Kripalu Strikes a Pose for Growth

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Kripalu Strikes a Pose for Growth

By Chantal Todé

SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY - After faltering in 2004 during one of the nation's biggest yoga booms, yoga educational center and retreat Kripalu, Lenox, MA, is thriving thanks partly to the introduction of direct mail and a redesigned catalog, executive Ila Sarley told attendees Sept. 21 at the NEMOA conference.

Ms. Sarley and her husband returned to Kripalu to take the reins in 2004 after a stint at another yoga organization. They found that Kripalu's organizational culture was "decaying," said Ms. Sarley, who is chief operating officer and chief creative officer.

The founder was fired in the 1990s for behavior issues, and much of the management subsequently left. A once-vibrant organization of people passionate about what they do had become occupied with workers who focused on the how, not the what and why, Ms. Sarley said.

This led to inaction while the world of yoga was changing. Yoga was becoming more celebrity-driven, with well-known instructors featured in TV shows and magazines. Kripalu missed this trend as well as the one of people wanting to have fun while being educated.

"The most important thing we did was to reinvigorate Kripalu's culture," Ms. Sarley said. This meant changes such as educating the teachers on how to address specific needs like back pain or stress and opening the vegetarian menu to include chicken and fish.

The next step was to redesign the catalog, which still had a strong '70s flavor. One cover from 2002 showed a slightly out-of-focus photo of a woman with her hands in the prayer position in a field of flowers. The catalogs now have a stark white background and feature someone in a yoga pose. The Sarleys also introduced direct mail, which has made a big impact, she said.

Kripalu's operating revenue in 2003 was $14 million but is projected at $23 million for 2006. Guest night stays are to reach 89,298 for 2006, up from 66,177 in 2003.

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