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Flexibility in Tough Times

STRETCH FOR SUCCESS: Tom Palmer and Nancy Gerald launched Our Yoga Place at Coconut Point in Estero.

The 4,300-square-foot space comprises two yoga studios, two locker rooms and a retail section.

Even the best-laid plans can’t keep good entrepreneurs out of trouble. Tom Palmer knows: He and his wife, Nancy, spent more than a year planning for their yoga studio in Estero. They thoroughly researched the market. They created a business plan and wrote up a budget. They studied commercial real estate and vetted local contractors before selecting one for the buildout. And still they couldn’t have prepared for the pandemic. Our Yoga Place opened in Coconut Point in late January, and it faced a worldwide shutdown a little more than a month later.

The 4,300-square-foot space, which has two yoga studios, two locker rooms and a retail section, survived the COVID crisis. Now, as Southwest Florida enters its busy season, Palmer is already seeing an uptick in business, even as other local yoga studios are folding. One reason for his success is mental. Being an entrepreneur requires a certain mindset, Palmer says: “At the end of the day, you have to be prepared to make decisions and be accountable for them. All the armchair quarterbacks in the world can offer their opinions, but you’re the one who has to decide.”

Palmer, 57, began his career as a computer engineer for Hewlett-Packard in California. After 14 years in the high-tech industry, he moved to Sarasota and purchased a home health care business with his then-wife. Over the course of six years, the pair managed up to 100 employees at a time, and they more than doubled the value of their business. From that experience, Palmer said, he learned a lot about operating a small business.

In 2010, the company sold for cash to an existing regional home health company. “When you’re a small business and you have that kind of value to another company, that’s a big thing,” Palmer says. During this time, Palmer had earned his teach-er certification in Bikram yoga, an intense style practiced in hour-and-a-half-long sessions in a room heated to 105 degrees. After he and his wife separated, Palmer set out to travel the world and teach yoga. He began in New Zealand and made his way around Southeast Asia, returning to the United States every six months or so. In this way, he circumnavigated the globe four times before settling in Southwest Florida and launching Our Yoga Place.

Palmer credits his extensive planning with helping the studio thrive even when confronted with the pandemic. He suggests that other potential entrepreneurs do the same. “You can’t let your enthusiasm overtake your common sense,” he says. “Look at your market, do the research and be honest with yourself about what you think your opportunity is.”

And when calamity strikes, have enough capital set aside to cover shortfalls in cash flow. “If you’re having to beg, borrow and steal to keep your business alive, that’s really worrisome.”


Courtesy Our Yoga Place

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