Many of us have a passion for something, but we never really take it seriously as more than a hobby.
But what if our passion and our work were the same thing? Entrepreneurs can live their passion every day and incorporate it into a career. Turning your passion into your career, however, is a challenging task requiring focus, motivation, hard work, and a measure of luck.
Asia Nelson is a certified advanced yoga instructor, yoga teacher trainer and director of her own company, Pranalife Yoga, based in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario. She has been a certified yoga instructor since 2003 and started Pranalife Yoga in 2006.
Q. How did you develop an interest in yoga?
A. I first got into yoga accidentally. During undergrad, I’d signed up for a Tai Kwan Do class and they made me spar a green belt on the first day. I thought, “This isn’t for me,” and when I couldn’t get a refund for the class I transferred into yoga because I thought it sounded interesting. It was probably the most life-altering “accident” of my life thus far!
Q. What inspired you to start your own yoga business?
A. Truthfully, I hated Cubicle Nation so much I had to come up with some way to make a living that didn’t involve working for someone else. I spent some time considering my skills and passions and what opportunities I saw to apply them, and Pranalife was born.
Q. What aspects of entrepreneurship appeal to you most? Which are the hardest?
A. The hardest parts of entrepreneurship are in some ways the most appealing. My major purpose in life is to grow, so every challenge is positive for me. For example, my favourite part of being an entrepreneur is being self-led, which is also one of the hardest things to do well long-term. Sometimes it’s just easier to be part of a team, but I thrive on the discipline needed to succeed in entrepreneurship, which I think is one of the toughest fields out there.
Q. How have you applied your education and training to your business?
A. I hold an honours BA in English literature and an MA in rhetoric and communications design. I draw from what I learned in my degrees for everything from staying disciplined to research and writing skills to the mental acuity needed to get things done well, even when they’re not fun (which would describe 90% of the last half of writing my MA thesis).
Right out of my MA, I held a job as an interaction design advisor for a marketing company and, although my fit with a cubicle was terrible (I get hives at the idea of an office job), I gleaned incredible knowledge about how to suss out customer desire and innovate on business design from having had that role.
Q. What is unique about your yoga business?
A. Everything I do is about moving from good to great. This shows up most strongly in my Teacher Training. I’ve done a number of things with the Teacher Training to build a truly great program for my teachers.
Most yoga programs cost $3,000-$5,000 paid up front. You do the entire training in one shot and, when you’re done, you’re on your own. If it turns out you don’t actually want to teach, well I guess you’re out a few grand and a few hundred hours.
Not with Pranalife. I divide the training into 60 hour modules to cut down on the up-front cost and to give them time to practice what they’ve learned before going further.
I’m passionate about supporting my instructors and I do so in innovative and useful ways. The result is that Pranalife yoga certification means you’re going to be great, and you’re now part of a business with integrity.
Q. What has been your greatest obstacle in developing Pranalife?
A. I’m a perfectionist and an overachiever so if I’m not careful I end up doing everything myself because I assume it’s the only way to get it done right. At times I’ve become the bottleneck in my own business, and so I’ve been learning how else to run things so that I don’t get in my own way.
Q. What has been your greatest success with Pranalife?
A. The yoga teacher training is what I’d call my most successful pairing of my passion with my skill set. It does well financially, it excites and challenges me, and it creates amazing experiences and opportunities for others interested in and dedicated to yoga.
Q. What advice would you give other young entrepreneurs embarking on a similar path?
A. Entrepreneurship is for a certain breed and very few people do it, or do it well. Be sure it’s really what you want to do because it’s very demanding. If you can be content with a stable job that brings you decent money and a pension, then you’ll probably default to that at some point, so just do that.
If reading that last sentence makes you afraid to risk it, then I’m right. If reading that pisses you off and makes you want to prove that you’re an entrepreneur, you probably are. There’s only one way to find out.