Episode #3: Starting your own Yoga Studio
Guest: Melissa Ryzek
Lyla Senger: Okay, Welcome back, everybody, and thanks for joining us again, my name is Lyla and we're here with Yoga Hero "Be A Hero" Podcast where we interview everyday heroes to inspire us maybe find a little bit of methodology that we can apply to our lives and maybe find that the hero within ourselves. So today, we're here with Melissa, out of Munich, and let's say you have a very great and amazing studio that I wanted to share and talk to you about and hear more about the things that you're doing what makes it different, because especially from the yoga scene and background, I think it's very important to find maybe differentiations in different studios and what makes it special. So, thanks again for joining us. It's good to have you.
Melissa Ryzek: Thanks for having me, hi.
Lyla Senger: And yes, just tell me a little bit about you and your studio, if you would like to introduce yourself.
Melissa Ryzek: Sure. I'm okay, I'm Melissa Ryzek, I moved to Munich in 2012, I came here and not intending to have a yoga studio but that eventually, it came to fruition. So, thank you for saying that about my studio it's something that I've built and I love it and I've gotten a lot of feedback just in the past week and that the energy here is great and so it feels good that other people feel that too. So, to go to what makes us special at the Munich Collective I would say that, I think a small boutique-style studio is a first of all, like what makes us a little special. I like to know everybody's name, when they're coming in the door, meet them, greet them and I want them to feel good, I want them to be happy here. But also I have gotten the ex-pats, clientele or audience and it's turned into a place where ex-pats feel comfortable to come here and take a class in English, but also Germans that lived abroad and already states and took classes there that they miss familiar similarities between my classes in their classes. And so, that's been I guess that would be how I set myself apart from other studios not that other studios don't offer some classes in English, but mainly our classes are in English.
Lyla Senger: So, it's very welcoming for the community and the boutique style makes it feel more homey and comfortable for people to come.
Melissa Ryzek: I would say yes.
Lyla Senger: Awesome, and what about I saw that you have very fun workshops and classes. So it's not just your typical yoga and bar, but you have like kid’s yoga and dancing and things like that. So, can you share what made you want to try out different classes? Or if it's popular, cool is how it worked through the process?
Melissa Ryzek: Sure. So, the idea behind Munich Collective is that it's a rentable space so I wanted to not only be a studio owner and have classes, but I wanted other people to come in and kind of build up this community aspect, offering different crafts and events and workshops and kind of learning from one another encouraging one another. So, there are kind of two sides to the studio there's me as the teacher and the instructor and then there's me as kind of this community builder where I want to offer cool things here. And so it was not just a family-based center. I wanted the individual to come here and feel comfortable too. So yes, there's kids dance classes, kids yoga classes, there has been a women entrepreneurial group that comes in use the space and they have events.
And I've also got some larger organizations that use the studio as their center. I have a woman that built up her dance school here for kids and that's been exciting to kind of support people and to make this rentable aspect easy. And I want people to walk in and feel like it's their studio, I'm not here greeting them, they have access to the keyless entry, they come in, they can use the space. And I feel like that's was my goal is what I wanted to offer that to somebody because I didn't have that coming here to Munich and I don't know where can I access that without knowing the language great and so I tried to make that easy. And it turns out to be pretty easy. I think at the highest points before the last year, I had 10 teachers and different events happening every month.
Lyla Senger: Cool. Yes, sounds great. It's one of the biggest challenges here in Munich, I think, with the space and sharing space or the rental markets. So, it's awesome that you're able to share that with others and build this kind of community to help others grow. Awesome, okay, so I think that kind of answered my next question of why you want to start a studio, you said at first that you weren't planning on opening a studio at all, but was it more of the challenges of finding this kind of space and feeling comfortable, this is a backstory of what made you come to this idea or dream of yours.
