From lifestyle to spirit, Will Baxter is a yogi at heart. Early in December, SocialBusiness.org covered I AM. and the response to the "Soulful Business Solutions" article was astounding. We got the chance to talk to co-founder Will Baxter about the business model of the yoga bag company and what drives his inspiration -- yoga, of course!
Four Questions with Will Baxter
1. How did the idea for the business model come about?
I was at a yoga teacher training course on Lago de Atitlan in Guatemala when one of the instructors handed me a book by Muhammad Yunus, Creating a World without Poverty. I was inspired by the notions of social business he discussed in the book and started looking for ways to apply his teachings right there at the lake. It was there where I was introduced by I AM. co-founder, Nadja, to the hardship that the Maya women faced -- they had this amazing talent and cultural heritage but there was no market for it. From there, I AM. was born and our launch project to develop a range of the world's most socially conscious yoga bags and straps begun.
2. How did you decide to join this sector?
My background is in accounting -- I worked in the merges and acquisitions team at PwC for 3 years where I was responsible for analyzing businesses. Early in 2009, I experienced a moment of clarity or enlightenment (whatever you want to call it!) while competing in a small triathlon for my firm -- I guess I was focusing all my attention on my breath which, unbeknownst to me at the time, turned into a form of moving meditation. The experience for me was life-changing and completely altered my perspective on priorities, success and happiness. From this small triathlon I decided to compete in an Ironman towards the end of 2009 and it was while training for the event that I was led to yoga. By mid-2010, I decided to take a year leave from a relatively successful career and booked a one-way flight to Europe via India where I continued to explore my new found passions -- meditation and yoga. It was this search that led me to the yoga teacher training course in Guatemala, which is where I was introduced the principals of social business. With my background in business and finance, the structures of social business just made sense to me. Why couldn't we use the principals of traditional for-profit enterprise but change the target -- from profit to impact!? I was enlightened... for the second time.
3. How do you get your inspiration?
I try and meditate and practice yoga to clear my mind as much as possible. I find that only when my mind is still from distractions can I really be inspired. I was also given some great advice early on in my work around I AM. I was told to look at everything with fresh eyes. And that is what me, and the I AM. team, try and do every day. We try and look at something like it has never been done before and have come up with some incredibly exciting and innovative marketing ideas which got us to our Kickstarter target.
4. How do you reset yourself to be creative? Do you have any rituals?
Again, I would say that my mediation and yoga practice play a large part in my creativity. My sister, and business partner, is always telling me to stop coming up with more ideas and start putting into practice the ideas we have. There is a balance between creating and doing which is important to strike as well but perhaps that is just having the right team behind you. :) We do encourage team mediation sessions at the office and also encourage regular breaks whenever you feel uninspired or unmotivated -- sometimes that can just be a quick duck up to the roof of our office building to gain perspective or listening to one of your favorite tunes to get you in the zone again. Always listen to your body.