Inspiring Women in Business – Niki Perry

Founder of Blessed Yoga in Chichester, Niki Perry has been an inspiration to us for many years and on so many levels. Not only is she a wonderful yoga teacher but she is also a successful business woman, mother of three gorgeous girls and one of the most motivated people we have ever met. Niki launched Blessed last year, achieving her ambition to create a fantastic community hub of health, wellbeing and support.

How did you get into teaching yoga?
I grew up watching my mum practise yoga in a barn with her friends; when I was at University I started to practise regularly with my flat mates. Later, in London, I completely fell in love with it, regularly attending many different styles of yoga at fabulous schools. But it was my discovery of the Baron Baptiste method of Vinyasa yoga that truly transformed my life and led me toward teaching.

We know the plans for Blessed Yoga were in the pipeline for a long time; what journey did you take to make this dream a reality?
It was three stranded: first my Cowshed Studio had a complete physical overhaul from roof, to floor, creating a truly beautiful studio with reception area, wood burning stove, underfloor heating, glass doors opening onto a yoga deck and full facilities including a car park.

The next major step was to train the Blessed teachers – I wanted to make sure the training was the best so that we’d be in a really good position to pass on our love of yoga.

And thirdly we had to introduce a timetable and a booking system for all the classes.

What has been your biggest challenge along the way?
COVID-19! Although an online element to the school as always in the long-term plan, my immediate focus was very much on creating excellence in the studio and a sense of community in all our classes, workshops and retreats.

But suddenly all that stopped and the whole focus shifted incredibly quickly to make sure people could keep practising online. It was super important to me that those who were really benefitting from regular practise, didn’t just stop! I deliberately had no Wi-Fi in the studio so people could really switch off from the outside world, so getting that up and running was the first major challenge. Not to mention helping students who had never even heard of Zoom before – but somehow we did it!

Within two weeks of lockdown, we’d started Blessed Home: we had 30-odd classes a week, for all levels, from sunrise to sunset. We had doctors, nurses and other front-line workers practising for free from all over the world!

And just to add to the challenge, we’re home-schooling three children. Thankfully they love taking part in Blessed Home, especially the kids and teen yoga classes.

You always seem so full of energy and optimism. Do you ever feel a sense of imposter syndrome or self-doubt? How do you combat this?
Yes! It’s only natural to wake up some days and feel this, which is why a daily yoga practice is so important to me. The moment I come to my mat and breathe deeply all is well in the world again. I reconnect; I remember to be calm, strong and live my day in harmony with breath, finding a sense of ease in everything. If I don’t practise or sleep well, the mind can quickly take over and feelings of self-doubt can kick in.

I have also been lucky enough to build a wonderful team of talented people at Blessed and we all share the same goal of making yoga fun and accessible to all. We are here for one another and that is gold!

You collaborate with lots of other local businesses and educators on events and workshops, how important is it to do this?
Very important. Yoga is a holistic way of living, it’s not just about the hour or so on your mat, it is the way you live your whole life and to link up with other like-minded people and businesses helps all of us. We work with people who offer the best nutritional workshops, ways to reduce waste and help the environment as well as other ways of keeping healthy, such as cold-water swimming. Plus, I’m very grateful for the support and help others have given me throughout my journey and if I can pass that on, I always will do.

What does an average day look like for you normally?
Good question! I’m not sure there is such a thing beyond 7am! I like to rise early; I either sit with a cuppa enjoying the peace of the morning and chirpy bird song, or do a morning yoga practice. My little morning ritual sets me up for the day.

After that, when the Blessed Cowshed studio is open, we’ll be making sure it’s clean and set up, fire lit or doors to the deck flung open. Usually school runs and dog walks figure fairly early on too. Then I’m either teaching, answering emails, planning teaching rotas, events or training with my team – and if I can squeeze in a swim in the sea with friends, I always will!

How do you juggle running your business with parenthood?
It’s no mean feat, as any working parent will tell you! Juggling the routine of work and home life, so that you do both well is a challenge. Like lots of people, thoughts of netball kit, piano lessons and what are we going to eat seep in while I’m trying to concentrate on marketing. I am quite strict with myself – when I’m at work I’m 100% focused on work and when I am with my family I am 100% focused on family. This is definitely harder to do in lockdown, with family and work at home all mixed in the same pot, but I have also really enjoyed seeing how the two have merged as the girls are participating in the classes and helping me with marketing initiatives.

The fact that my business is yoga makes it easier, as it is my life and everyone in the family is involved in it. Tim, my husband, is also a teacher, the girls participate in the classes and even the dog, Jester is head of meet and greet when the Cowshed studio is open! Yoga helps to focus the mind, it helps with concentration, helps me sleep and relax and keeps my body fit and strong which helps me to keep the wagons rolling. The wheels do definitely come off though from time to time! I have learnt that the key is to try and stay present to the changes that are happening in the girls’ lives, Tim’s life and the business – not easy but I am now very aware of it and it is, dare I say it, getting easier!

What is your advice to other business owners struggling to find that work/life balance?
Yoga! Seriously – I couldn’t do what I have to without it.

Being organised. Segmenting the day and sticking to the plan wherever possible helps to reduce stress and makes me more efficient.

And support: asking friends and family to help is so crucial to growth, especially when a small business is starting out. It has always amazed me how kind people are and willing to help. We are all so much stronger and can do so much more when we come together. Also, at the end of the day, family is the most important and almost everything else can wait.

What does the future hold for Blessed and Niki Perry?
I’m super excited about the future! Our family mantra is ‘Make the most of now’ and we have enjoyed the positives in these weeks of lockdown.

Blessed at the Cowshed was just starting to be the amazing, welcoming community I’d hoped it would be when the world suddenly stopped. The online community we’ve built since then has been a revelation – the new yogis we’ve reached all over the world have become so committed, and felt so much benefit in being able to practise every day, that nurturing them after lockdown has definitely become an equal priority.

While we can’t wait to see everyone physically back in the studio, and to properly hug them, knowing how much Blessed has helped people all over the world has been truly heartwarming. We will definitely continue with our Blessed Home live class offering.

My passion has always been to bring yoga to as many people as possible, regardless of age, income or geography; the silver lining to these extraordinary times is that we have been able to get further along that path more quickly. The future is incredibly exciting and we welcome everyone who would like to feel the very best version of themselves physically and mentally, to join this really fun, warm and exciting blessed community.

To find out more about Blessed and become part of the community, click here.

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