Melissa Ryzek: So it's funny, because the first four years that I lived in Munich, I was traveling back to the states for work. So, my background is nursing, I'm a registered nurse, working in Minnesota, and my specialty here in Germany is something that physicians do. So I wasn't able to continue my career here, kind of making that lateral move, I would have taken a major decrease in responsibility and so I wasn't interested in doing that. So, I kept going back to the states and working about three, four times a year and then we grew our family. And it was just getting to the point where I couldn't keep traveling with two small children and keeping up that I had two different jobs, it was crazy I had two different jobs in Minnesota. But I was living here and I will work and kind of cover vacations cover illnesses and things on the teams because I was in pretty small teams. And so anyway, it kind of came to a point where I realized I had to end that and I found the space before, I decided on what I wanted to do with the space, which is interesting because I think it doesn't go like that usually.
But I think in a place like Munich, where real estate, as you said, and space is hard to come by. So, we had, with the help of my mother-in-law, found this space and knew it was a great location. It had a nice feel about it walking in and we thought, okay, we'll make this investment, and see what happens and so my original thought was a community center. And then I realized after this idea, we have to start somewhere and so I started with, okay, I need to teach and get people in the door and advertising and then it just turned into me teaching the time and the following week but also realizing how much I love teaching. When I moved here, I did teach some private classes but there's a difference between teaching a private class maybe once a week and that's it to teaching every day and having students and I fell in love with it. And I realized that, yes, I missed many aspects of my nursing career was connecting to people and nurturing people, and caring for them. There's something that I get with teaching in that same way because that's my teaching philosophy to be down to earth and approachable just meeting somebody on the eye level, but also getting to nurture that and then take care of that. So, that's kind of where it came from, it's funny because it was like we found a place and we came what we became, but.
Lyla Senger: Yes, that's cool. Sometimes it happens like that. So, it doesn't always have to be a fixed process. It will sometimes have the school but when things also naturally happen to you too, and it does not fall on your lap but this idea you find and it works out it's great too.
Melissa Ryzek: Yes, process. But it doesn't, it's not always so simple and clear.
Lyla Senger: Yes, like a to b to c, but sometimes you have to trust your intuition.
Melissa Ryzek: Sorry.
Lyla Senger: No, it's okay. You never lived how so?
Melissa Ryzek: I would say I never followed the story path with any aspects of my life so.
Lyla Senger: Yes, that sounds like it. I had no idea you were going back and forth that sounds so crazy and chaotic. So, it's crazy, you're able to do that at least for however long it lasted. I struggle already within one location, one city.
Melissa Ryzek: Yes, I didn't have a career here so, when I came back to Munich, it would be a little bit more relaxed, I was working, no downtime, because I had a small child, and I was learning German and things like that, but I wasn't in the workforce. And then I would go back but there were lots of great aspects to it because I still kept my life, my professional life, and my social life back in America. And even though I've been here for four-plus years, but I never fully arrived here too. So there was kind of like this.
Lyla Senger: Sitting in the middle like to be back in [inaudible 11:02]. When you said you had two jobs, I thought you meant you had two lives because it sounds like you had like double you're living double lives here.
Melissa Ryzek: No, I had two jobs in Minnesota, I just had two different separate nursing positions that I would do not even paying for but in different hospitals, anyways.
Lyla Senger: So crazy. Okay, so explains a lot like at least the process, it's very interesting. Cool. Okay, so, I guess from there, maybe I asked what your biggest challenges were, it sounded like coming to the idea was easy and then it became very successful. But maybe along the way, we can talk about COVID, or favorite topic, or just in general, like what the biggest challenges are the biggest growth that you were able to overcome? Or if you're still overcoming them?
Melissa Ryzek: So, I wouldn't say in the beginning, the biggest challenges were having people know we're here and advertising seemed a bit different from what I knew from it [inaudible 12:10]. Person out here, here people went to their neighbors and gave them flyers and wanted, to handout to their other customers coming in and I realized, hey, this is the neighborhood way. And that was eye-opening but it was great because then I got to meet the other businesses around and so well, it was helpful and a nice process because now I know the business is around, and I can recommend their business to my clients and vice versa. But I would say the biggest challenges of opening the space were that it was just and building up a reputation. Nobody knew me, who was Melissa is this yoga teacher or bar instructor or that takes time to build up and get an audience.
