June 14, 2012

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

{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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