Member Spotlight: Meet Abi Nolan
Starting a business was never part of Abi Nolan’s plan. ”It wasn’t a dream of mine. On paper I’m a dancer,” said Nolan, who started Supply Yoga about three years ago. She first began offering free yoga sessions in local parks before she realised she was onto something. Many of her customers had wanted to practice yoga before but avoided it because of “the preconceptions” attached to the practice, Nolan said. “Yoga has developed an elitist and expensive culture around it. In London at least, it’s only available to a small group of people who can afford it and feel like they belong there.”
The space is simple and warm. We don’t use words that people who are new to yoga won’t understand.
At Nolan’s east London studio, she is keen to make everyone feel welcome. “The space is simple and warm. We don’t use words that people who are new to yoga won’t understand,” said Nolan. She holds at least 12 classes per week, with sessions costing £8.50 each. “We’re not just moving through the physical postures,” Nolan said. Instead, she is promoting “meditative practice” to help alleviate anxiety and stress. One of the most rewarding aspects of Nolan’s business is that company profits are spent providing free classes for “people who would have very limited access to yoga.”
Nolan came up with her business ideas after she heard about a community project in central Africa that focused on using yoga as a form of therapy for victims of sexual violence, particularly those living with HIV.“I felt inspired and looked into what was happening locally to help me learn more,” she said. She volunteered and subsequently secured a job working as head of operations for an HIV support service. “I became interested in the correlation between wealth and health and I live in Hackney where the social disparity is pretty palpable. I decided to do something that I thought could help, like democratising things like yoga, breath-work and meditative practises. These things are really beneficial to people but not necessarily available.’
I had to learn everything from scratch, like accounting and legal stuff.
Lessons came thick and fast for the fledgling entrepreneur. “If it’s your business and a one-person operation, you have to motivate yourself,” Nolan said. I had to learn everything from scratch, like accounting and legal stuff. Yet deciding what her venture’s next steps will be is the most taxing of all her tasks, she explained. “The biggest challenge is figuring out the future. You build up to the launch of your business and then you get there and it’s like ‘okay, what happens next?’.”
So far, growth has come naturally. Nolan is now planning to expand her offering and build relationships with organisations that can help her make even more of an impact. “We’re trying to partner with gardening or outdoor social enterprises that work with community volunteering. We want to collaborate with as many people as possible,” she said.
Being a small and nimble business helps, Nolan added. “You can add a personal touch – knowing your client’s name, getting to know them. That stuff doesn’t happen so much with big companies.” And above all, Nolan wants to stand out by making her customers feel at home. “I want people to feel like they belong here,” she said, smiling.
Check out Supply Yoga’s website here.