On the up · 15 August 2016

Meet the Bristol yoga studio selling ethical leggings made from recycled plastic bottles

Yogafurie retail leggings made entirely from 100 per cent recycled plastic bottles
Yogafurie retail leggings made entirely from 100 per cent recycled plastic bottles

Having worked in IT for most of his career, Ed Wood fancied a change of direction – training to become a yoga teacher five years ago.

In 2012, he established his own business, launching Bristol-based hot yoga firm Yogafurie.

Wood now employs eight staff – operating two busy studios – and has recently partnered with US ethical yoga wear brand Yoga Democracy to be the first UK retailer of a pioneering item of recycled clothing – leggings made entirely out of plastic bottles.

Business Advice caught up with Wood to find out why he struck up the partnership, and whether it has helped put his small business on the map in one of the UK’s most popular yoga destinations.

(1) Hi Ed, tell us about your business Yogafurie.

We’ve been in business for over four years. I’ve got a background in IT, but I was never 100 per cent sold on that line of work. I decided to train as a yoga teacher and Yogafurie took off after I worked as a freelance teacher for a while. I’ve always taught hot yoga – it’s a lot more satisfying than IT work.

(2) What’s been key in terms of launching the brand?

We are based in Bristol, which is one of the UK’s most popular destinations for yoga, so it’s been important to stand out from the crowd. Our unique selling point has always been hot yoga, so we try to offer the best hot yoga classes around. Our customers also appreciate our authenticity. Holistic therapies often promise you the world, claiming to have found the elixir of life – Yogafurie just offers simple, quality yoga sessions.

 (3) Tell me about your partnership with Yoga Democracy.

The majority of our client base is female, and most women that come to yoga wear colourful sports clothing. We decided we wanted to start selling yoga wear, but wanted to source an ethical manufacturer, in line with our values. My wife spent months trawling the internet looking for the right producer before finding Yoga Democracy.

We’re currently the only UK retailer of Yoga Democracy leggings, which are made from recycled fibres – polyester derived from 100 per cent “post-consumer” material, namely recycled plastic bottles.

(4) Has it helped put Yogafurie on the map?

It’s been an important part of being able to grow the business, definitely. We wanted to stand out from the crowd and sell exciting, colourful products. We knew that developing partnerships with suppliers we liked would help us to grow, and we’ve been proved right. Our success with Yoga Democracy has encouraged us to seek further partnerships with local cooperatives to stock other items, including t-shirts and health foods.

I think the partnership has also helped to distinguish ourselves. The leggings are designed in the US with material from Italy, so there’s nothing much like it in the UK.

(5) Would you recommend striking up a similar partnership to other small business owners?

I would say it is probably one of the best strategies for drawing in more customers and improving footfall. We’ve seen more people coming to our classes in recent months, but it’s hard to judge the extent to which that’s down to the leggings.

Being the retailer of a colourful range of ethical yoga wear definitely helps in terms of social media – attracting people to the brand that way. Our online profile has improved hugely by posting colourful, attractive images of the leggings. Once we have our ecommerce sit up and running, we envisage our sales figures improving hugely too.

(4) Did you experience any setbacks partnering with Yoga Democracy, considering it is based in the US?

There were initial question marks over the import duty on the leggings, as we weren’t sure what rates would be applicable. Currency fluctuations, particularly in the run up to the Brexit vote, and the fallout after it, has also cause a few issues, but on the whole we haven’t faced that much trouble.

Although we’re a small business, Yoga Democracy can see we’re a brand that share its views and values, and its owners have been understanding and flexible. They can see we’ve been pushing their products hard – trying to get the word out there in Bristol.  We’ve so far been lucky in terms of cash flow too, but it’s a constant worry of mine, with late payments a real concern.

(5) Where do you want to take the business in the next five years?

Improving our yoga teacher training capacity and growing the sales and product offering are two key areas of growth for me. There are many fantastic opportunities in the UK yoga market generally, including opportunities to explore different yoga disciplines and traditions, with franchising increasingly an option further down-the-line.

In the short-term, Yogafurie will attend trade shows and events, including in London in October, to meet as many industry-types as possible.

(6) What advice would you give to individuals thinking of starting their own venture?

My main tip would be to remain tenacious. If you have an idea you like – stick with it. Take a measured approach and get all the information you can, of course, but sometimes it’s important to take a risk. Also, it paid to have a good knowledge of IT before I started out.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Fred Heritage is deputy editor at Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and international relations from the University of Kent and an MA in international conflict from Kings College London. He previously worked as a reporter at Global Trade Review magazine.

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