Work for Yourself@50+

Peggy: Bringing Value — And Hope — Through Yoga

Peggy Hil Yoga with Peggy H Wellness New York City Sponsoring organization: Harlem Business Alliance

Peggy Hill understands workplace stress. The native New Yorker spent decades as a  corporate marketing strategist, working for a range of Fortune 100 companies. Consequently, she says, “I know the stressors within that world. I lived it for my entire career.”

As the proprietor of Yoga with Peggy H™, she also understands that yoga can help relieve exactly this kind of stress. “Yoga makes a difference in productivity, in creativity, in office camaraderie,” Peggy says — an assertion supported by more than a decade’s worth of research. “I have the data,” she adds. “It’s more than just ‘Let’s do cardio’ or ‘Let’s just move’; it’s yoga in particular.”

And yet, teaching yoga wasn’t the path Peggy saw herself taking when she set out to explore self-employment. Her initial aim was to build on her background by launching a corporate marketing consultancy.

At an event for entrepreneurs, she heard a representative from the Harlem Business Alliance mention Work for Yourself@50+, an AARP Foundation program that makes it easy for older adults with limited income to explore options for self-employment and increase their financial stability. She applied online for the program and received the Five Simple Steps to Get You Started booklet.

Five Simple Steps to Get You Started is a toolkit filled with practical guidance for potential entrepreneurs. It includes worksheets and lists of additional resources, and features valuable information on exploring options, finding focus, making a plan, watching out for trouble, and finding support. The toolkit is used in conjunction with the Work for Yourself@50+ workshops, which are designed to guide participants through the five simple steps while also providing coaching and peer support. Together, they enable older adults to apply their existing skills and talents in an entrepreneurial setting to increase their income.

Peggy took the program seriously and used the toolkit to her full advantage. “I went through every chapter, went to every workshop session. I answered the questions and really thought through them. I went through the worksheets. That’s when I realized that consulting might not be the answer for the long term.”

Work for Yourself@50+ encourages participants to think about what they really enjoy doing in order to identify a passion they might turn into a business. For Peggy, that passion was yoga.

I have experienced the change in one’s body, so I’m able to explain it better. I’ve lived it.

“That booklet is why I’m teaching yoga,” she says. When considering entrepreneurship, she realized that yoga was where she could bring greater value. “I like to teach, I’ll enjoy myself, and I may bring hope to someone. That’s how it evolved. The worksheets helped me formulate what it is I should really be doing.”

Now “over 50,” Peggy teaches at various community centers in New York City and is looking to expand her business into workplace wellness programs. Her teaching style is notable not only for what it includes, but for what it doesn’t. Her students love her communication style and skillful assessment of their needs — but also her ability to teach effectively without music.

“I don’t want the music to determine what I teach” she explains. “I’m watching my class. I’m feeling the energy. That’s how I teach.”

What also stands out about her as a yoga instructor is how she brings her own age and health history to her practice. “I’m not a 20-year-old trying to teach older adults to make modifications to the movements,” she says. “I’ve been diagnosed with musculoskeletal issues, but I can still do and teach yoga!

She adds, “It doesn’t have to stop you from building strength, from living your life. I have experienced the change in one’s body, so I’m able to explain it better. I’ve lived it.”

It’s been a year since Peggy launched Yoga with Peggy H, and the first year hasn’t been without its hurdles. The field turned out to be more crowded than she had expected, and the competition stiffer, but she didn’t give up.

She speaks frankly about having to adjust both her business plan and her expectations, and credits LivePlan, a business planning tool provided by Work for Yourself@50+, with helping her refine and refocus.

“I kept going back to the plan. It was so useful. I’d say, ‘OK, where was I wrong, how do I bring value to this?’ I had to just keep changing what I had on paper: priorities, targets, break-even and profit and loss assessments.” She adds, “That’s where the work of launching your own business comes in.”

It hasn’t been easy, she admits, but Peggy is optimistic about the future of her business. “It’s an exciting journey for me because I didn’t know I could have that much of an impact on individuals. That’s what is most satisfying about the work.”

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