A class at Purple Yoga. All photos courtesy of the Purple Yoga Facebook page.
With short brown hair, dark eyes, and a soothing voice, Joe Vogt has a calming presence.
This, despite his company’s rather frenetic growth in the past five years—the opening of Purple Yoga’s second and third yoga studios (including one in Long Beach), the relocation and renovation of his first studio in Fullerton and the opening of Purple Pedal, a boutique spinning studio, in Fullerton. Vogt’s even eyeing spots in Irvine or the Los Cerritos area for another studio at the moment.
But then again, perhaps he should be calm. The former Long Beach resident is the director of yoga at his company’s three locations, and spends his days exercising—loading up on those endorphins, after all—before returning to his family and current home in Rossmoor in the evening.
Yoga is often associated with a calm attitude, and that sense of contagious calm is what attracted Vogt to yoga in the first place, he said.
When his friend introduced him to yoga in the mid-90s, Vogt immediately felt a connection to the practice.
“I walked in, and I thought, ‘wow, this is so unique,’” Vogt said. “I sensed, energetically, that it was just a different place to be.”
Before stumbling upon yoga, Vogt spent “a few days a week” in the gym, played group sports like Frisbee and occasionally surfed. Moving here from the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, Vogt enjoyed the wonders of year-round warm weather and exercised recreationally while owning and operating a media buying and advertising company.
It wasn’t until he sold the company and freelanced for a few years that he began pondering the idea of opening his own studio.
It was 2002. He’d lost two thirds of what he’d made when he sold his company during the dot com bubble burst. He was ready to open a new business, and he thought yoga would be the next best thing. He had a yoga teacher hired and the landlord about to sign off on the purchase. He was ready.
But then, the landlord got sketchy, and his trainer lost interest. Vogt decided it was time for him to drop the project and become teacher certified himself. So he got serious.
“I thought, if I’m gonna do this, I’m gonna be my own director,” Vogt said. “I can apply my business skills and acumen to this.”
Graduating with a bachelor’s degree in International Finance from the Minneapolis/St.Paul-based University of St. Thomas in 1993, Vogt has had a life-long a passion for entrepreneurship that stemmed from his father’s successful business exploits, which Vogt witnessed while coming of age in the Minneapolis, Minnesota suburbs. Vogt said while growing up, his father wanted him to be a lawyer, but Vogt knew the urge to start businesses was in his blood.
In 2003, Vogt graduated from a yoga teaching certification program—Bikram yoga, specifically, doing the nine-week intensive certification retreat taught by Bikram Choudry himself.
By 2005, he had opened his first studio in downtown Fullerton, where he was living at the time, after working as a freelance yoga instructor and freelance media buyer. In the beginning, it was just him—which meant a direct profit with little overhead costs.
“Because it was just me, I managed to make money early on,” said Vogt. In order to finance the studio, he said he “maxed out 30 credit cards.”
“Once finance reform hit [later that decade], it would be more difficult to do that way,” said Vogt, who managed to pay off all of his credit cards rather quickly, with dutiful monthly payments. “I was overly confident...I just believed it was going to work.”
And work it did. To the point where, after five years, Vogt was ready for his business to try new things. Which, as a studio affiliated with Bikram yoga, was a bit difficult.
“I love Bikram yoga,” said Vogt. “I think it’s a great system of yoga. But I wanted to do more with yoga. I wanted to do retreats and teacher training [...] I wanted to affect a greater portion of the community.”
Vogt’s desires led to the rebranding of his studio as Purple Yoga, where his focus changed to a fusion of various yoga styles. His new approach was influenced by training with Ganga White, famed yogi and founder of the White Lotus Foundation, which sits near Santa Barbara.
“He’s probably one of the biggest influencers of my teaching style,” said Vogt. “In his book, Yoga Beyond Belief, he states that it’s our responsibility to stand of the shoulders of the past, and, without bastardizing them, reinterpret them for modern society. It’s everyman’s yoga—we try to make it accessible to everyone.”
The rebranding marked a pivotal moment for his business—one in which profits began to accelerate, where growth potential appeared unlimited.
In February 2010, he opened a branch of Purple Yoga in Long Beach. He had moved from Fullerton to Long Beach—attracted to the beach atmosphere, mid-century modern homes and diversity—and felt strongly about opening up a center near home, but close enough to the Fullerton center where clients could hop back and forth.
“Orange County can be kind of homogenized. I like that Long Beach doesn’t feel that way,” said Vogt.
With the opening of a studio near the Trader Joe’s in the Market Place shopping center at Second and PCH, he was set. The opening of a studio in Tustin took place shortly after, in 2012, before he decided to buy a new building for his Fullerton studio and place Purple Pedal in the studio’s old home. And yes, he has offered teacher training for a number of years now.
Talk about growth potential.
In a Soul Cycle-meets-Core Power and Yogaworks kind of world, the market appears ripe for well-organized, aesthetically pleasing yoga and spin studio chains, focused on building fitness and enhancing the mind. In fact, Purple Yoga has multiple membership options, in which clients can grab deals on Purple Pedal and Purple Yoga (mixing cardio with strength), just Purple Pedal, or just Purple Yoga. The membership deals at the yoga studios allow members to try classes at each center.
Part of Vogt’s expansion plan includes opening another Purple Pedal in the next few years. First on the agenda, however, is most likely another studio, either in Los Alamitos or Irvine.
Vogt, who jumps across the region to participate in Soul Cycle classes in Brentwood and other classes at different studios, is quick to say he’d like the company to remain grounded in the tenets of yoga, despite any expansion of Purple Pedal. He said the spiritual element is something he finds crucial to his and many others’ daily regimen.
“As the younger generation becomes less-involved in organized religion, they begin to realize there’s something missing in their daily lives,” said Vogt, who was raised and confirmed within the Catholic Church. “Yoga serves that younger demographic. A lot of that demographic is seeking spiritual guidance.”
For now, Vogt will keep strengthening his current studios, while laying the groundwork for continued growth and building on the positive vibes his fitness centers emit. He emphasized, quite clearly, that it’s these vibes he’d like to spread, pointing to yoga’s tendency to attract supportive groups at studios around the world.
“It’s people trying to become more enlightened and improve themselves,” said Vogt. “If everyone is expressing a certain thought, kindness and love, it spreads. It’s the maharishi effect.”
Top right: Photo of Joe Vogt.
Bottom right: Purple Yoga Long Beach, before the grand opening in 2010.
Purple Yoga is located at 6535 East Pacific Coast Highway, The Marketplace, Market Place.