Success Story: Sheila Burns, Owner of Bliss Yoga & Wellness

WomenVenture Entrepreneur of the Month for September

Bliss Yoga & Wellness owner Sheila Burns has an inner beauty that is evident to anyone who attends her classes—her voice is calming, her instruction demands self-awareness, endurance and even boldness. Her clients have come to appreciate yoga as a practice that induces the discovery of their inner strength, and they value the disciplines Sheila provides to help them transform their bodies and minds.

Sheila's interest in yoga began in high school. She worked at the Children's Theater Company and there she learned a series of yoga postures during a rehearsal warm-up. After graduation, Sheila went on to teach a girls' beginning modern dance class, and years later, aerobics classes; both included a lot of stretching and deep breathing at the end of each session. But it wasn't until Sheila took her first restorative yoga class that she knew she wanted to teach yoga. A short time later, she began training to become an instructor.

In 2006, Sheila began searching for a studio space and stumbled upon her original location while driving near the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. She used her savings to launch the business, signed a three year lease and offered her first yoga class in February of 2007. Sheila marketed her classes with the help of a few teens who led an outreach campaign, distributing flyers on her behalf. Her customer base grew quickly.

Before long, Sheila started thinking about expanding her business and turned to WomenVenture for assistance. She began working with a consultant who encouraged her to get over her fear of business management, assuring her it was an aspect of small business ownership she could learn. Sheila's consultant also helped her develop a plan to relocate Bliss Yoga to a larger space. WomenVenture provided the loan she needed to build out a new studio at 1565 Como Avenue in Saint Paul, and she opened her doors in January of 2011.

The move to the new facility has proven fruitful and rewarding; Sheila now has nine independent contractors who are Yoga Alliance certified and provide group and private yoga instruction in restorative yoga, Vinyasa, Yin Yoga, yoga for men and beginners' yoga.

Sheila has also identified areas for additional growth. "I enjoy giving in-depth workshops on subjects that aren't covered in our regular classes and that can deepen students' practice," she said. "That is where I intend to invest more time and energy." Additionally, she is developing new curriculum for teacher workshops that include skills Sheila is learning while studying with a physician in India who prescribes yoga to all of his patients.

"The practice of yoga helps us to see who we really are, to discover all that our true selves encompass—joy, creativity, love, compassion and bliss," Sheila said. "Bliss Yoga guides students to experience that inner self."