’ classes to participants in an unintimidating, welcoming way. Launched in 2017, Good Elephant has expanded from Northern Nevada to Sacramento, Denver, and Little Rock, Arkansas. It will soon be offering classes in San Francisco.
The app was released in November 2018, and the company — a C corporation — is now launching the beta version of a new software program. The team of instructors on the platform has grown to 50.
Good Elephant is also expanding its custom packages of seminar sessions and mini-meditation breaks for in-service trainings that are held at businesses, schools, and conferences.
Business Idea Grew Out of Three Specific Needs
About two years ago, Reitz returned from yoga teacher training in India, and began her career as an instructor in Carson City.
“The first thing was that I wasn’t going to be able to make a living teaching yoga because I was getting paid $25 per class, and you’d have to set up a lot of classes to do that — which makes me sad that it’s so difficult for yoga teachers to make a living doing it, because they deserve to, they’re changing people’s lives,” she said.
Teachers on the Good Elephant team make up to 70 percent of their class revenue instead of the typical flat rate of $25 in many studios. The 70 percent may sometimes reach $75 per class, Reitz added. Another goal came about when she noticed that male relatives and friends didn’t feel comfortable going to a yoga studio.
“I realized how many people were interested in coming to my classes, people I knew, but they were too intimidated to come into the yoga studio because right now, yoga is a culture and it’s like a workout, and there’s a certain demographic of people that you think of when going into a yoga studio,” she said. “You know, maybe some Lululemon leggings are involved.”
To make it more approachable, classes are held in various local spots, such as coffee shops and art galleries.
In addition to community venues such as the Reno Buddhist Center and the Nevada Humane Society, there have been classes outdoors, including at Wingfield Park. Good Elephant teachers have also volunteered their time to lead classes for the City of Reno’s Shape Up Reno program.
"To make it affordable, we use a ‘pay what you can’ model, so anyone can come to any class for free, but we have suggested prices for each class," Reitz said. "It’s really great to see how it all evens out, because some people, a very small percentage of people, do come for free, but then our average payment per student per class ends up being around our suggested price — which means that some people are actually balancing that by paying more than the suggested price, so it’s really cool.”
New and Expanded Offerings
The team of instructors has become Good Elephant’s greatest resource for what Reitz calls the second branch of the business, the B2B pillar.
“We have all these teachers; we’ve already vetted them, and we know they’re certified, they have insurance,” Reitz said. “So then we can connect them not only with local spaces to start their own community classes, but also with businesses and conferences and schools, and that actually allows them to make even more money doing that too, and more consistent money because we set up contracts with the schools.”
Good Elephant’s offerings also include 5-10 minute meditation breaks to refresh conference attendees, in addition to the usual one-hour classes. In March, Good Elephant teachers led short meditation breaks at the UNR Women’s Entrepreneurship Symposium.
The third branch of the business is a new software program designed for community centers, nonprofit groups, and other organizations.
“We’re offering software for yoga studios now, and organizations that have events like ours, because when I was starting this, I couldn’t find the software that I needed to do it,” Reitz explained. “There’s a lot of different software for yoga studios, and gyms, and people who set up meetings and appointments, and take payments. But none of them would do the ‘pay what you can,’ and none of them could do multiple locations like we needed.”
The beta version is launching this month, and discounts are available for those who help test it. The software has a back-end computer dashboard to view metrics, and the front-facing app for event attendees.
A Good Foundation Allows For a Productive Future
Although she is learning a great deal through the process of starting the company, none of the business development has been difficult; she’s always been aware of the next step, and when she needs to take it. Now Reitz just listens for the next step and is confident that she will learn the information she needs to know to handle each new challenge and opportunity.
Why the name Good Elephant? There are parables and symbols involving elephants in Buddhism and Hinduism. Ganesha is traditionally symbolized as a man with the head of an elephant.
“He’s the first god that you meet in Hinduism,” she said. “And then he introduces you to all the other gods, so he’s like your introduction. That’s what we want Good Elephant to be; the welcoming, friendly place for new people to try yoga and meditation, t'ai chi and similar practices.”
Experience Good Elephant
To try a yoga class for yourself, see the Good Elephant class schedule or dowload the app (links are on the website.)