And also, reaching out to a lot of the ex-pat communities, you'll find that you have a client, and then their situation changes or their contracts up and if they move away. But it's a challenge but it comes with pros and cons so we have the same me all the time, but it's me. So I guess, against an audience I have regular clients, and I've got other people to find me and I'm always so curious, how many times did you hear about us? It's so many different ways like somebody came in and they became a regular teacher and they found me from one of my flyers in a coffee shop, but it put next to the kindergarten that my kid goes to, and I was just like, that's great. And other people found me by a deep Google search and it was like, couldn't even find me in English and yoga class, swabbing Belgrade straw, so it was like, we still had Munich Collective...
And no, there was some other business that it was this container company that was using the Munich Collective money, I was like, God, we picked a container collective. It worked out. And I was saying that you know, opening the studio, so I opened at the end of 2018 and so we and I say we in this sense because other teachers were teaching at that time, we gained a big audience, just as Corona was hitting. And so it was like weightless for classes, people waiting at the door to see if somebody would show up so they could participate and then Corona happens and so I kind of had to keep reminding myself where we've gotten to because, with the past year, we took a huge hit. And so I just hope we get back to that but I think we will, I feel like, we'll get there.
Lyla Senger: Very difficult, especially the past year but seeing where everybody was before, and then knowing reminding ourselves that it's like, almost not the end of the tunnel, but very easy to adjust as soon as things get normal, it kind of jumps back, right where it was before. And also you kind of learn a lot of things to stay on top of everything and however you change to integrate, all of these things apply for this new world that we're coming into as well.
Melissa Ryzek: I would say that it was I mean when we had the first lockdown and then we opened in June. And watching how people adapted to this new distance and masks, and was amazing to me, just seeing and my children how quickly as humans if you're open-minded, how you can just adapt and change, that's was eye-opening. And I always brought it up to my clients coming in the door where I was just like, you guys we're doing this. This is amazing, we didn't shut down, we're not crying on our floor, we're here, we're doing it and so it was, you got to take what you can.
Lyla Senger: Yes, for sure. No, it's crazy to see how adaptable we are, how quick people can be how much we can ender like as business owners I think, or entrepreneurs or self-employed like that whole market, everybody just hustling 10 times 10 and just making it out and surviving, however, you can.
Melissa Ryzek: Yes and sometimes being your cheerleader, being in this entrepreneurial world. And I think there's a lot of that where you have to remind yourself, hey, what are we working towards? And giving yourself that self-talk as you're doing great.
Lyla Senger: It's true. I like how you say just to remind yourself where you were right before, it's very similar. I think everybody was on the same trajectory of, it takes a while to get well known and to be happy where you are and I think, whether it was maybe COVID that made us realize, it's always grass is greener, or you maybe take for granted what you had before. So, in this situation where things were successful, at least for me, I probably don't know whether I would have appreciated as much as I do now when things are super shaken up, and back and forth, up and down. And to look back to see like, okay, that was good now, it's good. Who knows what's gonna happen, but just enjoy it while it lasts, I can be thankful that you're able to, like have classes and be open, and have still this good product that people are coming back for still.
Melissa Ryzek: Super thankful.
Lyla Senger: It's funny. You mentioned the flyers; I also had to learn that here. When I started putting my events, I started printing flyers and I was like, this was crazy.
Melissa Ryzek: Somebody told me to go put up flyers at the playground about my kid's yoga class and I was like, I'm like [inaudible18:39] did, the way people [cross-talking 18:42] do a class. And I'm like, great.
Lyla Senger: It's crazy. Yes, I also like to get used to that. When I first started I was like, okay, you can have a great product you can get all, one problem was an event or real estate, as you said, and as soon as I had that, I was like, okay, everything's sorted. We're good to go and then I was like, wait where the people are? People, now they need to know about it so, it is a struggle and learning how to adapt in the environment that you're in that works.
Melissa Ryzek: There are many classes that I have outwardly, like one person coming and I would be like, it's okay it's not awkward, I'm like, we can think of this right as a private.
