Updated: May 22
The Story Behind the Contests - Scroll past the image for contest copy.
Although I had always been against group fitness, I decided to give yoga a try for a month. I figured it would be a good way to meet people in my new city, Chicago.
I bought an unlimited pass for Moksha Yoga Studio for $55 on Groupon.
I went to as many classes as I could - absorbed in the messages my body and mind were craving.
At the end of my month, I didn’t want to say goodbye. But, I was barely making ends meet as a freelance writer.
So I asked the owner, Darren, if I could volunteer in exchange for classes.
I worked the front desk once a week checking people in and welcoming them if they were visiting using ClassPass, or dropping in on a Groupon.
Over the months, many passed through with no clue what they had stumbled upon. But, for those who slowed down long enough to notice, Moksha was a special place.
It wasn’t full of the usual “yogi types”. There were older men who could do advanced poses and mothers who brought along their children.
Teachers would gently come up to you and adjust you silently or give the entire class a direction to follow that was really meant for you. It was an atmosphere where you could learn from the corrections, or do whatever felt good.
It was a refuge from the other parts of life full of expectations.
At the center of this band of misfits was the owner Darren, a great teacher, guru, and friend. The more I got to know him, the more he opened up.
He told me one of his childhood buddies owned more than 200 buildings in Chicago and he leased three studios to him for years. But, when he sold two of the buildings, Darren only had enough money saved to maintain one location.
His problems began to mount. Before, many people would stick around after his teacher training. Now, they were leaving for places where they would make more money.
On nights that had previously been booked solid, classes were canceled or required a substitute.
And by this point, all of his front desk staff were volunteers and didn’t do the job very well. People snuck into classes accounting for a loss of $12,000 the previous year.
It was so bad that Darren was living in the home of one of his students trading free rent for teacher training.
I could see the fear in his eyes.
The studio, his reflection of self in the world, was being deserted. He felt abandoned.
To get his studio noticed, Darren used Groupon and ClassPass.
While these marketing techniques helped him fill rooms, they often brought in savvy shoppers incentivized by special offers and discounts, not dedicated yogis.
Trying to get them to pay 100% more their second month, he drove them away.
The wheels started turning in my head. How could I change the outcome?
Moksha had something over many other yoga studios - a strong and strategic narrative.
Darren's voice was sincere and passionate because his mission was pure.
If he started believing in his own vision again - of spreading his version of yoga to many to help them deal with their daily lives, he would attract the right people in the form of customers, employees, volunteers, and even donors.
Moksha could have a huge impact on individual lives, the community, and even the world.
But, I had to focus on my primary mission - bringing new customers to the business.
I thought about how most people start their yoga journey - YouTube. I knew I had to make a channel to showcase our studio and teachers.
But, unlike throwing on a Richard Simmons VHS, we had to compete with every other video on YouTube.
With a background in SEO, I knew beating videos with millions of views to make it to the top of the list would be impossible if we couldn’t afford to sponsor it.
I also thought about how passive YouTube users can be. How could we make sure that the channel was attracting local people who would actually attend the studio?
I knew I needed to come up with a way for local viewers to feel more involved and also find a way to monetize our YouTube videos without turning to advertisers.
I thought of Casey Ho, a talented Pilates instructor who worked her way to a massive following. She hadn’t put a bunch of advertisements into her videos or become an influencer.
Instead, she sold her own Blogilates brand products. People would spend as much as $90 on a yoga mat she designed because they identified with her mission.
I thought about designing and selling our own Moksha-brand mats in the videos. But, then I came up with a better idea.
Why not create a contest and get our community involved in designing mats?
We have so many community members who feel like they can only work their 9-5 and sacrificed their dreams of creative work thinking they weren’t good enough. Moksha had freed me from my inferiority complex and I wanted to pass on that gift.
I made a flyer and gave the contest a relevant theme - diversity against adversity. By appealing to people’s emotions, they were more likely to submit a design.
I worked out details like how often we would come out with a new mat, how many designs we would run, and how we would market the mats.
I decided on concepts used by QVC and Vera Bradley - feature one mat per video, run 8-10 designs at a time and retire them seasonally so that they were exclusive.
But, Casey probably only sold one yoga mat for every ten fans and it took them a long time to buy.
If I wanted my contest to be a huge success, I needed to bring our customers from awareness to the point of sale quickly.
I decided we could borrow a trick from sneaker companies and issue a limited amount of each design to encourage people to get them before they’re gone.
I also used a technique I learned from Shark Tank - royalties. For every mat of their design sold, the designer would get $5. If we sold out their design, they would make $500.
It was the perfect plan, I just needed to figure out where I would put the flyers.
I thought about bulletin boards in Logan Square coffee shops. They would be a place where artist types were bound to see them.
But, I also knew patrons would be busy and though they might like the idea, they wouldn’t take the time to create a design.
I thought about other places people go to in the community.
Where do people have enough time on their hands and need an opportunity to prove to themselves that their designs have value?
I thought about the elderly people sitting in nursing homes who felt like they were checking the days off the calendar to get to their grave.
