Friday, April 20, 2018
Business

Her yoga studio just keeps growing and growing

TAMPA — In nearly seven years, Roni Elissabeth Sloman has managed to grow her small yoga studio, called Bella Prana, into one of the largest in Tampa.

This week, Sloman and her business partners, Griselda Colucci and Tina Tidwell, will unveil Bella Prana's new home, in what had been the 30-year-old Yogani studio on W Platt Street in South Tampa. Bella Prana announced last month that it had bought out Yogani, which had been its main competitor.

"It's a merger of two of the largest studios in town," Sloman said. "We have a rich, long history in the city so combining our resources allows us to serve the community at a much higher level."

Yoga has been around for thousands of years, but the business of yoga has evolved substantially. The yoga and Pilates industry is valued at about $9 billion with a 13 percent profit margin, according to a 2015 study by research firm IBISWorld.

The kicker is that there are no major players in the yoga world, which is currently made up of 30,000 studios. It's like the coffee shop industry before Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts came along, said Andrew Tanner, the chief ambassador of international association, Yoga Alliance.

"It's the maturation of the industry," he said. "Right now is the best time for midsized yoga studios with good business models to expand."

Tampa Bay has 94 yoga studios listed on Yelp.com. For Tampa's population, Tanner said there is still a lot of room for new studios. In the more concentrated areas like downtown Tampa and St. Petersburg, however, competition will likely force some out of the market.

"We are in a time where there was a huge quantity growth until 2014 or 2015, and now we're approaching a time of quality," he explained. "It makes a lot of sense there's going to be some consolidation."

An estimated 36 million people practice yoga in the U.S., according to a study released this year by the Yoga Journal and the Yoga Alliance. That's up 44 percent from 2012 and 57 percent from 2008.

"I don't know of any other business that just keeps going up and up and up and up," said Val Spies, owner of Tampa's Lotus Pond Center for Yoga and Health. "I've never seen a downturn … unless we're having hurricanes."

A few years ago, Spies sold her student list to Sloman, which helped expand Bella Prana even further, Sloman said.

Sloman founded Bella Prana in 2009 with a handful of students in a small studio on W Azeele Street in South Tampa. She later moved to a larger spot, on MacDill Avenue that could hold about 25 students. From there she relocated the business to W Kennedy Boulevard with a 65 person capacity.

"It's been growing consistently for the last 6 ½ years," she said. "Now we'll be moving to Platt where the space allows us the growth to be able to really call this our home for the future."

The 6,000-square-foot studio will have room for 100 students at a time, plus workshops, community events, and space for massage and physical therapy. A single class currently costs between $10 and $15, and memberships range from $150 to $95 per month, depending on the contract length.

"It's my goal that we would be like a heartbeat for the city — more like a community center that just happens to do a lot of yoga," she said.

Contact Alli Knothe at [email protected] Follow @KnotheA.

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