Non-Compete with the Homeless

Woman Doing Yoga

So, this is a new one.

I have hit the ground running in terms of establishing myself as a yoga instructor.  And — unlike my tai chi instructing attempts — this has been pretty fruitful.  I teach two classes a week at my favorite studio — the studio I’ve been with since I moved to New Hampshire and actually did my teacher training at — as well as two classes a week at another studio the town over.  As of last week, I started teaching a class at another studio and, as of yesterday, I signed on to become a teacher at yet another studio.  This is on top of my volunteer work at a homeless services center, where the classes have been small at times, but the people who do come seem genuinely interested in understanding yoga.

Since my teacher training wrapped, nearly every attempt has turned into a hit, at least in terms of studio owners letting me on.  Only time will tell if the classes will be popular, if the clientele will stick around, or if the owners will like me enough to keep me on board.  And sometimes those attempts are misses: one studio I was subbing at closed their doors recently (just as I was about to potentially become a regular teacher), and another studio just ignored me completely.  But the most recent miss is one for the books:

This particular studio was looking for new substitute and regular teachers.  I did my usual song and dance, writing to them about my experience, my training, and my teaching philosophy.  They then sent me a formal application to fill out, which included writing down where else I teach.  I mention every place I work at — including my volunteer work at a homeless services center — and send it in.

Today, I got a reply back, letting me know that I would not be able to teach there due to their non-compete agreement.  They ask that their instructors do not teach at any other place within a 15-mile radius, which is a fairly common practice.  They then cited the two places that would fall into that category: the studio I started at last week and the homeless services center.

The best part is not just that they took the time to mention the homeless center, but they mentioned it first out of the two places that would potentially violate a non-compete.  Now, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt: I’m sure if I were not teaching at the other studio, they would not have counted my time at the center against me.  But the fact that they took the time to write out that I teach at the homeless center is tickling me pink.

And it’s not like it could have been mistaken as work at an actual studio.  I specifically mentioned in my cover letter and in the application that it was volunteer work (because, while I don’t do it for the résumé boosting, it totally is a résumé booster).

I mean, who notes your volunteer work at a homeless center as potentially violating a non-compete? And even if I were getting paid, how in the world are you going to count yoga for the homeless as a non-compete violation for a studio?  ‘Cause, y’know, I’m totally gonna get all those clients who can afford yoga classes at an upscale studio to shuffle on down to the services center to take classes there instead.  Yes, lady in the $65 Lululemon tank top with the $150/month unlimited pass to the studio, I also teach at a homeless services center.  And if you’re really interested, I’m there on Tuesdays.  You don’t need this swanky studio!  Come swing by — we meet in the cafeteria!  Just make sure to take anything of value with you and lock up your car; the neighborhood is notorious for smash-and-grabs.

I can’t stress enough that this is more funny to me than anything else, and, for the sake of storytelling, I’m choosing to believe that this studio would genuinely feel threatened by my time at a homeless center.  It is just so tempting to reply back with something like, “I totally get it!  My time with the homeless would violate a non-compete.  Because, I mean, who can compete with the homeless population?  The city officials sure can’t!”

Oh, it’s funny because the city in question has no interest in helping curb homelessness or addressing the root causes of it, but they’d sure like the homeless people to magically disappear.

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