Yoga + Kiva Zip = A Winning Combination

Last year, LISC DC teamed up with our partner, Rhode Island Avenue NE Main Street, to offer Kiva Zip small business loans to businesses located on Rhode Island Avenue NE or those looking to locate to the commercial corridor. Through the Kiva Zip crowdlending platform, small businesses are able to access up to $10,000 in 0% interest loans to support their operations and expand their brand. When RIA NE Main Street endorses the borrower, LISC DC provides a 1-for-1 lending match. This week, Khepera Wellness became the first small business on the corridor to take advantage of this great opportunity.

Khepera is a yoga studio located on Rhode Island Avenue NE Mainstreet.  Brandon Copeland, the owner and founder of Khepera, began the yoga business with the goal of challenging the mind and bodies of students. While his classes are open to everyone, Brandon hopes to create a safe and welcoming space to nontraditional yoga students. He strives to spread the practice and its health benefits to DC’s African-American community in particular.

“I am most proud of our inclusion of students and teachers of color in all of our classes. We are certainly a rarity in the yoga community of studios,” Brandon stated. “There are more people of color and men in our classes than I have seen at other yoga studios. The intermix of people from The Capoeira Spot, District Dance Arts, and the surrounding neighborhood have also provided a diverse assortment of people participating in our classes,” Brandon added.

Currently, Khepera classes take place at the Capoeira Spot located at 2008 Rhode Island Avenue NE.  The instructors love sharing the space there, but as they continue to grow, Khepera will need more space to comfortably accommodate students.  “While I would be overjoyed to open a space nearby as I’ve come to love the area and have met many of the business owners here, we currently have plans to expand to a second location at The Dance Institute of Washington conveniently located in the heart of Columbia Heights,” Brandon stated.  Years ago, LISC DC provided financing and grant funding to DIW for their current space.

With a $7,000 Kiva Zip loan, Khepera will be able to expand the services that they offer to their students, invest in both the studio and instructors, and eventually move into its own space. “Our business will be hugely impacted by the loan because we don’t have any advertising and marketing budget as of yet. Most of our students hear about us through word of mouth and online and the loan can help us market to the vibrant neighborhoods that we will inhabit, adding to our student size and income,” Brandon added.

Below is a Q&A interview with Brandon Copeland:

What’s your definition of yoga and/or wellness and how long have you been practicing?

I see “wellness” or the general wellness practices that we do as particular activities that are about appreciating the abilities of the body, mind, and spirit in the moment. “Mindfulness” is a stronger descriptor of the types of practices we do. Yoga is a particularly powerful practice that challenges the breath by manipulating the body, particularly the spine. I’ve been practicing for nearly 5 years and teaching for 4 years.

What are your crowdfunding goals and what do you plan to do with the money raised?

Our goal is to raise a total of $7,000, including LISC DC’s match. Our primary expenses include studio rental fees along with investments in studio equipment: mats, blocks and bolsters. We will use a quarter of the funds on marketing materials including outside signage, clothing, collaborations and standing capital for cash on hand for events. A portion of funds would also be reserved to secure future business by assisting in legal fees to overlook contracts and help facilitate new ideas in our market.

What makes Khepera Wellness different form other yoga studios?

Our specialized classes include Trap Yoga and Black Girl Magic which were created to instill a sense of belonging and familiarity within our yoga experience. I think more spaces like this have to pop up for people to feel comfortable taking classes and becoming vulnerable. I also think that the ideas around who “the yogi” is have to change. People often feel that they perplexingly have to be “good at yoga” before they take their first class. The collective anxiety many black people have about yoga and wellness could be released, in my opinion, with more examples of yogis black people relate to. We have a unique set of stressors that elevate the importance of wellness practices to our daily lives. I think it’s up to people like myself and other black yogis to share the many sides of the practice in creative, relatable ways.

What kind of reaction have you gotten from the community since opening?

The community has been more than supportive. Our groundbreaking classes have shaken up the world of yoga and has received much attention, resulting in features in The Washington Post, The Fader, Black Enterprise, Blavity, DCTV, The Roland Martin Show on TVOne, Good Morning Washington and more! Due to these wonderful opportunities, we have now more than tripled our business and are expanding to a second location.

What was a challenge for you when you first opened Khepera Wellness?

Our biggest challenge was finding our niche and bringing business to our area. Our customers are neighborhood folks and people that heard about our unique classes online. Acquiring new teachers, capital, and marketing our business to an even larger audience is the next challenge we hope to overcome with the Kiva Zip loan.