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Vanessa Lee and Ian Lopatin, Founders of Spiritual Gangster (INTERVIEW)

Yoga Fashion With Heart

— December 23, 2011 — Social Good
Rockstars in business, highly creative and very into yoga, Vanessa Lee and Ian Lopatin are the founders of Spiritual Gangster, a hip yoga line with a twist of social good. Besides promoting the healthy body, mind and spirit that yoga encourages, the company feeds someone in need for every product purchased.

We did a profile on Spiritual Gangster recently, and couldn't wait to find out more about the people behind this edgy, fun social enterprise. We're grateful to share more of Vanessa and Ian's story below, including how they've made philanthropy "part of the DNA of our business."

4 Questions with Vanessa Lee and Ian Lopatin, founders of Spiritual Gangster

1. How did the idea for the business model come about?
We believe that in order to get, you must first give. We believe in planting "seeds" and growing what you want to create more of in your life. We had this idea for a clothing company but knew that it wouldn't feel important to us unless we were using it as a vehicle to help people in need, to inspire others to help, and to share what we have learned.

Philanthropy is a big part of our lives and we wanted to make it part of the DNA of our business. We have been inspired by our Buddhist teacher Geshe Michael Roach, the author of the book The Diamond Cutter, in so many ways. In terms of our business, he has inspired us to have karmic business partners. We have partnered with several amazing organizations such as Feeding America, Make a Wish, and the Cambodian Children's Fund and are excited to continue to make as much of an impact as we can.

2. How did you decide to join this sector?
We have been in the yoga world for 15 years. Ian is a former Los Angeles entertainment lawyer who also worked at the White House. 15 years ago he founded At One Yoga in Phoenix where he met Vanessa. Vanessa was the retail buyer for At One Yoga and 24 other yoga boutiques. She also appeared on the cover of Yoga Journal three times and together, they traveled and taught yoga all over the world.

At One Yoga was a great opportunity to learn about both the yoga and fashion industries. As a buyer, Vanessa felt that there was something really missing in the market and so we came up with this idea to have a line that represented the vibe of our yoga studios -- blending the modern with the ancient, the reverent with a little bit of edginess, and a deep desire to help people feel healthy, happy and connected.

3. How do you get your inspiration?
We love to practice yoga, play and spend time with our three kids, meditate, listen to music, meet new people and travel as much as possible. We are also inspired greatly by our teachers, friends and students.

4. How do you reset yourself to be creative? Do you have any rituals?
No specific rituals but we love to take trips to Sedona, AZ and Kauai. Both are very beautiful, peaceful and magical places that inspire us with the energy they share, the clean air and the colors of the environments. These are our go-to spots when we are able to take time away, and we always come back feeling fully refreshed and inspired.