Lyla Senger: Yes, exactly. But always takes time and I think as soon as people hear about it, and they come back, and then they're very loyal that's like, even better. So, you grow from that. And it's the first challenge of most businesses, but cool. Okay, thank you. So, I guess now, maybe it could still be COVID related or unrelated but now that you kind of say what the past challenges are, what are your next steps, maybe to assimilate or moving forward or even not even COVID related like how if you want it to grow? Or if you're very happy with where you are, what are the next steps or focuses for you and your studio?
Melissa Ryzek: Yes, so I think, for the studio, not COVID related just because this was kind of like my plan before all that happened was to kind of solidify the Munich Collective as a yoga place. Because being a rentable studio, I think it can get a bit of what's happening there, what is going on at the Munich Collective? And so I would like to get into more yoga, teacher training, yoga, teacher workshops, and things like that and I feel strongly that would also just roll our yoga community here because now I've had to kid around yoga coming and doing their teacher workshops here since I opened, they were one of my first renters having a teacher trainer, teacher training here.
And it's always so lovely to come in, and network and meet these people and you just find out okay, there's another kids yoga teacher, like living down the block and want to come have a class or so that's one of my goals is to have some more teacher training and come up with a nice program. Where I'm using local assets that we have here, and doing that, and then just continuing to have fun, challenging, exciting classes here, and not always taught by Melissa, once you just coming in the door. But I'm teaching eight to 10 classes a week. And with privates and things like that, it's a lot and I'm sure, it's important to me that the people that come in are continuing with my message or my goal, and that is, you welcome everybody, and you treat everybody the same. So, I would just, that would be my biggest future goal for the Munich Collective is to kind of grow that way.
Lyla Senger: Cool. It's very good to hear I mean, even hearing what you have to say, I want to have a teacher programs there. I think there is an [inaudible 22:30], okay, I wouldn't look into and ask you afterward. But, no, indeed, I don't think there is a conspiracy which I find with my events company like having consistency, but a consistent I don't know, ex-pat or English speaking, yoga training programs are a go-to where they can feel comfortable. And there is such a big difference between going to a class every day or an event every weekend versus going, I think it's a cool community to have when students are coming for a training program, and they're super into it, they want to learn and they also can come, you're coming for a few days, if not longer, and meeting the people you're working with, like the other students and the teacher so it's a nice experience.
Melissa Ryzek: Good to know. Okay, we advertise that.
Lyla Senger: You’re training programs at Munich Collective, please.
Melissa Ryzek: Okay, that's my goal.
Lyla Senger: Awesome. That's really cool and it's COVID friendly. So, you just make sure everyone have a sit before.
Melissa Ryzek: Exactly, is a top priority. So my husband's a physician, I'm a nurse we're a medical background it's very important to keep everybody safe.
Lyla Senger: Yes, that's cool. It's good to have the expertise than on top of everything going on. It was, I'll probably do one of the only studios I trust the most then. For sure and then you're trained. So, if anything happens...
Melissa Ryzek: For CPR, it's always it's like, oh my God, but you'd be in the right place.
Lyla Senger: So funny. Okay. So then maybe something on a lighter subject, we change gears and I just ask, what's your favorite kind of class? It sounds like okay, you're focused on workshops, but you're also teaching a lot in classes is a lot on the body I think even for me, I was also teaching, maybe 12-15 times a week and it was too much I think. So, out of all the classes, you're teaching now what is your favorite class to give whether it's a certain subject or private versus a group or events, favorite class to teach or take, or both?
Melissa Ryzek: Okay, that's a super hard question. I'll start with the easy one. What's my favorite class to take? And that is anything hot. I like hot yoga, hot Pilates, hot sculpt, I love it and that was I debated opening a hot studio and going on from there...I know. And but I anything that is challenging physically, I want to work my muscles, I want to work my body but I also want to challenge myself and my yoga poses and postures and taking it to the next level. And so that's an easy question to answer. What's my favorite class to teach? That's hard because every class requires a different, Melissa to show up if that makes sense and I love everyone for different reasons. I like coming in and having to mellow and teach in and it also is that class where I feel like I can most give that nurturing, caring, listen to that person. But on Saturdays, I teach a crazy hip fusion class that allows me to be that high-energy motivated, you can do this. Let's keep going.
