Jon Cummins is the founder, owner and CEO of Bulldog Yoga and Bulldog Online. Jon has spent the vast majority of his 30+ year career in the entrepreneurial space. As a real estate/hotel developer, operator and entrepreneur, he and his teams have created some of the most successful independently branded hotels in the world, including Bankside Hotel and St. Ermin’s Hotels in London, the Hutton Hotel in Nashville and the Hotel George in Washington, DC.
In 2016, Jon created Bulldog with the objective of making yoga approachable, accessible and fun. Jon, a self proclaimed “guy who does yoga, not a yogi”, and his team of yoga experts set out to demystify yoga by offering classes in a non-intimidating, welcoming and relaxed context.
Was it a gradual decision or lightbulb moment to start Bulldog Yoga and Bulldog Online?
It’s important to note that I am not a yogi; I am “a business guy who does yoga”. I came up with the idea of Bulldog while doing traditional yoga. While I loved what the yoga was doing for my body, I felt the experience was a bit too serious and solemn for me. I kept saying to myself “I can do this differently.” I wanted to create something where people get the benefits of yoga in a context that is more lighthearted. So, I created a team of yoga experts and we began the journey! I’m fortunate that I’m able to self fund the company so I didn’t need to worry about raising capital.
Bulldog’s brand DNA is based on making yoga approachable, accessible and fun. We demystify yoga by offering classes in a non-intimidating, welcoming and relaxed context. Bulldog replaces chanting and gongs with killer playlists and classes taught in Sanskrit with fitness-based yoga instructed in easy to follow English. In addition, the mission of Bulldog is for people to do what they can and not worry about “being good at yoga.” It’s not about being the “perfect pretzel”, it’s about doing it and having fun.
While we do have physical studios, the ultimate avenue for us to bring bulldog’s unique style of yoga to the highest number of people is through our online platform, www.bulldogonline.com. For a very affordable monthly price, people “get their bulldog on” whenever and wherever they want.
Who is your target demographic?
Our target market is actually slightly different for our studios and our online platform. Our studios (www.bulldogyoga.com) target people with higher incomes and the inclination and/or time to go to an actual studio. Our online platform (www.bulldogonline.com), which features the very same classes as our studios, targets people who are more budget-conscious, time-constrained, or just don’t feel comfortable going into a studio. Given its broad accessibility, the online platform also attracts people who wouldn’t otherwise have access to yoga and people who use yoga as a complement to other forms of exercise.
What motivated you to start your own business?
I suppose I am a bit unusual for the founder of a yoga company. As I said, I’m not a yogi, which certainly puts me in the minority in this space. Also, I started the company when I was in my early 50’s; I think startup founders are normally a bit younger!
I felt comfortable starting Bulldog because I have 30+ years in business, primarily in the real estate and hotel space. The operational aspect of the business is really second nature to me at this point. And, I really enjoy the branding and marketing components of the business given that many of my hotel projects have involved creating independent, one-of-a-kind hotels with their own branding.
What motivates you when things go wrong? What is the end goal?
I learn a tremendous amount every day, particularly in the world of online fitness and digital marketing. It’s such a dynamic space; the rules, algorithms, and best practices change constantly. So, I think the most important thing I’ve learned is that you have to keep up with that pace of change. It’s fast and technical, but also really interesting.
Do you have any advice for someone just starting out?
It’s also inevitable, and probably good, that we make mistakes all the time. From my perspective, the key is to then learn quickly, make a decision, adapt, and move forward with conviction (also knowing that the next mistake is just around the corner). It’s this cycle that is critical to our growth. The more effective we are at managing that cycle, the more quickly we will grow 3x, 5x, 10x.
How do you protect yourself from competition?
No one is protected against competition. Information and capital run so efficiently around the world that opportunities are exploited so quickly. I believe the keys to competing effectively are to respect your employees and customers, constantly work to improve your product and be relentless in your pursuit of success. And, know that time is your enemy; you’ve got to move quickly. You’ve also got to take risks; creating something new means conquering the inevitable fears that creep into all of us.
What are your favourite books?
I’m a fan of many of the “traditional” books, such as “How to win friends and influence people” by Dale Carnegie and “The 7 habits of highly effective people” by Stephen Covey. “Grit” by Angela Duckworth is also terrific. And, I think Malcolm Gladwell always has an interesting and unique way of looking at our world.
What are the next products you’re working on? Are there any releases you can tell us about?
We’ve actually just released a new tool for our online members to structure their workout routines - customized 10 day and 30 day workout programs tailored to specific goals (Bulldog custom workout plans). They’ve turned out to be very popular and, as a result, we are working on adding to the offering. This is actually an example of something that I thought would be a “nice little thing” that’s turned out to really resonate with our customers - more of a “nice big thing.”
Also, given the current stay at home environment we all find ourselves in, we created a new class series which features our instructors leading classes from their homes. It’s turned out to be a really nice way to personalize the online experience and help our online customers feel like they know the Bulldog team. I really believe that the more we are able to connect with our online customers, the more successful we will be.
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