By Elaine Pirozzi
Banshee Beauty Boois considers herself an adventurous free spirit, which might be what led her to the practice of yoga in the first place. This, along with her upbringing, is also what made her resolute in her desire to work for herself. But more than anything else, it was the birth of her son when she was just 20 years old that helped her to set priorities. “I absolutely had to be the best I could be and reach my fullest potential. I knew that my life would be a message to him, so I was determined to make it a worthwhile lesson.”
Boois had received certification in Marketing Management from Northlink College in Cape Town before the birth of her son and recently completed her Bachelor’s degree in Clinical Psychology. But she recognized that she needed to be financially independent to support her son while continuing her education and decided to teach yoga classes. It was while she was working toward her yoga teacher certification with the Africa Yoga Project that she first began to think seriously about opening her own yoga studio.
“I know that mistakes and setbacks are inevitable, and not everything will always go exactly the way I envision it, but ultimately I know I control my destiny.”
When she shared her idea with friends and family, the support was overwhelming. “I come from a family of supportive go-getters. They really encouraged me to take the plunge,” she says. Friends have made significant contributions as well. “I started out teaching yoga in the Parliament Gardens on old towels and was buying equipment like yoga mats, blocks and straps as I went along. But my first really big break happened when a good friend invested in my dream by buying me my first batch of yoga mats in bulk. He taught me that sometimes all you need to do is to share your dream with a friend and the blessings will come pouring in.” Soon after this infusion of yoga mats, Boois says, “My father practically built me a yoga studio in his back yard. And the rest is history.” Boois’s yoga studio, Yoga by Beauty, officially opened in April 2015.
With her own studio, Boois in now able to teach group yoga classes, one-on-one sessions, corporate yoga classes, and workshops. She also leads group hiking and yoga retreats. She is pleased with her progress so far but knows she is just getting started. “Yoga By Beauty is a relatively small business and has only officially been in operation for less than a year, so there is still much planning and funding necessary in order to grow and expand to its fullest potential. I know that mistakes and setbacks are inevitable, and not everything will always go exactly the way I envision it, but ultimately I know I control my destiny.”
While some of her challenges will be familiar to anyone who has ever tried to start a business, others, Boois believes, are more specific to teaching yoga in Namibia. “Although the practice of yoga is spreading and reaching a more diverse market, I still believe it is rare to find a black yoga teacher or yoga business owner of African descent. This can make things more challenging when it comes to securing corporate clients. Unfortunately, there are people who still believe that only a certain type of race and body type should teach yoga or run a yoga business.”
Female entrepreneurs face additional obstacles as well. “Last year I attended the Financial Literacy Initiative Conference for Women and one thing that came up repeatedly was the fact that female entrepreneurs who seek funding are often rejected because they are unmarried. But I say: if the bank says no, find an investor, if the investor says no, find a friend, if a friend says no, make the necessary sacrifices and invest in yourself.”
Boois’s family has played a pivotal role in her business success in ways both tangible and intangible. Boois is the third in a family of four close-knit sisters, and all of them have been involved with the studio in one way or another. Her sister Beaulah works as the public relations manager and media consultant for Yoga by Beauty, while Bianca, a lawyer, has provided legal advice and support. Members of her family have also invested financially or helped out by watching her son while she teaches a class.
The yoga entrepreneur’s parents raised her to value education and economic independence. “Both my parents are Damara/Nama speaking and come from humble beginnings. But today my parents, my two older siblings, and I are university graduates. My father owns a small construction company; my mother is a social entrepreneur who started a clothing bank in the southern region of Namibia. My grandmother was a very hardworking woman also, who worked until her late eighties as a domestic worker. Hard work and determination runs in my blood.”
Boois will attend her graduation ceremony to receive an upper class honors and a degree in Clinical Psychology from the University of Namibia in April 2016. She’s proud of her academic achievement but has no plans to slow down the yoga business. “I see Yoga By Beauty transforming into a health hub, a wellness center that offers daily yoga classes, fresh produce as well as smoothies and health shakes and psychotherapy all in the same space. I aim to grow my studio into the go-to place for healthy food, therapy and yoga in Windhoek. I’m only 25 years old, so opting out of the business isn’t in the cards for me any time soon. I only have plans to go bigger and better.”
Elaine Pirozzi lives and writes in Washington, DC.