As most everybody knows, Terry McBride has added Yyoga to his music resumé. But at heart, he’s a businessman, and he has bigger plans than a few yoga studios around town.
Mr. McBride has joined forces with Vancouver developer Ian Gillespie, head of Westbank, to create a business model they believe will be a “game changer.” Mr. McBride plans to grow part of the yoga chain from a studio operation to wellness centres within residential developments, and he’s already got two under way with Mr. Gillespie. Their first project is realized next year – possibly Westbank’s smallest project ever, a 40-unit condo development at 6 th Avenue and Fir Street, which will include a Yyoga studio.
By 2015, Westbank’s massive downtown Telus Garden will be finished, and the wellness centre will include not just the contemporary Yyoga studio with its technologically advanced air system, but a proper gym and pool, too. It will serve the residents of the tower, as well as offer membership deals to office employees.
In Vancouver, he plans to grow from eight studios to 20. In Toronto, he envisions three new studios every two years. The third phase of his plan is to enter the Calgary market, and then, eventually grow to about 60 or 70 studios nationwide. By entering into partnerships with developers, he figures he is better suited to make that happen.
As a former music critic, I’ve interviewed Mr. McBride over the years, and back then, he was tougher-talking than the yoga disciple seated before me at his spacious and contemporary new Fourth Avenue studio. This Mr. McBride is far more chill, wearing a beaded bracelet and anticipating his noon yoga class.
He has a 28-year music career behind him, overseeing Nettwerk Records, signing artists such as Coldplay, Avril Lavigne, Dido, the Barenaked Ladies, and managing Sarah McLachlan’s career for almost as long as he’s been in business.
Today, he’s still running Nettwerk, but he and McLachlan and some of the other big names have parted ways. He’s cut back on the 60 hours he spent mostly managing “the dramas of an artist,” and thrown himself into running the yoga chain, which is co-owned by his three Nettwerk partners, and investment partners like Fiore’s Frank Giustra and Beedie Capital. Mr. McBride now divides his time 50/50 between yoga and music.
He says he also took a personal hit to finance Yyoga, selling his dream house in Point Grey and streamlining his lifestyle.
“I don’t have equity to get another house. My equity is here, in Yyoga, and in Nettwerk. I’ve taken a huge risk. I forgot about the first 10 years of Nettwerk and how tough that was. I don’t know why I thought yoga would be any different.”
Before they’d collaborated on a project, Mr. McBride recalls discussing with Mr. Gillespie how typical condo amenities such as drab meeting rooms and poky fitness rooms sit empty and under-utilized. He had a point.
“I said, ‘What happens if you put in a wellness facility?’ Chances are they will go two or three times a week, it will be quiet, it will give them really good value because of the fact they live in that building, and for you as a developer, I think it’s a better hook to get people to buy in your building than someone else’s building,” said Mr. McBride.
Mr. Gillespie had already thought about generating a community vibe within his projects, and he saw that friendly yoga types could help with that. Let’s not forget he’s also the guy behind the successful Woodward’s Building, and it’s all about community atmosphere, with the art displays, students, courtyards, and basketball hoop. With all those people milling about, Vancouverites are almost tempted to start talking to each other.
“That’s one thing that residential developers fall short of,” says Mr. Gillespie. “It isn’t necessarily about what does the building do when you turn over the keys, but how you have positioned the building for success in the long term.”
By collaborating with Mr. Gillespie, Mr. McBride has the opportunity to build studios from the ground up, as opposed to leasing and renovating pre-existing buildings. They also share an overlapping demographic – a lot of 20-to-50-year-old females, says Mr. McBride. Women love yoga and condo life.
“Yeah, it’s a built-in market,” says Mr. McBride. “But more than anything, we get to build it with the intent we want.”
He’s picked a well-positioned ally. Mr. Gillespie is one of Vancouver’s biggest developers, behind such landmarks as the Shangri-La, the Fairmont Pacific Rim, the aforementioned Woodward’s Building, and a proposed 49-storey residential tower to be designed by star Danish architect Bjarke Ingels. He’s also developed the Shangri-La in Toronto, with plans for more towers on that skyline as well.
Mr. Gillespie says he saw a collaborator in Mr. McBride because they share interests and they’re both creative guys.
“Terry is a particularly good partner for us because he’s interested in the same things as I am, and he’s creative and well-meaning and we all have choices of who we do business with, and we trust,” said Mr. Gillespie. “We would like to do something with him in Toronto and in Calgary, and I’ve got at least a handful more opportunities in Vancouver to do with him.
“I think it’s got a lot of merit, and I think that both of us are trying to discover what those opportunities are. I think it’s a great business model.
“It’s obviously a business ripe for consolidation and that’s what he’s carved out,” adds Mr. Gillespie. “But I also think … it’s not going corporate.”
Yyoga is already a tenant in three Westbank locations, but it’s not a typical landlord-tenant type of relationship, he explains.
“It’s not about how much rent I get, and for him not about the lease terms he gets. It’s about him trying to grow his business and me trying to associate our business and his business together in a way that helps add value to what it is that we do.”