Women who move the needle on serious women’s topics are those who aren’t afraid to embrace their own insecurities and put them out there for the world to see. Years before body positivity was a hashtag and athleisure was a word, Jodi decided to take her love of yoga and her public relations and Hollywood agent background along with her ongoing struggle to not only accept but celebrate her not-size 2 body, and create Beyond Yoga, an athletic apparel company aimed at women of all ages, shapes and sizes. Today it is sold not only on her site, but in major department stores across the country such as Nordstroms and Neimans. As you would imagine, Jodi is one of those women who is a positive life force, one who is committed to helping others, sharing women’s stories and continuously searching for ways to make her and our lives happier and healthier. Here she shares how looking for the”there” there (or anywhere) isn’t a good idea, her birthday J. Lo moment, and why she wishes she suffered from JOMO.
What was your path to creating Beyond Yoga? What’s your background? My route was very unpredictable, but in hindsight, everything that I’ve done led to what I’m doing now, which is awesome. I started off in the entertainment business. I was in production, I was an agent, I had an event PR company, I was a yoga teacher and life coach. Now I call myself a spiritual entrepreneur.
When I was a yoga teacher and life coach, I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life and how to accomplish certain goals. I wanted to do something where I could support myself, I wanted to be my own boss, and I wanted it to be something that I was passionate about. But it wasn’t only about making money and being my own boss. It had to achieve a bigger, more important picture. For years I’ve been about body positivity, loving yourself the way you are, because it’s been my journey. This was before Lululemon and I was like, “What can I do?” I was also the West Coast Editor at the time of Mode Magazine, the plus size magazine. Back then, like 15 years ago, nobody was interested in athleisure, it wasn’t even a word, and nobody was interested in body positivity. Whereas today, athleisure and body positivity are on the tops of everyone’s tongue and every company is trying to jump on those bandwagons.
Why is body positivity so important to you? It’s important to me because it’s been part of my struggle. I think self-esteem and self-worth and body image have been something that I’ve been dealing with since I was a young girl. I think that I’m not the exception. I think that’s a very common thing. It became something for me that I wanted. It’s something I still work on: loving myself as I am. It doesn’t mean not wanting to be better. It doesn’t mean not wanting to be as healthy and fit and look as good as you can. But it’s not at the expense of loving who you are on the inside. It’s not at the expense of avoiding life.
I think the most important part of all of this is it’s always a work-in-progress. I don’t think there’s any “there” there, meaning, let’s just assume, which is not the case, that I got to “there”. Then comes along social media. Guess what? There’s now a new “there” and social media has stirred up a whole new set of anxieties, challenges, expectations, who you should be, who other people are, what you’re not invited to. How do you feel good about yourself? The “there” is always being pushed out, so you have to think about it as “Who do I want to be at my core?” Personally, I’m not on social media right now. I’ve been off of it for probably five months. [Beyond Yoga is on Instagram.]
Younger women today seem to be more accepting of different body types. How do you try to put that out in your company’s social media? We use models of all shapes and sizes. We don’t Photoshop their bodies. We try to tell different stories, but it’s basically very visual: the different girls that we use and the stories that we tell, certain blog posts. When I started Beyond Yoga, I was looking to build something that told a story, that counted for something, that made people feel good about themselves. That’s what was really important to me.
Do you think the conversation about body positivity is changing? Do you think it’s getting better? Absolutely. I think all the plus size models are helping a lot of women who otherwise might not feel like they’re beautiful, feel beautiful. They see people in the world, in magazines, in advertising, that represent them. It’s like, “I maybe could be a model. I maybe could do this.” I think it’s given self-esteem and presented the possibility of opportunity to more women or girls who wouldn’t have otherwise thought so.
What came easiest for you when you launched Beyond Yoga and what was the hardest? The hardest thing is building a brand. There were days, I would be lying if I didn’t tell you, where I would lie on my couch literally catatonic. Calling my parents being like, “What did I do? How did I get myself into this?” Where I have 15 employees that count on me and I’m like, “Oh my god.”
Yeah, there’s no going back.
It’s like, “Whoa.” I think because of the family I grew up in, there’s a mentality of, “You can do what you set your mind to,”. Then there are growing pains; as you grow you really welcome growth but it comes with a whole new set of challenges. The life experience of an entrepreneur, I almost want to say, is someone who enjoys growing pains. They’re always there. Talk about there is no “there” there. There is no “there” there. I mean as soon as you get to the one place you’re like, “Okay now I want to grow this part of the business, or this is changing.” It’s constant trouble shooting. It’s constantly pushing yourself to grow and look at things differently.
