INTERVIEW: Nikki Stevenson

Nikki Stevenson runs her own business in yoga mats and yoga clothing. A true entrepreneur, she’s a rad surfing yogi from Australia, based in Bali. Nikki is also a yoga teacher and publishes her classes online on her website, a great source of inspiration for any yogi. 

The first time I met Nikki was during a yoga class. She was teaching. The things she said were so spot on and valuable, I just had to tell her how much I appreciated that. We discovered that we had a mutual friend: Amanda Battle (another dream chaser). They met via Peggy Hall (Yoga for Surfers), who was my first introduction to yoga. Such a small world!

Nikki learned the hard way that chasing dreams isn’t easy. A major setback didn’t stop her from pursuing her dream. That alone makes her a true entrepreneur. She created what she envisioned and set up her successful business Salt & Seed.

DREAM CHASER is a series of interviews with women who are working hard to turn their dreams into reality. Women who choose their own path, who follow their hearts, run their own business, and do what they love no matter what.

Nikki Stevenson

Tell us how it all started. When did you know what you wanted and when did you decide to go for it?

The idea for my yoga mat business started I think when I first started looking for my first yoga mat. I wanted to make an environmentally friendly choice, but I also wanted a mat that didn’t slip, was easy to travel with, had enough support for harder surfaces, and looked nice.

The first mat I bought was jute and rubber and I loved it – I traveled the world with it, used it every day, but it was thin and my knees were beginning to hurt.

So I started looking again.

The popular brands in yoga mats are very expensive and while I know they are a great investment and I was willing to pay the cost, but it got me thinking about other people, especially those new to yoga and those with no idea how bad non-Eco-friendly mats could be. If you have no idea about the materials or are just trying out yoga to see if you like it and there are two mats side by side – one for $30 and one for $100 or more, both looking similar, which would you choose?

I realize that Eco-friendly products are usually more expensive due to the effort and consideration that goes into them, but I thought surely there is a way to make an Eco-friendly mat without the huge price tag.

I chose hemp as the natural fiber to weave through my mats as it is highly renewable, puts little strain on the soil and has a minimal effect on the environment, and I couldn’t find another mat like it.

What were/are the biggest obstacles?

While I was searching for a company to produce my yoga mats I stumbled across a website online that promised they could meet all my requirements for the yoga mats. They seemed too good to be true but I wanted to believe them so much. I was ready for my mats to be produced and I ignored the feeling inside me that something was a bit off.

They sent samples and they were great! I made some alternations – had more samples sent and again, they were great. I was very happy with the product but still had an off feeling. I pushed it aside and went ahead and ordered the mats. I had already secured a studio that wanted 110 of my mats and I desperately didn’t want to lose them.

Once I paid for my order of over 500 mats, the emails from the company went cold. They were very hard to contact, with long delays and excuses as to where my mats were. This went on for months and that feeling I had at the start began to get louder and louder.

I requested my money back and they strung me along for another month saying they would refund me. I eventually had to get lawyers involved and then they disappeared. All websites shut down, email accounts closed, PayPal and bank accounts inactive. They were a fraud company and scammed me. I lost everything.

Every last bit of savings my boyfriend and I had, money I had loaned from my mum and the deposit the studio had paid. Everything gone.

I could have quit there and then. But I believed I had a good idea and believed in my ability to make it happen.

So I saved up again – found a new supplier, asked way more questions and tried again. I was nervous about this company being a scam also, but I wanted to try again. I knew if I could make it happen then I would have an amazing business with an amazing product so I had to trust. The fact that this company had a real website and phone numbers that worked was also a good sign!

Show us a day in the life of…

Every day is so different. My boyfriend and I spend a lot of time apart so first thing in the morning when we are apart, before any social media, I message him or reply to his messages. I check emails that may have come overnight about yoga mat enquiries, new supplier. If I am teaching a morning class I will have breakfast after, reply to more emails, answer yoga questions or give advice, add to my website and update my social media.

I also help my mum with her business (she imports from Bali for her homewares store) so I meet with new suppliers, put orders in and update her social media accounts. I usually teach in the afternoons so will go back to the studio, pick up dinner on the way home (living in Bali makes it very easy and cheap to eat out a lot), and while I am eating dinner I scroll through social media, make notes on what I need to do tomorrow, chat with friends. I spend the night planning the next day classes, if any sales for yoga mats have come through I get my family at home to pack them ready to be sent the next day.

If I have a day off teaching, I’ll go surfing with my boyfriend, do my own yoga practice, lunch with friends.

I check emails a few times a day, and always researching anything yoga and new ways to produce my mats that align with my ethics and values.

Life is busy, but I love it. I know working hard now and having passion for what I do will set me up for the future.

What do you do to relax?

Relaxing is something I am constantly working on. I always seem to be very busy, I like being busy, but I definitely know the importance of balance and how necessary it is to take time to relax.

Yoga calms me, so does spending time alone just being quiet. I enjoy sleeping in and also being away from technology and spending the day exploring new places, eating new food with my boyfriend.

How do you define happiness?

By not defining it. Haha. By just choosing to be happy.

What are your biggest fears and how do you deal with them?

After losing all my money and choosing to start again, I don’t think I have fears anymore. I love the mats I have created and I believe in them and know they are a great mat so I’m not fearful of them not selling, I’m not afraid of losing money as that has already happened!

To deal with your fears I think you have to face them. Be smart and consider your options, be flexible enough to move around obstacles and continue to have passion for what you do.

What are the best lessons that you’ve learned so far?

That it’s ok if things don’t work out as planned. Don’t sweat the small stuff and keep believing in yourself.

What keeps you motivated and believing in yourself/your business?

My business is still very small and very new. The very fact that I work for myself and have a business that I created keeps me motivated. I love it. I absolutely love what I do. I want to make a more positive impact on the world and especially the environment. And with more people practicing yoga than ever before, I believe my business of creating eco-friendly yoga mats (and helping people to question where their mats come from so they make more educated decisions) will have a positive impact.

Every time a customer writes me and says how much they love my mats, or they post a photo showing off their mat I feel so motivated to keep going. Changing the world one yoga mat at a time.

Are there any dreams left that you plan to chase in the future?

So many! There will always be many! My dreams keep evolving and changing and along the way I find it might be time to let go of someone so others that I am more passionate about can come forward.

At the moment I am working on a yoga and surf clothing range made from recycled fishing nets! Filming yoga sequences for YouTube, building a website and I am always in the process of designing my future yoga studio! That’s the ultimate dream at the moment. A place where all my dreams and hard work can come together in one space.

Any advice for anyone out there dreaming but not yet chasing?

Go for it!! Even if conditions aren’t your idea of perfect – just start working towards your dream. All you have to do is start.

Looking for some more yoga inspiration and curious about Nikki’s yoga mats? Check Nikki’s YouTube channel.