For Soul Tribe Studio owner Clare Lovelace, the success of a modern small business is about more than its bottom line. In a world that’s awakening to the drawbacks of consumerism and individualism, Clare sees her Batemans Bay yoga studios as a conduit for connection and a force for good.
“Our measures of success have become about having a lot of things: buying a house, a car, and operating as individuals,” Clare says. “What if our measures of success were about how we could help? Who we could help?”
Clare, who left her native England to travel in 2010, passed through Batemans Bay by chance in August last year. She taught classes at Soul Tribe Studio and The Yoga Room, then owned separately.
“I fell in love with the area immediately,” Clare says. “I left for Bellingen with vague plans to keep going north, but my intuition was drawing me back to the Bay. I went to Peru and spent a month in the Amazon, and when I got back both studios came up for sale within a few weeks. I just knew I had to take the opportunity.”
Clare combined the studios and now runs Soul Tribe’s schedule across both locations, offering yoga, Pilates, Qi Gong, practical and spiritual workshops, women’s/men’s circles and children’s classes. A tribe of local supporters has swiftly grown – in August, the studio won the People’s Choice category at the Eurobodalla Business Awards.
“My passion for yoga grew as I started to understand that it isn’t something that we ‘do’ with our bodies, it is our natural state that we ‘are’ – it’s a journey back to ourselves,” Clare says. “My main intention is to provide a space where people can connect with themselves and others. To find happiness and peace, rather than thinking that to be happy, they have to buy something.”
Clare’s passion for creating connections doesn’t stop at the studio walls. She runs a range of local initiatives and says modern challenges should compel us to step off the sidelines.
“We’re at a very important turning point. The old model of amassing wealth and material goods at any cost is not making us happy and it’s having a hugely negative impact on the Earth’s resources,” Clare says.
“We’re being failed by the people in power, even at the local council level. We need to step up to create the community; the society; the world that we want to see. Instead of relying on others, we need to get out there and do it.”
Supporting those in need is vital, Clare says. In September, she established the Batemans Bay Street Kitchen, held at Batemans Bay Community Centre most Saturdays. The initiative, inspired by the Moruya Street Kitchen established by Nicky Axisa and Sarah O’Riley, extends an open invitation to share food and conversation. Clare has recently rebranded it as ‘community kitchen’ to encourage a broader range of attendees.
“It’s for those financially struggling, but you don’t have to be (to attend),” Clare says. “Anyone can come along to chat, listen to music, have something to eat and contribute and help out if they’d like to.”
The Batemans Bay Soldiers Club, Raine & Horne, John Holland Group and the Travel Team have joined to support the kitchen, with the Raine & Horne team intermittently hosting.
Raine & Horne Director La Shae Porteous says “One of our company’s core values is to support our community, and through this wonderful event we’re are able to give our time to those in need. We’ve been blessed to have someone like Clare join our community – her vision for the area, and her mission to give back, is inspiring and heart-warming.”
Volunteer support for the kitchen shows many people are yearning to give, Clare says. “The response has been incredible – I had 60 volunteers signed up within a few days.”
For Carol Dawson, of Catalina, activities that call for nothing but time are refreshing. Carol’s one of more than 300 members of a bushwalking group established by Clare. Trails conquered include the Durras Discovery Trail, Bingie Dreaming track and Wasp Head walk.
“It’s so unusual for a business to put something out there that’s completely free, just for the joy of it,” Carol says. “If you have a favourite walk, you just create an (online) event and people come to meet you. There are so many rules in life, but this is spontaneous, down to earth and free. You end up walking with people you have something in common with.”
For Clare, walking with a tribe is the key to shaping the future we choose.
“We need to ask ourselves how we create a community that supports one another and isn’t fuelled by competition,” Clare says. “We can all contribute in different ways. This is about working together to create something wonderful.”
Soul Tribe offers ‘by donation’ yoga classes, free community movie nights and a free meeting space for local groups aligned with studio values. To contact Clare, visit the Soul Tribe Studio website.
Words by Kat McCarthy.