I thought about people sitting in mental hospitals struggling with self-worth who could benefit from the mindful practices of yoga and be empowered by the contest.
And I thought about the people in prisons who had talented design skills that might never be noticed because they made a bad decision when they were young and dumb.
Every mat sold would be another brick stacking the odds towards a disenfranchised person’s dream and rebuilding their belief in themselves.
I wanted to keep the contest fair. Who would pick the winner, me? What qualifications did I have to judge?
I decided we would have a social media contest.
People would want to vote for the same reason that they do in those cute baby contests, and why GoFundMe receives over $140 million in donations every month. People like to feel like they’re helping out someone out, especially if it’s easy and they know them.
Like GoFundMe, the posts would come with an image and a description of the person who made it. It would tell their story and explain how they came up with their design and how it fits the theme.
It would also link to the YouTube video that showcases their mat so they can show off their success to friends and family members.
The contest would be open to the entire community including our own students. Their friends and family would be the most likely to get curious and come into the studio. They were local and stood to benefit a lot.
I began to grow my vision ever larger. Going to Moksha isn’t just about yoga, it’s a lifestyle.
I heard about a mom who has a successful channel going into local restaurants and asking them to teach her how to make something on their menu in thirty minutes or less.
I thought it was a great concept. The restaurant got exposure and the viewers got high-quality content. Featuring healthy businesses who shared our brand’s values would allow me to not just help save Moksha, but them as well.
I took the idea even further. Why not feature local artisans from our community on the blog?
Why not allow anyone to pitch a segment and make it on the channel?
How many more dreams could be launched from the platform we created?
But, the dream was too big. I didn’t know how to make it all happen.
I began to feel like this idea was beyond me. It was the kind of thing that got you featured on Ellen.
I had few resources, I was still learning.
But, I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
If I could crack open one man’s problem and find solutions for thousands, what could happen if I applied that same thinking to other businesses?
I became obsessed with the idea of fostering community development using marketing dollars.
I wanted to spread ideas, help positive businesses stay in business, and in so doing, craft the future I want to see.
But, I needed to find someone who could afford my concepts and a team to make it happen.
A friend of mine who is a consultant for fortune 500 companies told me to consider corporate social responsibility budgets from businesses. I considered the potential impact of a campaign with that kind of financial capital.
What if there was a company that manufactured yoga mats that wanted to sponsor the contest?
What if they could make an impact, get good press coverage, be authentic, and help small businesses?
Too many companies use social media or SEO as their advertising strategy instead of realizing it’s just a tool for them to communicate their message.
This was a way for them to put their money where their mouth is and send a signal that they truly care about fostering community development.
By creating many of these design competitions and other similar ideas, I could create tides that shift reality without anyone else’s permission using money that was going to be spent on marketing already.
It’s easy to sell a customer on a shiny idea like SEO and social media. They’ve heard the buzz and they want to keep up with the Jones’. But, don’t aim to check their boxes, change their point of view.
Moksha is Making Mats!
Moksha Yoga Center will be releasing custom yoga mats and we need your help to design them!
At Moksha, we are committed to community development and the creation of opportunities for artists to share their talents and skills. Too many people with beautiful minds shuffle through life thinking that no one values their ideas or wants their creative contribution. They put all of their energy into working for someone else's dreams and think that’s the only way to survive.
But we all have the ability within us to manifest our desires and live a life that is in line with our highest selves. Happiness is a daily choice, and at Moksha, we want to help the world see their potential. Our goal is to bring happiness and peace of mind to as many people as possible by creating custom-made yoga mats with a ‘Diversity Against Adversity’ theme.
Our designs will be chosen from a pool of submissions from the community around us and each artist will receive five dollars for every sale of their design.
We are accepting photography and digital designs as well as high-quality paper submissions that have been digitally scanned at your local print shop.
Artwork files should be in an Adobe compatible format. (.JPG, .PDF, .EPS, or .TIF files are preferred). For optimal picture quality, the image files you send us should have a resolution of 3563ppi x 10800ppi. Once printed, the mats will be 24 in. x 72 in. So if you’re using paper, that’s how big it will need to be.
After you send us your submission, please upload your design to Instagram using the #yogamatters and tag your friends to like it to gather votes. Send us your digital file to email@example.com to enter the competition.
Also include a short artist bio (Your neighborhood, day job, and anything else you feel comfortable sharing) and a personal statement answering the question:
How does this design fit the theme “Diversity Against Adversity”?
1. You must love Chicago and consider yourself a member of this community.
2. No more than 3 submissions per artist, please.
3. All quotes must be cited and all images original.
4. No profanity.
5. All files must be properly formatted.
DEADLINE FOR DESIGNS: JANUARY 31
DEADLINE FOR VOTING: FEBRUARY 10
Got a question or want to run an idea by us? Contact Gabrielle at firstname.lastname@example.org and she will be happy to help you.
NEXT CONTEST BEGINS FEBRUARY 1
THEME: A MORE PEACEFUL TOMORROW