Yoga classes are the latest brick-and-mortar experience going online.
Namastream is a year-old startup that helps yoga instructors and other wellness coaches host virtual classes online. Its platform makes it easy for teachers to upload video, audio, and documents on self-branded sites that are accessible to anyone, anywhere, both live and on-demand.
“Namastream is a comprehensive, virtual studio platform that allows studios, boutique gyms, and independent teachers to teach, train, coach, and serve their clients online,” explained CEO and co-founder Jennifer Barcelos.
Barcelos was previously in the non-profit and legal industries before the long-time yoga lover began polling yoga instructors about their software needs. She realized that something like Namastream would help many people grow their own businesses online, and teamed up with co-founder Sandra Connery to launch the startup.
Namastream recently graduated from the most recent 9Mile Labs cohort. We caught up with Barcelos to learn more about the company for this Startup Spotlight, a regular GeekWire feature.
Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: “Namastream, a 2016 9Mile Labs company, is a virtual studio platform that allows yoga studios and teachers (along with other wellness professionals) to teach, serve, and train their clients online. Namastream provides teachers with a simple and affordable way to upload and distribute paid content (video, audios, documents), as well as the ability to offer live, remote classes (one-on-one virtual private lessons and group classes).”
Inspiration hit us when: “After interviewing over 70 yoga studio owners about their businesses, we realized that many of them were experiencing challenges in scaling their brick-and-mortar studios. It was risky and expensive to grow. We identified a real need in the market for an online solution to help grow local wellness businesses, so that’s what we created. Within weeks of our beta MVP getting released, we were approached by hundreds of teachers looking to bypass the brick-and-mortar model altogether. Namastream is now a comprehensive, virtual studio platform that allows studios, boutique gyms, and independent teachers to teach, train, coach, and serve their clients online.”
VC, Angel or Bootstrap: “We have bootstrapped (so far) and have worked with 9Mile Labs to explore the investment route. We are really proud of how far we’ve been able to come as a bootstrapped business, but we are actively reviewing our options for scaling the company.”
Our ‘secret sauce’ is: “We listen to our community. We are yogis ourselves and we are developing tools for yogis and other wellness professionals. Everything we build and do is in service of our community. We write a weekly newsletter; we blog; we hold regular webinars and trainings online; we actively engage via social media; and we network with key influencers in our market. All of these techniques help us to better know our customers and users and to continue to create features that help them in their businesses.”
The smartest move we’ve made so far: “Focusing on Instagram as a free way to connect with our community online has been invaluable. The yoga world is highly visual, so having a strong presence on social media was a natural fit. We believed in doing things that wouldn’t scale at the early stages of the business, so spending hundreds of hours on live demos and in our social media accounts has helped us to build incredible relationships within our market.”
The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: “We didn’t focus on building a team fast enough. As a cost-saving measure, we tried to do everything ourselves for too long. Building our team out has made a massive difference in our business over the past few months.”
Would you rather have Gates, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: “Can we say Seth Godin? We’re huge fans of Seth and we believe that his impact as a thinker, especially in the entrepreneurial world, is unmatched. Our company’s core values are highly influenced by Seth’s work. In his words, ‘Change-making happens when people fall in love with a different version of the future.’ Isn’t that what we’re all doing as founders? Creating something that nobody else can see? We’re writing the future and it’s a beautiful gift.
Our favorite team-building activity is: “Um, yoga? We also love sharing recipes and favorite quotes, sending silly Slack emoji, and supporting each other as grounded human beings in this wild startup adventure.”
The biggest thing we look for when hiring is: “We look for people who are intellectually curious, love collaborating, and who can think creatively. We look for folks who also want to disrupt the wellness market and who care deeply about our mission to help support the small- and micro-businesses than much of the consumer-focused software in the industry leaves behind.”
What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: “Be present to the needs and wishes of the people that you’re trying to serve. As Hemingway said, ‘When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.’ We believe that the best businesses are built in collaboration with their customer base. Also, pre-sell! The easiest way to validate your idea is to pre-sell it to someone before it’s built. Lots of people will tell you they love your idea, but money on the table means that it’s got a chance of being viable.”