Bronx resident Yoasara is making waves in NYC for the yoga and dance studio she founded and struggled to maintain during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Yosara opened Sweet Water Dance and Yoga studio during a challenging period in her life that left her living out of the studio with her young son. In a profile by Humans of NY, Yosara shares her journey to business ownership and how her local community helped keep her doors open.
“When you walk in this space, you take a breath at how beautiful it is. Even if you’re tired and stressed—you’ll leave happy,” Yosara said of her Bronx yoga studio. “And that’s exactly what this community needs: a space to heal.”
Birthing a yoga studio in NYC’s Bronx area was no easy feat. Yosara struggled to make ends meet while raising her son from inside the studio.
“In the beginning, I was working 16 hours a day. I wasn’t sleeping. I wasn’t getting paid,” she recalled. “For the first five years I moved into the studio with my son. Customers were watching me raise him with nothing but a hot plate, a fridge, and a toaster.”
But through determination and support from local supporters, Yosara’s yoga studio was able to grow, and she could afford to pay their instructors.
“I couldn’t get financing so we relied on these bullsh*t payday loans. Sometimes I couldn’t even pay my instructors on time,” she said. “It wasn’t fair to them. They’re also artists and people of color; they were struggling too. We were always behind.”
“But you know what? We caught up. We paid off all our debt, fair and square. We were growing beautifully.”
While many were able to benefit from government business loans and PPP come-ups, Yosara wasn’t so fortunate. Had it not been for the support from the local community, Yosara’s Bronx yoga studio wouldn’t have made it through the pandemic.
“It’s a miracle that we survived the pandemic,” she said. “All our classes had to stop. There was no help from banks, or lenders, or organizations. But my community showed up. Blue collar folk. People strapped as fu*k.”
Local residents started investing their own money into the yoga studio,o and Yosara could keep her business afloat.
“They came to me and said: ‘I want to buy an annual membership,’ ‘I want to buy a lifetime.’ They said: ‘Can I lend?’, ‘Can I invest,’ ‘Can I get one percent?’ $5,000, $4,000, $3000 at a time,” she recalled. “I didn’t even know they had it. But they had it. They had me. My people had me. Artists, workers, mothers. Especially mothers. There were lots, and lots, of mothers.”