Lyla Senger: And tough. They both sound good.
Melissa Ryzek: Right. So, I would say one of my favorite classes to teach, at the moment, I would give it to the fusion class because it's the most challenging to plan because it's everything it's all that I do. And it's the most physically taxing, so I'll just say that, but it's an easy answer.
Lyla Senger: Okay, do we have the second favorite too, so you also snuck it in there? But sounds good I want to maybe take one of your Yin classes, I need to come by. Always could you some nurturing Yin in my life.
Melissa Ryzek: I miss the days where I was robbing and before COVID, you got the like, hot oil rubs.
Lyla Senger: I know I come for the massages, for sure.
Melissa Ryzek: I just want to be able to do that. Is that weird? I don't know what...
Lyla Senger: No. I also like too because people love it. So it's like, I love it and they love it so.
Melissa Ryzek: We even get something from it. I used to come home and I would tell my husband I was like, it almost seems a bit like it's an affair but here like something I was practiced by teaching but then when you connect on that level, it was a treat. Come to Yin and Teacher training!
Lyla Senger: I look at the schedule after this. Okay, awesome. Okay, so I think we have time for one more question. I asked you, most importantly, how do you define a hero or a role model?
Melissa Ryzek: I hear hero or a role model, I would say is somebody that selflessly works passionately, towards their goal with the greater good in mind, and remains humble and kind. A lot of adjectives, but I would say that kind of wraps it up because all of that could apply in so many different arenas or areas of life, but I think that would be in a nutshell.
Lyla Senger: Beautiful, very powerful, it's very descriptive. So, I don't think you can get, because this term can be so vague or general, but when you do not have these conditions but are clear with like, it makes sense to you could be this overall role model. But when you're doing it for a better reason and how you do it is what makes the difference. So, I think that is all our time today unless you want to give any other advice. One last question, any advice to anybody else, starting their business or trying to make things happen or their dreams or?
Melissa Ryzek: I would love to give some advice and that is, don't get bogged down by the little details. There's going to be little details that are going to overwhelm you when you're starting something new or something unknown. And if I would have quit in the beginning, when I didn't know how something was going to A, either work itself out or turn out, I would have quit before we even got the doors open, and so I would say, keep the big picture in mind, and you're going to have to work hard. And it but usually that pays off and I truly believe that if you work hard towards something you're going to get something good from it. Maybe is the idea of successful change, but you'll get something from it?
Lyla Senger: Yes.
Melissa Ryzek: I guess that would be my advice.
Lyla Senger: Beautiful, work hard, but work selflessly, too.
Melissa Ryzek: Yes, that's hard, it's hard. And be kind. That was like, the most important thing I think working in an inner-city, emergency room as you cannot judge a book by its cover you cannot, you must remain humble, and kind. You never know what somebody is carrying with them when they come in the door and it could be, your next best friend, or business partner, you just don't know. And we all have our bad moments or bad days or whatever, and you hate but it's kind of like, hey, not everyone has to deal with that so.
Lyla Senger: Yes, very true. At the end of the day, we're all human. So, treating each other like humans and doing the right thing it's very nice. Okay, perfect. Okay, I think that was everything. So thank you again, unless you have anything else to say or any questions.
Melissa Ryzek: No, thanks for having me, it was fun.
Lyla Senger: Yes. So, as you asked earlier, I know you're asking about some of the products. For anybody else who is interested in finding out more about Yoga Hero, you can visit the website to see their cool or recyclable or eco-friendly yoga mats and products, clothes, everything like that at yoga-hero.com. And other than that, you can also visit Melissa's studio, the Munich Collective, you'll have to search not too difficult, but probably will be able to find it themunichcollective.de up after this session, so other than that, thanks again for tuning in. Thanks for joining and thanks for being a part of this, everybody else as well.
Melissa Ryzek: Thank you. Bye.
Lyla Senger: Bye.