The $675,000 Question: What is the GLBL YOGA Project About?

Via on Jun 14, 2012

{Sasha Lewis of Flavorpill and Rob Holzer of Matter Unlimited, the founders of GLBL YOGA have asked to respond to the concerns raised by Intent.com’s Chelsea Roff about their event. Neither article is intended to be an official position of elephant journal about the event, but an evolving discussion to help all of us make more mindful choices. ~ ed.}

On August 16th, 15,000 people will gather on Central Park’s Great Lawn for GLBL YOGA’s first event, an evening of entertainment culminating with the world’s largest crowd-funded yoga class.

Created by Flavorpill and Matter Unlimited, GLBL YOGA, a for-profit organization, was established to build unity and foster community in cities around the world, tapping the collective energy and human spirit of the urban environment to create large-scale, crowd-funded yoga events.

The cost of producing GLBL YOGA’s first event in NYC this summer with top tier talent and production is $675,000. Anyone can contribute to make GLBL YOGA a reality, first in New York, and then worldwide. Contributions can be made through a tiered fundraising system at Indiegogo, in exchange for some sweet swag at every tier.

Here at GLBL YOGA, we’ve enlisted the help of some notable friends who believe in our mission to help spread the word about this epic event. Their participation will help us reach people all around the world. Check out the video we made here:

Since GLBL YOGA kicked off, we’ve been asked some great questions about corporate sponsorship, the involvement of celebrities, and why we’re producing this event in the first place. We get it—the crowd funding revolution is just getting off the ground and so the dialogue is not only expected, but welcome!
Let us explain.

Rob Holzer, Founder of Matter Unlimited, will break down the purpose, the finances, and the mindset behind GLBL YOGA in a candid Q&A. Check out his interview below and help us spread the word!

How does an event like GLBL YOGA bring people together?

{Rob}: As a musician, I have experienced firsthand the power of large-scale concerts – both from the stage and from the audience. There is simply nothing like the energy of a crowd singing and dancing together. Its primal and fundamental to our DNA and most people who go to concerts know what I’m talking about. I was just talking with a yoga teacher friend of mine this weekend about how our culture is shifting increasingly back to a sense of tribes. I think there’s something to that.

There is power in tribes and there is power in gathering in numbers. To feel the energy of 15,000 people moving as one in yoga meditation is something we believe cannot help but resonate tremendously in a very new way. This will be something different from a music festival, a concert, or a mass religious ceremony…all very worthy pursuits. I certainly wouldn’t want to miss it.

Plus, if by throwing an event like GLBL YOGA, we spark just a handful of newcomers to begin a serious journey towards spiritual awakening through yoga, we believe the project has done its job.

Who benefits from this event?

{Rob}: Here is where we believe we are realizing our vision of true shared value. GLBL YOGA is a for-profit company. However, we have committed that half of any profits we earn—from this initial event in NYC, merchandise sales, innovative sponsorships, future licensing deals, etc.—will go to the charities and causes we choose to support. This can turn out to be very significant.

One can think that our ask of $675,000 can do a lot of good elsewhere, but I don’t agree with this logic for a very simple reason: where is that $675,000 if there is no GLBL YOGA project? It doesn’t exist. It’s not like we’re taking the only money people have to give by asking them to support this project. The fact is, the $675,000 only exists if someone raises it, and my experience with charities is that it takes tremendous effort to raise money.

We believe that our events will bring people together for something they’d value, would benefit urban environments by promoting yoga practice beyond the current dedicated community, and we’d be able to raise a whole lot of cash for charities in a more sustainable ongoing way with a company built from the ground up to give back as much as we earn ourselves.

Think of it as the world’s biggest fundraiser if you like; to me its very akin to many of the charity fundraisers I’ve attended, except we are doing it at scale and we choose to run it as a business first and foremost.

So who benefits?

We do (the GLBL YOGA company), the charities we support do (through the profits of the company as well as the exposure we bring to them), our sponsors do (through association with our brand and community), our contributors do (by getting great stuff at every level of contribution), and people who attend our events do (by experiencing this unique event).
To run a project of this scale globally (which is our intention) we know we need to build a world-class team, create an infrastructure that can truly support a community of this nature, and collaborate around the world with like-minded partners that can execute on the vision. This takes money and focus. In my experience, when investors are involved, intentions get clouded.

