Wind the clock back twelve years - yep, that's how long I've loved yoga. I first met Thy Monzo (then, Nguyen) in Sydney, down a hidden laneway, up an exhaustive flight of wooden stairs, inside a stark white hot yoga studio. Who knew that Thy was about to change my life.
During my first ever yoga class, Thy’s impact was instant and monumental. It was clear that the woman teaching the class in front of me was not only teaching yoga, she was speaking from her heart and answering her calling.
That calling turned about to be transformative for thousands of people across Sydney.
Thy's love for yoga runs deep. She started practicing 15 years ago, and, like many of us, quickly knew this practice wasn’t just life-changing. It was more than that. It was soul-changing.
But take heed, yoga isn’t for the faint-hearted. It’s a hard-ass workout that will have even the toughest of football players dropping like flies.
“The first yoga class I ever took was a style called Ashtanga - and it totally kicked my butt! Something also woke up inside of me after that first class. A curiosity to start turning inwards more. It wasn't long before I was hooked on yoga. About four years later, after consistently practising hot yoga, the call to teach became very clear. I knew that there was nothing more I wanted to do,” said Thy.
In 2015, Thy took the enormous leap of faith from teacher to franchise owner and opened her own Modo Yoga franchise studio in Sydney’s Rosebery.
“I have always wanted to be my own boss for as long as I can remember."
Honestly, I don't have enough words to articulate just how much yoga - and Thy - impacted me, which is why I had to share her story.
ENTER THE ENTREPRENEUR
She describes the early days as a shock to the system. “You’re wearing all the hats - marketing, people management, business systems, accounting, promotions, budgeting, cashflow.”
And the biggest challenge of all? Learning how to get more students through the door. Thy reveals how she spent years educating the community; she hadn’t realised that so many people were still unaware of yoga or what it entailed. There was an overarching idea among locals that yoga was meditation or a series of stretches. Yogis will tell you different.
Teaching people yoga was one thing; teaching people they needed yoga in the first place was quite another.
Fortunately for Thy, the yoga community was growing and her chosen location of Rosebery was an exciting suburb. And Modo Yoga was ready to give it to them.
THE FRANCHISE OWNER
Owning a franchise would prove to have its pros and cons.
“The first couple of years were really tough because the brand didn’t take off right away. I thought it would have helped to have a franchise behind us, but essentially you’re going out on your own, with the benefit of an existing brand name and reputation.
"The problem was that the brand wasn’t well-known in Australia, and the marketing wasn’t geared towards Australians so I spent a lot of time reinventing our communications. There were also restrictions with my employees, which narrowed my capacity to employ great talent.
“Making the decision on whether to exit the franchise wasn’t taken lightly, but it was done with much love and understanding, and I knew it had to be done," said Thy.
In 2020, amid the global pandemic, Thy made the bold decision to rebrand her business. Ultimately, it would prove to be the best business decision she’s ever made.
“Everyone tells you that a rebrand can break a business, but in this case, it made my business. In the end, it was a gut feeling and it just felt so right. I was so excited to come into my own and really support my community fully, without the restrictions of an existing brand.”
If a rebrand and a pandemic weren’t enough, 2020 threw in a newborn for good measure.
“I definitely find parenting and owning a business a challenge. I know I can do both, but I also know that my child is my priority. I really have to focus on big things - like hiring a Studio Manager to support me in guiding my team of teachers and event planning.
"I am also honest with myself, and know that in areas like emails and marketing, and business development are going to be a slow burn. I am not one to stay up all night to get things done, because I value sleep. I won't answer emails immediately, because I'm not on my emails all day. I usually do my best to work within windows of time where my little one is in daycare, or asleep. If she is awake and at home, my time is all hers. That, to me, is a non-negotiable.
"Everything is temporary; Mimi will only be young for a short period of time and I value every moment with her. Planning ahead and being organised really helps. It may not always be easy, but it is worth it."
And on the hard days in business, Thy pulls her motivation from her baby girl. “I want to be the best role model I can be for her."
People are a HUGE part of building a successful business. Not only customers, but the staff is integral. “When it comes to staffing, you’re wearing another hat entirely. Finally, I am at the point where I have the best team that I’ve ever had.” But the dream team didn’t arise with ease.
Staffing had its challenges, and Thy admits that people management might have been the most difficult area in the business. Hiring a Teachers Manager has given her the space to work ON the business, rather than IN the business to see Now Yoga grow to new heights.
Ever the optimist, Thy took 2020, along with all its restrictions and uncertainty, and ran with it. With the studio closed, she not only developed online teaching tools to keep her audience engaged, she used the time to completely overhaul the Modo brand into the Now Yoga studio that we know today - no mean feat.
Thy recalls the lockdown period with gratitude, “It gave me space to rebrand. And I was extremely lucky to find that every single one of my students stayed on board with our digital classes.” Whether that’s luck, I’m not so sure - I’d put it down to hard work, resilience and a strong foundation of dedicated Now Yoga yogis.
“Now Yoga is different from other studios in that we are all about supporting our community. We welcome all types of students, from all backgrounds, without exception. Every student can be completely themselves and know that our teachers are always there to help, motivate and inspire them.”
“I don’t know if you noticed it too, but I found that people really wanted to support small business. Taking care of our mental health and physical health has been prioritised. During the weirdness and the challenges, our community really stuck by us.”
Like anything in life, it would seem that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and the same could be said for Now Yoga; proving that a pandemic is not enough to keep a good business down.
Now, the business is doing better than ever.
What’s next for Now Yoga and Thy Monzo? “We know it’s only onwards and upwards from here. I am so excited about leading my first ever Yoga Teacher Training in February 2021! I really look forward to guiding people even further on their exploration of this yoga practice, whether they choose to become a teacher, or simply because they are keen for a deeper understanding and awareness of the practice and themselves.“My WHY is to help people understand that the most important relationship in their lives is the one that they have with themselves. I love teaching students how to cultivate compassion, self-kindness and self-love in their lives, and see how it ripples out to the world around them.”
“Know why you are choosing to start a business, and I hope you are doing it to be of service to others. Never let money be the driving force behind your decisions.”
What a woman.