At a young age, Gina Durante knew she wanted to be a business owner.
A business that involves a combination of alpacas, goats and exercise might have been a stretch at the time, but Durante and partner Heather Bonato have made an impact with their creation called Yoga Hive Philly.
“We actually both started out in the corporate world,” said Durante, who grew up in Medford, New Jersey and recently moved to Queen Village in South Philadelphia. “We were both miserable working a nine-to-five and we both had a passion for owning a business, so we decided to open up a yoga studio. The wellness world was booming, and we just thought to open something that would be good in the area.”
Yoga Hive Philly was born.
Durante and Bonato’s business specializes in yoga events, animal yoga, outdoor and rooftop yoga, and unique wellness events. Having animals like goats and alpacas on site allows students to learn yoga at their own pace and it offers a feeling of comfortability to newcomers.
“People that would not normally go to a yoga class might tend to come to something they feel more comfortable with,” Durante said. “Goats and alpacas are very calming creatures. And it’s kind of interesting to see them watch the poses and the people. It’s a really good mind-body connection between the people and the animals. They both love it.”
Yoga Hive Philly started with a storefront on East Passyunk Avenue but the business has since migrated to rotating locations for different events to help keep costs down.
“Right now, we’re focusing on our events and festivals and coming up with new and exciting ideas for people in the area,” Durante said.
One of those ideas is a Rooftop Yoga and Bottomless Mimosas event in Queen Village, which has sold out on all three dates that were listed. The next big event is the Goatchella event with goats and alpacas, which will be held at the East Passyunk Community Center at 1025 Mifflin St. on May 3.
Tickets are $45, and time slots are available at 10 a.m., 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at yogahivephilly.com. Students need to bring a yoga mat and a camera for some fun selfies, if desired.
“It’s a really fun event,” Durante said. “The animals like to watch and after the class, all students have an opportunity to go take pictures with the animals and pet them and ask questions about them.”
Goats and alpacas are brought in from Tabernacle, Burlington County, New Jersey from Grazing Goat and Nash Hill Alpacas. The animals aren’t shy to take selfies for Instagram, and a portion of the proceeds is donated back to the farms.
The actual yoga instruction is left to the professionals, as Durante and Bonato hire instructors to teach the class, giving the duo more time to manage the business end of the company.
“Neither one of us are big yogis,” Durate said. “We practice and we enjoy it but we don’t teach. To own a business, you have to give it your all to be successful, and it takes up all of your time.”
She knows about owning a business first-hand because it’s in her blood. Her grandfather owned Tony’s Tires of South Philadelphia on West Oregon Avenue, an auto repair and retail space established in 1971. Her father opened businesses South Philly Video in 1981 and South Philly Billiards in 1989, and her uncle opened up the popular brunch spot Green Eggs Cafe on South 13th Street, which has expanded to multiple locations.
“It’s always been my passion to own my own business,” Durante said. “I went to school for marketing and business and I love planning events and coming up with new exciting ideas.”