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YOGO founder Jessica Thompson on the parallels between entrepreneurship and a yoga practice

This week we were fortunate enough to spend some time online with Jessica Thompson, founder of YOGO. We talked about self-care, business in the time of COVID, recovering from perfectionism, and giving back. Please join us for the conversation!

The F Project: Hey Jessica! For the uninitiated, would you please share the elevator pitch for your company?

Jessica Thompson: Of course. YOGO is focused on creating modern, beautiful products with a smart design, that meet or exceed the highest standards of sustainability in the industry. We are working at the factory, lab, and farm level to ensure that the products we produce and offer give back to communities, guarantee sustainable forest management, and reduce the carbon footprint vis a vis standard methods. Our current primary product, the Ultralight Folding Yoga Mat, has a clever compact design with attached straps that keeps it clean and makes it extremely easy to store or take anywhere. 

TFP: So how has the pandemic affected your business?

JT: Demand for yoga has skyrocketed, and we are rushing to deliver our wider home-based collection. Despite being a difficult time, it has also been a very creative one for us as we finalize our rebrand and accelerate new products. Our team has also grown closer and our engagement is way up. 

TFP: Have you used new strategies to sell your products as a result of the pandemic?

JT: YOGO is digitally-native, so no storefronts closed. But our customers are cooped up and hungry for content and yoga. We have really focused on building our subscriber audience and influencer community, and are building some additional amazing content that we'll roll out soon. Our objective is to reach people in their homes and bring them as much yoga as possible. We are really happy to see so many people connecting with the practice for the first time.

TFP: What are you doing for self-care during the pandemic?

JT: Lots of things! I am lucky enough to have a yard and have gotten into gardening, which I never saw coming. I got an awesome pet, and I have invested in the outdoors. We are in the Tahoe area and there are just bottomless opportunities to get deep into nature (biking, hiking, camping), which, along with yoga, is my best way to restore. I've also recommitted to my yoga practice, of course, and healthful eating. As most founders know, making time for a yoga a few times a week is a big commitment to self-care.

TFP: Do you have recommendations for great online yoga instruction?

JT: That’s a great question! This has so much to do with the personal style of the student and the teaching styles they prefer. My favorite teachers are on YogaGlo, from the Love Story Yoga family out of San Francisco. My recommendation for a beginner is to start with a yoga level one class, and also try Yin style yoga, which focuses on limbering up your body as opposed to strength-based poses. Many beginners make the mistake of jumping right into a heated or power yoga class before learning the postures, which is like jumping right into ballet class level 4. Yoga is meant to meet you where you are and provide clarity, strength, and relaxation, so don't focus so much on the outward appearance. It's not a competition, it's a pathway to wellbeing, oneness, and personal strength.     

TFP: What advice for best practices can you offer other entrepreneurs?

JT: Gosh, my best advice is to invest in the best people you can, be genuine with your audience, and be consistent. Consistency is key in building a following... and in scaling up. I love that smart quote "people overestimate what they can do in a day and underestimate what they can do in a year." As a recovering perfectionist, I've learned that there are a lot of overwhelming details in entrepreneurship, but if you just keep at it, the change over six months is incredible. Focus on the process and the “next best thing” you can do, and just accept that some fires are going to burn. If I can use a yoga metaphor, if you just focus on showing up and getting on the mat, and repeating the sequences, you will suddenly surprise yourself with your own strength and jump right into an advanced pose.  

TFP: Tell us more about how your company gives back.

JT: We give back in two major ways. The most obvious is our Food Trees program, whereby through our partner NGO, we provide a food-bearing tree and sustainable agriculture training to a family in need. This provides education, income, food, and environmental restoration to families.

More importantly, in my mind, we are focused on making all our products in the most sustainable way, so that the direct impact of our operations is the most gentle and even beneficial possible. YOGO is on a mission to break through the greenwashy noise and help engage our audience in a thoughtful discussion about sustainability. Because we are pushing for greener practices this is much more time-consuming, expensive, and technically challenging, but we would not have it any other way.

TFP: We love that. Thank you so much, Jessica, for doing what you do and talking with us about it today. Stay well.

JT: Thank you…you too!

Erika Szychowski

Erika Szychowski is the CEO/Founder of Good Zebra and the Founder of The F Project, a social impact project to raise the profile of female founders through collaborative commerce.
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