Amber Grant Application Critique: Trikona Yoga
October 7th 2020
Annalise Freytag shares her very personal struggle with mental health challenges and substance abuse as the reason behind the founding of her future Chicago-based yoga studio, Trikona Yoga. The details of her personal history demonstrate how effective yoga can be and how passionate she is about building a business that provides such services. Although Annalise’s own perseverance and strength come through in her application, there were some business details that were missing that the grant committee would have liked to have seen.
To help Annalise improve her odds of winning a grant — Amber Grant or otherwise — the WomensNet advisory board went back through her application to point out the strengths and weaknesses of the information she provided.
Here is the application as submitted:
Tell us about your business or business idea…
Not all stories begin as fairy tales…
trikona yoga co. was created after a long internal battle with my own mental health and substance abuse disorder that I‘ve been suffering with for the past 12 years. Though a native of Michigan, I lived in Chicago from 2011-2018. This is the city that I consider home.
In my early twenties, I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder and clinical depression. Struggling to manage the stresses of life and shamefully battling my failing health issues, my life unraveled and led to unveiling my impending alcohol abuse disorder. In 2018, my mental health and substance abuse disorder peaked and I relocated back to Michigan after bouts of suicidal ideation. The move was an attempt to try and fight my way through sobriety. To my surprise, the “geographical relocation cure“ didn‘t work as I only continued to struggle to keep my health in check. It was then in May of 2019 that I decided that I could no longer live like this – that I wanted my life back, so I surrendered. I checked myself into an in-patient treatment program (Maplegrove of Henry Ford) and finally took back my power through intensive therapy and healing work. This treatment program helped me learn the tools that I needed to manage my disease and mental health disorder. May 1st, 2020 will mark my one year sobriety date and my life has changed dramatically for the better.
One of the greatest gifts and tools that aided in my recovery was yoga. Though a practitioner for over 4 years, it wasn‘t until my life was on the line with my depression and alcoholism that yoga became absolutely instrumental and fueled my recovery process. Not only do the principles and values of yoga synergistically align with the teachings of many recovery programs, but yoga finally helped me start believing in myself that I could do this – that I could live a life worth living. It has been through my sobriety and consistent yoga practice, that I made it my mission to re-frame the conversation around those struggling with their mental health & substance abuse disorders, and to break the sociological negative stigma. trikona yoga co. is my calling and I aim for this studio to be tangible proof that there is a hope out there for those struggling. My mission for this studio is to let the others know that they are not alone, we are here to help and that they are worth it.
Shame, guilt, lack of sufficient resources and help, was what kept me in the closet with this vicious cycle of ailing mental health for so long. Having first hand experience with being a victim to the negative stigma while battling this disease alone is what propels me to become a leader in creating a community where those struggling can find an affordable, holistic method to improving their mental health and recovery.
I am starting this journey because I feel with every fiber of my being that this path is where I need to be. To transparently share my story, to help and serve those who are lost and above all, to help heal those who are suffering by opening their journey of healing with the transformative powers of yoga.
Tell us what you would do with the money if awarded a grant…
If chosen for the grand prize, the funds would go directly into acquiring and launching our physical studio space. Additionally, the funds will allow us to extend our partnerships and boost marketing for our launch in 2021, letting the Chicago community know that there is an affordable, holistic, health space here to help them. If granted the $4,000 prize, the funding will go towards educational training & technology for our yoga instructors so that they are equipped with the tools needed in teaching our niche classes.
Annalise has provided lots of background information regarding what led her to yoga, which makes it clear that she is committed to this business concept and has been moving in these circles for several years. That’s good. She’s not trying to start a business in an industry with which she’s unfamiliar.
Her plan to use grant funds to secure physical space is a smart priority, since finding and leasing space will determine so many other factors for her business, including marketing, hiring, etc. That she’s starting in a city she’s familiar with is also good; she knows the local area and probably has a good sense for where a yoga studio may be needed, or where her target client lives or works.
And her plan to invest in the education and training of her instructors also demonstrates her commitment to providing a quality service to her clientele. That’s another plus for her business concept.
Opportunities for improvement
Annalise has a lot of things going for her, not the least of which is the sheer strength and determination she has demonstrated in getting sober. If she can do that, she can do anything. However, her application did leave out specifics about her business that the grant committee really wanted to see.
With more than four years of experience as a yoga practitioner, Annalise likely has the background to run a studio, though more detail about whether she’s led yoga classes, rather than participating as a student, would be great information to add to the application. How much business experience does she have? Does she have any yoga certifications?
Specifics about the kind of yoga she’d offer, how big a space she’s looking for, how many instructors she plans to hire, and other operational details would also help explain the type of studio she intends to build. Right now the description of the business is vague—it’s hard to picture what it would look like.
More information about her ideal client, pricing, marketing, and financials would also be useful, to demonstrate that she knows who her client is and has a plan for promoting her studio to them.
It’s obvious that Annalise has a vision for her business. For a grant application, however, it’s helpful to share the specifics of that vision with the committee members who are reading about it. Show us how it’s going to be successful – what are you going to do better than other yoga studios in the area. Including some basic sales projections is always a good idea, too, to prove that the business can be profitable.
This is a good start to an application and, for any applicant, we’d recommend going into more detail as you describe what your business will look like, who it will serve, how you’ll market it, and how you’ll make money.