Do you want to become a sustainable business owner?
Do you want to own a sustainable business? A business that is related to the change you want to make in the world, that uses your unique experience and turns it into a thriving business that nurtures and sustains you.
If so, our new interview series – SUSTAINABILITY IN BUSINESS - is for you. A golden opportunity to listen and learn as two established sustainable business owners explore what is sustainability in business, and how to create a business that is sustainable for you, the people around you, and the planet.
We want to motivate you to act, by sharing top tips from the people who have been there and done it. These might be mindset tips, practical tips like how to source raw materials or packaging, or marketing tips, or something else entirely!
Meet Skyler Shah, Founder of Yatay Yoga –
Home of Lightweight Cork Yoga Mats
In this sustainable business owner interview, I'm joined by YogaClicks’ maker Skyler Shah, founder of Yatay Yoga. Yatay makes cork yoga mats and cork blocks, yoga wheels and yoga mat bags which are 100% sustainable, recyclable, lightweight, antimicrobial, and latex free. Says Skyler, “We want to lead the way on planet and body friendly yoga equipment.”
Lucy: So many of the best sustainable businesses are rooted in a change that the founder wants to see in the world. What gave you the idea for the business? What is the change you want to make in the world?
Skyler: Initially, part of what gave me the idea to create Yatay was my excitement to use sustainable and natural materials for normal items. I wanted to create great quality products including an eco-friendly yoga mat, using great quality and sustainable materials, encompassed in a sustainable business structure with great customer service. To bring the best to those who couldn't afford to pay a super-premium price. Everyone deserves great health, and this is one of the ways I wanted to help achieve this.
Lucy: Why is this so important to you? Something in your history? Your experience? What is your personal stake?
Skyler: I grew up living in refuges with my mum and being homeless is something I'm in many ways lucky enough to not have much a memory of. I see it every day; however, the mistreatment of people who have less than others. The way many governments are managed means that those who earn less, struggle more, have more mental and physical health issues. Ultimately, it’s a very difficult place to break free from. Part of the reason I wanted to create great products at reasonable prices was to bridge that gap, whilst maintaining a sustainable business in its infancy. This is also why I wanted the customer service to be amazing. So often in life people are treated with such unfairness. I'd like Yatay to be at least one checkpoint where you can take a breather from this, in more than one way! On sustainable packaging
Lucy: Packaging is always a big issue for sustainable brands. How did you come to yours? What were the hurdles? How did you overcome them?
Skyler: In order to ditch the traditional plastic fantastic packaging show, the clear thing that we had to do was make sure that the quality of the equipment was up to scratch. This meant better fabric density, bonding and higher quality materials. The rest was simple. Our boxes (which all our equipment comes in) are made from recycled material and whenever we do have to use something more protective, it too is recycled. This does eat up at what we must reinvest into Yatay, but our integrity is worth it.
Lucy: Did you use a brand designer? How did you find them? Did you know what look and feel you wanted? How did you work together?
Skyler: I designed everything from the logo to the method of engraving!
Lucy: Lots of sustainable businesses must do their marketing on a shoestring. What worked for you? How did you get the brand off the ground and what do you do now to keep it front of mind?
Skyler: Well, we struggled a lot during Covid with a great problem. During the first wave we sold out, but we couldn't get any more equipment made! After dealing with material issues and staffing issues, our equipment got stranded and then arrived with astronomical fees. It's been a roller coaster so, emerging from that, it's been about reconnecting with our loyal TRIBE. The best thing that worked for us, honestly, was delivering above and beyond what was promised. Being real and taking a human approach to customer interactions has been our biggest insight. Once someone has the time, space and freedom to explore your brand, and then feels safe to ask questions and join the community of customers, it's hard to break. Especially when the equipment just works and lasts.
Lucy: An important part of making a business sustainable is making sure it’s sustainable for you. How do you manage your time? What does a typical day look like?!
Skyler: I split my week between jobs. I'm a Psychological coach (Life/Business Coach) and I love it. What I do there impacts what I do with Yatay and vice versa. With that side of me fulfilled I'm free to get my hands dirty with Yatay. Mostly, the tough stuff is sorted out early and the remainder of the day is future-building.
Lucy: What does your office look like? Do you work at home?
Skyler: My office is mostly my home, but the main work zone is a chilled, minimalist room with wall length shelves for books and 3 cactuses that are doing well to stay alive!
Creating a sustainable business – top five tips
Lucy: What are your top five tips for creating a sustainable business? They could be mindset tips like managing anxiety, listening to your gut or practical like how to find great employees, or where to get the money from to see your business
Skyler: Dream big. Don't ask, "How do I do this?", but, "What would I live to do/have/create/be?"
Bring something from the future you into today and do this as often as you can.
Be self-compassionate, a stretched bow eventually snaps.
Identify what sustainable means to you. And while you're doing this, identify also what success means to you. See if these can be debunked by environmental factors. If they can, rework it until you arrive in the driving seat.
Sometimes planning and 'getting it right' can be paralysing. Take the pressure off. Feel free to mess up and get it wrong and learn from it, please. Aim to be 70-80% finished before you press 'Go' on things. You'll increase your opportunities and effectiveness.
What’s next for Yatay?
Lucy: What are you looking forward to?
Skyler: Our recent re-Launch of the Dark Matter mat is most notable. It's one of the first colours we began with and, although for most companies, black is standard, it's giving us a real sense of heritage.
Lucy: Thank you – I am sure our readers will find your advice and insight inspiring.
Skyler: Awesome! Thank you for hosting! It was great talking to you.