By Steve Hart
I don’t have the words to accurately describe the feeling that fills my heart when I think about taking over Happy-U from my dear friends Mitch and Karson. It is the most right any major life decision has ever felt for me. However, the path to get here wasn’t all flowers and candy canes, life had to teach me a few lessons along the way and the acquisition of Happy-U feels like an indication that it was all worthwhile.
After years of facing challenge after challenge, almost closing Riffs down, almost selling it off, in 2016 things finally started to click and I felt ready to take another step in my career. The opportunity came knocking at the end of that year when I was offered a partnership at another studio with plans to build and expand a network of yoga studios. We had high hopes and I was fed visions of profit and success and I got swept up in the idea of making a great living in the yoga industry, something that seemed impossible in years past. I knew I wanted to do it in a way that provided the highest quality of service, with experienced teachers and respect for the practice that saved my life.
I’ve seen first hand how profound the yoga practice can be, how much deeper it can go then a mere physical exercise. When my mother passed unexpectedly in 2014, yoga was all I had, and in it I found solace and a road to recovery. Since then, I have seen the practice change countless lives and established myself in my mission- to share this practice with as many people as possible, to spread health and happiness, to raise consciousness, and work to improve our world every day.
Unfortunately by the end of 2017, when it was clear to me that my partnership was not inline with my mission I knew it would not work out for me. I had to leave. I left a decent paycheck and promising financial future to stay true to my heart. It was both the hardest and easiest decision I had to make in my life.
On January 1st, 2018, my efforts entirely refocused on Riffs, and I dedicated everything I had to improving the value of our service, to taking care of our employees, and becoming more active in the community that I loved. I quickly learned that profit is a side product of good work, not the purpose for it. Riffs improved, staff and students were happy, and my heart filled with joy for everything we were able to give this year.
During this process, my friendship grew with Mitch, the owner of Happy-U as we related on so many levels. At the very core, I found he and his wife Karson both shared the same values about yoga and business as I do. They poured their love into Happy-U just as I had into Riffs, which was so uplifting to see. One day, while having a chat with Mitch, I told him that I was disillusioned with the idea of ever buying another studio. There was too much politics, greed, and ego involved in the process, and I just couldn’t handle it. Unless he ever wanted to sell Happy-U, I half joked. I knew what he and Karson had built would align perfectly with what I have at Riffs, and figured that one day that might actually become a reality.
As it turns out, about that time Mitch and Karson were considering their future and the challenges involved with running the studio in Ocean Beach while living in Temecula with young children and dreams of building something closer to home. A month or so later, I got a message that they were interested in talking with me about a possible deal. After what could possibly be the easiest and most peaceful negotiation (if you can even call it that), we came to an agreement. We shared all the same values and genuinely cared about each other's well being through this process. A deal was made, the papers were signed, and just like that our lives will change forever.
Just a couple days before they hand me the keys, I’ve taken a moment to reflect on this whole process and discovered something profound. Life can guide you toward everything you want and need if you stay patient and persistent, listen to your heart, and allow your failures to be learning lessons instead of setbacks. When I stopped trying so hard to do what my head said was right, my heart led the way to something more grand than I ever could have imagined. The challenge of 2017 was a lesson to show me what is truly important, so that I can go into this venture with solid values, steadfast intention, and a clear conscious. 2018 was a blast, and as I step into 2019 and into the community of Happy-U Yoga in Ocean Beach, my heart is full of gratitude and excitement.
I am eternally grateful to all those who helped me along the way. The staff at Riffs that poured their hearts into the collective work, the community here that has supported us, my family for always encouraging me to keep with it, my girlfriend for being there for me through thick and thin, and my mother for being my guiding light in everything I do. I can’t wait to step into a new community and meet the people I have heard so much about as Mitch, Karson, and others have praised them with love and respect. I can only hope that the community from Bird Rock will follow me down to meet our new family and blend the communities. Onwards and upwards!