The best events don’t always start with a business plan. Often, they start with a spark. Someone has a passion they want to share, and a great idea about how to share it. They’re moved to bring people together around a vision, so they make it happen — even with no event planning experience. Here’s an interview with a creator whose unlikely success took him by surprise.
Jimmy Naron was a teacher trying to make ends meet when he began hosting yoga classes. But the decision would ultimately put him on an irreversible path.
Now the CEO of Rocky Mountain Goat Yoga, Naron didn’t know he’d end up running a legitimate business when he first started — especially after his first event didn’t go so smoothly.
Find out how his unusual thinking and can-do attitude helped him turn a kid-friendly yoga concept into an event business that keeps countless people (and goats!) happy.
What first sparked the idea for your event?
Naron: I was a teacher for eight and a half years and needed to supplement my income, so I began hosting events. It started with a Monday night yoga lesson for $15 that included hors d’oeuvres and mimosas after.
Because Boulder is a unique city where bizarre and creative things work well, I was trying to think up a new idea to grow attendance. It was around then that I read an article about a woman in Oregon who was using goats for animal-assisted therapy, including doing yoga lessons with goats in a pen. I immediately knew that was the answer. So I connected with some farmers and the rest is history.
When did you know your event would be a success?
Naron: After I accidentally double booked the first goat yoga event. My capacity was 60 people, but I sold 120 tickets overnight.
Instead of emailing 60 people and telling them they couldn’t come, I chose to relocate, and sent out emails explaining that we were over capacity but still wanted to accommodate them.
Then, the day of the event, we were snowed out and had to reschedule. The only available date for the venue was Mother’s Day. It was a little bit of a risk, but I said let’s go ahead and do it. If anyone needs to cancel and get a refund, we’ll honor it. Surprisingly, the people who were already excited to do goat yoga were also thrilled that they now got to do it with their mom on Mother’s Day.
When was the moment you had to take the leap and go all in on your event?
Naron: The classes were getting more popular and requiring more of my time. On top of that, people were depending on my success — my employees, the farmers, the goats. It was a lot of work and I was still teaching. So eventually I needed to make a decision.
My teacher salary made it difficult to save for retirement and invest more in my son’s future. So I met with the school administrator to tell him that, while I loved my job and teaching students, it was time to turn the page and see where this goat yoga adventure takes me.
Once I quit, parts of the business that were suffering because of my dual commitments began to flourish. I also began learning more about goats. It never dawned on me how much good I was doing for the goats. They get really happy when they spend time with people at yoga events.
What was your first big failure and what did you learn from it?
Naron: Double booking the very first event taught me a lot. Like, when you’re setting up your event you need to be detailed oriented and provide all the right information. Otherwise, you’ll have people calling or emailing you with lots of questions. Not that we don’t want to answer them, but it can be time-consuming.
How has your business grown and what was the toughest lesson you had to learn along the way?
Naron: It started off with me, my Dodge Nitro, a canopy, and a table. Today, we work with six different farms and six different goat herds, totaling about 500-600 goats. As far as employees go, we structured the business with a general manager, site managers, a marketing director, several farm hands, and between 15 and 20 on-call yoga instructors.
Last summer, business exploded. We hit a dip in the fall and winter like most outdoor businesses — but I didn’t want to shut down. A lot of people’s livelihoods were at stake. So I needed to find a place to do goat yoga indoors. We did just that, and now we’re matching summer numbers in our second year. I think that’s pretty amazing.
The biggest lesson was convincing our customers (and ourselves) that we were a legitimate business, not just a novelty. People don’t understand how much work goes into a goat yoga lesson if you want to do it right. But I knew in my heart and mind that this thing was going to blow up, so I never stopped getting excited about it.
What’s your advice for someone who has an idea for an event but isn’t sure they should take the leap?
Naron: Treat your employees well. That’s the biggest thing. Once you find a team, or even a single person who shares your passion and who you trust, hang on to them and take care of them. If your employees are having a hard time and you know it, find a way to help. Throw them more hours. They need to be able to rely on and trust in you.
If you have a side gig worth cultivating…
Take some inspiration from Naron and other entrepreneurs like him — to give any great business idea a fighting chance, you’ll eventually have to go all in. As long as your passion is backed with a good business sense, it just might be the best decision you ever make.
Do you have a passion worth sharing? Take the leap and set up your event on Eventbrite in minutes.