October 11, 2019
This month, we had the pleasure of getting to know Max Henderson, Co-founder and CEO of Hotpod Yoga.
1. What’s your background prior to setting up Hotpod Yoga
I was a management consultant. I studied economics and politics at university but was always very interested in business and commercial strategy, so I ended up, oddly, doing a piece of strategy consultancy that was kind of like an internship in India for Tata Motors. On the back of that I returned to the UK and set myself up as an independent strategy consultant, essentially a freelance strategy consultant. I did this for about four or five years before going to work for a boutique consultancy in Westminster.
2. Where did your inspiration come from to create Hotpod Yoga?
My closest friend who I’d travelled and studied with, Nick, started going to yoga, very surprisingly, as none of us had any interest in yoga. In fact, we both had a negative preconception of yoga and thought of it as something quite cult-like and weird and not really for us at all. However, Nick started to get really into it because a physio said it would help with his bad knees. I kind of laughed at him and thought he was ridiculous for taking up yoga but then he essentially persuaded me to do it… and my first experience was terrible. It was all my worst preconceptions wrapped into one. I was made to hug someone on the mat next to me as well as chant. It was horrendous. But then I went to a hot yoga class with Nick and the penny dropped a bit and I began to understand the physicality as the heat added that element to it and I really enjoyed it. I then began to think of the commercial opportunity, and I was really interested in setting up my own business. Nick and I looked at the yoga world and just thought wow, there’s real opportunity here.
3. How did you know when you had the right idea?
I would go into a yoga class knowing the yoga teacher was being paid thirty pounds, knowing I had payed fifteen pounds and knowing there were fifty people in the class. Evidently, someone was doing very well out of this. It was a very interesting commercial model and looking at the market we realised we could work with this amazing thing that had been around for an extremely long time and take it to the next level.
4. What has been the hardest barrier to overcome whilst setting up the business?
Time is the biggest issue. When setting up the business we had limited cash and limited resources as we started Hotpod with our own funds. It was just myself and Nick and there’s only so many hours in a day so you’re not able to do all the things you had planned to achieve. You have to be very selective as to how you spend your time.
5. What is unique about your business in the market?
It is entirely unique in that we are the only yoga studio, the only yoga brand, that is doing anything out of the ordinary. Essentially, at the core of our offering we have taken yoga, which has been around for thousands of years, and turned up the dials – exploring how we can enhance the experience of yoga make it even better for you physically and mentally. We have created a beautifully immersive and very challenging environment to practice yoga in which is more physically exertive and mentally calming than a normal yoga class.
6. Can you explain the franchise model and the process one would go through in setting up their own branch of Hotpod Yoga?
We built the franchise model in as part of our business structure from the start because we saw that there were thousands of yoga instructors around the world who love yoga and are passionate about it and they would love to have their own studios. However, they do not necessarily have the capital or business acumen or know how to open and run their own yoga studio as it’s a really tough thing to do. Our model is essentially an empowering one that is built for yoga instructors and fans of yoga so that they can open one of our businesses. They invest ten thousand pounds upfront to buy into a franchise and for that they get the full pod which they will fit out in their studio and then we work with them very closely and provide them with all the infrastructure, tools, technology and marketing support they need to run their business successfully.
7. Where do you see the business going in the future?
We currently have 40 locations in the UK but we’re aiming for hundreds, so we have a lot of headroom and growth still to happen in our core business. However, we’re not just solely focused on growth, we always ensure that we’re getting better as a business not just bigger. Internationally, we are looking at some larger deals and greater international expansion. Rather than launching one or two Hotpod studios in each country we’re aiming to launch a large number at once in these territories.
8. What 4 personality traits do you believe are vital for success?
I believe optimism and resilience is absolutely critical. Generally, I think being good natured is very important in that a lot of the time when you’re growing a business you need people to back you and like you as an individual so forming good relationships is vital. Drive is definitely key as well.
9. What time does your alarm go off and how do you prepare yourself for the day?
I usually get up at about six o’clock every morning. I have an eighteen-month-old baby, so I like to spend some time with him in the morning and get him ready for his day as I prepare for mine. Then I head into the office – I try to make time for yoga in the middle of the day.
10. What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs starting up their own business?
Don’t prevaricate too much. I think a lot of people spend a lot of time playing around with spreadsheets and rewriting, perfecting and honing business plans and pitches when the best way to learn is by doing. If you have a seed of an idea just try and make it into something even if it is not the finished thing.
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