What came easiest for you? When I decided to do Beyond Yoga, and without sounding corny, some of it was a result of my past and what I had done and what I was interested in, but some of it was really just being open to, I don’t want to use the word the universe. But kind of opening myself up and listening when there’s nothing being said. Paying attention to what was and wasn’t happening. Once I locked in on Beyond Yoga and I knew what I wanted to do and I had the name, it was undeniable to me where Beyond Yoga was going.
If you ask my business partner when I interviewed her to work for me at the time, I said to her, “Look, I know this is going to sound corny. The universe supports Beyond Yoga and it’s going places. And I know that might make no sense, but you will see.” In hind sight she told me that at first she thought, ‘What is she talking about?’ But she saw very quickly how true that was.
I had an unwavering mind set about Beyond Yoga. And I never wavered. Now of all of our big accounts we’re always one of the top three vendors if not the top. And every time we think we’re going to grow, we grow more than what we thought we were going to grow. It has just been awesome.
What is the best career advice you have received or would give to somebody starting out? It’s interesting because it’s easy for me to give advice, but at the same time I’m so grateful for how my business partner and I taught ourselves everything. And as much as I had massive growing pains, and if I could have hired somebody for certain roles to do that it would have made certain things easier, we would have missed out. We would have missed out on the opportunities to learn what we learned. Because we did it ourselves we knew how to do every single thing in the company. So as we hired people we hired from a place of knowing, rather than we don’t know this, can you do it? You get to a tipping point where it’s so big that you have to hire a production person who knows more than you to take it to the next level, but that takes time.
I would also probably say, “Stay focused.” It’s easy to get caught up in wanting to grow the business and go into different areas, and I think that for the most part we did it pretty well, but there were times we got pulled in other directions and had to come back. Like, okay, we’re not ready for that. But I would say really stay focused on growing your core competency before you expand.
Attribute that helps you succeed: I think what helped me succeed in the beginning was something I got from my dad, which is a very disciplined, 24/7 work ethic. As you grow the business and can bring on more people to support you, you can find some more flexibility. But in the very beginning you have to give it everything you have to get it off the ground.
What has been your biggest success to date? And what has been your biggest dud or failure, and what did you learn from it? My biggest success was attracting my now business partner in to my life. I couldn’t imagine doing it with out her. I adore her, she’s amazing and kills it.
My biggest failure….I think one place that we had been challenged in the past, and we’ve gotten much better at, is knowing when somebody is not working and dealing with it, rather than avoiding it out of fear, out of the idea of how much time it’s going to take to replace that person. Sometimes allowing something–a behavior, an employee, to go on longer than it should has gotten the best of us at times.
What motivates you? Helping people.
Role models: I have different people for different reasons. There’s not one person who that I’m like, “Ah, I want to be just like them.” I have certain friends that I so look up to because they have an ability to go with the flow and move very organically through their life, and it’s something I work on. For me body and food and how to take care of myself in those areas has been something I that I have worked on very diligently. It doesn’t come naturally to me, and when I have friends who can move in that area elegantly so I am very inspired by them.
My sister for example, my sister has never suffered from FOMO a day in her life. My sister suffers from JOMO. Not suffers actually, my sister celebrates JOMO. She has the joy of missing out. She’s like, “Don’t invite me. I don’t want to have to say no.” And I’m like, “I want to be invited to that!” I don’t suffer from FOMO anymore, thank God, but there was a time with all the social media and everything…. I see it in the young kids. It’s horrible. Now I giggle about it. But, I will still look and be like, “Oh, that looked fun. I wish I was there.”
What’s next for Beyond Yoga? We are always working on collaborations. We just did one with All Woman Project which is a perfect example of the body positivity. It’s an organization started by two plus size models and it’s all about body positivity and loving yourself. Right now we have one with Mary Lauren.
You are very involved in other women/girl positive organizations. Can you talk a bit about that? I Am That Girl is an organization that’s to promote self esteem in young girls and they have chapters in colleges and high schools,. Last year I pledged my birthday to them. And this year I held a dance party for my birthday. I told everybody no presents, just donate to the organization, and I raised $50,000. It was a super fun dance party with delicious food, and I did a dance for everybody.
I love that.
It was awesome. It was super empowering. It was very J.Lo in my bodysuit and tights. It was super fun. And I love to be able to give back to that organization.
For me being able to talk to you, talk about the organization, talk about self esteem, self worth, all these things– if five people that read this are impacted by this story I’m elated because it’s baby steps. You impact five people and each each of them impacts one person. That’s how it happens.