HORTENSE BOURGOIS & AGNES GARDELLE

 

Hortense Bourgois and Agnes Gardelle are the co-founders of BAYA, a company that designs and sells high end yoga mats and accessories. BAYA is based between Paris and Bordeaux, but designed with adventures and travels in mind. BAYA to the moon and back!

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The original idea was to develop a sustainable brand, aesthetically pleasing, good for body and mind. So as pure products of their generation (they're both under 30), Hortense and Agnes kicked off with a crowdfunding campaign six months ago...and quickly hit their stride. Meet this young duo with a dynamic vision, good energy and dreams for the future.

 

I/O: How did Baya Yoga begin? 
Hortense:
BAYA is the fruit of our two passions: yoga, which I discovered in South Africa 4 years ago, and Agnes’ background as a graphic designer, including her love for all things design. We started noticing beautiful products in the world of sports: sneakers, leggings, t-shirts... But there weren’t any nice yoga mats! They would usually come in drab colors, smell kind of funny, deteriorate quickly, or wouldn’t be convenient to travel with. They were the kind of objects that would end up in a basement or an attic. We decided to create BAYA to change all that! Our concept is simple: top-of-the-range products, a trendy touch, nice colors, and imagery that would invite our customers to dream and escape a little. No more excuses not to practice!

Agnès and I met through the company we used to work for. We’d been colleagues for two years, became friends and started thinking about going into business together. We launched BAYA in December 2016, the website came a few months later. 

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I/O: What’s the philosophy behind your brand?
H & A:
We wanted to inspire our clients to build their own bubble, and to be able to find that state of mind again each time they unrolled their mat. BAYA was built with adventure and travel in mind, because these things are dear to us. Different cities around the world with their colors and culture are the real driving force for us, creatively speaking. The idea of developing a caring brand was really important to us. BAYA products are both aesthetically pleasing, good for the body and mind. We want the brand to inspire self-respect and respect of others. Lastly, we wanted creativity to be the beating heart of our brand. Reinventing tomorrow’s wellness products, offering new paths, communicating differently - all of this was central to us, so that our clients would feel heard, and so they would listen to themselves! In the end, BAYA is all about GOOD VIBES!

I/O: Tell us about your products!
H & A: BAYA designs and sells yoga mats and other yoga-oriented accessories. All the designs are strictly our own, and our products are high-end. There are two lines of yoga mats, responding to different needs. For pilates or yin yoga, our Soft line is ideal, comfortable and light. For Vinyasa, Fitness or Bikram, the Intense line, made with natural rubber, is more adapted. We’ve also designed accessories for maintenance and transport of your yoga mats! We’ have lots of new ideas and projects, and you’ll hear about them soon.

I/O: We’re assuming you practice yoga regularly. What type of yoga do you practice, and why? Do you do any other forms of physical exercise?
H: Yes of course, yoga is part of our everyday life! I practice Jivamukti (a Vinyasa variant) because I love going deep into a mantra or a posture for a month, and trying something new the month after! It allows for great progress, and I’m never bored. I also try to practice Yin regularly, because it’s a slower, more relaxing practice. Oh, and top of that, I cycle everywhere I go.

Agnès is a dancer, which helps a lot when you’re starting out yoga, and a music-lover (Brazilian music, especially). Yoga is quite new in her life, but she’s really starting to acquire a taste for it. Her thing is Vinyasa with a soundtrack, because of its energetic yet relaxing vibe. It’s becoming one of her preferred solutions to back problems.

I/O: What has changed in the way sports are practiced, on a societal level, and how does that impact the business behind fitness? Any other new brands on your radar? 
H & A: In France, yoga is practiced regularly by over 2 million people. In the US, the wellness market takes the 4th place in terms of growth. A lot of "traditional" brands have launched sportswear lines in the past years, such as H&M, Oysho, and Zara. Girls go about their daily lives wearing leggings. There’s also a real interest in the lifestyle associated to yoga: the "slow" movement, vegetarianism, natural cosmetics… With BAYA, we’re very happy to say we’re on the frontline to assist all this change!

