Robyn Parets is the director of Pretzel Kids, a children’s yoga, fitness, and mindfulness brand that offers classes and special events. In addition, the company provides trainings to teach adults how to teach kids yoga using a proprietary curriculum. “We developed a training curriculum and manual that we’ve been using for more than ten years to train people through weekend classes across the country,” Parets said. “Now, we run an online yoga school, so anybody from anywhere can learn how to teach kids yoga or implement mindfulness.”
Why did you start your business?
I’m a journalist and a business writer. I’ve been writing professionally for 25 years. I started out in newspapers and then wrote for Investor’s Business Daily, where I wrote a lot about companies going public, growing companies, startups… I interviewed a lot of CEOs and founders of companies over the years.
When I got involved in yoga, it started out as a way to relieve the stress of dealing with deadlines as a journalist. I ended up loving it and started teaching a few adult yoga classes a week. One thing led to another, and I ended up opening a studio in 2004 in suburban Boston. I was able to use all of those tools I had learned as a business writer and eventually worked my way into running my yoga business full-time while doing some writing on the side. I sold that business in 2016.
In the meantime, I realized there was a lack of children’s yoga classes available. I started Pretzel Kids as a program under my studio to offer kids classes out in the community. I thought we could bottle up our curriculum and offer it out to others. I picked up two school teachers who were also yoga teachers because they really knew what worked in a classroom and how to structure classes for kids. We created the Pretzel Kids curriculum and teaching manual and started offering teacher trainings. When I sold my physical studio, we began focusing on growing Pretzel Kids, rolling out the online training course and expanding the brand nationally.
How did you finance the business at the start?
It was bootstrapped. I owned my studio space, which was a carriage house behind my house. I grew progressively and slowly hired other teachers as funds were available. As the money came in for the classes, I reinvested it into the studio. I was able to use some of the funds from selling the studio to grow Pretzel Kids. And I also did a crowdfunding campaign for some new projects we’re going to be doing, like rolling out a new product line and revamping our website’s technology platform.
Managing the Company
How do you manage cash flow?
Right now, I’m the only employee, though I do have other teachers that I pay by the class. As the jobs come in, I source them out. As I get paid, I pay the teacher, and there’s some money left that goes into Pretzel Kids. For the courses that are sold online, that’s a passive business. As the courses get sold, the money goes back into hosting fees, marketing, and advertising. Everything that’s left over gets put back into the company. I also write and edit on the side to bring in other funds.
What’s the most challenging thing about running the business?
Knowing that there are certain things I can’t do. Handling social media posting and creating graphics is something that I had to let go of, because I knew I could hire someone to do it a lot better than me. I’ve outsourced my accounting and bookkeeping, too. Letting go is difficult, but you have to do it to focus on what you’re good at.
What’s the most rewarding thing about running the business?
Seeing the company grow and seeing so many other people achieve success after taking the Pretzel Kids course. It’s great to see moms and other people looking for side hustles take the course affordably and start teaching yoga to kids in their communities.
What I’ve Learned
What’s the biggest mistake you made when you were starting out?
When I started, I looked at what my competitors were doing and tried to offer programs similar to what everyone else was doing. So, at first, in order to do my training, you had to be a certified yoga teacher in the 200-hour range, which is typical in the industry. After about a year, I realized that was a mistake, because I was getting calls from people like school teachers, occupational therapists, and moms who were wanting to do the training, but couldn’t. What I was doing was limiting and stunting the revenue growth. I realized I had to make what I was offering unique and different, because people could go to five other places and get the same thing. I decided to make my course more accessible and less expensive.
What’s the smartest thing you did at the start?
I trademarked the heck out of everything. I’ve seen so many businesses get a domain name and start doing business under this name and then run into problems because they didn’t bother to vet the name or trademark the name. I came up with the name really early and trademarked it.
What advice would you give to a new entrepreneur?
Some people would say, “Go all in. Quit your job and follow your passion.” I’m going to say, “Don’t do that!” If you have a great idea for a business, start, but don’t give up your day job. Make sure the business is viable first and make sure you have enough money coming in to support yourself. If that means you have to take a loan or line of credit or raise funds, that’s fine, but make sure you don’t get yourself underwater too fast and invest too much right at the beginning.
What’s next for Pretzel Kids?
We’re in the early stages of illustrating our first consumer product, which will be a Pretzel Kids card deck and games that parents can use to teach some of the principles that our teachers are teaching. I’m hoping that will be available by early 2019.