Founded in 2016 by Belgian Pierre Rousseaux, Yoga Room has now become the European leader in yoga practice. In six years, the Brussels company has opened 10 high-end studios in six European cities. Profitable from its first month of existence, it survived 300 days of closure during the pandemic and sees its members returning en masse to theaters.
The pandemic and the successive confinements have led us all, to varying degrees, to question our lives, our habits, our work or our priorities. The opportunity to take stock, which has often led to an increased need for well-being, in all its forms. The proof: mental health apps have never been so successful. At the end of last year, Benjamin Blasco, the co-founder of Petit Bambou, told us that his app had gained three million members in 12 months. Yoga, a four thousand year old practice, has also gained in visibility. In Belgium and France, demand would have quadrupled. As for the supply, it exploded under the effect of this sharp increase – mainly online supply, given the restrictions linked to the pandemic.
The pandemic and the successive confinements have led us all, to varying degrees, to question our lives, our habits, our work or our priorities. The opportunity to take stock, which has often led to an increased need for well-being, in all its forms. The proof: mental health apps have never been so successful. At the end of last year, Benjamin Blasco, the co-founder of Petit Bambou, told us that his app had gained three million members in 12 months. Yoga, a four thousand year old practice, has also gained in visibility. In Belgium and France, demand would have quadrupled. As for the supply, it exploded under the effect of this sharp increase – mainly online supply, given the restrictions linked to the pandemic. How many Belgians practice yoga? Very smart whoever answers this question. The landscape in our country is indeed excessively fragmented. There are several federations, not to mention the different language regimes. Only one is recognized by Adeps: the FBHY for Belgian Federation of Hebertism and Yoga. According to Sylvie Dall’Ava, her secretary, a good thousand people, teachers and practitioners, are members of this federation whose level of requirement is high: 500 hours of lessons and passage before an educational commission before being able to teach. Abepy, the Belgian Association of Yoga Teachers and Practitioners, is more popular but the list of its members is far from exhaustive. It is generally accepted that 10 million French people are regular practitioners (between 10 and 15% of the population). In Belgium, the range would be 5 to 10%. So a small million practitioners if we take the optimistic version. For example, during the 2020 edition of Yoga Day (June 21) established in 2014 by the UN, 250,000 people watched the course organized at the foot of the Atomium online… In this very fragmented and composed of small studios set up by a single teacher as well as courses offered by large gym chains, one player stands out from the crowd: Yoga Room. Founded on February 1, 2016 by Pierre Rousseaux accompanied by Emilie Lavrenov, the Brussels company has, in six years, opened 10 studios in six cities in Europe: Brussels, Antwerp, Waterloo, Lyon, Paris and Lisbon. It is now the continental leader in terms of studios and courses given each week (500!), during which 80 professors from 27 different nationalities provide their knowledge to more than 10,000 members. However, this course was not written in advance. “When I left the Solvay business school, I spent ten years in China, explains Pierre Rousseaux. I discovered yoga there. I went there every day, it was my bowl daily air. A saying goes that when the student is ready, the teacher appears. The adventure began like that. I took over a studio in Shanghai, then a second. The idea then germinated to return to Belgium and to concentrate solely on teaching yoga. Yoga Room was born. We ended up setting up 10 studios without having drawn up the slightest plan. I do not open for the simple pleasure of opening. We set up where we are well received and where beautiful encounters lead us. It will be the same in the future.” Yoga Room was built according to a careful and healthy business model. The company has, excluding covid, never lost money and has been profitable from the first month. She chose to open studios only through rental. Top of the range and rather luxurious, each establishment requires between 100,000 and 150,000 euros of initial investment. In order to integrate yoga into daily life (a practice three times a week is recommended), Yoga Room mainly offers unlimited subscriptions which range from 107 to 137 euros per month depending on the duration of the subscription. Twelve classes per month as part of an annual subscription cost less than 10 euros per session (18 with the 10-session pass). To fully understand the interest of the model, just look at the Waterloo studio. Opened in January at La Sucrerie, it already had 200 members at the end of the first week… “We have doubled in size each year, confides Pierre Rousseaux. For example, in 2019, turnover was around 4 million euros with large studios barely at the start of their life. Today, the objective is for each to generate a turnover of 1.2 million euros. This is necessary for continue to invest in our offer, to pay well the teachers who have a real influence on the lives of our members and also, of course, to repay our debt. Over the years, I have reinvested a lot. Frankly, I have not never thought we would be closed for 300 days. At the same time, yoga has been around for 4,000 years. So it’s not 18 or 24 months of pandemic that was going to put us down. But, yes, 2022 must be the year consolidation with all the studios in the green and at 80% of their full capacity, which is encouraging, coming out of this Your difficult time is seeing people come back to the studios in droves.” To finance its development, Yoga Room has mainly proceeded by debt, among others with Belfius. It carried out two fundraisers: 200,000 euros before the launch in 2016 from MyMicroInvest and 500,000 euros in March 2020 (the day before the lockdown!) from finance.brussels in exchange for part of the capital. The company has also used crowdfunding. Twice with Look&Fin. But also in April 2021 with BeeBonds. In the midst of uncertainty related to sanitary conditions, Yoga Room managed to raise 1.5 million euros in a very short time! “It made our hearts feel better, concludes Pierre Rousseaux. Despite the situation, the public appreciated our history and our passion for yoga. As always, 20% of the bet was invested by 80% of the participants. But among large investors who have exceeded 100,000 euros, there are also three members of Yoga Room. Today, the boom in yoga practice allows Yoga Room to see the future with optimism. Especially since the online offer has shown its limits and the public needs face-to-face more than ever. In addition, the sector is likely to consolidate in the coming months. “I expect it, yes, concludes Pierre Rousseaux. Some small studios will join larger structures. Probably partly because some teachers realize that, for them, it works well as a complementary activity but not enough for a full time. Some have already come to see me so that I can take over their community and become a teacher with us. They need a structure. I salute all the initiatives that have been born around yoga in recent months. is not competition. But a great step forward for yoga and that is the most important thing for me.”