The rise of the YogaBellies franchise
YogaBellies experiences meteoric growth as mums struggle to balance work and family. There are more mothers working today than ever before and for many, getting a healthy work-life balance seems an impossible task.
However, dozens of mothers across the country are managing to achieve the elusive work-life balance by starting up their own business. YogaBellies, yoga and therapies created especially for women, mothers and babies, is one business that has proved hugely popular with new mums across the UK as, not only can they bring their babies along to take part in the classes, but they give them an opportunity to work where they like, when they like.
Founded by Cheryl MacDonald in 2009, the business has grown exponentially since it launched and she now has 105 franchises in the UK and beyond.
Cheryl says: “I have always loved yoga and was teaching it to friends and family in my spare time as a hobby but it was only when I was made redundant while on maternity leave that I thought – yes, perhaps I can make a business of this. While I was pregnant I realised there was a real need for more activities suitable for pregnant women so I merged the two ideas and YogaBellies was born – a form of yoga that is suitable for both new mum, and mum-to-be.”
Cheryl has worked hard to attract other women in similar situations to herself who have struggled to balance work and family and ensures that she supports them all thoroughly from day one, promoting a ‘community feel’ so that each and every instructor feels a part of the wider team, while running their own business. She says: “I know exactly how hard it is to find time for work and family and I always advise my teachers to ensure they book holiday and put their family first. YogaBellies suits my franchisees down to the ground because they can bring their children along to take part in the classes and can arrange the lessons to fit in with their family, while making some good money.”
Almost all of YogaBellies instructors are women who had very successful jobs prior to having a family and then either found it difficult to maintain their career with motherhood. And rather shockingly, like Cheryl, more than half of the 105 YogaBellies franchisees were made redundant while on maternity leave and so came across YogaBellies while looking for new options in employment.
One franchisee who struggled to balance work and family before starting her own YogaBellies franchise is 39 year old, Audrey Victor, from Glasgow. She says: “I was working in Events Management and was struggling with anxiety and severe stress. I met Cheryl at a conference and was so inspired by her story and ambition.” Audrey had already been practising yoga on and off since she was 21 and saw the opportunity of combining a hobby that she loved with earning a living as too good to be true. In May 2011 she launched her own YogaBellies franchise and with two children, aged 10 and four, she has been able to get the flexibility, freedom and enthusiasm to live a happy life.
Many YogaBellies franchisees are women who had high pressured jobs in the city who then struggled to balance work and family due to the lack of understanding from their employers.
One mum who struggled to return to work after having a baby is 31 year old Leah McGrath. She returned to her role as an HR Service Manager at a large agra-pharmaceutical company after a year at home with her daughter. The plan was for Leah to do a job share but this fell through and she found herself fitting in a full time job into her contracted three days a week. She says: “I was finding it such a struggle, commuting three hours, three days a week, and trying my best to be a good mum. I was getting ill all the time; whenever there was a virus going around, I would catch it as I was so run down and my little girl’s behaviour was becoming very challenging. After a while I realised there must be more to life and resigned. It was extremely scary but I am so pleased I did.” Leah has since re-trained as a yoga teacher, running her own Yogabellies franchise, teaching pre-natal, post-natal and baby massage classes in her local wellbeing and community centres. She has managed to get a healthy work-life balance and work flexibly but only by leaving her past career behind her.