By collaborating with our distributors (Nature et Découvertes, La Redoute, amongst others), or with other brands (a recent co-branding with Yoga Searcher for example), we want to become the number one wellness brand in Europe. We’re also noticing that although a lot of things happen on the internet today, through social media most notably, this is a market where events have an important influence, which we love! We try to attend as many as we can, in order for people to try out our products, for us to get feedback and find partnerships and ambassadors. We’ve also noticed the prejudices around yoga ("It’s not a real sport") are fading, and that a lot of people are discovering its value, and are practicing it as a complement to other physical activities such as running or cycling.

I/O: How about in Paris?
H: It’s so nice to see the interest grow in Paris! A lot of events take place, studios are popping up everywhere! Paris, albeit a little later than major cities in north America, is catching up on this lifestyle, and I think it’s a good thing! Agnès, for her part, is based in Bordeaux, and it’s interesting to see south-western France is very receptive, thanks to surf culture in particular.

I/O: What are your views on feminism and the empowerment of women?
H & A: Since the very start of BAYA, we’ve been surrounded with kind and considerate women: our mentor Charline Goutal, founder of Ma P’tite Culotte, Joséphine Bouchez, co-founder or Ticket For Change, and Caroline Pailloux, founder of Ignition, just to name a few. BAYA is a brand created by women, and that caters mostly to women (although we are developing things for men, no worries!).

We’re serious about being a caring brand. We’re all for well-being, but we do not want to impose impossibly high standards on our community. For instance, Agnès and I love eating well: we share recipes on our blog, even the ones that aren’t the healthiest! The same goes for yoga: we love it, and love sharing our tips, but we do a lot of other things on the side. It’s always nice to take some time out to read, party, and get together! It’s all about balance. This vision of womanhood isn’t easy to promote, especially when our main marketing tool is Instagram, where female empowerment often comes second. Through BAYA, we’ve become more aware of the strength we have as confident, ambitious women.

We see feminism as our generation’s struggle. Female entrepreneurs today have as much ambition as their male peers, gender complementarity is becoming self-evident, and women’s bodies are respected and seen through non-judgemental eyes.

I/O: Does working with another woman change the way you work?
H & A: Well, we’ve had the opportunity to work together in the past, so we know each other’s way of doing things. Our relationship is based on trust. I trust her eye for design and creative vision entirely, and I admire her and respect her. I know she trusts me on the business side of things. The fact that we are so complimentary is our strength.

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I/O: What does communication and marketing look like for a young brand today? 
H & A: At the beginning, our crowdfunding campaign brought on some early adopters, who then became ambassadors for the brand! We were lucky enough to get in touch with influencers, who were excited to work with young, enthusiastic entrepreneurs. Our growth really started from these early partnerships. Afterwards, we had a small PR operation, which allowed us to get in touch with a slightly older crowd. Another thing we do is try to find partnership with events, such as She Is Morning or the Happy Folk Festival.

This summer, with our friends at WOMENLAB we are organizing the MOVE SUMMER TOUR. The idea is to go find our customers where they spend their holidays. From August 9th-15th we’ll be traveling to Lacanau, Hossegor, Biarritz, Leucate, Montpellier, and Marseilles. We’re planning on doing two sessions a day, one in the morning, one in the evening. There’ll be run & yoga, accro yoga, SUP yoga, yoga with children, and basic, simple yoga. We’re also planning to host breakfast in the mornings and drinks in the evenings, to recover and have a good time. 

I/O: What is your community comprised of?
H & A: Modern, trend-setting, urban women. People who care about social and environmental issues, and who take care of their bodies, and are mindful of the products they use.

 I/O: A mantra, motto, or tagline?
H & A: Our motto is "Move, Feel, Care". Moving is important for the well-being of our minds and bodies; feeling, because it takes time and practice to care for one’s self and to feel as alive as possible; caring, because it’s important to care for ourselves, others, and our environment.

I/O: Do you have any rituals you can tell us about? 
H: I like to wake up early, and have a smoothie (I know, what a cliché!) to start the day. There was a time where I was really strict with myself in terms of routine, but I’ve found some balance, I’m more flexible now, and it makes me happy. I try to practice yoga every day, even if it’s just 15 minutes. I also try to find inspiration at least once a day: I’ve become a big fan of podcasts (Girlboss, Yoga Girl, or Generation XX to name just a few). Another one of my rituals is having a glass of good wine with my friends.

