Today’s Notable Young Entrepreneur is Debbie Fung, COO and Co-founder of Yoga Tree, which currently has five studios in the Greater Toronto Area. We caught up with her to hear about the inspiration behind her career route and where she sees herself in five years…
Elevator Pitch: Describe your job in a nutshell.
Being the COO and Co-founder of Yoga Tree means running five yoga studios. This involves a variety of jobs and skills from time and people management to accounting, and even cleaning! It is crucial to ensure all studios are being run smoothly, my staff members and students are happy, and that we are minimizing the carbon footprint in our studios – I am a firm believer in environmental sustainability.
Why did you start working at your company? What was the inspiration for this career route?
I discovered the healing powers of yoga after originally using it as a treatment for my scoliosis. Years of yoga helped cure it, which is when I truly began to understand how one’s physical and mental health can be so positively affected by yoga. With a double major in Business and Environment, I felt these skills could help me open a successful business while continuously implementing ecological initiatives. Jason, my business and life partner, and I wanted to share the physical and mental wellness of yoga and connect students by offering various styles of yoga and to make classes accessible to practitioners of all levels.
What is the best part of what you do on a day-to-day basis? The most challenging part?
The best part of my day is being able to see Yoga Tree students enjoying yoga and reaping all of the amazing benefits from practicing yoga. The most challenging part would be not being able to be at all five studios at the same time, and trying to divide my team equally between all of them as well as my family (I am a mother to two young boys!)
What is one sign that you’ve seen over the years to suggest that your work/life balance is off?
When opening the Bay and Dundas studio, I was working from 7am until 1am… definitely didn’t have time to get the right amount of sleep or exercise I needed!
Where do you see yourself in five years?
If I have been able to open five yoga studios in seven years, I think I could open another five in the next five years! Perhaps move the chain South of the Border; who knows.
What is one major challenge that you’ve had to overcome in your career? How did you overcome it?
A major challenge of mine was figuring out how to continuously and successfully expand my company while also spending enough time with my children, ages two and four. It wasn’t easy figuring out how to create a successful balance to ensure everyone around me is happy, but through experience, practice and the ever-helpful Jason, I was able to overcome this challenge.
What does success look like to you? Does Money = Happiness?
Money does not mean happiness to me. Success to me means being happy and healthy. Healthy means being happy – physically, mentally and spiritually. Coming to work that doesn’t feel like work means being happy.
What is the most memorable milestone in your career?
When Jason and I built our first studio, the bank had not approved the loan we had requested for construction. To compensate, we had to take on most of the construction by installing floors ourselves and even building custom furniture. It seemed impossible, but we did it, and it was an amazing feeling to see our blood, sweat and tears become our first studio!
Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
Starting a business can be very overwhelming; ask questions, and expect failure along the way. Surround yourself with lots of positive energy that everything will work out!
Where is your favourite place to wine/dine in your city and why?
Mildred’s Temple Kitchen in Liberty Village – great food, and I love the atmosphere. It’s kid-friendly and one of our favourite places to go to for a weekend family brunch that never disappoints.
When you’re not working how do you love to spend your “Me” time?
“Me” time is always spent best with my family. We love travelling with our two boys and educating them on different cultures and social environments. It helps them appreciate the differences in people and their traditions. So far, we’ve travelled with them to Thailand, Japan, Korea, South America, and the States. Next on our list are Spain, Italy and North Africa for 2015.
Where is your favourite place to travel? Why?
My favourite place to travel would be India. It’s where Jason and I learned so much about yoga, and a big part of what inspired us to open up Yoga Tree. It was so amazing to practice yoga in a place with such historical significance.
If you had to choose a theme song, what would it be?
“New Heights” by A Fine Frenzy.
If you weren’t doing what you’re doing, what would you be doing?
There are so many things I would love to do in another life, but one of them would be working as an Ayurvedic and Panchakarma specialist.
Do you support any charities? If so, which one(s) and why is that important to you?
I support Breast Cancer research, among other charities. Research studies focused on yoga and breast cancer have shown that yoga can help patients with sleep deprivation as well as fatigue. Yoga Tree took part in the Battle Pink contest, hosted by Rethink Breast Cancer, by keeping a candle lit in our studios. We are proud to announce we are one of the winners!
What to you is notable?
Environmental sustainability. I believe it is crucial that everyone reduces their carbon print and focuses on being more environmentally conscious.
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