For example, most investors would not be so happy to invest in us if we give 50% of profits away. We wanted to have the freedom to do bold unorthodox things like this. We had the money, skills, experience and resources to get the project off the ground ourselves with a group of people who believe in the vision, and now we welcome the world in if they choose to be involved and believe in our vision as well so we can take it to the next level.

Can you attend the event without contributing monetarily?

{Rob}: Absolutely. The event is free and we will have a lottery for the 15,000 tickets. Anyone and everyone is welcome whether you contribute financially to the project or not. By attending the event, you’re contributing in other ways, to your own experience and the experience of those around you.

If successful celebrities like Richard Branson, Christy Turlington, and Russell Simmons support GLBL YOGA, how come they’re not paying for the event?

{Rob}: Simply because paying for this event is not their responsibility.

This project is not their idea. We approached them individually for their support. They generously have offered to be celebrity ambassadors for our project. By having these names attached to the project, it raises awareness immensely and lends a large amount of credibility to our project.

These people are not just “some celebrities.” They all are all incredibly well-respected for their continuous and often tireless work for good causes as a part of their own deep commitment and practice of compassion and generosity. They all can (and do) support many other causes, but chose to support this one because they believe, like us, that by bringing yoga to cities en masse in this way, we have an opportunity to connect people in ways that cannot help but be beneficial to urban communities and the world at large.

Celebrity endorsement has been a fundamental part of marketing forever, for charities as much as for non-profit causes simply because it works to raise awareness. In our case, we have the added value of the support of some incredible individuals who are in their own right gifted mentors and teachers who also happen to be famous for their work. It’s a blessing to have their support.

Why aren’t you relying on Corporate Sponsorships to foot the bill like you did with Y@GL?

We remember the negative reactions the community had to corporate sponsorship in the first Y@GL event and when building the GLBL YOGA brand, we looked for ways to minimize this distracting intrusion.

We began our vision for GLBL YOGA from a place of a true movement “for the people and by the people.” Being immersed in the digital marketing world, we have been watching the evolution of crowd-funding and found this to be a perfect fit to try to create a new business paradigm for large-scale events that could remove some of the overtly corporate overtones from events of this nature.

We knew it might raise eyebrows, but all new ideas always do.

The fact is, the crowd-funding model is in my mind the perfect solution here. If people want something to happen, they will fund it. If not, it doesn’t get funded, or they subject themselves to the corporate sponsorship that traditionally comes with the cost of large-scale events. It is important to understand that with crowd-funding, supporters get something very real and valuable for funding the project at every level of contribution.

We were very careful with our campaign to construct the contribution tiers where each person’s contribution gave them real products of serious value at least equaling the cost of the tier itself. So it’s really “win-win-win.” People get products for their contribution, sponsors get recognized by the community for their support in a non-intrusive and constructive way, and the contributions help us build our company and throw this event.

We use corporate sponsorship here in a new way—our sponsors contributed to the Indiegogo tiers instead of requiring us to plaster their brands all over our event. The community receives real benefit from their contribution, and we are able to put on the NYC event and build our company to do more.

Can you explain the structure of the GLBL YOGA business model?

{Rob}: Firstly, we might raise a whole lot more than the cost of the event itself through our Indiegogo campaign which would be wonderful. Then again, we might not, and that means people don’t want this company crowd-funded and we go back to the drawing board. Again, people are not donating to us in a strict sense; for every contribution to the Indiegogo campaign, they are getting something of real value in return.

Plus, our goal here is not to throw one event, our intention is to build a business and continue the movement in cities around the world. Again our commitment is to take 50 percent of all profits from this business and give it away. Forever. 50 percent less profits for us is fine if we get to support non-profits and causes we believe in.

This is the personal commitment I have also made with my agency, Matter, and I have seen how in a traditional capital raising environment, this business model creates difficulties because most (though not all) investors don’t like that idea.

But both Sascha and I believe 50 percent less profit is fine—we’ll have more fun giving the money away. I have learned through my Buddhist practice and my own experience that generosity is the only true conduit to happiness, but Buddhism also teaches “right livelihood.” You have to find the balance.

