If you harbour dreams of setting up a business, then this business series is for you. Over the next few weeks we’ll be chatting to entrepreneurs, business owners and all round inspirations, who saw a gap in the wellness market and decided to go for it.
This week, we speak to Julie Burke from Hotpod Yoga about the realities of setting up a business, learning to take time off and self belief.
How did you first discover Hotpod yoga?
I came across Hotpod whilst living in London about five years ago. I was working as a yoga teacher having just left the corporate world and from my first class I was hooked. It was totally different to any other yoga class I had tried. I absolutely loved it, I remember vividly walking out of my first class and saying to myself I’m going to bring this to Dublin one day. I still have to pinch myself and remind myself that it is no longer a dream and it is a reality. Often I find myself smiling to myself mid class thinking about how we made this dream come true. I’m sure my students think I’m half cracked.
What made you become a yoga teacher?
I was always very driven and whatever role I was in I would set myself challenging targets, even if there weren’t part of my job. I just like to set myself goals. When I got into sales I thought the intensity and pace of the environment would satisfy my need to hit targets but I was really surprised that even though I surpassed the targets each month I still felt something was missing.
Once I started teaching yoga I found that missing piece – it’s a whole new level of job satisfaction. I find it strange even calling it a job because I don’t feel like it’s work. I feel incredibly lucky to have found something I love, which has helped me through many challenging times and I now get to share this with people every day and help them realise the benefits too.
What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned since launching your own business?
It’s hard to pick out just one. I’ve learnt so much since I launched Hotpod. I honestly didn’t expect it to be such a learning curve. Because I’d worked as a yoga teacher for a few years I thought I knew what to expect – I was wrong. Although it’s still in the yoga space, opening a studio and introducing a new concept to Ireland was a steep learning curve. If I had to pick one thing, it would be the importance of having a good team around you. You can’t do it all on your own.
If you could go back and do something differently would you?
Ooooh that’s a tricky one. I am always critiquing how I do things and always think there is room to improve. But on reflection there’s nothing I would do differently. We had a few challenges along the way but looking back now there was a really important learning from each one. They all led us to where we are now. Even though we are still quite young, I am in awe of how far we have come.
What was the biggest thing that surprised you about setting up a business?
To be honest I’ve really enjoyed it. I can’t think of anything that surprised me, apart from how well Hotpod was received. From the moment I came across Hotpod I thought it would be a great addition to the Irish health and fitness scene but I wasn’t expecting so many people to agree with me.
Did your background help?
I think my background really helped me. I had worked as an events manager for a number of years in Dublin before becoming a marketing manager in London and then moving into sales. My experience in each of these areas really helped me. Marketing is a huge part of any new business and I felt very comfortable with it. Working in events teaches you to multi-task and prioritise on a whole new level. I used to think I was organised until I was running multiple events per day and quickly realised that being organised wasn’t just a tidy workspace and neat to do list.
When starting a new business you will constantly feel pulled in all directions and it’s crucial to be able to prioritise and plan ahead. My time as a sales director sharpened my negotiation skills, prepared me for difficult business conversations and made me realise the importance of decisiveness. In each of these roles I had managed teams of people; which again made building a strong team a lot easier.
Did you learn anything about yourself?
Oh yes! Where do I start? I am not the most patient person, anyone who knows me will know what a huge understatement that is, and my lack of patience was causing me to be quite frustrated. So I had to learn to let go and realise some things were beyond my control. I also learned I am fiercely independent and felt asking for help was a sign of weakness. However, I quickly realised that recognising you need help and asking for it makes things a whole lot easier. It’s also considerably more productive.
How do you manage to maintain any level of work life balance, is it hard to switch off?
When you work for yourself it’s hard to switch off. Before I launched Hotpod Yoga I was working as a full-time yoga teacher and even then I found it challenging to switch off. You have to be very disciplined when it comes to the work you do and don’t take on. For the first few months after the launch of Hotpod I found it very hard to switch off. We are open 7 days a week and I felt I had to be there for every class. However, over time I have been able to step back, find more balance and switch off. Of course I am always aware when classes are going on but I don’t feel the need to be there all the time.
What was the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Take time off.
My partner Neil and I launched Hotpod together which has been wonderful in so many ways. I couldn’t have done it without him and his support, but it has been difficult at time to keep the work life balance. After the launch it was hard not to let Hotpod take over every conversation but now that it’s settled down it’s much easier to find a balance.
Just before we launched we booked a holiday for three weeks in January. I did have moments where I thought we’d have to cancel but Neil calmed those wobbles, and we did get away which was the best thing we could have done.
I know it’s not always realistic to take such a big break, but even on a weekly basis you have to carve time out to switch off and focus on you.
What piece of advice would you pass on now to something else who’s noticed a gap in the market?
Believe in yourself. Once you have done your research and checked it out from a business perspective go with your gut. No matter how good the idea or how sound the business plan, you will hit bums. If you doubt yourself these little bumps can become huge issues. If you believe in yourself and your idea you will pick yourself up..
Have you always believed in Hotpod or did you have moments of thinking you were making a mistake?
From my first class in London I believed in Hotpod and knew I wanted to bring it to Dublin. But I have had many moments where I thought I was wrong, especially before I launched. I knew I loved it and believed there was a gap in the market. But I had many a broken night’s sleep worrying if people would get it or want to even try it.
I am currently looking for a venue for our second Hotpod in Dublin. We want to find two new venues this year. One on the nortside and one on the southside of Dublin.
Where would you like to be in five years?
I would like to have a number of Hotpod’s running successfully in Dublin. All with the same welcoming and friendly vibe we created with our first Hotpod. It’s so important to me that the experience stays the same as we grow. We want to expand, so that more people can experience the pod while making sure the customer experience is enhanced.
For a full list of classes and workshops, visit hotpodyoga.com