YOGI Fitness Mat
Today my female entrepreneur is Joanne Ruse. Joanne is a designer and a founder of YOGI Fitness Mat.
Joanne is designing beautiful and practical fitness mats for people with busy lives. Each fitness mat is one of a kind handmade by artisans in the USA.
These practical fitness mats come with carrying straps, a wallet big enough for the phone, ID, money, water bottle, keys, and a detachable mat towel.
In this interview she shares how she came up with the idea of creating practical yoga mats, her challenges along the way and has a piece of fantastic advice for future female entrepreneurs. Read on to find out more.
PLEASE TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF AND THE BUSINESS YOU STARTED.
I am a mom, a teacher, an entrepreneur, and a yogi. When my daughter was an infant, I was working full time and completing my first graduate degree part-time.
Getting to yoga class was a priority and a gift. When I was able to attend the class I would be rushing out the door only to find that I had forgotten something – my yoga towel, my water bottle, or my wallet. Once I went to class wearing slippers!
I looked for a yoga or workout mat that had everything encompassed with it but there wasn’t such a thing so, I decided to create one!
Having no business or sales knowledge, getting my business started was overwhelming. I felt like a rowboat in the middle of the ocean. It took going step by step, and finally, I was able to get my business started.
WHAT DOES YOUR TYPICAL DAY LOOK LIKE AND HOW DO YOU STAY PRODUCTIVE?
My day starts at 4:30 am. I’m out the door by 5:10 am to get to a fitness class before my Assistant Librarian position in a public school. I am home by 4:30 pm and when my daughter gets home, we start dinner, walk the dog, do homework and chores around the house. Around 8 pm I set a side an hour for YOGI – check emails, website updates, ship sales, etc. By 9:30 pm, I’m pooped and in bed. Saturday afternoons are for YOGI. Saturday evening and Sunday is for family.
However, as busy as the day sounds, I am lucky in that by working in a school, I have a summer vacation. I allot that time to focus full-time on YOGI.
THE JOURNEY SO FAR
PLEASE DESCRIBE THE PROCESS OF LAUNCHING YOUR BUSINESS.
The idea for YOGI Fitness Mat came out of “the need for speed!” I needed to solve the problem of wasting time. The name, YOGI: You On the Go Instantly! was created with a grab and go concept in mind. I needed a name to reflect an instantaneous get-a-way!
YOGI Fitness Mats are specially designed to have everything you need attached to the mat. YOGI comes in two versions, The Original and The Express. The Original YOGI Mats have a mat towel, water bottle, key ring, wallet/phone holder and carrying straps. Each item is easily removable. The Express YOGI Mats have attached carrying straps for and feature a zipper open/close. Both YOGI versions hallmark “hands free” when having your mat with you!
I started YOGI Fitness Mat from scratch. Using credit cards, savings, and still keeping a full-time job, I was able to get the business going. I hired manufacturers to help with the production and design of the mat. It was fun to see my prototypes, which were held together with duct tape and a prayer, turn into an actual product.
The feedback was awesome! People liked my product. It was a neat feeling to see the interest. At first it was shocking because I was shy about the mat. I was worried people wouldn’t like them. But then I had people contacting me to make purchases and to be investors. Those were proud moments for me.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT AND YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE SINCE YOU STARTED YOUR BUSINESS?
My biggest challenge was not listening to the naysayers. I had people who were close to me not supporting the idea and the business. It was hard to not listen to their criticism. I had my own self doubts that I was fighting in my own mind. To have people I love to be so negative was hard.
Finally, the negativity started to fuel me. I was determined to prove them wrong! I used that anger to keep going. In doing so I achieved my dream of becoming an entrepreneur and launched YOGI Fitness Mat, LLC in February of 2018.
Currently, my biggest challenges are large run manufacturing and funding.
WHAT STRATEGY DID YOU USE TO GROW YOUR BUSINESS? AND HOW?
My growth strategy is to have daily, weekly, and monthly goals. The goals focus on brand building, promotions, vendor relations, and manufacturing. I do this in many ways – cold calling, Social Media, working with other small business owners, and customer care.
I also try to always use my time wisely. At my desk is an on-going list of things that I need to do which are color coded by urgency. One funny thing that I do is to wear lipstick and heels when I’m at home working on YOGI. Even if I’m in sweatpants and my hair is a mess, the combo of nice shoes and shinny lips makes me feel confident.
WHAT IS YOUR VISION FOR THE FUTURE OF BUSINESS?
In looking into the future of YOGI Fitness Mat, I would like to do a licensing agreement with a global company. This will allow me to pursue other creative products and business ideas that I have on a full-time basis.
RECOMMENDATIONS & FINAL THOUGHTS
PLEASE RECOMMEND ANY RESOURCES AND TOOLS THAT YOU USE TO RUN YOUR BUSINESS.
A huge resource for me is networking. In particular, I attended an entrepreneur conference hosted by HSN in August of 2018. The conference introduced me to other small business owners, business leaders, and many, many wonderful people that I now consider friends.
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVOURITE BOOKS, BLOGS OR PODCASTS?
My absolute favorite book and podcast – I highly recommend this to everyone not just business owners is, “Discipline Equals Freedom: Field Manual” by Jocko Willnick.
Mr. Willink is an Ex-Navy Seal, business owner, podcaster, motivational speaker, author, and in my opinion, a true renaissance man. He takes the emotion out of problems in a straightforward approach.
I listen to his podcast, watch his YouTubes and read that book every day. It has made a huge difference in all aspects of my life! I hope to meet him!
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO OTHER WOMEN WHO WANT TO START THEIR OWN BUSINESS?
My best advice to women who want to start their own business is to DO IT!
“Own” your business idea or whatever it is that you want to do. Don’t let your fears or excuses stop you.
We are lucky to have the power of the internet. Spend some time just doing searches to help stimulate ideas.
Also, to network. Look for “Meet-Ups” or conferences in your area and try to attend as many as you can. Some conferences are even free.
Likewise, check out your local SCORE business center. They offer free business advice and are in almost every state in the US.
And remember…every step counts. Every step you take is momentum! Celebrate each step! No matter how small! Moving forward in itself is cause for celebration!
Also, expect set backs. Everyone has them. But, don’t let them bring you down. Find the silver lining no matter how small and learn what to do differently for next time.
WHAT BUSINESS IDEA DO YOU HAVE THAT YOU ARE WILLING TO SHARE WITH OTHERS?
I would love to share my personal story of my childhood in a memoir.
I am the oldest of three children and the first person in my family to graduate high school. At 21 years old, I put myself through college, earning a BA in just 2.5 years with a 3.98 average. My parents were both Polish immigrants with no education or money. They had an arranged marriage and couldn’t speak English well.
My brothers and I are survivors with many stories to tell. However, our stories hold a common theme, hope and perseverance.
I would love to be an inspiration for others, especially women, to keep going! To live! And to live their VERY BEST LIFE!
Thank you so much for this opportunity!
Welcome to the Biz Ladies interview series!
If you’re new to these series, I interview women entrepreneurs on how they started their business, what was the idea behind it, how they got where they are, the struggles, the reality and more.
By sharing their stories, we want to inspire other women to get started.
If you are interested to share your own story on the Biz Ladies LET ME KNOW!