Former NZ trade commissioner for Singapore, Ziena Jalil, talks co-founding a fitness app and how working for New Zealand Trade and Enterprise helped on her business journey.
What does your business do?
Myyodaa is an app that connects yoga and meditation students and teachers around the world for personalised live one-to-one video classes. We provide an open platform so qualified teachers can deliver classes, it was designed to democratise yoga and meditation.
The classes are carried out through the app so you don't have to navigate through a multitude of platforms. A lot of people were booking virtual fitness classes via calendar invites during lockdown and receiving separate Zoom links and making a payment somewhere else but Myyodaa was designed for everything to happen within the app. It launched on World Yoga Day on June 25.
What was the motivation for starting it?
I spent 11 years working for the Government and 10 of those 11 years I was posted in different roles around Asia. My last posting was to India and it was about five years ago there a friend introduced me to yoga, and I'd never done it before, never thought it was something I would do, but I tried it. My yoga teacher would come to my house at a time that suited me and I only had to pay for the classes that I took and given the nature of my job which involved long hours and a lot of travel and two young children that was an absolutely ideal situation.
When I got back to Auckland four years ago I tried to find something here but that was hard; you had to go to a studio at a time that suited the teacher and classes were quite expensive as well. Two of my friends, Erin Leuschke and Gina Beck, professional women with young children, their experience was the same and what they were doing was watching pre-recorded yoga videos online when they could find the time.
The test case for Myyodaa was actually me doing live video classes with my India-based teacher for the last three years, and now Covid and lockdown has made it fashionable.The motivation was also to enable teachers like mine to have a global career and take their passion and knowledge to a global audience. The teachers set the price for classes and when they want to teach.
What's your background and is this your first business?
For last the couple of years I've been running my own consultancy practice, but in terms of a tech start-up this is my first. My background is not in tech, and certainly not in yoga and meditation. I worked for New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) for eight years, seven of which I was based offshore helping New Zealand companies grow in international markets, and I was also a trade commissioner in Singapore. My two other co-founders, their day jobs are at NZTE, so we've got an eco-system of support around us. Having had that experience is invaluable.
What has the response to the app since launch?
There's just over 20 teachers on the app currently, but we've got more than that number in review currently; teachers who have signed up but we haven't made them live yet because we are verifying credentials. We have teachers on the app from New Zealand, India, the United Kingdom, Cyprus even. The feedback has been really positive from students and we've had lots of downloads, quite a lot of students from New Zealand and the UK so far.
What are the long-term plans for the app?
The long-term plan is to build a strong community that students and teachers find trust and value in. We've had lots of interest from teachers around the world and our focus now is on students and building the student base, starting with New Zealand, Australia and further to Asia.
What are you focused on for the rest of the year?
The next step for us is about building our student base, supporting our teachers, adding new features to app, and building the business' profile and getting the message out there because this is a completely new concept that is fully democratised, fully global and completely personalised and one-to-one. The inspiration for us in all of this is to make a difference to people's lives.
I had this idea well before Covid and we've launched in a Covid environment and in many ways are now more open to online classes and that has been a real positive for us, on the other hand, it does mean more competition.
What advice do you give to others who want to start their own business?
Be clear about why you want to start the business and stay true to your purpose - it should be about serving a need or problem for people. Do it only of you believe in your idea completely and are willing to give it your all. Have a team of expert advisers around you because there will be many areas in which you don't have the expertise.