Samara Morris found the inspiration for her product idea in the midst of personal trauma, having suffered a serious accident. She has since created a beautiful line of art inspired eco-friendly yoga mats. She shared her story and lessons with us.
What inspired you to start Artogi?
As an artist myself (photographer) I have always been into ‘Art’ and the creative world but like most people living in London, I was living life at one hundred miles an hour. I decided I needed a well earned holiday to Sri Lanka in January 2013. This holiday turned into what, at the time, was the worst moment of my life, which I now look back on as a blessing. Whilst swimming in waist deep water I fractured my spine in four places in a wave and nearly drowned. It took my accident to happen, before I surrendered to the fact I had to accept what the universe was trying to tell me for so long… “Stop, slow down, you’re on the wrong path” and to take a break.
One day during my many months of bed rest, my artist friend Mr Piper sent me one of his prints and my mum had laid it across the floor with candles around the edges to flatten it ready to frame. It was positioned right next to my yoga mat and as soon as I looked at them both spread across the floor I thought how awesome it would be if they were combined and the yoga mat became a work of art. This is how Artogi was born.
Artogi for me really gave me a sense of purpose at a difficult time during my recovery and something to look forward to as a fresh start. Yoga and pilates became a huge part of my life for my rehabilitation to rebuild and strengthen my core, to support my back. Not only did it have it’s physical benefits but I really noticed what a difference it made with helping calm my mind and bringing me back to the present moment and living in the now.
What is the vision behind it?
The vision behind Artogi is very much like art itself, it is forever evolving.
Artogi represents ‘bringing life to art’ and supporting up and coming artists whilst incorporating art into our everyday lives. Looking into the reasons why we do yoga, for the mind benefits it has in relation to depression, anxiety, stress management etc. is also very important.
Any artist will say “creating art is a meditative form in itself” and being able to express yourself always calms the often chaotic, yet beautiful creative mind.
Each mat has it’s own name and symbolic meaning, which strangely enough always resonates with the person who has picked their specific mat. The art thus far has a strong feminine influence of goddesses and strong warrior women.
Artogi is not just a yoga mat, it is a form of expression, a personal chosen work of art that not only helps align your practice but also inspires. Plus it is beautifully soft to touch due to the microfibre suede surface, it really is a work of art in the palm of your hands.
What was your starting point, given you don’t have a product manufacturing background?
No I didn’t have a product manufacturing background and this was the biggest challenge for me and I pretty much had to learn on the job, which was extremely challenging at times. I am a big believer in it’s okay to ask for advice from people who have been there and done it. I was fortunate enough to have a good friend Fiaz, who is a very successful entrepreneur and owns numerous online businesses and he was and still is my mentor. Other experienced friends have shown their support along the way in the form of guidance and advice.
I started with checking the market to see what my competition was and if there was anything like this out there already. I was pretty surprised to find there wasn’t. I then did a ton of market research into what the benefits and strengths of the other yoga brands were, what was their USP? Why did I like them? What made me want to buy their product?
From there it was down to sourcing what type of mat I wanted Artogi to be. My biggest priorities were that it was not PVC, was eco friendly and biodegradable, plus had a flat printable surface to be the best canvas for the art. I had numerous samples sent to see what the material felt like and what it was made of. It was then down to sourcing where I would get the mats made and choosing the right manufacturer, who was able to provide me with the eco-friendly mat I required and ticked all the boxes for what I needed.
Then saving the best till last, choosing which artists I wanted on board to launch Artogi. Mr Piper, who is a digital artist (www.mrpiper.co.uk) was a no brainier for me to launch Artogi with. James was my childhood sweetheart and we have known each other for many years and it was his work of art next to my mat as a get well gift that sparked my idea for Artogi (plus his work is incredible and very spiritual.)
I was introduced by a friend to an artist who is based in Cape Town and was visiting London. Her name is Ana Kuni, which strangely enough, by sheer coincidence was the name of one of Mr Piper’s pieces but spelt ‘Ani Kuni’. We met for a coffee and I explained the idea, which Ana loved (plus she is also a yogi) not only is her work strongly influenced around powerful warrior women and spirit animals but in her own words ‘each unique piece has a story to tell, an emotion to feel and sense of freedom to experience. Together they create a visual board of one’s restless mind, consisting of all things magical.”
I wanted some diversity within the artists, as art is a personal preference and was recommended to check out Mikey Brain who’s work is well known in the music industry for doing Hot Creations album covers etc. I loved one of his pieces ‘Aphrodite’ and thought how incredible it would look on a mat. The original piece for this art is stunning and drawn on gold leaf.
What were a couple of the biggest barriers and what lessons did you learn in overcoming them?
Starting any new business, you will always be faced with challenges along the way, especially if like me it is a completely new sector than you are used to.
The biggest lesson I learnt was not showing from the beginning clearly enough in our marketing what our USP was. Not only do we offer limited edition, eco-friendly yoga mats which merge exclusive artistry, but they also have revolutionary water activated grip technology. As the super soft microfibre suede top layer acts as a mat and hot yoga towel in one, when it’s spritzed with water it provides unsurpassed grip whilst absorbing excess moisture. Plus, after use, our laser printed mats can be washed in a cold machine wash!
For me there is a fine line between sounding pushy with your marketing and then not being heard enough, so it’s a balance really. With Instagram we try to make sure we still have good content about the art and reasons why we do yoga, but also getting across the benefits of the product.
Another challenge for me at the beginning was sourcing the correct mat material and manufacturer. Many say their mats are 100% eco-friendly but I found in the small print that it’s actually PVC but just called something else. So I had to get pretty scientific and delve deep into the product development side of things to make sure I knew what I was buying was correct. The lesson here is to learn your product in detail and also push the manufacturer to confirm in writing what you have asked for. You will soon know if you get radio silence that it is not as eco-friendly as stated, because in that case no one wants to confirm things in writing and get contracts drawn up.
If you were starting again today, what advice would you give yourself?
I think it would be to take one step at a time and to not put too much pressure on yourself. To also manage your time correctly and if like me you are juggling different jobs make sure you “don’t forget the day job” as it is very easy at the beginning to get so wrapped up in building the brand and dedicate all your time to it, that you can take your eye off the ball and find yourself eating baked beans on toast for weeks on end! 🙂
Secondly it would be to follow your gut instinct, if it feels right do it, if it doesn’t don’t.
Last but not least ‘Rome was not built in a day’ don’t rush, take your time but don’t procrastinate, don’t let the ego make you feel like you’re not good enough or worry about what if it’s not a success… just do it. Like me you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the response and if you’re not, that’s okay too, persevere with it and if you believe in anything enough it will happen.
What excites you the most about Artogi’s future development?
I am very excited about the future development for Artogi as due to the nature of the brand there is so much scope for expansion. It covers three key areas – art/creativity, yoga/working out and how to manage the mind. Combining all of these together we are going to be launching new artists, new product lines, curating cool events and working on building the Artogi community within the wellness world. We are also in talks with a few ‘mind’ charities who we’d like to support and collaborate with moving forward.
Everyday I am inspired by so many different things, people, personal life situations and that all helps with the development and future plans for Artogi.
You can connect with Artogi on their website, Instagram or via email firstname.lastname@example.org. Samara has generously arranged a 10% discount for TPOY readers, please use code TPOYOGA at checkout. If you would like to drop Samara a line personally with any further questions, she would love to hear from you at email@example.com.