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How to Open a Yoga Studio Part 5: To Partner, Or Not to Partner

Determining the right legal structure for your studio is a process of understanding your options, goals, and needs. Learn the ABCs of sole proprietorships, partnerships, and nonprofits so that you can make the best decision for your business.

By Constance Loizos

If your vision for a studio centers on simplicity, then managing your business single-handedly will likely work best. Clayton Horton, who launched Greenpath Yoga in San Francisco two years ago, was deprived of making the choice of whether or not to partner, but he’s happy that he was ultimately left to his own devices. "I'd been talking with someone about partnering and they bowed out, but it was a blessing." Says Horton, "it would have complicated things when I needed them to be very straightforward, especially at the beginning."

If you believe that joint ownership of your business will further its chances for success, you'll want to decide which will best suit you: a silent partner, who merely provides you capital, or a hands-on partner who is with you in the trenches on a day-to-day basis. Not surprisingly, the latter can be far more challenging. Says Baron Baptiste, founder of the Baptiste Power Yoga Institutes in Cambridge and Boston, "Going into any business partnership is like going into a marriage, but hands-on partnerships are much higher risk, and present much greater potential for problems. Very often, once the honeymoon is over, you start to see unpleasant personality traits or work ethics or you just discover that you have different visions with regard to how to raise the kid, so to speak."

Baptiste knows of which he speaks. He has opened five studios in his career and has enjoyed both silent and active partners. His advice: don't walk down the altar with someone you don't know excruciatingly well. More, if you do take a partner, make sure that you are doing it for the right reasons. "At every teacher training, I bet there are a dozen people who consult with me privately on how to mediate or resolve partnership problems," says Baptiste. Typically, he says, it's because they've gotten into their relationships owing to insecurity, such as around their own business acumen.

Yet not every partnership is an unhappy one. Sometimes, it's just a matter of working out the kinks. Ian Lopatin -- a cofounder of At One Yoga with studios in Scottsdale, Phoenix, and Grayhawk, Arizona -- has two active partners in the business and says that for him, the benefits of cofounders outweigh the disadvantages as his enterprise grows. "At the beginning, it's tough. There are lots of mouths to feed and as is typical when you start a business, you’re the last people getting paychecks." Lopatin recalls that at the outset, it was also difficult to reach a consensus on every issue. "Everyone sort of checked in with what they wanted. It was complicated at times."

As his business has evolved, he has come to appreciate his partners more. "Working with partners has helped create a sense of community. It's great not having to do everything, too, especially as the business and its needs grow." An added benefit of time: the partners recognize one another's strengths and each now makes executive decisions when circumstances necessitate them within their particular area of expertise.

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