Ava Taylor’s believes in being an agent of change. Not only is being a “catalyst for better living” her company’s tagline, it’s also her personal philosophy.
Taking a leap of faith, Taylor left a lucrative job and moved to New York City to start Yama Talent, the only management company focusing on yoga professionals. Like many visionaries, she witnessed the permeation of yoga into the mainstream and decided to craft a business around it.
Although the company is growing exponentially, Taylor still considers it a labor of love as she sees Hollywood-level success for her clients and continues to work diligently to make that happen. It’s clear that she’s passionate in helping elevate others who have made their passion a livelihood and that makes her a top choice in this year’s Yogapreneur series.
What got you into this business?
When I was working at Lulu Lemon, I was sent out by research and development to find out what made yogis, Pilates instructors, personal trainers, etc, tick. I would invite the yogis out to have a glass of wine and noticed a lot of popular well-known teachers were struggling to make ends meet. They were helping us get our clothing off the ground and their basic needs weren’t being met. I continued to look into it and I realized almost all yoga teachers had no representation.
Being an artistic type of person you need someone to help you manage your business so you can focus on being the best teacher. That is when I had the lightbulb moment. I fell in love with the teachers who are dedicating their lives to teaching the practice and sharing this message.
Why did you not pursue the usual route of yoga teacher?
The Universe didn’t want me to. I fell in love with yoga and I was going to apply for teacher training. I dawdled on sending my deposit and my friend (the teacher) told me the program is full. So I thought “I’m supposed to do something else.” He is now one of my clients.
What resources did you use to start the business?
I had substantial amount of money saved. I was working 3 jobs and 7 days a week for 4 years. I had invested in stock had a Roth IRA so when it was time for me to move to New York, I had money to take care of myself.
I had my own personal resources, I have a good instinct and I know that I’m being guided. It’s also good to have friends and family as a sounding board.
What advice to you give people that want to be Yogapreneurs?
The two things I would say are don’t leave your day job too soon and focus on who you already are.
Some people want to drop what they’re doing and go full time. There is something wonderful in proceeding with caution. It takes time to build a following and to figure how how to contribute and what you want to say.
In our industry people are very conscious and you can’t fake the funk in this biz. It’s not about creating a schtick of some sort. It’s about uncovering who you are. Don’t think about something to create but instead ask “what is my unique message?”
Do you have challenges being a black woman in the wellness space?
The most challenging thing is not seeing more of myself in the industry and I’m working in media and I have access to help people make that change [but they] are not ready to make that change. If the image isn’t there, then the people won’t come but the [media thinks] people aren’t there so why should I spend money on the image?
What are the best parts of being an entrepreneur, especially in the yoga industry.
I get to hang out with awesome people who are doing their work in the world and inspire others. My posse are incredible people and I thank God because I work my you-know-what off and I’m inspired about who I’m surrounded by.
I also get yoga swag like retreats and clothes, so my addiction is paid for. I have to practice and be accountable for my clients. My clients are on a certain path that I need to be on if I want to help them.
What are some ways you suggest getting more people of color involved in yoga?
We need to have more media; more visible images of all sizes and colors that are doing yoga. We also have to have more conversations about what yoga is. We need a lot of education about the scientific elements of yoga but it needs to be distilled to get people in the door.
Yoga can be very complicated and esoteric but the core is very simple. The people that get get it, sometimes hold it hostage and they want it to be complex and look down on people that want to distill it. We need to make it more relate-able.
What are your plans for the future.
We are going to be the Creative Artist Agency (Oprah’s management) of the mind/body world. We will represent clients across the wellness spectrum and broaden into other wellness modalities. There will be offices located in other US cities as well as Europe and Asia.
In addition, we are currently building the world’s first digital yoga network, where we bring together independent yoga teachers into a video network on YouTube.
There will be more mass media: more TV, book deals and huge visibility opportunities.