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If last year taught us anything, it was the need to slow down. To help us through the pandemic, many of us have invested in our wellness and developed a new self-care routine to aid our mental health. In fact, selfcare was one of the biggest trends to emerge from the pandemic – Google Search Trends showed a 250% increase in self-care related searches since the first lockdown in March 2020. 

As part of our self-care routine, many of us have turned to yoga to give us the space to breathe and step away from our busy schedules, or whatever life has thrown at us. As we haven’t been able to go to our usual yoga studios, we have had to set up studio spaces in our homes, where we can burn incense and roll out mats to continue our practice. One yoga brand that has allowed its customers to do just that is Yogi Bare. Kat Pither, the founder of Yogi Bare, tells us more about the brand and how she continues to connect with and support her community through the power of digital

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E: Tell us more about yourself and Yogi Bare… 

K: Hey, my name is Kat and I am the founder of Yogi Bare. We are an ecoconscious (without the ego), high-performance yoga mat and equipment company. My team would probably describe me as a chief troublemaker (or the eco-conscious version of the nutty professor) but I prefer Yoga Lands Cupid. I connect yogis and movers with their souls and mats and help build their confidence and find their flow. Yogi Bare was founded in 2016 in beautiful Penarth (original HQ was SafeStore in Cardiff Bay – you can imagine the glamour!). 

E: What is Yogi Bare’s ethos? 

K: My favourite Nirvana lyric is “Come as you are”. I feel like those few words truly sum up what Yogi Bare means. It’s not yoga mats – it’s a feeling, I’m not here to sell you anything. Through the brand, I want to make you feel something. I discovered yoga at a young age while in rehab struggling with addiction to relieve PTSD and anxiety. I am not afraid to share my personal story; it’s an important stitch in the Yogi Bare story and hopefully, it shows how real the brand is and is something that people can connect with. If it helps people to feel like they have space and a place to belong in yoga land instead of feeling like they don’t fit in, and that ripples into them learning techniques to find happiness and flow in their life and managing their mental health, well, then that is the thing I am most grateful for and proud of.

E: How has digital helped you to find a connection, maintain authenticity and support your community?

K: Social is our little portal to the outside world. It’s our own Truman Show and, as much of a weird reputation it can sometimes have, I really believe that you can use social media to do good things. I think the trick is to not get too wrapped up in what you think you or how a “proper” brand “should” be on social media. Just think how you would like to be spoken to and cared for and work from there. I never see our community/social media followers as only consumers; I see them as real people, real friends – and they do become that! So, work from there. Support them in the way they support you. 

E: How do you use digital to promote what you do, and have you seen a shift in the types of digital marketing you do to promote your business in the last year? 

K: Without digital marketing and social media, we would have been voiceless. Social media has been our little High-Fidelity Boombox to play romantic mixtapes to the world from. You can really use it for good – from IG takeovers, hosting classes and discussions on Instagram, creating YouTube meditations, writing honest blog posts and sending emails that make people feel safe and seen. You can find a way to balance honest heart and soul with the more practical pieces of brand messaging. 

There were times in 2020 where social media became a really sad and scary place to be, but it’s important to not look at what others are doing. Go back to the essence of why you started your brand and how you want to make people feel, and then align your marketing strategy to those two things. 

E: Running an online business can be 24/7. How do you separate work from home to protect your health and productivity? 

K: It is hard. The boundaries kind of went out of the window for everyone in 2020. We relied on technology to WFH (work from home) and as a doorway to connection. So, my advice is: get outside and surround yourself with real things – nature, food, friends, laughter and dogs. But, not the dogs you see in YouTube videos! Sometimes all you need is to breathe in the fresh air and realise that most of our stresses and problems are associated with a pretend world that lives on our phones, in our inboxes, on television, or in magazines. As soon as you step away from those things and the hold they have on you, you feel free. 

Running your own business is the wildest ride I’ve ever experienced. It’s challenged me and I have had to learn to cope, think, and act faster than I ever did before. 

