Amy McDonald: business coach and yoga teacher
Amy McDonald is an international business coach, yoga teacher, global traveller and regular visitor to London. I caught up with Amy to find out about her work and life as a yoga coach.
I began by asking Amy about how she made her way into business and yoga coaching.
“I have been practicing yoga since I was eight and I have been teaching yoga for about 10 years now and I call yoga my first love. As an 8 year old I came to yoga to manage stress and it continues to support me in that way to this day. Yoga is absolutely my longest- term relationship for sure and it makes me a better person.
I have taken a lot of yoga teacher trainings and over that time I have developed friendships with my co-trainees. I recognised that I had a skillset particularly in writing and editing along with project management, which my colleagues didn’t necessarily have. So I pursued a coaching qualification and then developed a coaching business for yoga teachers.”
The yoga industry is one of those areas that is both lucrative, enormously beneficial to health and wellbeing and accessed by a range of markets. I wondered how Amy focused her own work.
“I support yoga teachers from all over the world to grow abundant businesses, to feel confident in putting themselves out there, to charge their worth, to understand what it is that is they offer, and to help them distinguish themselves.
Also I help them with the nuts and bolts pieces. How to advertise online, how to construct a retreat, how to grow classes, how to draft terms and conditions and how to build a website."
Many women find it hard to believe that they can take on a new career or business after years in a completely different sector. I asked Amy if she was surprised by her own career trajectory.
“I guess I am surprised how my career evolved to a degree - I never would have thought, when I was at University, that this is what I would end up doing.
I did a Batchelor of Science at University and I was a big environmental campaigner at that time and I worked in that space for about 10 years until I took a direction change.
So, if I was looking at the future from there, it would be surprising, but it actually feels like a very natural progression and very joyful.
In fact I am blending together what I love and what I am good at, and it has been in service to people who need it. Every day I feel very grateful that I get to do something that I love and have an impact.”
Many Australians who visit, work or live in London are thinking about building a business. I asked Amy about the key to her success.
“The key to my success was feeling the fear and doing it anyway.
I was in a very safe corporate job. It would have been impossible to fire me, it had good pay and was a five-minute bike ride from my house, which in rural Australia is a very prized thing.
I chucked it in order to start this business a year and half ago. It was terrifying and a lot of people including my parents said I was nuts. So I think feeling the fear and doing it anyway has been a key to my success.
Looking back I wish I had done it earlier but I think I did it at the right time. It was terrifying and seemed very counter-intuitive, but it was the key to success.
Another key to my success has been having a support crew. Obviously the people who work for me but, more specifically, peers and friends. They help remind me that it is going to be okay when things get bumpy and that taking a risk is going to pay off and that I am not alone in my journey.”
Being a solo-entrepreneur appeals to many women because it gives freedom and flexibility. I asked what Amy’s first year had been like.
“Anyone who starts up as a solo business knows the first year is hard. I think I just worked 12 hour days, 7 days a week for the first 2 months - no joke, I had no social life.
It's not like that anymore. I work part-time for sure.
The secret to my success at the start was working hard - smart and hard. Then you get to drop a bit of the hard, at least that is my experience.
Sometimes being a solo-preneur can be kind of isolating particularly when you travel as much as I do. My gang - or ‘kula' as we call them in yoga - has been essential to my success.”
As part of her international circuit, Amy now includes London on her schedule. I was curious to know why she chose London as a travel and work destination.
"I came to London for the first time since I had been an 18 year-old back-backer last year. I escaped being an au-pair in Germany and came to the UK.
At the time I didn’t think I liked London very much because essentially I was broke and lonely and I think I had the flu for the first 10 months. - so it probably had a hell of a lot more to do with me than London.
I was back here for the first time last year and I had a fabulous time.
I love the yoga community in London. It is smoking hot! It is a great place to grow and connect with the yoga celebrities coming to London from wherever in the world. I really appreciate that.
I have got a bunch of clients in London that are just awesome, so catching up with them when I am in town is so much fun.
Yoga teachers here offer some really cool things, and it is delicious to spend time with them.
It is easier to set up my workshops these days as I know the space I want to rent and I partner with people that I know - friends of mine that work with me.”
Drawing on her coaching wisdom, I wondered what issues were faced by yoga business owners - both here in London and Australia. I loved Amy’s observation about knowing your worth.
“As far as yoga-land and health and wellbeing, I think there is a lot of similarities in the cities and the rural areas. One of the things that I definitely see is an aversion to talking about money.
Many yoga teachers undersell or undervalue themselves. I think culturally the tall poppy syndrome is rife in Australia, and it also shows up in the UK. “I don’t want to be too showy or too fancy because I am worried about what other people will say.” I see that come up for women in small business both in UK and Australia .
Also, I think we are still being led by trends in the States - and while this is shifting - there is definitely still room for pioneering work and exciting offers to be made by people in Australia and the UK. For example, in terms of teaching yoga online, well there are not enough British and Australian accents in online yoga.
I am always on the hunt to do interviews with great yoga teachers in the UK, but inevitably I am talking to people in California again and again! So I think we have profiles here and in Australia to raise up. It is definitely happening. There are some amazing people in the UK and in Australia, but I think that we need more.”
I asked Amy about important considerations for Australian breaking into the UK yoga market.
“I would say I think that Australians are a little bit more adept at bridging into the brassy US more than the more conservative UK market - so be sensitive to that.
Warmth and friendliness go a long way in my experience. I have taught workshops and explained that talking about the personal stuff like money and childhood and those types of topics can take a little longer in the UK than in Australia or America, where everyone wants to share.
So it helps to be sensitive of the cultural differences. Although we speak the same language and buy the same food, we can easily forget that there are in fact important cultural differences and we need to be sensitive to those.
Also, people seem to love a bit of upbeat Ozziness, a bit of inner sunshine, so don’t dim your light too much.
I have been so warmly received and I am so grateful for my clients in the UK and the partners that I have there. They have provided a really beautiful experience for me.
Definitely I have more of a business profile in London than I do in Melbourne. Things always fill up quickly in London, much more so than Melbourne despite it being my hometown.
So, don’t let the weather put you off, it is a beautiful place to do business!"
I asked Amy about her favourite aspects of London.
"For the most part when I am in London I hang around one of the tri-yoga studios. I like to stay close by their studios and then pick out foodie places nearby.
I love that London has Wholefoods. I also go to America a few times a year because of Wholefoods, as we don’t have them yet.
From the yoga history perspective, there are great things to do in London, as well. My favourite is probably chanting with the Iskcon people, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, probably because of the connection to the Beatles!
A lot of the gurus came to London and I really love that. And of course there are all the foodie - nerdy - cultural things that I love about London. Its easy to get a good cup of coffee and something decent to eat.
You do baked goods exceptionally well. OMG danger!
And then I guess hanging out with my friends.”
Finally, always curious about Australians in London, I asked Amy where she grew up.
Growing up there was great because at the time it was still fairly rural.
We were at the end of the train line and our house was opposite a huge big farm which was all cows and pine trees that you could climb in, collect their pine cones, build cubbies and do all of those sorts of things.
We could ride our bikes all over town.
My mother had a bell on the verandah that she would ring when she wanted her children at home but pretty much we are out all day!”
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