By Dinah Salonga

Dinah was a busy IT executive when she first discovered yoga in 2005. Prior to yoga, she was like many corporate professionals—she attended group workout classes, played badminton, and trained with a personal coach. When a yoga studio opened in her office building, she got hooked after attending a few sessions.

She found herself talking about yoga even to her clients during sales calls. She also started helping her other classmates with their own practice. In 2010, she and her business partners opened the first YogaPlus studio in Bonifacio Global City. And the rest, as they say, is history.

We are proud to welcome Dinah to The After Six Club’s Ambitious Tribe. Check out her story and learn how she uses her corporate background coupled with mindfulness to transform the lives of her students one yoga class at a time.

In 2010, I started thinking about becoming a yoga teacher and opening a studio. I didn’t want to work for another studio. I wanted one of my own. A number of my yoga friends got interested to partner with me. We all met in a yoga studio. We experienced how yoga has changed our lives and we wanted to share it with as many people as possible. This passion for the practice and the belief in its transformative powers led us to this business.
YogaPlus was incorporated right after I finished my Absolute Hot Yoga Teacher Training course in Thailand in October 2010.

The word “yoga” is an obvious choice for a yoga studio business. The word “plus” in our business name symbolizes other practices that can complement a yoga practice like mindfulness, Pilates, and other things that yoga can add to your life like balance, stability, energy, strength, and peace.

We own, operate, and franchise yoga studios. YogaPlus offers private and public yoga classes for the general public and special groups—those with special needs such as people with injuries or physical limitations. We pioneered the offering of a combination of traditional and modern yoga styles in a dedicated yoga studio. We offer classes in Vinyasa Flow, Ashtanga, Jivamukti, Yin, Hot, Trapeze, and more recently, Inferno Hot Pilates.

In February 2011, the first YogaPlus studio opened in Bonifacio Global City (BGC) in Taguig,. We now have 3 company-owned branches located in BGC, Salcedo Village in Makati, and Ortigas. We also have a franchised branch in McKinley Hill in Taguig.

What do you believe makes your business stand out?
We pioneered the combination of traditional and modern yoga styles in the same setting. We provide special amenities like special yoga flooring and far-infrared heaters. We continue to find suitable offerings to address the growing and changing needs of our customers. We are clear about our mission of enabling mind-body wellness through the practice of yoga and mindfulness.

Is it always necessary to be passionate about what your business is about in order for it to succeed?
It is a critical success factor. I believe that if you have the passion, you’re already halfway there. Success is not just defined by market share and bottom line but in whether you have achieved your purpose. Financial success is an enabler so you can fulfill your mission.

How did you obtain capital? Were there investors? If yes, how did you entice them into believing in and investing in your idea?
All the investors gave capital. We all believed in the transformative power of yoga because we all experienced it. It wasn’t hard to sell this idea to believers.

How did you build your customer base? What form of marketing has been most effective for you so far?
We tried to do advertising in the beginning but for us, the best advertising channels are social media and word-of-mouth.

How do you generate new ideas for your business’ growth?
We get inspiration from other industry practices as well as from customer insights.

What kind of company culture are you implementing? What are your core values?
We would like to create a company that is founded on the principles of what we teach—yoga and mindfulness. We do our business legally with all sales transactions recorded and receipted. We pay all taxes required by the government. We require our teachers and suppliers to also comply with government requirements before they can do business or provide services to us. We treat our customers and employees with kindness and compassion. Our core values are holistic wellness, connections, transformation, and service.

How do you deal with major mishaps? What would you say is one of the biggest mistakes you’ve made?
With a lot of mindfulness. When mistakes happen, I don’t blame but I take action to correct and prevent recurrence. I consider all mistakes as opportunities for learning. I think one of my biggest mistakes is not doing yoga early enough.

What skills do you believe are necessary in handling a business?
As an entrepreneur, you need to be able to generate ideas, understand systems and processes, listen and learn from others, know and use your products, and be your company’s chief evangelist. Connecting with people and building networks are also key skills. Everything else like accounting, human resources, and operations can be done by others. Oh, and you also should be ready to roll up your sleeves any time. Mop the floors if your cleaners are absent, answer the phone if your receptionist is sick, and teach a class if a teacher is not available.

What would you say are some dos and don’ts in starting one?
Do sell something you believe in and something you actually use. Do focus on what will make you want to wake up every day and go to work. Don’t go into business for the money. If that’s all you want, put your money in the bank.
Was there ever a time you felt afraid that this might not work? How did you manage this fear?
Always. You just try and if you fail, you try again. People who succeed have failed many times.

Describe a typical day for you.
Yoga and mindfulness meditation practice in the morning. Meetings with staff, suppliers, clients, and partners for the most part of the day. Emails and proposals towards the latter part, watch Netflix, and read to unwind before bed.

How many hours of work a day do you put in? How many days per week?
Who’s counting? As an entrepreneur, your business becomes an integral part of your life. You can think and talk about your business anytime. There are no office hours to speak of. If you’re an employee and you don’t feel like working, you can call in sick and take a leave. Not the same for business owners.

What is your greatest fear?
Doing a headstand. Hahaha!

What sacrifices have you had to make to get here?
I don’t really think I sacrificed anything. Everything was a choice.

What can you consider is your greatest success?
Whenever we get feedback from students about how their lives have changed because they started doing yoga at YogaPlus.

What would you say is the secret to success?
I don’t think it is a secret. Hard work, grit, passion, and courage.

What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
Making things happen. Creating opportunities for our employees. Living my purpose.

What motivates you? Who has been your greatest inspiration?
We are privileged to be in a business that transforms people, puts a smile on their sweaty faces after a hectic and stressful day at work, and makes them an inspiration so others can also experience positive change in their lives.

Where do you see yourself and your business in 10 years?
Touching the lives of hundreds of thousands of people on a monthly basis. For yoga to become a mainstream activity that people are not scared to try. For yoga to become an accepted healing modality. For yoga to become accessible to all economic levels and all parts of the Philippines.

I look forward to Filipino yoga teachers to become world-renowned for their skills and their heart. For YogaPlus to become a respected and established brand in the region.

I see myself more as an adviser and enabler rather than an active participant. If I do my job right, I should have passed on the baton to my younger partners and teachers so I can also allow them to experience the thrill of being an entrepreneur.

Do you consider yourself an ambitious person? Do you think being ambitious helps you in business? How?
I never set goals for myself. I just take the opportunities that come my way and do my best. I believe it is understanding what you want to do and/or achieve that will help in business.

What piece of advice can you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
Don’t be scared to try. Failure is a great teacher.



Edits: Kath C. Eustaquio-Derla  |  Image Credit: Dinah Salonga

About Dinah

Dinah is an entrepreneur, mindfulness coach and advocate, yogini, change-enabler, and connector. She uses her combined experience in management, entrepreneurship, yoga, and mindfulness to train business leaders to lead with consciousness and compassion, and enjoy happy and healthy lives.

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