I think you need to constantly edit your life as you go along. If something is causing you anxiety or pain and it’s not passing, then maybe it’s not worth it. Also, we need to start doing things just out of pure joy. We shouldn’t pressure ourselves to be the best or make a career out of it. If you like art – draw! If you love running – run! It doesn’t mean you have to have a gallery opening or sign up for a marathon, just do it for the love.

E: How has 2020 impacted your overall operations and performance? 

K: I felt guilty that we survived 2020 in the way that we did when a lot of my friends struggled. It was so bittersweet for me. However, the fact that we managed to create jobs (some of which went to my talented friends who got let go during the pandemic) I hold on to that. It feels quite emotional and is the thing I am the most proud of. 

It’s been an interesting year navigating the constant changes in shipping, the extreme price flux in freight and limited warehousing staff due to social distancing. But as long as we communicate openly with everyone, then it’s okay. People just like to be informed, and that’s where digital has helped massively. 

It’s been a dream to work with some new key accounts, like Sweaty Betty, Oliver Bonas, Anthropologie, David Lloyd and Virgin Active, which I’m really proud of. But as cool as household names are, you don’t ever forget about the people that built your brand – every studio and teacher – you look after them first and foremost. Otherwise, you might as well quit. 

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E: How have you adapted the way you communicate with your customers in the last 12 months? 

K: We have always treated our platform as a personal place but the rebrand changed everything. The strength of our community floored me and I knew I wanted them to become even greater guardians of the brand, and to feel a part of it. During lockdown, I wanted to find a way to support them more. Our social media platform is an open doors policy – teachers and those with something to say can take it over. We mostly use user-generated content, so people get excited about becoming part of the brand DNA. What’s been especially lovely is getting the community involved during the early product development stage and finding out what they want. 

E: Have you seen a change in the way you convey your messaging via your different channels? e.g. website, social media over the past 12 months? 

K: Only slightly. We have always been really chatty, informal and poetic, but in some ways, I had to remember I am still a yoga brand and people may need advice and support (albeit still in a BFF way). I am beginning to understand the value of informative blogs and SEO (search engine optimisation) terms – it means new people can find us easier and information is important for supporting our people. 

The other most important thing we have recently put out there is our transparent sustainability diary. Sadly, there is so much greenwashing in the industry. There is a lot of smoke and mirrors and manipulation of terminology to make things sound shinier than they are. 

E: Will you be continuing these new ways of engaging with customers in future communications and campaigns? 

K: Definitely. As well as what we have been doing, we want to conduct consumer market surveys. These will be invaluable to getting people involved at the earliest product stages so they feel a sense of ownership and excitement in the making of the brand. Also, from a sustainability point of view, it ensures we are only creating products for a genuine need and purpose. 

E: Do you feel that Yogi Bare has been agile to the challenges faced this year, and are you in a strong position moving into 2021? 

K: I think so. I think it’s because we approached the whole situation as a human, as myself. I still run the social media and I don’t try to make it anything other than a human profile. I feel like the social media world has become like Blade Runner – we are essentially living in an advert. It’s drawn away from its essence and why it started. It used to be about connecting with people. I like to think we maintain that because it’s all so personal and honest. 

Yogi Bare has thrived from word-of-mouth, and if anything, I’m proud of how far it’s come because of the friendships, so I hope people feel that through everything we put out into the world – like they have a friend here. We navigated and approached the challenges of 2020 with honesty and openness. We didn’t pretend to have it all together or be above the wave of emotions – we felt them too, alongside our crew. 2020 taught me how important it is to do that, and it’s something we will carry into 2021 and beyond. 

E: What does the digital future look like for Yogi Bare? Any interesting campaigns or collaborations we should be keeping an eye out for? 

K: We just shot our first proper campaign that will launch in late spring (2021) – Together, but apart. It was the first time for many of us to come together and be around people post-lockdown, even if we had to create optical illusions on-set of people being close when they were actually stood apart! It was a very emotional experience as the chemistry transcended everything. I am so proud of this campaign and I know people will feel what I felt on set when they see the images. 

We’re looking forward to seeing the campaign too!

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