The secret is out.
Goats are not stupid. You are not mean. They don’t even stink. They are actually intelligent, kind, and soft.
At least that’s the case with the baby goats jumping on their backs for paying customers who take Original Goat Yoga classes in Corvallis, Oregon.
Downward Dog, meet upright goat. People actually pay $ 35 to do yoga in a barn with goats.
Lainey Morse started Original Goat Yoga in 2016.
It is surprisingly relaxing to feel a couple of small animals jump on your back while trying to maintain something difficult like a plank position. Little goats’ hooves offer a little massage as they move to help maintain balance. It makes you giggle and takes your mind off yoga.
“I’ve never lived in a place where I could have goats,” says owner Lainey Morse. “I’ve wanted her all my life.”
A few years ago she bought a piece of land, bought a copy of Raising Goats for Dummies (a real book), and owned her first two goats. She has a small herd now.
But goat yoga? “Really?”
In its first fiscal year of 2016, Morse had sales of $ 160,000. This year she expects to double that number and finally be profitable. It took longer than the 46-year-old casual entrepreneur expected to bring the business to profit.
“I just didn’t think there would be six-figure expenses,” she says. More on that in a moment.
An idea arises from heartbreak
The idea of marrying yoga and goats arose in what Morse calls “a series of fortuitous moments” that followed some not-so-pleasant ones. She was divorced and diagnosed with autoimmune disease. “I was super depressed,” she says.
Morse found consolation on the farm: “I went out every day and spent time with my goats.” She called this special time “Goat Happy Hour” and started inviting people.
You never know what it means when something goes viral, but it feels like a roller coaster going 100 mph and you can’t get off, Morse said.
Morse’s friends found the goats a stress reliever. One guest was a yoga teacher.
“We’re standing in my field and it’s just beautiful with a view of the mountains and the goats that are all around us,” she says. The friend told her to have a yoga class there.
Morse replied, “Okay, but the goats will be all over the people.” The friend’s reaction? “Cool.”
Lainey Morse had worked in marketing so she used her PR skills and snapped some photos of that first goat yoga class that she sent to Modern Farmer.
“Within minutes, they contacted me and said, ‘We have to make a story about this.'” The story came out and changed her life. “You never know what it means when something goes viral, but it feels like a roller coaster going 100 mph and you can’t get out.”
When Morse was up and running, “I had over 2,300 people on the waiting list.” She started listing classes on Facebook and “realized that I can’t have 400 people on my farm show up for goat yoga.” She soon developed a registration platform to bring order to the process.
The business grew so quickly that Morse quit her marketing job in November 2017.
“I would be in the office and say, ‘I have to go to the bathroom’ or ‘I have to go to the bank’ and I would go down the street and do a media interview,” she says. “It just took over my life and eventually my boss was like, ‘Look, this doesn’t work.'”
Leaving a job with a secure paycheck and medical benefits was scary.
“Everyone thinks I’m an international whack job,” she laughs. Even so, a friend loaned Morse $ 75,000 to get the business going and pay some bills.
“I thought I was going to spend about $ 50,000,” she says, “and it actually roughly tripled.”
The big mistake
Morse admits she spent way too much money labeling “Goat Yoga”. Your application has been repeatedly rejected.
“They said it was too general, like hot yoga,” she explains.
She became frustrated when other surgeries called “goat yoga” popped up across the country. Operations that she believes are circus like compared to the farming experience it offers.
“I am often attacked by animal activists because they think I am connected to these other people,” she says. “That’s the hard part because I could have followed them and they should have changed their name [from ‘goat yoga’]. Now I can’t, and that was really hard for me. ”
But it’s not a complete loss. Morse changed the name of her company to Original Goat Yoga and managed to label the logo she created with a goat in a lotus position.
“I have quite a few goods,” she says.
There were other large expenditures along the way, like spending thousands of dollars on tents to shelter outdoor sessions in bad weather, only to see the tents demolish in wind storms. She also had to buy special mats for customers because the goats ate (or pooped on) yoga mats that people brought with them.
Then there was a need for insurance because even though Morse says none of her goats had ever attacked anyone, she knew she had to protect herself.
“It took a long time to find liability insurance,” she says. “I’ve been rejected six times.” When someone finally agreed to insure them for about $ 1,200 a year, “We went out and partied because I knew it was Go Time.”
People have come from Japan and Australia to teach Morse just to meet the goats.
Morse uses Nigerian pygmy goats, miniature animals that weigh no more than 30 to 40 pounds.
Morse owns Nigerian pygmy goats, miniature animals that weigh 30-40 pounds or less. Sometimes she entices the youngest goats to get involved by putting treats on a customer’s back or stomach, and when the goats get too big to jump they just trot around the class or sit nearby. Maintenance: “Dogs are much more expensive than goats.”
Classes are now held in three Oregon locations, and Morse has brought in partners who can offer farm ownership and more goats. She usually limits class size to 30 to maintain good human-to-goat ratios. She also makes money licensing the Original Goat Yoga name and logo to farms in four other states, including New York. The starting courses at these new locations are sold out.
Researchers from the state of Oregon are working with her on goat-human interaction, and the state of Michigan is offering goat yoga classes as part of its urban farming program. Morse has hosted corporate events for Nike and Kaiser Permanente and is looking for a property to open a “goat-el” that people can stay in for the entire goat experience.
But what Lainey Morse enjoys most, aside from hanging out with her goats, is seeing how happy they make other people.
“I remember a lady coming. She said, ‘I almost didn’t come. I bought my tickets a while ago and my husband was diagnosed with cancer and I was his caregiver and it was so difficult for me. ‘”Wife had planned to cancel her goat yoga session, but her daughter advised against it. “It was the best decision I could make because it’s the first time I’ve smiled in months,” she told Morse.
Lainey Morse remembers the story and takes a short break. “That’s powerful.”
More of Odd Success: These 30-year-olds sell cans of Canadian air for $ 20 – bringing in over $ 230,000 a year
Do you like this story? Check out the Strange Success podcast.