From Teacher to Mom to Entrepreneur: The Story of Kids Yoga Stories
There are plenty of articles about inspiring women in business, but it seems that so many of these stories highlight the female executive of a well-known company or the young, innovative entrepreneur who captured the interest of Silicon Valley VCs.
While these high-profile stories are indeed inspiring, I find myself thirsty for stories of the “everyday” business heroes, the women without the predictable push-through-the-glass-ceiling stories — a woman who simply had an idea and used her own blood, sweat, and tears to bring her idea into reality.
Giselle Shardlow, founder of Kids Yoga Stories, is one of these inspiring business women whom we may not read about in Fortune (never say never), but can inspire others, like she has inspired me, with her ingenuity, resourcefulness, and focus on her dedicated fan community.
I took some time to interview her to learn more about what sparked Kids Yoga Stories, how she got from that first story concept to a profitable business with more than fifteen yoga books for kids and a passionate community fifteen thousand strong, and what’s up her sleeve for the future.
Q. What motivated you to start Kids Yoga Stories?
I had the idea back in 2005, while taking yoga teacher training. I had been an elementary teacher, and I was just filled with ideas about how to integrate yoga with early learning concepts. In fact, I wrote a number of the yoga stories many years ago, but I hadn’t figured out what to do with them. When my daughter, Anamika, was nine months old, I decided that I wanted to accomplish something for myself and publish these yoga books for her.
Q. Do you have a background in writing?
No. I’m a mathematician, not a writer. That’s the funny part! But somehow I became obsessed with yoga storytelling. I would wake up in the night and jot down ideas. I taught a lot of children who were overweight, had trouble reading, or had anxiety, and I used movement techniques to engage them in learning to read. I could immediately see how the yoga principles I was learning in teacher training could apply so well to yoga stories that could have the same effect — to bring movement alive and make learning more fun.
Q. Where do you get your inspiration for each new story?
The foundation of every yoga book stems from my own experience. That’s why travel is a big underlying theme. During my career as an international primary school teacher, my students used to help inspire the yoga stories, but now it’s my daughter who inspires me (and why I tend to create more stories featuring girls). I also choose educational themes and topics that integrate well into early childhood and elementary curriculum.
Q. What has been the most rewarding part of running Kids Yoga Stories?
I think building a passionate and loyal community has been the most rewarding. My weekly Kids Yoga Stories newsletter now has more than 15,000 subscribers, and KYS has an active social media community. Every day, I interact with so many amazing people, and I get such positive feedback from our community. People send me pictures of their kids and tell me how much their children love these yoga stories. I feel like I’m really making a positive impact — and that’s an amazing feeling.
Q. What has been the most challenging element of running the business?
I’ve struggled consistently to find good illustrators. There are plenty of resources for discovering freelancers — Upwork, for example — but it’s often hard to gauge how their work will fit with KYS projects, both in terms of quality and overall commitment to turning out a quality product. So that has been a constant struggle. Figuring out the technology I need to run my business has also been a challenge. I don’t have a background in tech, e-commerce, or web development, but when you’re running your own start-up, you have figure out what you need — from building a website to buying a landing page tool to integrating email. Figuring out payment processing and site security was another tricky rabbit hole. Luckily, my father, who is a retired civil engineer, has been my lead tech op. I couldn’t run my kids yoga business without him. It’s truly a family business!
Q. What is your best-selling story?
“Rachel’s Day in the Garden” is my best seller. And, funny enough, this story was the easiest to write. Perhaps the simplicity of the story made the writing flow easily. It’s about the relationship of girl and puppy, a story theme nearly everyone enjoys. And the illustrations by Hazel Quintanilla are really great.
Q. Do you have a personal favorite story?
My favorite is “Anna and her Rainbow-Colored Yoga Mats”. It’s about a child with a hearing loss. Unlike my other yoga stories for kids, which are based on a yoga sequence, this one is based on a yoga principle: to be happy yourself, you need to be happy for those around you. I try to live my life by this principle, so perhaps that’s why I have a soft spot for this story. I distinctly recall the day I wrote this and how the story just flooded out of me.
Q. What advice would you give to other women, especially other moms, who are starting their own business?
#1: Focus on self-care. When you’re passionate about something and in the grind of getting a business off the ground, it’s easy to forget to look after yourself.
#2: Be patient. Moms don’t have a lot of time, so know what you can get done in your pockets of time and what you can’t.
#3: Most importantly, always focus on the intersection of what you’re good at, what you love to do, and what the market will pay for. That’s where you’ll find success.
Low-profile, but high-action, Giselle is a kind, grounded, creative entrepreneur who is a powerhouse full of determination and grit. She has a never-give-up attitude and always, always has a positive outlook. I thank her for being an inspiration! You can check out her work at Kids Yoga Stories or follow her on Facebook.
I know there are so many stories out there of women who, like Giselle, had an idea and went after it. If you have an inspirational story about a female entrepreneur— yourself or someone you know — please post a note in the comments.