Since inception, Hotpod Yoga has stood for inclusion and accessibility – taking yoga out of its sometimes elitist and inaccessible niche and into the lives of hundreds of thousands who’d not otherwise be practicing yoga.
But when it comes to anti-racism and ethnic diversity, we’ve not done enough. We, like so many others, have presumed that being an equal opportunities employer with good principles and an open attitude to all was all that was needed. The result has been a workforce, customer base and franchise network that does not show the diversity it should and a lack of any impact in driving wider change on this societally critical issue.
We want to change that, and take an active approach to enhancing the diversity of our customer base and teams to ensure that we’re meaningfully contributing to the fight against racism and racial inequality in the communities in which we operate.
In the simplest sense, we want to ensure that our studios actively welcome BAME customers and teachers – to guarantee that the studios are a safe and happy place for these communities of people to enjoy our classes. We believe that this can be achieved through the teams we employ, the training and education we provide and the way we position our brand. We also want to go beyond that – and to use the platform we have & the business models we’ve built to help address some of the racial inequalities our society and the yoga industry is beset by.
Here we outline a brief summary of our key focuses:
Education & training
Embedding education and training around anti-racism and diversity at all levels of the company – from Board to management, HQ team, franchisees and teachers. For each of those groups, we have extensive onboarding processes and training in place and we will include relevant, high quality training on these issues in future, as well as retrospectively training those already onboard.
The leadership of the company will also commit to their own learning and training. We’re currently seeking the most impactful and relevant literature and training course for us and are in the process of appointing an external, expert advisor in the field to help guide us on this on an ongoing basis.
To further enhance the impact we and others in our industry can make in future, we’re looking to commission a piece of research to examine racial exclusion in the yoga industry. We hope to collaborate on this with other studios and have engaged a leading research organisation in the field to help us all understand the root cause.
We’ll be working with a diversity and inclusion advisor to help guide us on our recruitment strategy. We’re committing to completely overhaul our approach to diversity in our recruitment – of teachers, HQ staff and franchisees – to actively seek out diversity of all sorts. For the first time, we’ll also be keeping a record of key diversity measures in these teams and tracking progress over time.
Imagery & brand
We commit to continuing and furthering a strongly multi-racial approach to our brand imagery, to help reassure and encourage BAME students. We also commit to actively seeking out and working with more BAME ambassadors as well as brands and businesses that are BAME-owned or actively supporting BAME communities.
Many of the neighbourhoods in which we operate (across the UK and internationally) are homes to large BAME communities, yet these communities make up too small a portion of the students in our classes. To address this directly, we’ll be actively seeking out and working with local BAME community groups and local BAME-owned businesses, creating meaningful, long-term partnerships with them to help ensure our classes properly reflect the communities around us.
A sad truth is that a higher portion of these BAME communities also tend to be excluded from our classes for socio-economic reasons. So, we’re also committing to a programme of community outreach at our studios – providing free or heavily discounted classes for community groups who might otherwise not have the opportunity to enjoy our classes. This will also become a recommendation across our franchise network.
Both our Teaching Academy and our franchise business are empowering forces that create exciting careers for people in the yoga industry. As much as we try to create an inclusive environment, we know that these don’t always feel like welcoming and accessible spaces for BAME communities.
Through many of the above (actively diverse recruitment and brand imagery in particular), we hope to encourage a higher number of BAME teacher trainees and franchisees. And we feel that that, in turn, can help significantly contribute to the inclusivity of our classes as a whole.
We are determined to go beyond that and take a more active approach, using our business models to help empower BAME yoga enthusiasts and entrepreneurs who might otherwise not have the financial means to achieve their goals in the yoga world. Although, of course, the barriers may not only be financial, we believe it’s important to address the simple fact that financial exclusion is something that hits BAME communities harder than it does white communities in the markets in which we operate, and if funding is a barrier, then we can work towards breaking that barrier down.
We’ve run a bursary programme since 2019 – working with a London-based community project, giving two full bursaries for our Teacher Training courses to individuals who’d otherwise not have been able to afford it but who would be using the qualification for positive change. We’re going to look to extend this in three ways:
1. To raise the number of YTT bursaries awarded to 5 a year (one place on every course we run)
2. To actively seek out BAME applicants, through partnership with BAME-specific community groups and charities.
3. To extend the programme to our franchise business. We’re going to look to offer 1 bursary a year to cover the upfront franchise fee to start a Hotpod Yoga Franchise. We’re then looking into options for partners who may be able to offer financing support to help with additional start-up capital. The Bursary would give aspiring yoga entrepreneurs that may otherwise be financially excluded, the opportunity to run their own Hotpod Yoga franchise. We would, again, actively seek out BAME applicants for this.