Elvis Garcia enjoyed a thriving business at his yoga studios in Seattle and Wenatchee before the COVID-19 pandemic began a year ago. Then, suddenly, for the next seven months he said, “it all stopped.”
It quickly became time to improvise.
A talented photographer, Garcia said he began getting paid for photographing real estate that was on the market. He applied for and received two federal loans to help meet expenses. He switched to live online yoga lessons and accumulated an on-demand lesson library, for which he also derived some income. Loyal Wenatchee customers kept that studio alive by continuing to support the attached coffee shop.
Still, after about four months, Garcia’s online customers began to drop off. He had to pare his Seattle staff from 24 down to 6. Though his Seattle landlord allowed Garcia to defer expensive rent payments, the studio “is very much on the fence” of surviving if his former customer base does not eventually return and the state doesn’t soon allow him to expand from being limited to 25% of capacity.
Garcia said he’s confident that the Wenatchee studio will survive. The overhead is far lower than Seattle and customers have loyally continued to support the coffee shop as Garcia awaits permission to add more students.
“That (coffee shop) is what has kept us alive,” he said. “If feels alive.”
Garcia will need a little more patience from his Seattle landlord to gain confidence in the future of the Green Lake studio, which once boasted 1,000 clients. Garcia has demand for his teachers’ instructions on his side.
“Our classes are all on wait lists,” he said. In other words, as vaccinations work to convince the state to further open businesses back up, Garcia is hopeful that the increased revenue will allow him to again meet his monthly rental payment.
Regardless, Garcia’s challenges produce anxiety. He’s reached out to other yoga studios to compare notes and brainstorm on ways they all can survive the pandemic.
“We all need a reminder that we’re not going through this alone,” he said.
Garcia’s struggle has taught him two business lessons he was happy to share.
“As a small business owner, you have to be able to adapt to any circumstance,” he said. “We faced a situation where our entire business model no longer worked.”
He also believes business owners need to compete a little less and network a little more when times get tough.
“We have to reach out to people in other businesses,” he said. “When we get together, we can bounce ideas off each other.”