As an entrepreneur Renee Manzari married her love of the ocean with an enduring passion for yoga. While growing up in Jamaica, she witnessed the devastating effects of the ongoing plastic pollution crisis on ocean life, such as plants and animals.
Manzari made it a priority to help protect the Earth and address climate change by launching Livity Yoga in 2020. Her sustainable yoga business sells a stainless-steel insulated water bottle, a cork yoga mat, and cotton yoga straps for stretching.
To develop her products, she conducted extensive research, discovering that cork could be used as a biodegradable and recyclable material to make most of her goods. The cork yoga mat accounts for 70% of Livity Yoga’s total sales. The mat is durable, easily absorbs sweat and provides a no-slip grip. “It (cork) is not only a great sustainable material, but high performing for seasoned yogis.”
Moreover, Livity Yoga uses plastic-free packaging and intentionally works with eco-conscious manufacturers and recyclers who develop items through a sustainable production process.
Manzari, Livity Yoga’s founder and CEO, tells BLACK ENTERPRISE that her firm is a member of 1% for the Planet. As such, Livity Yoga donates 1% of its annual sales to the nonprofit, whose mission is protecting the oceans and environment globally.
Trading Investment Banking For Health
Based in the Baltimore, Maryland area, the business emerged after Manzari left a career in investment banking and started doing yoga to maintain a healthier lifestyle. She realized that most yoga products she used were made of plastic, which was against her mission to protect the environment. “I felt I needed to make some changes in the yoga industry, so launching the business was something personal for me.”
However, launching Livity Yoga was no walk on the beach for Manzari. Her greatest obstacles included raising startup capital and dealing with supply chain disruptions. She initially self-funded her business by investing $50,000 of personal savings. She continues operations through reinvestment of profits.
Facing The Challenges of The Pandemic
After launching her small business during the COVID-19 pandemic, Manzari says she had to contend with delayed cork shipments from Portugal, leaving Livity without products to sell during 2020. As a result, Manzari was forced to pivot, focusing on increasing the business’s social Media presence to boost brand awareness and engage in philanthropic initiatives. She says the business overcame supply chain issues through the diversification of raw materials manufacturers in North America and Europe.
Further, Manzari emphasized that Amazon was a critical sales channel during the pandemic for her business as it provided an extensive access to customers who flocked to online shopping.
In January 2021, the business gained inventory and had $40,000 in sales that year, Manzari says. In 2022, she expects $80,000 in revenue. She says the two-fold gain comes from expanding into the B2B space and selling mats to yoga studios and boutiques. Manzari also plans to add meditation props, yoga apparel, and other accessories to expand her product selection in 2023. Her aspiration behind Livity Yoga: Become the first brand within its industry to offer circular products. “We envision building out the rest of the yoga category to tackle all-around waste, offering products that are made to last, broken down easily and reused, converting trash to treasure.”
Benefits of the Amazon Partnership
Livity Yoga continues to grow due to its partnership with Amazon. Once Manzari decided to start selling in Amazon’s store in October 2021, Livity Yoga expanded to new customer bases and markets. For instance, she says participating in Amazon Prime Day 2022 boosted sales by 500% over average sales.
At the same time, Manzari took part in Amazon’s Black Business Accelerator (BBA). It has offered capital access, strategic guidance, and marketing support, among other services, to help Black-owned businesses with physical, consumer products scale up and maximize sales in Amazon’s store. She used a $5,000 grant from the retailer to rebrand her business’s Amazon storefront and created a brand video to optimize ad listings.
With Amazon, Manzari says, she has an audience to “show the world not only our products but our purpose as well. It’s been really rewarding seeing not only the purchases come through but seeing the positive reviews from people who love using our products on a daily basis. And that’s exactly what my goal always was, to give people products they can feel good about using.”
This year, Manzari’s cork yoga mat was selected as one of Hilary Duff’s Amazon Small Business Prime Day picks and featured in Ayesha Curry’s curated Small Business Gift Guide for the holiday season. And Livity Yoga was nominated in 2022 for the Beyond Plastic Award by BeyondPlastic.net, which honors companies that develop plastic alternative products or efforts.
Asserts Manzari: “This is very ambitious, but if we continue expanding into different markets, we believe we can become a $20 million company within the next 10 years if we increase B2B sales and get outside investor funding.”