A 50/50 scenario as a business model feels right to me and allows me to try to build companies that can scale to a size that have true impact, are non-harming, and work to the benefit of others as much as myself. This makes me and everyone working around me much happier and we get to be successful and give back at the same time…more fun and it works.

What lasting impact does contributing to this cause make on future crowd funded projects?

{Rob}: It will show that people are ready for a shift. I already know they are. Life is constantly in flux and we are currently experiencing an incredible shift in corporate structure and a dramatic reevaluation of what success truly means. The crowd-funding movement is only one aspect of the quiet revolution underway in this transition we’re living through.

People involved in crowd-funding get it. They want to be a part of something new and break down barriers and old structures. New entrepreneurs embracing these platforms are just starting to see the potential and the wave is about to hit the shore in a big way. We hope that our project’s success scares some people—we fully anticipated the questions we’re seeing. It’s only natural for something this new. By contributing to this cause, you are standing with us and you understand our intentions and believe in our vision.

I think that if we’re successful, it may crack the event business wide open to new possibilities. Imagine free concerts like this everywhere instead of $100+ tickets to shows? Why not? It’s just re-engineering the business model.

 

Visit GLBLYOGA.com for more information about GLBL YOGA, join us, and please help us make this a reality—united in movement!

~

Editor: Kate Bartolotta

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23 Responses to “The $675,000 Question: What is the GLBL YOGA Project About?”

  1. Elena Brower says:

    so proud to be a part of this. when we gather together, we create a collective beneficent intention even greater than the sum of its parts. this is a chance to practice being present, grateful, strong, listening, together.

  2. RPG says:

    I have not been this excited for a yoga event since the last Yoga at the Great Lawn. Bringing all these amazing teachers together in the heart of NYC is going to be a life altering experience. Can't wait!!!

  3. ORIGIN Magazine is SO excited to be media partners in this event!
    Love love this community!!!!

  4. cdr0955 says:

    Hi Rob and Sasha,

    Thanks for taking the time to respond, and I think you make some excellent points here. I also think you also helped create some clarity around what GLBL Yoga is… I may be the only one, but I wasn't clear from the IndieGoGo campaign or website that GLBL Yoga is a for-profit company in and of itself. Based on what I read on the website, my understanding was that GLBL Yoga was an event supported by Flavorpill and Matter Unlimited along with several other individuals and entities.

    That said, I'm still not clear where the profits for this event are going to come from if the tickets are free and the budget is used in the way it's laid out on the IndieGoGo page. As I stated in my article, one of the main hang-ups I have around this event is around the issue of sustainability. I'm all about entrepreneurship, but relying on the public to donate over half a million dollars to a one-time free event raises big questions in my mind. I suppose in this situation, the crowd is a little bit like an investor… asking, wait a minute, where is my money really going? Will it have an impact after that collective tribal energy dies down on August 23rd? Will GLBL Yoga continue to ask the public to fund future events, or is this campaign designed to kickstart a for-profit entity that will have a business model that sustains itself post GLBL-Yoga NYC?

    Thanks again for taking the time to participate in this dialogue with the public and for your transparency around this event. If nothing else, I think you're doing a tremendous service to the community by sparking this conversation.

    Wishing you the best with your campaign,

    Chelsea

    • elephantjournal says:

      This response, and your original article have both been featured on our Front Page. We're grateful to both "sides" for engaging in such respectful, critically intelligent, earnest dialogue—genuine, constructive, honest but fair dialogue is too rare these days…it's either hate, pre-judge…or bought-and-paid-for hype-ish, shallow over-enthusiasm.

      Thanks to you both–

      Yours,

      Way

    • Rob Holzer says:

      Hi Chelsea,

      Thanks for the thoughtful article and the above questions. It helps us think and form the foundation of the GLBL YOGA project as it comes together collaboratively with the community.

      We tried to make it clear with our mission statement, our site and in the video that GLBL YOGA is a company/movement and that the NYC event is the start of something we hope will 'go global' eventually. We certainly could have been clearer here on some finer points, now that we see the questions coming up. That's always tough in a short film format – we always saw our blog section on the GY site as the place to have a "FAQ" section and dialogue, but we simply couldn't get it set up in time for launch (its scheduled to go up shortly) …its been quite a big endeavor getting this off the ground with a small (but very talented!) team, and we tried to think of everything but that's always tough with something this new.

