I Turned My Love For Yoga Into A Successful Business

Published: April 8th, 2022
Erica Hartnick
Founder, Yoga Trade
Yoga Trade
started October 2012
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Hello! I am Erica Hartnick and I am the founder of Yoga Trade. We connect the yoga and wellness community with inspiring work experiences and unique travel opportunities around the world.

Our platform provides a service for those seeking worldwide yoga jobs and opportunities and also for those looking to hire and recruit wellness professionals. We are the global yoga connection catalysts! You can participate in our community by joining with an annual membership. We currently offer three options: Community, Passport, and.

My business partner Pat and I started creating Yoga Trade in 2012 as a passion project and we launched the first site in 2013. We built the community with an initial investment of under $600! Yoga Trade has been built from authentic experience, real-life connections, sweat equity, and pure love. Yoga Trade is now my full-time ‘job’ and has enriched my life!


Meet the Founders:

What's your backstory and how did you get into entrepreneurship?

I grew up in a small town in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains in California. I went to college in the Bay Area and graduated with a B.S. In Business in 2001. It was the dot com era and a lot of people I went to school with went straight into tech jobs. I was not drawn to money or the 9-5 office life and instead decided to follow what lit me up. This included wild nature, adventure, snowboarding, surfing, yoga, culture, and travel. To support this lifestyle I worked all sorts of part-time and seasonal jobs to get by; waiting tables and bartending, working at a heli-ski lodge in Alaska, tour managing travel events for a youth marketing agency, teaching snowboarding, etc.

Then my grandmother passed away and I received an inheritance of $10K. Before this, I rarely had more than $2,000 to my name. I decided I wanted to use some of the money to put toward a memorable experience that would honor my grandmother and started searching for a yoga retreat. I was living in Half Moon Bay at the time and had been practicing yoga consistently with teacher Amy Outman. The ocean, the teachings at Enso yoga studio, and a sweet man Raman who made the best chai were all important catalysts for my journey of living yoga. I started to peruse the internet and found I was drawn to Yandara, a center that offered yoga teacher training. This was before the ‘boom’ of yoga teacher training, and I did not personally have any peer friends that were yoga teachers and did not know anyone who had been to Yandara. I intuitively felt the pull and decided to go for it and trust. At this time, I did not have the intention of becoming a yoga teacher, only the intention to deepen my relationship with yoga.

Like many of those who go through yoga teacher training, I came out feeling a strong desire to teach and share the practice. I continued the journey of my practice and slowly began to teach. I first started teaching by offering community donation classes at Kirkwood Ski Resort and at Kiva Beach in Lake Tahoe (you would never guess it now, but 10 years ago, donation-based and outdoor yoga classes were a rarity!). I then had the idea to reach out to places around the world to see if I could teach on a work/travel exchange. After sending out many emails, I received unbelievable opportunities and taught yoga at places in Morocco, Costa Rica, Panama, Fiji, and remote surf lodges in Indonesia. I was overflowing with gratitude and living my best life. Friends and even people I didn’t know began to ask me how I was living a life like this. I felt the need to give back and live in deeper service. I was on a flight from Taiwan to Bali and the idea for Yoga Trade zapped me like a lightning bolt. I began to doodle and make notes about it in my journal. I arrived in Bali in 2012, and eventually met up with good friends Pat and Christie that I knew from the Yoga Farm in Costa Rica. We were drinking dragon fruit smoothies at the Betelnut Cafe in Canggu and I told them about the idea for Yoga Trade. There was a magic about it and we knew we needed to begin.

Yoga Trade did not originate as a business idea. It was a genuine service we wanted to give to the world. We were the channels and allowed them to flow through. We first started a Facebook page and eventually launched the first official site in 2013.

Take us through your entrepreneurial journey. How did you go from day 1 to today?

We started Yoga Trade by reaching out to our yoga connections around the world. I had a lot of experience teaching and training at various places internationally, and Pat and his wife had experience hosting volunteers at their space in Costa Rica. So we were in an excellent position to connect and get the word out authentically.

We just started by doing a little bit every day. We didn’t have a ‘business plan’, long-term goals, or any significant business background. We just started taking baby steps and learning as we went.

