There was a time when the Greater Toronto Area in Canada was devoid of a major yoga studio. Seeing this great opportunity, unsatisfied by the poor customer experience and a desire to elevate and develop the service structure of yoga studios, Debbie Fung along with her partner in life and business Jason Lu, founded Yoga Tree in 2007. They accomplished this in pursuit of sharing their passion for yoga and wellness. This passion catalyzed them to create the first yoga studio to have a myriad of facilities to accommodate and satisfy the diverse needs of their members.
Energetic is the most fitting word to describe Debbie. She is a woman who has overcome various challenges in her life to build a multi-facilitated yoga studio, to bring happiness to all their customers.
Her sole source of motivation is the community, which is evident in her effort to promote and foster healthy living (her organization creates and cultivates to lead more healthy lifestyles). Perseverance (Aim), passion, dedication, and sincerity make the perfect recipe for success, and that is what Debbie embodies. Her passion was ignited; she quit her fancy corporate job, along with the lucrative salary package, and took her first step towards building her first studio.
Debbie’s First Step towards building a Healthy Community
Debbie dreamed about giving the best service to their customers and believed that it was imperative to acquire the knowledge and skills in the motherland of Yoga. Debbie and Jason travelled to India, where they trained themselves to master the fitness art form. It is in India where they learned the fundamentals of the most ancient form of fitness training.
Debbie along with Jason formed an amazing bond with Naturoveda. While in India, Jason went under the tutelage of yoga instructors to master the craft, while Debbie studied Ayurveda, a system of ancient Indian traditional medicine. With the knowledge they acquired in India, they returned to Canada to give shape to their dream. After mastering the art of yoga and Ayurveda, Debbie and her partner started Yoga Tree’s first studio in Thornhill, Ontario, Canada.
The Challenges Debbie faces while leading Yoga Tree
“My vision is to create a yoga community, which offered classes accessible to practitioners of all levels, while openly embracing and acknowledging the different benefits from the array of yoga lineages,” says Chief Operating Officer, Debbie Fung. Since the first studio, they have expanded and opened a new branch after every interval of one and a half years and are showing enough consistency to carry that forward in the coming years. An official survey report suggests that over the years, Yoga Tree Studios has become one of the largest studios with multiple locations throughout the GTA.
Under Debbie’s leadership, the company has been growing exponentially even though they are facing many challenges, including financial ones. One of the biggest challenges was the decision to expand from uptown to downtown, as Yoga Tree had to revise their business model to
accommodate a larger and more diverse clientele. Debbie is the type of entrepreneur who focuses predominantly on the needs of Yoga Tree customers, and moving downtown is a clear example of her commitment to the yoga community.
Debbie and her team have done an excellent job in establishing a strong presence in the GTA, all 5 studios are situated in ideal locations and showcase Yoga Tree’s innovative style and branding. Though these efforts have significantly hindered competitors success in the market, Debbie believes that to move forward, Yoga Tree’s must continue to expand and serve the needs of their members.
The Role of Women in The Workforce
The COO of Yoga Tree says that the role of a woman in the business industry is a challenging one. Women in the workforce often juggle many responsibilities, from leading businesses, mentoring employees and balancing their priorities as mothers and caregivers. She says that although their roles are complex and diverse, a woman’s role as an entrepreneur is important in the business landscape. It is important to note that women make up half of the workforce in US and Canada but only account for a fraction of leadership roles.
Debbie offers sound advice for ambitious working women: “Listen to the voice within. Trust your gut. Intuition may not be a tangible thing, but it can serve you right when you’re at a crossroad deciding what to do next. You know yourself best, and sometimes you just instinctively know where to go next.”
Despite her heavy workload, Debbie maintains her work-life balance by dedicating herself completely to the family by taking vacations twice a year. She believes in the balance of work and life and therefore offers flexibility to her co-workers.
Her perspective on the future
For Debbie, success means happiness and ability to impact others positively. She maintains high-quality mentorship for their instructors and team members. With these effective business practices, she is looking forward to opening five more studios in the city and continues to lead the expansion of Yoga Tree as the COO.