How my practice translates into my life is paramount to why I do it. I haven’t found another physical discipline that more directly reflects what’s going on in my day to day life than yoga. Whether it’s the ability to focus, a feeling of strength, or a nagging insecurity; if it’s on my mat, it’s in my life. To remind myself to look is as important as to perform the act itself. Yoga creates a natural progression that follows a process. If it’s rushed or forced, I get hurt. This is probably the single biggest tangential concept that’s paralleled the creation of Warrior Wear. As much as I want to push, grow, invest, and produce; it can’t be rushed. I feel like most businesses fail, unfortunately, because they try to force something that isn’t naturally born from demand. This is the story of our organic creation.
In the past, I highlighted that the idea of Warrior Wear was sparked from a conversation over frustration at the lack of men’s yoga shorts. The story that I haven’t had the opportunity to tell is the three groups that really helped bring our concept to market. Although my transitions might be a little stretched, there is a common thread that runs between all of them; without their support, we wouldn’t be here today.
A Creation in Columbus
After I put our vision to create a men’s yoga apparel company into place, I came up with a plan. The first thing I knew that I begrudgingly needed to do was share the idea and get feedback. I started reaching out to startup groups around Columbus and setting-up meetings with entrepreneurs who had started numerous companies. This might have been the most vulnerable and unnerving part of my experience as I sought honest interruptive feedback. In the past, I would present investments run by portfolio managers with Ivy League educations backed by firms with centuries of experience. During these meetings, I was presenting my own crazy idea about creating a new market with a uniquely designed short that I felt a personal connection to. By the end of these conversations, I was sweating as much as a hot flow with the same feeling of joy. Presenting my idea not only allowed me to become serious about the concept but it allowed me to become serious about the company.
Admittedly, I was quite surprised at how many people were willing to help. I made friends, I met partners, and I found a tremendous amount of support. My adult life has been led, and to some extent still is, expecting to be challenged and brushing aside compliments. It was only after an overwhelming response from this amazing community that I really started to feel comfortable and proud about the direction we were going. On top of that, I started to realize that Columbus might actually be the perfect place to launch a men’s yoga apparel company. It is serendipitously home to some of the biggest names in apparel and full of talented designers, it has a very abundant and tight-knit yoga community, and it has a strong current of big city entrepreneurship with a small town feel of support. Without the guidance, support, and creative community of Columbus, I wouldn’t have continued down this path and found the road to Kickstarter.
The Road to Kickstarter
Through the advice and feedback from others, crowd funding became a topic very early in the conversation. I described to entrepreneurs that I wanted to develop a unique product and create a new market for men’s yoga apparel. They told me that the idea screamed Kickstarter. My initial response was skeptical. I wasn’t comfortable asking people for money and thought crowdfunding was a strange beggar’s banquet of sorts. They quickly schooled me on the idea that Kickstarter wasn’t about solely raising money. Often times, when it’s successful it won’t financially yield much more than you invest because of the build-up cost for advertising and preparation. It is a way though to validate the market with a product that you promise to backers as a reward for their support before it’s available. In essence, it functioned for us as a presale to determine whether there were customers in the cyber sphere who were so excited about what we were offering that they would support our cause and patiently wait for us to develop it.
Our Kickstarter campaign was one of harder and more public things that I have done. It forced me into the discomfort of revealing to most everyone I knew that I left a successful career in finance to make yoga shorts and was asking for their help. Everyone was quick to applaud, not just with their wallets but with their hearts. Friends, family, and the global Kickstarter community saw to it that our project was funded in the less than half the time. Kickstarter was a perfect way to make our debut with a new market, earn credibility, and create a group of global supporters who will always be at the heart of our company. It also forced me out my comfort zone and helped me to meet Roman and Matt, the two guys who convinced me to join the circus.
Run Away to the Circus
I can’t remember the initial exchange on Twitter that introduced me to Soul Circus. All I remember is Broga UK founder, Matt Miller, saying Get your butt over to The Cotswolds, we’d love to have you! He and Soul Circus co-founder, Roman Wroath were two of the earliest supporters of our brand. As I looked into it, I learned that Soul Circus was a yoga festival in its inaugural year taking place on a farm in England. Initially, the idea was just a lofty daydream. Around the time that I was putting together our Kickstarter campaign and building our reward platform, something clicked. This was actually the perfect place to test our brand and launch our company. If we didn’t meet a solid reception, we could fade quietly. If we were well received, we could have an instant overseas network. Roman was quick to demonstrate his commitment, humility, and willingness to take a chance with us, in part, because they were a startup. It was also abundantly clear that they cared and believed in our mission to accommodate and grow the base of male practitioners.
Soul Circus was a whirlwind of a time with colorful practitioners covered in glitter and paint seeking occasional shelter from intermittent storms under the guise of incredibly durable and beautifully decorated circus tents. It was a blast. We were able to scrape together enough supplies and rope to create a booth for our first official stand sparsely decorated by our apparel and a company banner. The yoga was amazing and the classes will be remembered as some of my all time favorites. By far though, the best part about Soul Circus was the people. The brilliant, caring, attendees and staff is what made the entire event worthwhile. I remember reading Roman’s email just prior to the event, “I hope we have created a strong community of partners and supporters who become friends and want to work together in the future.” Mission accomplished, my friend.
Looking back over the past year with our Columbus introduction, Kickstarter campaign, and international launch at Soul Circus; it’s pretty amazing how everything came together. There is something to be said for the Taoist principal of aligning with the currents of life and, to my original point, flowing rather forcing. This isn’t intended to be a startup guide to business but I fully believe there are several principals that we can pull from yoga into entrepreneurship. Starting a business can be lonely, it doesn’t mean you’re alone. Both parties can always benefit, trust and patience work. Others have come before you, listen to what they say. Lastly, have fun and work with the people you enjoy. You might be surprised by the community you create. Until our next time, stay present.