As Sarah Rasby juggled being co-owner of a yoga studio, yoga instructor, and the mother of two children, the little “hacks” that helped her save time amid competing demands would eventually blossom into Sub Guru, an app-based business that is changing the way studios manage their operations.
“One of the major issues that always needed my instant attention was the instructor’s sub situation process,” Sarah Rasby recalled. “Yoga instructors needed subs often because so many of them teach part time. One evening, I had the idea to streamline the instructor substitution process through an app.”
Sarah Rasby said she surveyed boutique fitness studio owners and instructors. From these personal conversations, she discovered the sub process was a “real problem for studios.”
“So, I put a business plan together, partnered with a local developer, and found a seed funding grant,” she said. “I also orchestrated a group of colleagues and friends who had their own startup companies and leaned on them for advice.”
Today, as CEO, Rasby runs the business with fellow co-founder, COO and sister-in-law, Andra Rasby, who also happens to be a former Division 1 athlete and certified yoga instructor.
“Sub Guru is innovative,” Andra Rasby said. “Nowadays there is an app for everything you do in life — from ordering groceries, to logging miles — you can find what you need right on your phone. Sarah and I could not find an easy solution to streamline finding coverage within the fitness industry.
“Platforms we found were for big companies that cost a lot monthly and were not specific to the boutique studio owner.”
The platform they created is designed to save both time and stress, as well as money.
“Studio management and instructors can easily open the app on their phones, find the class they need covered and submit the request,” she added. “Sub Guru then notifies the internal qualified instructors and management approves.”
In fact, Andra Rasby noted that some clients are saving 10 to 15 hours each week while using Sub Guru.
Furthermore, she characterized Sub Guru’s platform as much more advanced than earlier tools used by the industry.
“Many studios use text messaging, emails, phone calls and Google forms, which aren’t always organized, nor do they reduce human error,” Andra Rasby explained.
“With Sub Guru,” she continued, “instructors are held accountable for starting the process, while management stays informed. Staff can chat in-app and once a sub is approved, the studio schedule is automatically updated.”
Chat also represents its newest feature, launched a couple of months ago.
“[Chat] has been a great addition to SG,” Andra Rasby said. “Now, staff can chat about their classes with their subs, and they can add a link like a playlist if they need to. This eliminates the outside text messaging and keeps all conversations within the app.”
When asked about potential changes on the horizon, the owners said that they are researching other industries that Sub Guru could work within and that could leverage the ease of the app.
At the time of this writing, the Lincoln-born business boasted fitness studio and gym owner clients with one or more locations.
“At first, we knew the need for Sub Guru would be focused on the mom-and-pop studios,” Andra Rasby said. “But, as we grew and as the industry has grown, we have seen Sub Guru is needed in all types of studios/gyms – from big franchises to one-location studios/gyms.”
Needed Now More Than Ever
The concept is rife to resonate in these pandemic times. Andra Rasby recalled how, as a startup, they had “a lot of momentum” in January 2020.
“Then, boom, all your clients pause their subscriptions,” she said.
Grant money, courtesy of the Lincoln Partnership for Economic Development’s Launch LNK program, helped keep Sub Guru afloat, and allowed them to add features. Andra Rasby also said they were able to hire a second contract developer due to these monies.
“I don’t think we would have made it out without LaunchLNK,” she said.
After following @Startuplnk on social media, they decided to apply for the $25,000 grant and mentorship opportunity.
Andra Rasby indicated that their story resonates with others.
“We are very passionate and genuine women,” Andra Rasby said. “We did our due diligence when creating our company.”
And, Sarah Rasby noted, their biggest mission is to support fellow female entrepreneurs and business owners.
“We know that it has been tough on our clients,” she said. “We have watched fitness professionals and entrepreneurs have to let go of their business and shift to finding new ideas to get by. It has become a day-by-day process.”
She added that they are continuously thinking of ways to support thousands of studios and instructors most affected by COVID-19, as well as working on a project to help the most vulnerable populations affected by the virus.
“It is extremely expensive to source an honest development company to build a software platform life for Sub Guru,” she said. “We hit many points where we were not sure where the money would come, but we kept the faith and never gave up.”