As a former fashion editor who has worked for Glamour, Vogue, Elle, and Marie Claire magazines, Suze Yalof Schwartz knows the business of helping women be their best. Yet for the Los Angeleno’s latest career move, she had to begin with the very basic step of learning how to breathe.
On April 15th, Yalof Schwartz will open Unplug Meditation, a drop-in meditation studio in Santa Monica, Ca. “I went from fashion TV to OWN,” she jokes. The new business grew from her simple desire to learn how to meditate. Last November, she went in search of a course that would not cost thousands of dollars or demand more hours than the mother of three could dedicate. And she came up with nothing, except for an idea. “I thought, why can’t there be a Soul Cycle for meditation?” referring to the cycling center which brought top-level, in-demand spin classes to women across the country, minus the commitment of a gym membership. “You go in, you do whatever your intention is, you leave,” says Yalof Schwartz about the studio she wanted. Energized by this idea, she embarked on her greatest makeover to date, turning herself into a self-described “spiritual entrepreneur.”
Of course, it’s an obstacle to open a meditation studio if you don’t know how to meditate. “I started taking all of these classes. But instead of meditating, I was thinking about how to do my place,” she admits. But it still proved useful: One of the instructors Yalof Schwartz encountered was yogi Steve Ross, who she soon recruited to join the Unplug team as a senior guide.
Once Yalof Schwartz learned how to meditate, which she now does daily, she still had to contend with having little business experience. However, after years in publishing, she was an expert in communication. “I learned four ways: One, I called up people who have exercise studios and asked them for their best advice; two, I met with an accountant; three, I spoke with a lawyer who opens up businesses; and four, I consulted a trademark attorney,” she explains. “The trick is to think about all the people you know, talk to them–and then, do what they say. That’s been my business school.”
Yalof Schwartz, who self-funded Unplug, also tapped additional old skills for the new business. “I used my career as currency,” she says, explaining that she would give closet makeovers or media training to experts who could help her, from graphic designers to an accountant. Her former life helped in other ways, too, including seeing the beauty in a studio space that reminded her of a fashion mecca. “It almost feels like a building in Milan–not attractive on the outside, but amazing inside. There’s even a zen garden,” she says. When she realized the front desk she wanted cost $15,000, the makeover maverick headed to Ikea and upgraded kitchen cabinets she found there to create the sleek, minimalist reception area.
The philosophy of Unplug Meditation is that everyone can meditate, whether they are an ultra Type A Fortune 500 CEO or a stay-at-home mom who can barely find time to shower. Yalof Schwartz is determined to strip the “mystery” away that surrounds the practice and has carefully created classes that can get anyone on track. Unplug also has classes geared for athletes, people who want to break bad habits, and even anxious flyers. Ross and the other instructors offer what she describes as “an amazing dose of spirituality and science-based structure.”
Yalof Schwartz, who hopes this location will be the first in a global chain, isn’t nervous that people will take a class, learn the basics, and then decide to practice in their living room for free instead of coming back to Unplug for $20 per session. “Meditating at home is not fun for me,” she says. “But meditating in a room with someone guiding me in, with music, then guiding me out…it feels like you did something. This isn’t just meditation, it is an experience.”