When an almost fatal party accident left Sammy with burns across 35% of her body, she found sanctuary in an unusual place…LA’s Hip Hop Yoga scene. She has since brought the practice down under and established her own extremely popular studio in Melbourne, Yoga 213.
Hip Hop Yoga Teacher… that has to be one of the coolest job titles in the world! Could you ever have imagined suggesting it to your high school career advisor?
That would have been very interesting indeed! I wonder what they would have said. Hopefully nowadays if a young girl (or guy) says it, the career advisor would respond “Excellent idea!”
How did it come to be? Did you have other plans?
Oh yes I had many plans. At school I wanted to be a fashion designer like my sister was at the time (I was called her little shadow). Then I went through many more like painter, chef, screen-writer and actor until finally I had my first yoga experience and I was like “Nah, this is it. Sign me up!”
Describe your first Happy Yoga class for us… Was it a cathartic experience?
It certainly was cathartic, it was like there was this secret club that everyone knew about except me and I wanted to know everything about it. After the class was over I went up to Steve Ross (the one of a kind owner of Maha Yoga) and told him I suddenly wanted to be a yoga teacher. The next day I signed up to his three month training course and finally felt like I belonged somewhere. It had everything that I loved – fun music, smiling faces, it was spiritual but approachable and everyone was so HAPPY!
At what point did you decide to set up your own studio?
After LA, I didn’t want to go home. I felt like my journey in yoga had just begun and I wasn’t ready to go back to family and friends as I knew this was a personal journey that I had to do on my own. So I went on the internet and found another training that started the day my LA one finished in Bali and booked a flight. It was here that I did a month long intensive Vinyasa training in the hills of Tabanan, and started writing my business plan. I sent it off to my family asking what they thought. Their response was positive, so I worked on it some more and then came home and started to look at real estate.
Does the number 213 hold any significance?
213 is the telephone area code for Long Beach in California, which is where Wildhen(the designer of Yoga 213) and I took inspiration from for the fit out and branding of the studio. It’s also the name of Snoop Dogg, Nate Dog and Warren G’s hip hop trio, 213. And we opened the studio is 2013, which was actually an apt coincidence!
We LOVE the brand’s beautiful and bold aesthetic…did you have a clear vision about what you wanted to create?
While living in LA, I fell in love with Venice Beach and knew when I came back to Melbourne that this is what I wanted my brand to be based on – music, happiness, surf culture, ocean, sunshine and bright colours. Wildhen really helped my ideas come to life, he has an amazing way of creating exactly what the client wants while still adding his expert touch to make it even better. He is the man behind the pineapple, which has now almost taken over our original peace sign logo. Clever Hen!
Was there ever a marketing strategy? Or has the uptake been pretty organic?
Very organic. I started up my Instagram pretty quickly, about 4 months before opening the studio, and started experimenting with ways to reach our audience, keeping every image very much in line with our brand. I think when you are doing something you love, and you are passionate about it people take notice, and once we got into The Age it was a domino effect with different newspapers and press writing articles about my story as well as the story of Hip Hop yoga.
What have been some of the best / most unexpected opportunities that have arisen since launching?
When I opened up I didn’t realise people were going to pay such close attention to my accident. So I think this was very unexpected. It has actually made my healing process a whole lot easier. Each time I share my story I feel a layer shed away, almost like a therapy session. So for this I am really grateful. I have also had the amazing opportunity of being the face of Cotton On Body Active Wear for 2014 and appeared on The Project.
What were the first steps in getting 213 Apparel off the ground?
I had been thinking about starting my own yoga wear label for around a year but hadn’t really acted on it. Then an old friend, Charlotte Grigg who used to work at Sportsgirl as a buyer, wrote me an email about joining our Teacher Training. After the training I asked her if she would be interested in helping me start up 213 Apparel and she said “Definitely, let’s do it.” So we started getting culture images we liked together to build a brand based off Yoga 213, found a factory in Bali, set up bank accounts, contacted some print designers, tested fabrics, took a few trips to Bali and then launched our first collection in May this year. We are now stocked on Stylerunner, The Iconic and around 5 stores and studios around Australia. Pretty solid effort for 6 months work!
What do you think has been your greatest strength as an entrepreneur?
I go in with no fear, take risks and if something doesn’t work I move on without dwelling on it.
And greatest lesson?
Don’t make impulse decisions if a lot is riding on it. Start from the start and work through, rather than just focusing on at the finish line. I have matured a lot over the 2 and half years that I have owned 213.
Do you have any advice to other young women and men wanting to launch their own business?
First thing you need is passion and a great amount of love for your business idea, if you have this you can make anything work. Secondly, take risks and have a clear vision of what you want to do. And lastly, work, work, work, work, work. Nothing happens over night.
What are 5 songs on your ultimate Hip Hop Yoga playlist?
Mase – On top of the World
Notorious B.I.G – Hypnotize
Shaggy – Luv me Luv me
Snoop Dogg – Gangsta Luv
Jay Z feat. Mariah Carey – Heartbreaker
Where are your favourite places to hang in LA? And in Melbourne?
Runyon Canyon in LA is amazing! I could walk there every morning. It clears the mind and makes you realise how small we really are. Cafe-wise, I ate at Planet Raw every day while I lived in LA, but I think it’s moved now. I got the Maca mint choc chip smoothie (raw and vegan and bloody delicious!).
In Melbourne, I like hanging at my house with my dog, she doesn’t speak so we get along famously. And 213 of course!