This is the second installment in Elizabeth’s journey to launch on The Grommet. To read the first, click here.
During Thanksgiving of 2012, close to a year after her health crisis began, Elizabeth had been practicing yoga diligently as a form of recovery and started to form the idea for Yoga by Numbers in her head. By June of 2013, she had working prototypes and by chance, met the Grommet team at an event held at their offices.
The rest as they say, is history. When asked to describe her relationship with The Grommet, Elizabeth says “…meeting The Grommet and working with them to bring my product to market was like pouring gasoline on the fire. They provided so much of the expertise that I needed, including guidance, connections and tremendously smart people.” She then went on to tell me that entrepreneurship can be a lonely, isolating thing sometimes and others warned her of that early on. She was able to avoid the bulk of that with The Grommet’s help she says. “There was always someone to talk things through with, or bounce ideas off if I needed. It’s been truly wonderful.”
Her journey to launch on The Grommet has been a blessing, but hasn’t been without its challenges. Like most entrepreneurs, Elizabeth experienced roadblocks along the way. Manufacturing, she says was her biggest hurdle. It was her goal from the beginning to make a mat using ethical practices from an environmental and labor perspective and she wasn’t going to compromise her own values (although she was given many opportunities to do so). She needed to figure out a way to manufacture the mat according to her personal standards and then be able to explain why it would be more expensive than some mats out there. “We are on par with high end, brand name mats, even though the YbN mat is wider than most, made of natural rubber, made in the US, and comes printed with our design, which is what facilitates home practice. But we can’t compete with cheap vinyl mats on cost alone.” Getting the message to consumers that they get a big return on their investment has been challenging, says Elizabeth.
She had doubtful moments when she knew that despite the blood, sweat and tears poured into this endeavor, nothing guaranteed anyone would buy. Yet she was upbeat and knew she would keep trying no matter what. She told me of a line from her favorite speech, The Man in the Arena, by Teddy Roosevelt, who said “there is no effort without error and shortcoming” and that you must devote yourself to a worthy cause even in the face of fear or criticism. It’s been a source of strength for her through everything and she always has it nearby. “When I’m with someone who’s doing yoga for the first time, and they believe they can really do it because of this mat, that’s when I feel I’ve already succeeded” said Elizabeth.
So what are a few things she’s learned during this journey that she wants to pass on to other budding entrepreneurs? Learn and study as much as you can from organizations and people you admire, she said. Go to every educational event you can find, and meet as many people as you can. Elizabeth recommends educational activities, such as seminars at local innovation centers or with organizations like The Capital Network in Boston; she believes the networking opportunities at these events are infinitely more valuable than generic networking gatherings. Another piece of advice from Elizabeth is to figure out your own values from the start and then stick to them. There will be many opportunities to abandon them in the name of success, but if you stick to your values, you’re much more likely to build a community around your company, and to wake up motivated to get back “in the arena”.