I’m so happy to share this Q&A with Leah Zaccaria, owner of Haute Yoga Queen Anne. When I started practicing at this studio a few years ago, Leah had just finished up her teacher training and was gearing up to start teaching classes of her own. That’s when I first heard her story of how she decided to leave her job in corporate America to start her own yoga studio — right when the recession hit. I hope you’re inspired by her story and words of wisdom below.
What is it that attracted you to yoga in the first place?
I have always been into fitness and dance. I was going through a body transformation, changing my diet and life and I heard hot yoga was a great workout. Little did I know that it would change my life. It allowed me the space to be quiet in my mind. It allowed me the space to see what my life really was and how I wanted to be. I became awake.
When did you decide you wanted to make the career change to yoga studio owner/instructor, and how did you set that into motion?
I had been in the corporate world for 15 years. I was not happy. I knew I was meant to do something greater, with more purpose. I always had an entrepreneurial spirit, and one day a co-worker and I dreamed up owning a yoga studio. I was so passionate about yoga, I thought was a perfect way to marry my business expertise and love for yoga to fulfill my bigger purpose.
I kept my full time job as a CPA for the first 2 years of building my yoga studio business. It was a huge sacrifice and I did not sleep much. But, I was able to focus on building the community without worrying how I was going to pay my bills. I worked really hard for over 2 years and once the studio was profitable enough, I was able to leave my job. I am grateful every day that I made that transition.
What were some of the greatest challenges you faced in getting HYQA off the ground?
I was a bit naïve when I first opened, having the “build it and they will come” mentality. It took some patience and extra capital (that I did not really have) to really get started. Fortunately, I had some key team players like Jenniferlyn Chiemingo that got people in the door quickly. And after 6 months, hyQA was doing quite well.
HYQA has such a distinct community — what people/events do you think contributed to its unique character?
hyQA is all about community. I have always told my teachers to be themselves, to teach their own style and from the heart. I wanted to be my own person, why would I put restrictions on them. If people are allowed to be themselves, they feel safe. I want everyone to walk through the doors and feel welcome, to feel like they belong. The relationships and friendships that I have seen develop here are so amazing. hyQA is not just a place to practice yoga, it is a home away from home, a place to build yourself and community.
It is also very important for me to reach the greater Seattle area. Giving back through events like Yoga for Hope or sponsoring projects like Africa Yoga project stretches us greater than just Queen Anne. I also just recently partnered with another yoga studio to bring in a national teacher. If we can bridge the communities together, we can do more. I don’t fear competition. Competition just leads to greater awareness for yoga at large. We all can be successful, life is abundant.
What’s your advice to professionals who work full time and who would also like to teach yoga on the side?
Try to stay balanced. Don’t spread yourself too thin. Be present and prepared when you are teaching. Stay the course and answers will be revealed.
Any last thoughts on your journey from corporate America to yoga studio owner/instructor?
You can do anything you set your mind to. You just have to be willing to take the risk and put in the work. I am so grateful I had the courage to make the huge leap that I did. I finally feel like I am on the right path.