Mud

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My daughter asked me last night why I named the yoga studio Lotus Jo’s? and did I have other back-up names?

My name is Lisa Jo. Lotus Jo’s is a play on my name. The Lotus flower is also symbolic for struggle and growth. The lotus seed is buried in the mud at the bottom of a pond in murky waters. When the seed begins to grow, it pushes through the mud and muck but is still underwater. The new plant grows through the water pushing up toward the surface and finally breaks through to the air and the sun. Once above the water’s surface, the lotus blossoms into an impossibly beautiful flower. Dozens of layers of petals unfold to open the flower until the very edges of the petals are wide, resting atop the water’s surface with comfort and ease, supported by the water that it broke through and gently riding the changes in the water’s surface.

Jo or Joe as in “the average Joe” is a term that refers to anybody. While the Jo(e) could be anybody, the Jo(e) is a specific person, maybe there are lots of Jo(e)’s we pass each day, and each is a lotus. Each has a story, each is somewhere between the mud and the sun.

I wanted to create a place where anybody could come, be at home, come into their own and feel safe and supported by a community. I wanted a pond. Not a big pond. Just a pond. Where any Joe or Jo could explore. Could be welcome. Could grow. And when the lotus lost it’s petals and returned to the depths of the pond to break back down, I wanted a place for that too. I wanted a safe place to cycle. Through sun salutations and life’s various seasons.

Finding a place to put the pond was a whole other issue. I started with teaching classes where and when I could. I was working as a professor of communication at multiple schools, raising one kid, building another one from scratch on the inside. But I knew I wanted something. I wasn’t sure what the pond would look like. In the photo at the top you can see my vision board from yoga school. I knew WHY I wanted to open a space for people. But would it be yoga? I didn’t know if I wanted a yoga studio. Would it be a community center? Would it be both? Would we have a garden? Would it be mobile? Could I function out of an airstream and thus justify buying one? Could this work?

Seven months into my pregnancy I found a building for sale around the corner from my house. I went for it. I made a business plan, I found a commercial realtor, I began work with a commercial lender, I worked with the Small Business Development Center to create financial projections and to look at the market for the surrounding area, assessing ages, annual incomes, the yoga industry itself. So many numbers. I hauled my big pregnant ass all over trying to make this happen. It looked good. The numbers looked good. The neighborhood. Everything. I kept pushing on saying I’d quit at the sign of red—crap numbers, no lending, bad inspection—but the red never came.

What did come? A cash offer. So, I don’t own a building in Alger Heights. I own a house here and I pass the building almost daily and I think how convenient it could have all been.

I was teaching yoga in something called “the ugly room” in a little conference room next door to a gym. The gig was passed along to me by a pal and basically the gym owner wanted yoga classes offered to help with strength training and to bring an option for yoga to the members of the gym.

Back to the “ugly room”. It was legit ugly. It also had a distinct smell. It was a little (really) cold, and dark, and not a place I would have ever looked at and been like “ah yes!, this is a great place to lay on the floor.” Ever.

But I loved my little group of yogi’s and I loved the class and it started to stir the need for a pond. But could I? I started small. I asked if I could leave a space heater there. Then a small table. Some blocks. Then a little letter board with my website and prices. And then I asked about the carpet. Because the smell? I had tracked down the smell to the carpet. Also, carpet and yoga?

What happened next was the curve ball. The next step was the little jolt the seed needs to begin germinating. The gym owner talked to the owner of the building and then there was some negotiating and next thing I knew the questions was “would you like to rent this space (the ugly room)?”. I wasn’t sure. It was on the side of the building and the building was a business and retail center with no foot traffic. Hard to create visible signs at the street. And, it was ugly. So, I went back to my plan and I looked at the numbers and I changed them around to accommodate the difference in rent versus a mortgage and so on and so forth. I was being smart. Taking it slow.

And then one Saturday after only one person was at yoga and he decided maybe he would just go so I wouldn’t have to teach one person, I picked at the edge of the carpet—just to see. I just wanted to know what was under there. It was cement—Duh. But for my fellow pickers out there you know, it’s not just a corner. It’s never just a corner. I ripped up as much carpet as I could (hardly any because of the devil carpet glue they used). Took a pic of my damage, sent it to the owners and said it looked like I would be renting the space.

And that kids, is the story of how Lotus Jo’s Yoga Studio went from a little dirty seed to a little dirty flower.

You can see the pictures that chronicle my months of physical labor creating what is now the yoga studio. There are so many tears and cuss words in that place. We saged—it’s ok now. But I have never worked so tirelessly on any one thing. And then, after two months of ripping and scraping and laying and painting and hanging and moving and arranging it was ready. I did a soft open and taught class three days a week. It was going ok so the question was, when was my grand open? I wrangled a staff, created some marketing materials on vistaprint, and set a date.

I’d say it’s all history now. We are open and it’s great and we are thriving. But every single day is terrifying and exhilarating and awful and wonderful and long and somehow, not long enough. Would I do it again? Yep. Would I do it different? I’d love to tell you I have some great thoughts in hindsight, but my face is still numb from it all.

This place, I love it. My work now is to help other people know the pond is ready, the water is warm (thanks space heaters), and that it is not only a safe and happy pond, it is also the most affordable pond in town.

Namaste, pals.

Lisa SchuellerComment