when pictures fail me…
A company called hOM is putting yoga mats in residential buildings all over town. Don’t go looking for a shingle, however—these bright, new spaces are for tenants of buildings already in partnership with the two-year-old business.
Co-founder Ryan Freed is a young man on a mission: making wellness practices very accessible to stressed New Yorkers. All you need to do, if yours is one of the lucky buildings, is hop on an elevator and show up! And if that’s not enough reason to check out what’s been going on, how about this: No wallet to open—just a door, and your mind.
YogaCityNYC’s Sharon Watts recently sat down with Ryan to learn more about his brainchild.
Sharon Watts: You describe yourself as an on-demand mobile wellness studio. Let’s talk real estate. What are these spaces, exactly, and where are they?
Ryan Freed: It’s known as amenity space, often underutilized in apartment buildings—community rooms, lounges, outdoor courtyards, children’s playrooms, rooftops, even vacant apartment units. Landlords want to keep a full and happy occupancy in their buildings, and these amenity spaces can be dead zones. We provide a way to make what happens in these rooms a viable life source for everyone connected with the building.
Some of our twenty-three (and growing) locations are The Dylan, Chelsea Landmark, the Larstrand, and other Rose Associates properties, and almost any Stonehenge property.
SW: How do you attract people?
RF: Our instructors become property liaisons. They hold “hOMcomings” where they set up a table in the lobby of a building and give yoga demonstrations to draw people in and let them know about the service the landlord offers.
SW: How do you approach the buildings themselves?
RF: We offer the building managers or owners a package that includes three classes per week for residents, along with a branded website and other marketing materials (flyers, email blasts, social media blasts, to-go cards etc.), a lobby event, and a “Mobile hOM” which is a bright green trunk on wheels that contains supplies such as mats, blocks, essential oils, etc., and can even be taken outside for classes in a courtyard or similar venue.
The building, in turn, pays a one-time activation fee of $2500, and then a monthly rate of $1800. The tenants pay nothing. Our goals are to make wellness more convenient to stressed and busy people who might otherwise never try yoga and meditation, to bring these people together as a community in their own living environment, and to eventually lower the price point.
SW: You are a businessman at heart, and with heart! How did this idea emerge?
RF: I’ve always specialized in tech start-ups, but I became passionate about wellness after my mother’s diagnosis of stage four ovarian cancer, in 2004. She was given two years to live, but she opted for a drastic lifestyle change and extended her life to eight more years. Along with yoga, meditation, and total family involvement (as suggested by her doctor), I witnessed her increased confidence levels and a quality end-of-life that is not often part of such a dire diagnosis. This all became a catalyst to want to center myself in the wellness industry.
In a way, this business started with my mother, whose name is Hope. One of hOM’s other co-founders, Francesca, also has a mother who’s had a journey with cancer. She too chose to control her stress and empower herself with meditation, yoga, acupuncture, and massage, and now is cancer-free.
SW: While your mobile wellness studio tends to park in luxury buildings, its trajectory takes it to the dark hallways of the mind: people who live with fear accompanying a cancer diagnosis, or other out of the ordinary stressors. How do you pay it forward?
RF: For every class taught, we give back a class to someone on their journey with cancer through our partnership with Gilda’s Club and Mount Sinai Hospitals, as well as to underserved and at risk youth through our partnership with STOKED.org.
SW: Besides wanting to help people who might never have tried yoga and meditation—by putting it directly in their path as they head home—you also are aware of the predicament that yoga teachers are often in, trying to make ends meet. What do you offer them?
RF: We realize that a lot of yoga instructors run around the city, juggling gigs, and are not always compensated fairly. This is primarily due to the high overhead that fitness and yoga studios have. We provide an alternative to the independent contractor model, collaborating with a carefully-curated selection of certified teachers, trainers, and Thai massage practitioners, all well-established in the New York City wellness community.
SW: What can these teachers expect, once they join up with hOM? And what are you envisioning in this new wellness industry collaboration?
RF: We are providing full-time careers for yoga instructors. We pay them salaries, PTO, health insurance, transportation, laptops, cell phone plans, shares in the company, and a full-benefits package. In order to work with hOM, instructors are teaching on average 10 classes/week, handling 5 hrs of customer service for hOM (taking calls and emails from customers), and also running an internal business operation such as sales, operations/scheduling, marketing, graphic design, web development and more. This means that as an employee you teach classes at our properties AND contribute a business skill in order to grow your passion of spreading wellness to the world.
The wheels in Ryan’s head are spinning just a little faster than his words—full of ideas involving real people, the real world, future opportunities—and, no doubt, future apps. Simultaneously, a new paradigm for yoga business, as we know it, is taking root.
Ultimately, the goal here is to bring people together, in wellness. And to make them all feel at hOM.