      To answer your question on profits, we foresee revenue for our company above and beyond the event itself. This could come in 3 forms as we see it:

      1) Branded merchandise sales: (appropriate) products we create such as the T-shirt Donna Karan graciously offered to design for us. We are in discussions with a number of other conscious-oriented companies that might partner with us on this merchandise.

      2) Innovative sponsorships: we don't want to close the door to constructive sponsorships from companies that serve the community …our goal with crowd-funding was to avoid the typical sponsorship model where companies require brand placement everywhere in an intrusive manner. With the crowd-funded raise, we have freedom and control to make the kind of sponsorship deals that make sense and are constructive – forcing our sponsor partners to be creative with their approach to reaching our community.

      3) Licensing Fees: As the brand goes global, we imagine a licensing structure to allow partners in other cities and countries to use the brand, tap into our community and create their own GLBL YOGA events.

      There's probably other revenue streams that could materialize once the project gains momentum and we're open to it. Again, 50% of our company proceeds from all of this (profits after operation expenses) will be donated to the charities and causes we support.

      By the way as a side note, websites like Indiegogo and Kickstarter are now funding the arts more than the National Endowment of the Arts so this is a huge trend in the way in which projects are financed and will only continue to grow in the coming years.

      So I guess we'll see if people really want to see a company like ours in the world – one that can produce and develop these kinds of large scale events internationally with a consciously-oriented business model. Our team and everyone we've consulted with from the yoga and mindfulness community are wholeheartedly in favor of what we're trying to do and see the potential. We hope your community will support and help us bring GLBL YOGA to life.

      Best,
      ~r

  5. patrick says:

    Thanks for the explanation, and for addressing questions that came up with the last article. It's understandable that folks are concerned over the massive nature of an event like this, but it seems that the intentions are noble, reflected in the transparency of this article

  6. Tamar says:

    Hi Rob & Elena,
    Thanks for clarifying some of the ideas behind this event. It's very helpful, but I still have concerns.
    What are your thoughts about the environmental impact of this event?
    To my mind, it would be much more unifying, inclusive, community building, and low impact to have people time synchronize their yoga practices at their local yoga studios (also, cheaper).
    The Earth Hour event which started in Sydney and spread globally is a great example of an event where global synchronicity of action and intention is very powerful.

    As yogis and yoga teachers, one of our primary goals must be to take care of the earth and all beings and set an example of how to do that. This event seems very environmentally insensitive. Can you put aside profit and spectacle for the sake of protecting the earth? Is that a naive question?
    Please reconsider.
    Thank you,
    Tamar

  7. cathywaveyoga says:

    Maybe I missed it.. what does GLBL stand for? Is it another gay lesbian transgender L..?? group? or is this a cathcy global abbreviation for the texting generation?

    I also ask same as Tamar.. what plans do youhave for the green green grass? Recycling? Using products which are recyclable?

    Remember Woodstock? Can you pprevent a mass exodus from swarming and creating a potentially dangerous event?

  8. Rob Holzer says:

    GLBL stands for Global (shortened for the URL – we couldn't afford buying the spelled out version so went with this). We are working with the city who throws a limited number of events each year on the Great Lawn. The very large costs we have with the city covers the impact to the park, the grass, security, etc. They are used to these types of events and yes, they are extremely sensitive about the grass. That's one of the reasons they love an event like ours instead of a typical music concert. Our production crew is looking at every opportunity to make this event as sustainable as possible – we have some great consultants in that department working with us to ensure a low-environmental impact event.

    • cathywaveyoga says:

      thank you

      Please as you begin ads, event info include a paragraph or section about positive impact on the land.. bring own beverage cups, towels, re-use, re-cycle, return.. fo rbottles which can be returned. Emphaisze carpooling, subway, skating biking.. reduce impact. Have trash areas with labelled cans for food waste, cans, bottles paper..

      You are biting off a great challenge- it sounds wonderful.
      Let me knwo befor eyou get to Seattle. i will help.

