Today's GirlBoss blog post goes out to the founder of a beautiful yoga studio on the tropical island of Koh Tao, Thailand.
GirlBoss series are here every Monday morning to inspire you, to uplift you, to show you that it is possible to live life on your own terms. Do you know a GirlBoss? Want to share her story with us? Email us at email@example.com so we can Interview her & share her story with the world. Thank you & we hope you find something useful in every interview we do :)
Smile, Be Happy & Dream Big.
Q - So Cynthia, tell us more about life before the island & yoga?
Well I grew up in Canada, and as I mentioned in our previous interview
, I grew up as an awkward, brainy kid who mostly just spent time with books and animals. I was very academic, and very unathletic. I went to university with the plan to become a vet. However, I took some courses in ecology (the study of nature and the interactions among living beings), and primatology (the study of monkeys, apes, other primates, and evolution) and loved those courses so much I decided to change my programs and ended up graduating at 23 years of age with two Honours degrees - one in ecology, and one in primatology. I was meant to get my PhD in primatology, and traveled to Belize, in Central America, several times, to live in the jungle and study monkeys. To make a long story short, as much as I loved being in the forest, and was very successful in my program, I didn’t want to end up with a desk job and knew I hadn’t yet found my purpose. So I quit grad school to figure out what exactly I was meant to do with my life. I fell in love with the ocean, and SCUBA diving, while living and traveling through Central America, and that’s what led me to Koh Tao.
Q - How, when & why did you move to Koh Tao?
I came to Koh Tao in February 2009 to do my SCUBA dive instructor training. Basically I was in Canada after returning from Belize a few months prior, with no real plan, and I had a friend who had previously visited Koh Tao to do his divemaster training and raved about the island. It seemed like a cool place so I sold all my possessions and bought a flight.
Q - Why did you decide to open a yoga studio?
Well my good friend and I started Ocean Sound Dive
+ Yoga first as a website, so that our dive and yoga students could pass our information on to others in a more professional way than just through a Facebook contact, for example. We built the website ourselves, and eventually started getting inquiries from travellers who found us online and liked our vibe. We were teaching diving and yoga out of other establishments on Koh Tao - basically bringing in customers to teach ourselves. In time Ocean Sound evolved to a point where it was logical to open our own dive school and yoga studio. That wasn’t our initial goal - we just wanted to share our passions for yoga and diving, and that’s still what we’re about.
Q - Did you have many negative comments from people around that didn't believe in what you want to do?
Sure! I mean, I haven’t exactly lived a conventional life. A lot of people were confused about why I’d leave my academic career, given that I was already quite successful. My parents worried about my future. A few feathers were ruffled. It wasn’t the easiest decision, but pursuing one’s passion will always come with challenges.
Q - How did you fund your business?
Well, the initial investment in Ocean Sound
was our $10 domain name registration fee. Since we built the website ourselves and operated out of other dive shops and yoga studios initially, we didn’t have any other overhead costs. Then the business grew from there as we saved up and reinvested into the company as it evolved.
Q - How did you stay calm during the process of opening a business? It can be a very tough and challenging time.
It happened gradually and organically, so I pretty much just rode the wave and kept my priorities in line - which have always been to just do what I love to the best of my abilities. The biggest leap in terms of workload was when we opened our own locations and had to do everything from get dive and yoga equipment to create paperwork to hire staff. My business partners and I are great friends and we make an amazing team, so we just supported each other and worked together to make it happen. It was a lot of work, but I wouldn’t say it was stressful… but maybe that’s just cause of all the yoga I do! Ocean Sound is still a work in progress, of course. We always strive to improve.
Q - Now that you already have 1 business, do you find it easier to come up with & go ahead with other business ventures?
I’m not particularly interested in business ventures themselves. I’m interested in living every day with joy and fulfillment and the knowledge that I’m fulfilling my purpose and benefitting the lives of others. That’s why I started Ocean Sound, and it’s my baby - I haven’t actually pursued any other business ventures as I give OS my all.
Q - If you could do any other business, what would you be and why?
If I was going to pursue another business it would definitely be something involving wellness, like Ocean Sound. It would be an addition to OS, rather than a different venture. Since I love fitness, I’ve been considering getting qualified as a personal trainer, I’ve already studied to be a nutritionist, and I’ve toyed with the idea of opening a healthy, high vibe restaurant since I love to cook (and eat!)... but honestly Ocean Sound keeps me busy and fulfilled!
Q - What advise do you give to someone who'd love to move to another country, start a new business & life the life of their dreams?
You’ve gotta just go for it. Don’t wait for the “perfect” time, because you’ll wait forever. Pursuing your dreams will always be risky, and there will always be reasons why you shouldn’t. Do it anyway. You must leap into the unknown and face the fear of failure in order for your wildest dreams to come true.
Q - If you could change something now about anything you did wrong in your business in the past, what would it be & why?
I wouldn’t change anything! I’ve learned from every bump in the road… evolution moves forward, not backward, so I could never say I’d want to change anything about any aspect of my past.
Q - Take us through a very short list of things to do when wanting to open a yoga studio business...
Make sure you love yoga more than anything else in the world
Dedicate yourself wholeheartedly to the practice and to your students
Take big risks
Trust the universe
Q - Is it challenging with the legal side of things when it comes to being a business owner in Thailand?
Not really- we have a great lawyer who facilitates paperwork and all that jazz. We have a fantastic relationship with our surrounding community and Thai friends who are always willing to help us, give advice, or keep us in the loop. We keep our business completely legit and do everything by the book, so we don’t have any troubles.
Q - Do you have any business partners? If so, what is everyone's responsibility?
Sure do! Two of my best friends, Will North and Jesper Ahrentz. We all met on Koh Tao - Jesper has been here since 2000 and Will arrived a few months before I did. They are my family. The guys manage the dive school while I run the yoga studio, and the three of us collaborate on all the overall business responsibilities. We each have different strengths so we’re able to individually focus on what we’re best at and we really make a great team.
Q - We know that it can take anywhere between 1-5 years for a business to make a profit. What's the case for you? Don't give us numbers, just tell us if this kind of business pays bills and allows you to travel, splash out on new yoga leggings etc.
Bob Marley got asked this question (well not the yoga pants part) and his answer is the same as mine but he put it more eloquently than I can so I’ll just quote him:
interviewer: are you a rich man?
interviewer: do you have lots of possessions? lots of money in the bank?
bob marley: possessions make you rich? i don’t have that kind of richness. my richness is life, forever.
Q - And finally, what advise would you give to someone who wants to become a business owner, but has no business ideas. Where should they start looking?
They should start by looking within to see what makes their souls shine. I’ve become a business owner sort of by default - because I needed to share my passion for yoga and diving and basically just living in the realest, most authentic way possible. The only way I could do that was by being my own boss. My purpose was never to be a business owner. My purpose is to help people believe in themselves and live their lives on their own terms. Owning a yoga studio and dive school is just the medium through which I do my life’s work.
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