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March 13, 2014 by Sarah Thompson
Last month, I caught up with Five Feathers Founder, Sarah Thompson.
Sarah is an entrepreneurial yogi with a big heart! Hearing her journey from yoga teacher to launching her very own yoga clothing brand was truly inspiring. Sarah shares some of her journey with us below.
1. Where did you get the idea to create Five Feathers?I have been studying yoga since 2001 but always found it really hard to find the type of clothes that I wanted to practice in. Regular sportswear felt too constrictive and the colours too bright and garish, but some of the yoga-specific brands (made of organic cotton etc) didn't work with the type of dynamic practice that I love. I felt that there was a real gap for a brand that integrated a more muted colour palette and urban-styling but which also made sensible yet sustainability-driven fabric choices (Five Feathers’ signature performance fabric is made from recycled polyester – aka recycled plastic bottles). It was a business idea that I always talked to friends about but what really kicked me into gear and sparked the decision to make Five Feathers a reality was seeing a documentary about Blake Mycoskie (the guy who started TOMS Shoes). Seeing how he had successfully made giving back the heart of a for-profit business was truly inspirational and made complete sense. That was really when I thought “I am actually going to do this” and started writing the business plan!
2. What inspired this unique name?The feather is a symbol for transformation, growth and realising our own individual potential. It has a personal resonance for me but in the context of Five Feathers it really speaks to the transformative power of education and the intention which underpins our charitable giving programme (which supports educational charities in the developing world via both projects and product-linked giving). The number five is a reference to the five elements, the five senses and the five koshas ("layers" of the self from a yogic perspective). The Five Feathers philosophy is strongly connected to intrinsic motivation and the power of yoga and movement as ways of remembering who we are and what is really important - reconnecting with the world around us and with our own unique truth.
3. While studying law, did you ever imagine you would one day open your own yoga clothing company? Do you attribute this decision to your own yoga practice?I studied law as a post-graduate qualification and I think I always knew that I would end up using my legal skills working on the commercial side (rather than being a lawyer) and possibly starting my own business- but the specifics of the yoga clothing idea came much later. One of the most powerful things for me about yoga and meditation practice is the way that it has helped me to connect with and trust my intuition and to bring me back to this when I have wandered off-path. Yoga has a real habit of peeling away the mask and revealing what is really important. I knew for a long time that I wanted to explore doing something in my professional life that was connected with my passions for yoga and movement which would also make a tangible difference to the lives of others. I knew that teaching was a part of this picture but it took some time for the vision around Five Feathers to become clear. My yoga practice undoubtedly played a huge roll in clarifying things as I sat with the idea and in building the inner confidence and trust to take the leap.
4. What advice would you give to other young women entrepreneurs?I would always encourage other aspiring entrepreneurs to follow a dream but to do it with their feet firmly grounded and their eyes open. Being an entrepreneur is not easy. Especially in the early stages of a business, it can be lonely, time-consuming and costly. From a practical angle my first piece of advice would be to make sure that there is enough breathing-space financially for all of the basic "root chakra" needs to be taken care of - home, food, warmth etc. Doing this reduces anxiety and allows energy to move up to focus on both the creative aspects of the project and really stoking the fire to drive the business forwards. For me, the toughest side of starting the business has been psychological. Both of the primary mechanisms that we typically rely upon to benchmark our career progression - namely feedback from colleagues and financial rewards - are absent (at least in the early stages!). Your own mindset - and the way that you manage yourself and your energy are super-important. You need to have 100 percent focus on what you are doing (from a yogic perspective - eka grata - one-pointedness). Even with this, self-doubt can creep in when things get tough. The most helpful thing to me throughout the process has been the unrelenting support of my closest friends and family and having an amazing business mentor who helps me keep perspective and see the bigger picture.
5. What is your favourite item in the clothing line?
I love all of the pieces, however for day to day wear and transitioning between life on and off the yoga mat my favourites are the Inner Alchemy Leggings and Earth to Sky Leggings. Click here to check these out!
6. Where do you see Five Feathers in five years from now?
It’s early doors for us – it’s hard to see five weeks ahead at this stage, never mind five years 😉 …. Our first big goals (which are a little closer than five years away) are to open our first retail space and to fund a school with our partner charity, Jaago Foundation. Then we will take it from there!
To learn more about the Jaago Foundation click here.