  9. I appreciate the fact that you took the time to write a response on this! My first reaction when I heard about the event was similar to Chelsea's—looks like fun, but there are better ways to use the money.

    After getting a look at the bigger picture, I'm fascinated and hope to see this model applied (as you mentioned) for concerts and other events. Long range, it could be a great model to crowdfund educational initiatives.

    Even if for your group yoga events remain the focus, I think it's good to take a step back and say it really isn't that much money for an event of that size. I can think of plenty of events (celebrity weddings, political events) that have much higher budgets for one day events that are far less beneficial.

    Good luck!

  10. roseanne says:

    i enjoyed this response to chelsea's original post. it's great to get some clarity and insight into the business model for this event. i was skeptical of the jetblue/smart water 2010 y@ga event, and i continue to be skeptical of this event. while the intention seems basically benevolent, there's something kind of self-promotional (for the "talent," organizers and ambassadors) about the whole thing.

    i also believe that community and transformation (both personal and societal) happens through intimacy and relationships, slowly over time. i just can't be convinced that an afternoon yoga blitz with 15,000 people will accomplish anything, other than being the "world's biggest yoga class" and a fun practice in the park.

    i found this statement interesting: "If people want something to happen, they will fund it. If not, it doesn’t get funded, or they subject themselves to the corporate sponsorship that traditionally comes with the cost of large-scale events."

    i'm curious about the plan b – what if this campaign doesn't meet its goal? the indiegogo page looks a little lacklustre, barely raising 5% of the goal at this point, and the comments seem to be critical and dissenting. i'm interested in hearing what the organizers will do if they don't reach goal – will they scale back? lower their expectations for attendance? round up corporate sponsors? i find this event and its appropriation of "yoga for the people" and "crowdfunding" to be fascinating, and i'll be watching to see how it develops.

  11. [...] week, the organizers of GLBL YOGA decided to do a little damage control in the form of an article on Elephant Journal after it turned out so many people were not “buying” the GLBL YOGA pitch for huge funds [...]

  12. alex auder says:

    This is a very well written critique of GLBL: http://thebabarazzi.com/2012/06/19/the-new-tribe-

  13. [...] Chelsea’s response garnered a counter response from GLBL YOGA founders Sasha Lewis and Rob Holzer on elephant journal. [...]

  14. [...] right. This festival is not about the money. In fact, you can attend for as little as you would like, or are able to give, assuming you are [...]

  15. [...] Contemplates the universe or is it a backdrop for her glory? [...]

  16. alex says:

    In 2010 925 million people were hungry in the world.
    According to UNICEF, 22,000 children die each day due to poverty. And they “die quietly in some of the poorest villages on earth, far removed from the scrutiny and the conscience of the world. Being meek and weak in life makes these dying multitudes even more invisible in death."
    I was looking today at the comments on the Indiegogo site today (the website the organizer are using to raise the money for this event) and one of the commentators said: "..the world needs this".
    What I would like to ask her (the woman who said this) and the organizers and the yoga teachers is: what part of the world needs this?
    I often fear that in my teaching I might be contributing to the potential complacency (my own included) of us middle/upper class practitioners. Keep in mind that although my bank statement places me in a seriously lower class segment of our population, I live as though I have much more–which, I think, is common–and perhaps a new category of "class" : no money but living the "rich" life. But let's just say that there are not many people who come from truly poor segments of our country or of the world, let alone that many people of color in your average downtown asana class.
    So what is meant by THE WORLD NEEDS THIS?
    Would all of us who attend the GLBL event feel comfortable standing in front of a starving mother from Somalia and her three starving children and saying to her: "We did this for the world. We raised half a million dollars to practice something we love, YOGA, something we already do every day, in a big group, with like-minds, in NYC… to help the World."
    Can we lay in the dark alone and truly believe that days practice on the Great Lawn contributed to finding a cure for the diseases of the world: poverty, famine, war, and political corruption?
    I don't know, but I think it's something to talk about.
    Best,
    Alex

  17. [...] statement, taken from Holzer’s rebuttal to detractors from the event, is a strange one that hides out in the open a very slippery, if not entirely [...]

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