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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Yogipreneur rising! Working mom-turned-business owner gives kids a mat of their own

Courtesy The Little Yoga Mat
A big idea for little people. That's how
The Little Yoga Mat company got its start.

“My daughter was in pre-school at the time, in Hell’s Kitchen, New York City and I voluntarily taught yoga to her class. I’d cut up adult-sized mats to make little ones for them. Kids loved having mats their size. Parents started calling me to find out...
where they could buy them,” says Jensen Wheeler Wolfe, founder of the kids yoga mat company.

A former fact-checker for Glamour magazine who taught yoga on the side, Wheeler Wolfe had wanted to start a business of her own and spent the next two years researching the niche product development opportunity.
By June of 2011, "I had to quit my day job to launch my business," says Wheeler Wolfe.
Through the popular e-commerce company, Alibaba.com, the entrepreneurial mom located the manufacturing factory of her eco-friendly, biodegradable, recyclable and hypoallergenic mats, which is based inTaiwan. Colorful Little Yoga Mat styles include, “Lotus” and “Sun,” and at 14” by 36”, are well-suited for babies and toddlers ages 0 – 4.
Now vending to roughly 300 retail stores and yoga studios, Wheeler Wolfe says she’s sold 10,000 mats to date, including through shops like Anthropologie and ABC Carpet. She also sells online at her company’s website, at Wayfair.com and Gift.com. Gift and trade shows, including NY NOW, are key opportunities for attracting new business.
“There’s nothing like you standing with your product. They old fashioned way works. At trade shows, ears and eyes are ready to buy. It’s awesome,” she says.
Still working out of her New York City-based apartment, Wheeler Wolfe says, “I’m still a small business, but now I have a part-time bookkeeper, shipper and my husband is my shlepper.”
To expand her product line for the 5-10 age set, Wheeler Wolfe launched a recent Kickstarter campaign to raise enough money to foot the bill for at least 1000 larger-sized mats. Backers fully funded the project and seemed to have been intrigued by The Little Yoga Mat’s philanthropic pursuits, as well as its goods.
“I’ve donated mats to Sloane Kettering’s Kids Cancer ward for years. When I started my fundraising campaign, I wanted to give back more and committed to putting more mats in to children’s hospitals. This added a Karma piece to our story,” says Wheeler Wolfe.
Having raised $37,000, the new unisex style mat will bear a custom Tree design and is slated for shipment this Fall.
Longer term, “I want to think about doing yoga cards and accessorizing. I love being behind this idea – this product. If you start your life with yoga it may change your life. It changed mine,” says Wheeler Wolfe.

(Lotus Mat and Sun Mat each $36.00 at thelittleyogamat.com)


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