FORT MYERS, Fla — Lindsay Smith knows business. She knows how to create a plan. And how to jump in with both feet.
“I don’t just take baby steps. I usually just leap into something,” she says. "So…here we are.”
Here she is, about to open up Vibe Yoga in Fort Myers. She’s part of our SWFL Reinvented: Moving Forward series. We’re meeting local people who changed the course of their careers to start a new small business. And we’re following them through the ups and downs of their journeys.
Lindsay worked for more than 20 years in the hospitality industry, many of them as a manager.
“I would go to other hotels that were in bad shape and either wipe out the whole team and hire a whole new team and retrain,” she says. "Or I would go and open new hotels, and it would be about a two-year process.”
She opened the TownePlace Suites in Estero and the Marriott at Coconut Point. Then, in the summer of 2017, a hurricane blew into her life.
“A few weeks after Irma, I ended up having a stroke,” Lindsay says.
It was actually one of several she had over the years. She had a high-stress job, a husband serving in the Army overseas, and a young family. It was time for a change.
"I didn’t know what I was going to do. I went through a pretty big identity crisis,” Lindsay says. “I felt like my identity was related to my title. So I didn’t know who I was. I didn’t think I was worth anything.”
And it didn’t get any easier. Lindsay was still struggling with it a year later. She was pregnant with twins and ended up losing one of her babies.
“Went through really bad postpartum depression,” she says. "And that’s when I was like, ‘ok I need to find something.’ And that’s when I started learning about yoga and figuring out to heal myself.”
She poured herself into yoga. And at the end of one class, when she was able to fully focus on nothing but her breath, it happened.
"And it was the first time I had that…world came off my shoulders feeling.”
She knew she could share that feeling with people who also needed it. Lindsay took more than 200 hours of classes to learn how yoga can help people with trauma. Like the men and women her husband served with.
“I think it’s not so much what they see, as far as events that happen. It’s the guilt a lot of them carry because it didn’t happen to them. Or because they were commanding people and they lost their lives because of a decision they made. And they live with that. It’s just…sorry…it’s a pain that you can’t take from someone and I just wish I could so badly,” she says.
Lindsay started teaching yoga to veterans and first responders for free.
“They live in this fight or flight state. And for that 20 minutes or 30 minutes that I have them on the mat, they’re able to start that parasympathetic state of rest and digest,” Lindsay says, "And so their body is finally able to go from [hyper-alert] to [relaxed]. And it’s in that state of mind when you’re able to start healing.”
Lindsay had just hit her stride helping people when Covid hit. And when she was ready to start teaching again last summer, she found all of her old studios had gone out of business because of the pandemic.
“So I just kind of sat there at dinner with my husband one night and I was like, ‘I want to open a yoga studio’” she says.
“And my husband, being the best husband in the world, he has full faith in me, especially my businesses abilities, he’s like, ‘alright, write out a budget and a business plan and let’s do it.’”
Lindsay found a location for her studio off of Daniels Parkway. There have been a few delays, but sometime soon, she will open a yoga studio for people working through trauma. And for children. And for everybody in-between.
“And the reason why we name it Vibe is because I want there to just be good vibes. Like, you just come in and you feel there’s no pressure, there’s nobody judging you. Like we are all here to work on ourselves.”