HERMOSA BEACH — Soho Yoga, a Black-owned business, has reopened with smaller classes selling out amid the pandemic. The business' success is in part due to the studio being an inclusive space, but also the trio that works together as business partners.
Their diversity of Black and white, male and female, is something owner Richard Jefferson says has also contributed to the boom in business.
"You had three different backgrounds, three different people, from three different places coming together to figure out how we could have the best possible experience in yoga," Jefferson said. "To me, that diversity really and truly helped our success."
The Hermosa Beach studio has been popular over its six-year existence, where many times classes have been packed or sold out.
Since reopening the studio from the pandemic, classes are still often sold out, but now with smaller class sizes, instructors teaching behind plexiglass, and mat markers on the floor.
"People are walking out so happy that they haven't been able to do yoga for three months and then you walk in there and its 16 people and you're able to look and connect, and just have that energy," Jefferson said.
But in the wake of George Floyd's death, while being arrested by police, this Black-owned business is unique in that Jefferson's prominence as a longtime NBA veteran, has allowed him to bridge some of the traditional stigmas of a Black person opening a business.
Especially in the yoga industry where Black people are still underrepresented, even with the high number of studios in L.A.
So he hopes when people of color see him as the owner, it inspires them.
"A young Black male or a young Black female, is like 'Hey, how do I do this?' They see people being successful [in] doing something that they might be passionate about. That's how you have change," Jefferson said.
As the studio's Yoga Director, Natasha Snow Needles has experienced racism in prior studios she has worked for.
So when the opportunity came to open Soho, she knew they'd create a space that stood for love, equality, and togetherness.
"Supporting what the message of yoga is, which is about unity, you know being stronger together through our diversity," Snow Needles said.
And they are trying to spread this message to as many people as possible.
They've done outreach programs at schools to bring yoga to kids who don't have the means to go to a studio.
And during the pandemic, they launched their virtual yoga classes on Patreon for just $7 a month.
For Jefferson, he knows Soho Yoga will live through the pandemic, so he's encouraging folks to support other minority-run businesses.
"Diversify how you spend your money and where you spend your money, is the best way to include all people," Jefferson said.