A: My ritual revolves around music: I can’t go a day without music. It helps me focus and keeps my energy levels up! I also loves cooking, trying out new things, and inventing new ways to blend flavors. I'm a big fan of the Capucins market in Bordeaux, where I spend a lot of time looking for the best products: eating well is important! I practice yoga as much as I can, bike around, and like drinking good wine with my friends! You could say we’re business partners for a reason.

I/O: Do you ever "fall off the wellness wagon"?
H & A: Oh yeah, all the time! Our team’s motto should really be “Wine now, Yoga later”!

I/O: What does your generation do differently?
H & A: I would say we do everything faster: thinking, communicating, reacting, liking and disliking. The whole idea that things were better before is irritating to us. I think we do have a lot of challenges ahead of us - climate change being the number one priority - and so I think it’s important to do things differently than generations before us. There is a real optimistic side to this generation.

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I/O: How important is travelling in your lives and your work, in terms of inspiration? Where are you going to travel this year?
H: It’s vital! Cities around the world inspire us for our designs! Agnès and I love moving around. Between the two of us, in the past year, we’ve visited Japan, Iran, Iceland, Nepal, Brazil, and NYC! I think our dream trip right now would be a BAYA yoga retreat on the beaches of Tulum, in Mexico.

I/O: What role does music play in your lives? Do you have playlists you’d like to share, any power songs in particular?
H & A: Music is central. We often curate playlists that we share with our community. It can be more ambient, to practice yoga to or just relax, or playlists that go with a specific yoga mat (we have a Rio playlist and a Biarritz playlist, for instance), so anyone can really immerse themselves in a mood, according to the mat they picked.
Music makes us laugh, gives us motivation, and brings people together.
Here’s our top five, for a happy summer:
"Pais Tropical" (Jorge ben Jor), "Pas de Boogie Woogie" (Eddy Mitchell), "Sire Duke" (Stevie Wonder), "Uptown Funk" (Mark Ronson & Bruno Mars), "Halcyon Birds" (Broken Back)

We hope these tracks will provide you with energy and motivation. For more music, head to our Spotify.

I/O: What makes you happy?
H: Everything around our brand, and sharing it with Agnès, growing and evolving through our company. Other sources of happiness are cycling, evenings with friends, sunsets, my boyfriend, the sound of my nephew’s laughter, savasana after an intense yoga session, big family dinners, reading Marguerite Duras, the Île de Groix in Brittany, scented candles, coconut oil, Agnès’ mojitos…

A: The whole story behind our company is definitely magic! I also have beautiful memories, I love hearing Hortense laugh, my family’s country house, the smell of freshly-cut grass, my boyfriend, my family, dance battles with my friends, beautiful encounters, Brazil, Joao Gilberto, walking in the forest, lying on my yoga mat with my eyes closed,  making cocktails, looking at a landscape in silence, inviting my friends over for dinner, singing, travelling…The list goes on!

I/O: What do you do when you’re upset?
H: I complain! With yoga, I’m learning to analyze my reactions, and understand why I react the way I do, to isolate what hurt me. It allows me to take a step back and look at things with perspective, because I have a tendency to take things personally!

A: I complain, too, but I move on pretty quickly. I rationalize things, I think about something else or do something else that makes me happy. I hate being sad, angry, stressed out. At home, we have a saying: pensamento positivo (positive thinking), which really helps me take a step back, and move on!

I/O: What are your future projects?
H & A: To make our company grow more! Develop new products, recruit people, and conquer the european market, become new leaders in our category… There’s a lot to do. But also just growing as entrepreneurs, by learning every day, taking time to think about long term development, and looking for new solutions.

I/O: Where do you see yourselves in 10 years?
H & A: In the BAYA house, in the countryside, which will be an international meeting point for yoga and wellness enthusiasts! We’ll have a vegetable patch and host cocktail nights. We’d love to create a space where people could try out and buy our products. It would be a great way to unite our community, to give classes, and create a place where people can exchange, cook, relax, meet each other and exercise together. Somewhere people could feel at home, along with our expanding team!

I/O: Where can your community come and find you?
H & A: This summer on the beaches of southern France, for the MOVE SUMMER TOUR! Also, at Station F in Paris, and on social media. We talk about a host of different subjects on our blog, as well. 

I/O: Any wishes for this year?
H & A: A nice pop-up store for Christmas.

 

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