When Kiersten Mooney couldn’t find consistency in the yoga classes she took as a student, she didn’t complain. She simply trained as a teacher and started her own studio: Bala Vinyasa, in Naples.
“I knew our community needed this practice,” she says. And Mooney’s roots in the area go deep. She grew up on Marco Island and graduated from Lely High School.
Her first studio location quickly proved to be too small so she gutted and expanded what was a furniture store, off U.S. 41 just north of Pine Ridge Road, and that’s been her main Naples location ever since.
As the business’s popularity grew, the University of Miami graduate looked to the other side of the state and opened a studio in Coral Gables. She joined with the owner of another Miami studio, Michal Block. Then two years ago, she says, “I made a very difficult decision to rebrand my studios and change the name to Greenmonkey, so we’re all one brand.” In doing their due diligence, they had learned that Greenmonkey had a stronger branding presence. “Policies, practices, teacher training, those all came directly from Bala Vinyasa,” she says. “We consolidate costs like marketing, finance, our website, product development, and retail buying.” Revenue growth has been on a steady upward trajectory on both sides of the state: In 2015, Naples’s growth was 9 percent and Coral Gables, 26.8 percent. In 2016, Naples’s revenue grew 5 percent and Coral Gables 4.1 percent.
Like many entrepreneurs, Mooney was doing everything related to the business at the beginning. “Then I hired my mom to do the bookkeeping,” she says with a laugh. “Then I hired a manager.” The company has continued to grow in the 10 years since she began, and today Greenmonkey has three standalone studios (Naples, Coral Gables and Miami Beach) and locally operates all the yoga classes at Naples Bay Report.
Mooney spends half her time in Naples and half in Miami, though she considers Naples home. She’s no longer on the regular teaching schedule at the studios, but she travels to teach throughout the U.S. and internationally. An important part of Greenmonkey’s business model is its robust teacher training program. “What we do best,” Mooney says, “is train teachers. And all the teachers we hire”—which number about 100 now—“have been through our teacher training.” The teacher training programs in Naples and Coral Gables saw a 22.6 percent increase in 2015 and a whopping 101.8 percent jump in 2016.
One aspect that sets Greenmonkey apart is the research Mooney, trained in physiology, performs with her former professor and collaborator Joseph Signorile, PhD, a kinesiologist at University of Miami. About six years ago, they began researching yoga with scientific rigor. They’ve since published studies in peer-reviewed journals such as the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation that quantify yoga’s benefits.
Mooney is understandably proud of what she and Greenmonkey have built. “We are fueled by innovation and backed by research, yet rooted in tradition. Our philosophy is an all-inclusive philosophy. We provide a welcoming, clean, clear space that anyone of any denomination and background can come to and get what they are looking for, at any phase of life.” She continues: “We are here to support each other. And it’s why people stay around. Many of my teachers have been with me for 10 years.
“I have such gratitude to Naples,” she says. “It’s my home, where I grew up. They have given us years of support. Without this community and the students, we don’t have a studio. I opened the studio based on the student’s mind. I’m grateful that people show up.