Yogiiza is an organic clothing brand founded by Mark Oliver and his wife Dawn. Their aim is to make a clothing brand that reflects yoga values. Read on below to know more about our interview with Mark.
Tell us about yourself – familial story, education, and prior work.
My wife and I are business partners. We’ve been married 5 years. We’ve been together 7 years. We have a 22-month old son.
In terms of personal, story, how did this lead up into getting into Yogiiza?
Yogiiza is from my yoga practice. Also, it’s from my relationship with my wife. My childhood was spent in nature, in the woods, and surfing, and fishing. It deeply affects my character. It affects my vision for how I want the world to be for my children and the children after them.
Yoga and meditation creates self-awareness. It creates the realization that the world is a manifestation of the self or a reflection of the self. So, as the self goes, so does the world. To create a business, that business has to be a reflection of how I want to see the world.
Hopefully, it gives earth and nature lovers choices that bring about the change that they want to see in the world. So, when we decided to do a brand that services our relationships within yoga and the hospitality industry, we couldn’t do a company any other way. We had to do a company with conscious values.
Our first and foremost mission is to save the planet. It’s to give people choices to save the planet. Those individuals’ choices add up. Those organic and environmentally friendly choices.
Everybody wants to choose organic today. If you choose anything else, the environmental situation could change overnight. So, it’s up to us as entrepreneurs and conscious capitalists to give people choices that are a reflection of our values and have that manifest as the world we want to see.
Ghandi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Ghandi is one of the most famous yogis in the world. (Laughs)
You picked a good source. (Laughs)
It’s part of self-awareness. Yoga improves self-awareness. For example, when you practice how your foot is touching the ground, how your spine is, how your head is in relation to your shoulders, you cultivate a sense of presence.
For those conscious capitalists and entrepreneurs, any advice?
Take, for example, fire, it’s a good thing. It keeps your house warm. It’s a beautiful tool of mankind, but you don’t want to burn your whole house down. You should have your values, but keep an open mind.
Don’t be afraid of the middle path, when you’re too radical, there’s a certain violence in that mindset. Keep your values, but understand everything is the will of God. Otherwise, it wouldn’t exist. So, don’t beat yourself up too hard. Try not to be a fascist in your beliefs.
Fire is a good thing. Plastic has its uses. Plastic has its utility within the world. But do we have to wear it, sleep in it, eat with it, right? It’s too much.
Fascism never gets us anywhere. Anything that you make people do at gun point doesn’t work. (Laughs) It’s forcing your values on people at gun point like. They don’t work.
Try to work with what you have, be uncompromising, pick your values wisely.
It’s a bit like the artist versus the politician. The artist tries to seduce someone into way of life and the politician tries to do it at ‘at gunpoint’, as you noted, or by force in some way.
It may be just the opposite. (Laughs) Violent revolutions often come by artists like Che and Castro. The politicians, what their flaw is that they do compromise too much, they’re too malleable, too bendy, too wishy-washy. There’s no room for real leadership.
But there’s room for leadership in entrepreneurship. When you’re an entrepreneur, you’re in control of your vision, and so make sure you pick your vision wisely. You can go down a fascist path, but that doesn’t help anybody.
A lot of the businesses in ethical and sustainable fashion are small or moderate sized. What do you see as the importance of bringing them together in networks so that you can bring about larger effects in terms of consumers’ choices and getting the word out about it?
I think we all support each other on social media a bit. But, at the same time, reaching commodities of scale can be determined by your own beliefs, if you don’t believe it’s possible, then it’s never going to happen in the first place.
However, if you look at what’s happening, H&M is one of the largest consumers of organic cotton. Target is number two. Walmart is quickly becoming the largest distributor of organic produce.
We’re seeing prices being driven down within the organic niche. So, it’s possible for a sustainable brand to reach commodities of scale. We’re doing our best to do it.
We are targeting large brands like Royal Caribbean and Hilton Hotel because these large brand partners have the largest impact on the choices. I think your proposition that all of these brands are small, and they need to group together in some sort of co-op, is misplaced.
I think you need to expand your vision and understand, and do what it takes to realize your vision for an organic planet – or whatever it is for your business.
Where do you see the company heading into the future?
I see us moving into mass distribution and very large numbers to have as big an impact as possible. You need to have as big an impact of all of the other large brands to come around to being sustainable as well.
You have to show and demonstrate to them that the public demand is there. The most recent studies say that 65-80% of Americans buy organic products. The problem that we’re seeing is that only 3% of production is organic.
There’s this huge demand out there. But because it’s very small supply, it makes things more expensive. Pretty much in every way, shape, or form, to grow organic-based products is cheaper than conventional-based products. Organic costs less.
The reason why organic products cost more is because there is very little supply and very high demand. The notion that these brands are small is because of small thinking. That’s why they’re small. There’s plenty of demand out there.
What other work are you involved in at this point in time? Outside of the company, do you have any other projects ongoing involved with ethical and sustainable fashion?
We have Yogiiza, the brand. My wife has a hospitality business. She serves products. She has yoga services and wellness services. But that’s under the Yogiiza brand too. Also, we supply hospitality towels and linens. It’s a new business.
What we’re doing with that business is licensing the Yogiiza brand, we’re doing that under the Yogiiza label in organics. We’re getting hotels to move very large volumes of towels and giving the opportunity for them to choose organic.
It’s a quantifiable change and difference for these corporations on their environmental impacts. Let me explain. If you have one pound of conventional cotton, it takes twice as much carbon as one pound of organic cotton.
It’s an actual pound-for-pound difference. It’s 2,000 kilos of carbon for every 1,000 kilos of conventional cotton grown. It’s ~940 kilos of carbon for every 1,000 kilos for organic cotton. For every pound of cotton that we sell, it takes 1lb of carbon out of the atmosphere.
That’s just the carbon, then we get pesticides and herbicides. They cause all of the cancers. If you trade out for organic over conventional, we’re eliminating 1/3lb of pesticides and herbicides for every pound of cotton.
If you look at a hotel chain like Hilton, and if they were to go with organic for their sheets and linens, it would be 130 million pounds of carbon out of the atmosphere per year and 50 million pounds of pesticides and herbicides.
When you look at blue water pollution, you have an 90% reduction of blue water pollution from organic farming compared to the conventional, on average
If you switch every pound of cotton from conventional to the organic, you’re taking one pound of carbon out of the atmosphere. 1,000-room hotels can eliminate 200,000 pounds of carbon.
What meaning or personal fulfillment does this work bring for you?
Oh my god! It’s awesome. Every day, I can’t wait to get up and go to work, contact my people, and have staff meetings. We’re on a real mission. If you look at these numbers, these environmental numbers. It’s huge. We’re stoked.
We’re stoked to give people choices. It’s a family business. It’s not even work that we do. It’s our life. It’s part of our lifestyle.
Any feelings or thoughts in conclusion?
All peoples understand that it is their personal choices that are manifesting the world that they see. When consumers, all of us, look on the shelf and see this product is organic and the other is not, then choose the organic one!
If you’re an entrepreneur, please understand and create choices that bring about the change that you want to see in the world, it’s important. Business is the only thing that is going to create change. People wait for government to do something. It’s not going to happen.
It’s business that gives people choices that are a reflection of the world that we want to see.
Thank you for your time, Mark.