Entrepreneurs

CorkYogis: A Social Enterprise For Yoga Lovers

“At CorkYogis, we provide a way to combine our passion for yoga with our desire to empower women less fortunate than ourselves.” — CorkYogis

Corks are universally known in the wine industry. But at CorkYogis, a company known for their ‘Ultimate Grip’, ‘Ultra-Hygenic’ and Sustainable yoga mats are putting cork oak to very good use.

With the new year and a new you… perhaps 2021 is the year you start to eat well and mediate with yoga as your favorite hobby?

Wellness is on top of everyone’s list of resolutions and during the pandemic, health + wellness brands saw a huge increase in sales and interest.

I sat down with co-owners of CorkYogis—based in the UK about their products and what wellness means to them.

With a socially committed program beyond just yoga mats for health fanatics – I am interested in what Ajay and Clare have to say about their brand. The mats are sustainable, made entirely from bark of the cork oak which means negative carbon footprint, yet the mat is also anti-microbial. Could there be a better mat out there?

What is the philosophy of your brand?

CorkYogis was born from the idea that great technical performance can be combined with an ethical approach to business. Slipping around on a yoga mat is distracting and can be dangerous. We wanted a product that would have excellent grip even during a strenuous practice and we wanted a product that felt natural and real to the touch. Cork was the obvious answer. Surfers put a layer of cork on their surfboards to increase the grip. It works for surfers, it must work for yogis! CorkYogis was born.

Where are your products made?

The mats and blocks are made from organic Portuguese cork. The mats have a recycled rubber bottom and are assembled in China.

The mat bags are made of donated saris by our charity partner Destiny Reflection in India. Destiny train the women and girls they have helped escape slavery in literacy, numeracy and sewing skills to enable them to earn a living. One of the products the women make is our beautiful yoga mat bags.

How has the pandemic year changed—positive or negative—your business model or sales?

While the pandemic has been tough on everyone, CorkYogis was fortunate in that people have become more aware of the antimicrobial properties of cork. Viruses and bacteria do not grow on cork, so it is a much more hygienic surface for exercise than most yoga mats. This coupled with a demand for mats and blocks to practice at home, meant that our business has really blossomed this year. And one of the lovely things about running a social enterprise is that as CorkYogis does well, so does our charity partner. So this year we have been able to send more money to Destiny to support their work. 

What does wellness mean to you? 

Wellness is ultimately about being kind to yourself and practicing self-love. Whether it be doing yoga everyday or meditating, this act of connecting with the body, mind, breath, spirit and soul activates more self-awareness. A daily practice of wellness brings good to oneself, one another and the whole world. We need kindness more than ever, especially in these tumultuous times.

What products are lined up for 2021 or new campaigns ?

We are excited about our CorkYogis Travel Mats. Super thin, only 1 mm and super lightweight only 1kg. As yogis start to travel again in 2021 you can take these mats anywhere and everywhere, roll it or fold it. No more soggy towels at hot yoga classes – use as a topper on studio mats!   We have also added alignment lines to some of our range to help bring focus and precision to people’s practice. And our yoga wheels are a new addition for 2021 also, particularly good for supporting backbends.

Tell us more about your social enterprise?

Destiny Reflection is a committed team of people combating the immense injustices of human trafficking and the challenges faced by human trafficking survivors. They work towards empowering and educating survivors to learn skills to find dignified employment and create a better future. To do this they provide free training courses in sewing and literacy to give the women and girls employable skills. They then sell handmade products made out of recycled sari material to create financial independence. The girls are also accepted in a family environment [which may be a first for them]. They are treated as individuals with their own individual journey and challenges to overcome. Their motto is ‘One life at a time’.

At CorkYogis, we provide a way to combine our passion for yoga with our desire to empower women less fortunate than ourselves. We have an amazing partnership with Destiny Reflection supporting their work and providing opportunities for the women to make our beautiful sari yoga mat bags.

For every CorkYogis product purchased, we donate 10% of our profits to Destiny Reflection, and every yoga mat bag sold, is providing direct employment to the survivors of human trafficking.

What learning curves or business hurdles did you face and ultimately overcome? Did you almost throw in the towel?

When we started it is fair to say we did not know much about running an e-commerce business. We had to learn it all—how to make an appealing website, how to do marketing that balances both business and social objectives, SEO, dealing with suppliers in multiple countries and languages, all of it was new. And as we are a UK based business we have had the huge curve ball of “Brexit”, the UK’s decision to leave the EU. We still don’t really know the full implications of what this means for trading across the EU. What made a difference for us was assembling a committed and talented group of freelancers who had expertise in areas we did not, and also shared our passion for the social enterprise. Now I would say we have a great team.

My wellness routine

Clare: Like Ajay, I have children, so my day starts getting breakfast for the children, taking the younger one to school and then getting to my desk. I practice Iyengar yoga, so if I can fit that in or a session of Reformer Pilates, then it’s a great day. Supper is always horribly early so we can eat with the children. I am also a vegetarian so it is usually some form of vegetarian curry, chili or pasta with whatever vegetables have been delivered that week by the farm box company.

Ajay: Wake up and go for a swim. Come home and do some Wim Hoff breathing and then meditate on my CorkYogis mat for 1hr. Have an acai bowl for brunch and then intermittent fast while I work until 6pm have a light plant based meal and then teach the 5Rhythms movement meditation practice in the evening. I’ve been teaching all over the world for over 6 years now.

Best yoga moves for the pandemic 

Ajay: I sometimes do a headstand ‘shirshasana’ after the 3 rounds of Wim Hoff breathing. I find it rejuvenating and relaxing upside down- perfect to de-stress! 

Clare: Gita Iyengar devised a great sequence to boost immune function and strengthen the lungs. Lots of inversions and backbends and chest openers.

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