Yoga elder and founder of YogaBellies Cheryl MacDonald

Find out how mum Cheryl MacDonald turned her lifelong love of yoga into the successful YogaBellies franchise business – and why she said no to Duncan Bannatyne on Dragon’s Den!

How long have you been practising and teaching yoga?

I started practicing yoga when I was seventeen years old, and now I’ve been teaching it for seventeen years too!

How can yoga help women and babies?

Yoga is a fantastic way to relax whilst also toning the body and allowing women to stay in shape. What a lot of people don’t realise is it also helps to balance your hormones – an invaluable benefit during pregnancy and after childbirth! Similarly sufferers of post-natal depression can benefit from yoga as it reduces depression and anxiety.

When you practice yoga with your baby you’re also creating a bond, physically and mentally. It can be a great way for babies to relax and also socialise with others, which they may not have a chance to do if they’re an only child.

What is YogaBellies and why did you decide to start it?

I’ve always been fascinated by all things yoga, birth and baby related and as I became pregnant I started practicing yoga and adapting it to women, as yoga was first designed for men and extreme athletes rather than a pregnant female.

I understood there had to be a softer, more forgiving style. I also saw the benefits during my own pregnancy and wanted to share these with others.

You’ve been on Dragons Den – what was that like?

Very scary! It was great fun and I’m so glad we did it because YogaBellies has gone through the roof since. Standing in front of the Dragons after seeing them on the TV was unbelievable.

You turned down Duncan Bannatyne. Why?!

It was a great offer and I’m so grateful but at the time it probably wasn’t the direction we wanted to go in. YogaBellies is a community of women and I wasn’t sure that having a man being our mentor was the right position for us to be in.

Duncan also runs his own successful business so I wasn’t sure how much time he could spare for us.

How did you fund the business instead?

I didn’t actually need much money to fund YogaBellies, it was more our time and energy. We didn’t go on Dragons Den to secure an investment – I had the money and the space. I was more interested in having the experience of a business mentor on board.

What have been some of the biggest business challenges you’ve faced, and how have you coped with them?

I became so obsessed with the business that I found it really hard to switch off. So when speaking to new franchisees now, I make sure they book time off and plan holidays. You can become very wrapped up in work and you need to make time for family and friends too.

And what have been your biggest successes to date?

All of it! It’s amazing that what I saw as a vision has come true. It’s wonderful to be able to help other women find the perfect work-life balance – something other industries just couldn’t offer them.

How can mums start their own YogaBellies class?

Very easily. All you have to do is go on the website and ask for a prospectus pack. Once you’ve received it you’ll have a quick phone chat with our recruitment co-ordinater, Jo Hutton, who will help you figure out whether this is the perfect career choice for you.

What’s the advantage of buying into a franchise?

You become part of the YogaBellies family! We’re a group of women with a common vision, passion and values, and we want to help other women through the journey of life.

We care about your work-life balance and will help you to identify and make the life you want a reality. We give you support in your chosen teaching area but we also give you so much more, such as emotional and spiritual guidance through our community of teachers.

When you become a YogaBellies teacher, we help you live a peaceful and productive life using the relaxation and balancing techniques that we teach to other women in our classes. Looking after yourself is just as important as looking after your family and your business and we help you take care of this very important person – YOU!

What’s your vision for YogaBellies?

To keep growing and make it available to more and more women across the world. So far we have 105 franchises with no signs of stopping.

What advice do you have for other ambitious mums trying to start their own businesses?

Just go for it! Never look back but also seek advice from families and friends. The perfect time to start planning your new business is when you’re on maternity leave or when you’ve just had a baby and when you have a bit of financial backing. So, put your baby on one knee and a laptop on the other and get cracking!

To find out more about YogaBellies, visit their website (you can also learn more about becoming a YogaBellies franchisee here).