Yoga Trade first started as a free online community yoga bulletin board. Early inspirations were to blend the ideas of Craigslist and WWOOF but for yoga. From day one we were devoted to creating ‘community’ and inspiring the concept of ‘living yoga’.

It just so happened to also be divine timing. At that point, we felt like the yoga industry was saturated. Little did we know that it was only just starting to take flight! The number of yoga teachers grew exponentially over the next few years and many of them were eager to gain experience teaching and were looking for opportunities to travel and teach. It was also the rise of Instagram which enormously impacted wellness and travel.

As Yoga Trade began to organically grow and take off, that is when we first began to think about making it a ‘business’. We realized that we were spending a lot of time and energy tending to it and needed a way to monetize it. Turned off by other free models of internet communities that give you ‘free’ services in exchange for data collection and blast members with advertising, we decided to create a model that was simple and aligned with our values. This is when we began offering annual memberships which is still today the only way we monetize.

Listed to the founder podcast here.


How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

Yoga Trade has grown slow and steady since its inception. Since we work remotely and all business is done online, our overhead costs are quite low. Being a community strongly based around travel, Covid impacted our membership numbers but our model proved quite resilient and we are beginning to see an uptick in momentum.

Create boundaries that protect your health and wellness - this will have a ripple effect and also keep your business healthy.

The pandemic allowed us to slow down and think about what is important. Instead of the mindset of continual growth (capitalistic), we are drawn more to regenerative ways of life. Quality over quantity, tending real relationships, circular economy, mindful living, etc.

As we have grown together with the global yoga community, plans involve offering more paid and professional opportunities. We also hope to help encourage people to participate and be leaders in their local communities. Instead of extending further out, anchoring in and nourishing the people, land, and waters locally.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

One of the most important things I have learned is the value of just beginning! Doing a little bit every day (even if you don’t know what you are doing), gets the ball rolling. I am also very grateful for the natural synergetic collaboration partnership with Pat. I would have not been able to do this alone.

The power of flow also has been amazing to witness. In the early days of the Yoga Trade, nothing was forced. People ask me a lot about how I had the idea and how I started, and honestly, it is hard to describe because it just happened! Maintaining just enough participation and action without ‘pushing’ or forcing anything is a constant balancing act.

I do find that my health and that of the business tend to mirror each other. When I tend to my wellness (movement, meditation, nourishment, rest), the wellness of the Yoga Trade also seems to thrive.

One lesson I have learned (or better say, still learning), is to step out of your way. We ‘birthed’ Yoga Trade and so it is our baby. But this community is much bigger than us and for it to reach the full potential we need to let go and let it fly!


What platform/tools do you use for your business?

There are SO many amazing tools out there! Our platform is run on WordPress, so it’s the tool we utilize the most.

We use Zendesk for our member service, ActiveCampaign for our email newsletters, and enjoy creating fun content on Canva.

Typeform is also a current favorite!

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

I am not a huge podcast listener, but when I reflect on the era just before having the idea for Yoga Trade, I remember that my boyfriend at the time was constantly listening to the Tim Ferriss podcast - so maybe some of his business wisdom seeped into my subconscious.

Some of my favorite books that have inspired my creative business artistry have been; Let My People Go Surfing, Braiding Sweetgrass, and Big Magic.

I find the best resource is to spend time in nature! Fresh air, sun on the face, and plunging into natural waters are the best ways to stoke the inner fire, find balance, and get the creative juices flowing.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

Remember that it is about the journey and the process, not the destination!

Stay curious, be willing to adapt, and cultivate open-mindedness.

Showing up and being consistent is key!

Make sure your business is aligned with your core values.

It’s the little things that can make a big difference.

Create boundaries that protect your health and wellness - this will have a ripple effect and also keep your business healthy.

Join us on retreat in Costa Rica in February 2022 to connect with our community!


Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

We are not currently hiring for any specific positions at Yoga Trade, but we are always looking for enthusiastic videographers and content creators that want to share their experiences! Also, we are a ‘job’ platform ourselves, so find your next opportunity or dreamwork HERE!

Where can we go to learn more?