I'm Abby McLachlan, and I'm the founder and person behind East of Eden. My background is the music industry, but when I became unexpectedly pregnant in 2012, I knew it would be hard to raise a child alone in that business, so while I freelanced for a while, I was also working out what else I could do to earn a living. I loved yoga and had dreams of an arts space and yoga studio in Walthamstow I'd call East of Eden, named after a favourite book. I even bought the URL, though it was a few more years before the dream became reality.
The studio opened in 2015 as a small community yoga studio with excellent teachers. We expanded quickly, and opened a second studio and a dedicated reformer Pilates space in 2016.
Fast forward to October 2019, and I signed a new lease, taking over the recording studios and communal area between the 2 studios I already leased to create one big studio (after a tough 2 years of negotiating with the local council!). The plan was to add a cafe and third studio/treatment rooms plus new bathrooms and showers to the studios. I'd steadily built our customer base, and done cashflow projections and business plans and I was confident that it was a sensible investment. From the beginning the build was beset by problems, with everything that could go wrong, going wrong, from floods, to asbestos to power cuts. We managed to keep the classes going alongside the building work, but it was a huge relief to finally get to the end of the build in March 2020. The doors to the new space finally opened on March 10th, while the builders moved upstairs to fix ongoing issues with our original changing rooms and showers.
However, relief quickly turned to horror as I watched the COVID situation escalate almost hourly, and on March 19th, I closed the doors again, 4 days before lockdown officially started.
The timing for me couldn't have been worse, as I had used up my cashflow on the build. The build went way over budget but in normal times, this wouldn't have mattered. A global pandemic is not normal times though. I immediately pivoted online, and the day I closed I already had 80 of my class livestreamed following the same timetable as I had when open. This kept the community together and kept my freelance teachers and receptionists employed, and I'd almost go so far as to say that I felt the strength of the community more when the doors closed than ever before. I think everybody drew strength from each other, teachers, staff and students alike.
In the last 12 months though, I have been open for only 3.5 months, and of course the initial enthusiasm for zoom classes faded, leaving only a core nucleus of members and students. We still have 50+ classes as I am keen to keep the teaching staff together until reopening if at all possible. We also launched East of Eden at Home in lockdown, which enables people to access our classes and teachers at a lower price point, and I'm keen to build on this improving the range of content on the platform and creating lower price points for people. All our members have access to this platform to complement the livestream and in studio classes.
We now have a prospective date for reopening - May 17th - although gyms can open before us from April 12th. I have managed to secure permission from the Landlord to run outdoor reformer classes in the adjacent open air garage, but with full rent due at the end of March, this alone isn't enough to get us to reopening in May.
I have always celebrated our birthday in April (6 this year!), and sold birthday memberships offering 14 months of yoga and mat Pilates for the price of 12. I am planning to still offer these this year, but through this crowdfunder as selling them through this platform means we can raise vital funds to get our rent paid and get us to reopening. The fact there is match funding from the Mayor of London will also be hugely helpful in ensuring we get back to a place where the studio is viable again. So as well as the annual memberships (£850 for 14 months), I am offering 7 month yoga/mat Pilates memberships for the price of 6 (£480), plus some other reformer Pilates deals and class packs, plus a raffle to win a 12 month all studio membership for all classes.These memberships and class packs will kick in from May 17th or earlier, depending on which studio you want to use them for and whether you want to do livestream classes. We will also reopen on April 12th to allow members to book in to use the yoga studio for their own practise and we are also looking into Mysore, the ashtanga system of self practise.
The community has always been the beating heart of the studio, with people working on reception and teachers and members who've been with us since the beginning. I appreciate you all more than I can say, and I cannot wait to welcome you all back in and finally get the cafe being used in the way that was envisioned when it was built. Thanks to all of you for your support.