BiS Luncheon: Yoga studio owner: Community focus is good business

Shelley Lowther 2By Eva Fedderly, Business in Savannah

Shelley Lowther, the founder of Dancing Dogs Yoga and Beetnix Savannah Juice Bar, brought a different business message Wednesday to the quarterly BiS Luncheon Series.

“I’m talking about community, not revenue,” Lowther said. “If you listen to what people need, revenue follows. If you focus on revenue first, then community suffers.”

Lowther, who was once a bar owner, opened Dancing Dogs Yoga in Beaufort, S.C., in 2010, followed by studios in Bluffton, S.C.; Augusta; Greensboro, N.C., and launched her latest location on Broughton Street in 2015. In February, she opened her first juice bar below the yoga studio.

To an audience of about 100 guests in the Savannah Morning News auditorium, Lowther told a story to express the concept of her business lecture, titled “Community.”

“An anthropologist living in Africa studied children in a small village and saw they loved friendly competition, like most children. He gave them an opportunity to win a basket full of candy and toys — things they hadn’t had before — by competing against each other in a race.”

Lowther continued that the anthropologist told the children the winner of the race will win the basket.

“The kids all joined hands and ran to the tree together. They then all evenly distributed the contents of the basket. The American anthropologist was stunned. He asked why the children had approached the competition like this and they responded, ‘Ubuntu,’ which means how could one of us be happy when the rest of us are sad?” Lowther said.

Lowther explained that “Ubuntu” is the essence of being human, which is the concept on which she founded her studios. Founder of four successful yoga studios and a juice bar, Lowther explained she uses a system called The Collaborative Way. “At my studios, we listen generously, speak straight, be there for each other, honor commitments, and give acknowledgement and appreciation.”

“People have said yoga and business are separate. They’re not. I have to have a business mind to own a web of studios and the studio/juice bar on Broughton Street. You can run any business with integrity. How do we keep integrity in business? We’re inclusive and we’re consistent. My customers have a level of quality and expectation. I put integrity over revenue — revenue will follow if you have integrity,” Lowther explained.

Lowther decided to open the studio and juice bar on Broughton because she saw that downtown Savannah was growing and many businesses were moving in, but there was something missing: something healthy. “It’s easy for me to open a yoga studio — the juice bar was new for me. I thought in 10 years or so, I’d open one. But when we opened Dancing Dogs Yoga, our students would not go home. I felt there was something missing: I wasn’t capitalizing on revenue, but rather on community. In June I opened the yoga studio, in October I had a lease for the juice bar.”

In Lowther’s business, service is a big aspect. Dancing Dog Yoga donates to local charities. The studio offers a trade program where students can offer hours or work for free yoga, which Lowther says brings depth to the yoga community.

Lowther is also involved in the Africa Yoga Project where she works with yoga training teachers and they then teach yoga throughout the African continent. The program reaches 6,000 students a week.

“We also bring Africans here to teach at my studio and at local elementary and high schools,” she told the audience.

Lowther participates in the Olive Tree Yoga Foundation, which is based in the Middle East, and brings Palestinians and Israelis together through yoga.

The Yoga Peace and Prosperity Project teaches yoga to people who are unfamiliar with yoga at no cost. “We pay the teachers so that the community can receive it for free,” Lowther said. “We don’t teach yoga, we share it. Yoga changes dialogue of how you speak to yourself; and then how you treat others.”