Sarah Larson Levey, Co-Founder of Y7 Studio On: Building A Stand-Out Boutique Yoga Brand

Born out of frustration rooted in disappointing yoga classes, US boutique fitness brand Y7 Studio is the antidote for those turned off by confusing, unrelatable or stale yoga concepts.

Its ‘sweat drippin’, beat bumpin’, candlelit classes have helped to grow the brand from a free popup to a 13 studio operation, generating the business an annual revenue of $9.8 million in 2018.

Launched in 2013, by founder Sarah Larson Levey, the brand’s progressive take on an age-old practice quickly captured a loyal following, prompting the former fashion exec to quit her day job and focus on building the business full-time.

Today, the yoga mogul is a spokesperson for the success of the boutique fitness movement, regularly featuring on CNBC, Forbes and Inc. — which named the yoga brand one of the fastest-growing companies in America, earlier this year — to share her insights on disruption in the marketplace.

Y7, meanwhile, continues to push the boundaries, expanding into merchandise, teacher training programs and the release of its first book, We Flow Hard

Demand for more Y7 locations is evident with more than 40,000 reservations each month and with plans to expand to new markets both domestically and internationally, its explosive growth looks set to continue.

Here Larson Levey tells Welltodo how the concept first came to life, why community is key, and how she’s cultivated a stand-out boutique brand in such a competitive market………….

On ripping up the rulebook…….

I was really unhappy with the yoga experiences that I was having so I decided to create my own. The original vision for Y7 — the darkness, candlelight, no mirrors, and music has always been at the centre of the brand,  and that’s pretty much exactly what you see today. 

To me music = movement. It seems completely natural to see these worlds collaborating and growing. 

On transitioning from pop-up to permanent……. 

Y7 originally started as a pop-up and during that month every class was free. At the end of that period, we had a couple of people ask where we were moving to and how to buy a package. Based on that we decided to make it a real thing. 

After we opened our Flatiron location it became clear that I needed to give Y7 my full attention if I was going to make it everything I wanted it to be. 

Sarah Levey, Co-Founder of Y7 Studio On: Building A Stand-Out Boutique Yoga Brand
Image: Sarah Levey
On fostering consumer engagement……. 

What we have always focused on is our community. The studio is not about a single teacher or exclusivity — it’s a place for every single person, no matter their level of experience with yoga to come to practice and feel at home. 

By keeping our class and in-studio experience super consistent, it also gives us the freedom to play around with merch, challenges and other fun activations for our clients. 

On cultivating a stand-out boutique brand……. 

As we’ve grown and listened to our clients and built a strong community of people who really love what we do, we’ve created brand advocates. The most impactful brand voice has been these clients who know us and talk about what we do and remain active in the studios and community. 

It didn’t start that way but over the last couple of years, we’ve also started to shift towards making Y7 more than just about a yoga class. We recently launched our health coaching program called Vibe Higher which focuses on elevating the way you live your life in more areas than just the physical practice. 

On funding strategies and focused growth……. 

I am so proud of the fact that we were self-funded through to our 6th location. However, it had a LOT of challenges. (I think anyone who went to the old Brooklyn studio can attest to that.) 

Partnering with a PE firm was one of the best decisions we ever made. It allowed us to focus on our growth, hire a team and invest more money in studios and build-outs without worrying if we were going to make payroll. 

It has also been so impactful to have the advice from a group who has been involved in brick and mortar businesses and can lend really sound guidance. 

Sarah Levey, Co-Founder of Y7 Studio On: Building A Stand-Out Boutique Yoga Brand
Image: Y7 Studio
On managing a 300-strong team……. 

Having a great team is EVERYTHING. I would not and Y7 would not be where we are today without them, but in terms of managing, it’s truly one of the hardest things I have ever done.

I’ve learnt that the way each individual works is different. And that, empathy, compassion and active listening are the most important things as you lead a team. 

On expanding the Y7 footprint……. 

We have made our mark on the coasts and are so excited about expanding throughout the US this year. The demand for the studio has been incredible — I am always so humbled by the idea that people are choosing to spend their time with us.

We have big plans to expand nationwide in the next two years and are even looking at a few markets internationally. As health and wellness become an increasingly integral part of everyday life the industry is only going to get larger, so it’s important that we cement our place. 

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