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Updated: June 27, 2022 Shop Talk

Q&A: Flying high with aerial yoga in Hudson

Photo | COURTESY of ROSE WINE PHOTOGRAPHY Katherine Scalora (left) and Lora Markova, co-owners of Earth & Aerial Yoga, in Hudson

Less than a year before COVID, Katherine Scalora and Lora Markova brought a somewhat unique concept in exercise to Hudson: aerial yoga, where patrons dangle from silks attached to the ceiling in seemingly complex poses that Scalora and Markova said are surprisingly easy for beginners to master.

You’ve been open for three years now. How’s business?

Scalora: We’re cooking. We were closed for four months in 2020, because of the pandemic. Since we re-opened in July 2020, we’ve been very busy. Once the capacity restrictions were lifted and we could go back to 14 students per class, things really picked up.

We’re at about 60% capacity for about 25 adult classes per week, plus eight kids classes per week. We have a very busy schedule.

Markova: From a business perspective, we have managed to not only survive, but thrive during the pandemic. In March 2022, we saw 1,266 visits to our studio, which is a 421% increase compared to January 2020, our last full pre-pandemic month. Out of those, 374 were unique clients, more than half of whom came 3+ times per month. This is an increase of 120% and 52% respectively, compared to January 2020.

Plus, the number of brand new students who took advantage of our intro offer more than tripled in 2021, compared to the previous year, adding up to 261 people.

How has that demand changed how you operate?

Markova: We changed our pricing structure, after business consultants we hired made that recommendation. We were a little nervous about it because we didn’t know how customers would respond.

It worked out for the best, though, as it has encouraged people to become members and be more committed to their practice. We’ve grown in our membership numbers by about 80% over the last six months.

Scalora: We created a tiered structure for our membership. The lowest level is really affordable, so that particular addition really grew our customer base. It worked for people who couldn’t necessarily commit to coming to a regular class. We also added an unlimited membership, which we always resisted, but did it at business consultants’ recommendation. And people love it, where they can just come in whenever they want.

Who are your customers? I’d imagine many people are intimidated.

Markova: People’s first reaction is, “Oh my, am I going to be hanging off of that thing?”

Yet, our style is sort of for people who don’t like yoga, as you are doing a lot more poses that would never happen in a yoga class. There is no level of strength or flexibility that is required to do nearly all of the poses. You just have to have an open mind.

For the most part, our customers are brand new people, and it is something they never tried before.

Scalora: Our clientele ranges in age from people who are 5 to 75. You don’t need to be of a certain age or a certain level of experience.

People like it because there are very few places where you can actually do this. They might have done aerial yoga while on vacation in Aruba or something, but it isn’t something you just come across in Massachusetts.

They are looking for something different, and we certainly fit that bill.

What are some of the biggest areas for growth?

Markova: A large part of our business is private parties and private groups. That is something we have seen tremendous growth in over the last year. Since COVID brought everyone indoors and brought families together, they wanted to come to the studio and do classes together.

COVID really fueled our private events. People can just come in with a select group of friends and enjoy a class together.

Scalora: Another big part of the private events has been Girl Scout troops. They are all with their friends, and it is a private experience.

How has the business performed compared to your original expectations?

Scalora: We exceeded all of our expectations, quite frankly. Last year, we set a revenue goal for ourselves that was really ambitious and pie-in-the-sky, and then we ended up exceeding that. We set a higher goal this year, and so far we are on track to at least meet that.

Markova: A large part of our success is due to our amazing instructors. Many have been with us from the beginning or shortly after, and they are really beloved by our members. Our teachers have really been the heart and soul of our business.

This interview was conducted and edited for length and clarity by WBJ Editor Brad Kane.

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