Jessica Incledon, Founder of Yellow Willow Yoga
We all know cute activewear with pops of colour and stylish patterns is a guaranteed motivator to do yoga (especially in iso). But what about yoga mats? No one likes a dull, slippy mat that only makes your downward dogs more awkward than coughing in public (NB: cover your mouth!).
Jess Incledon, Founder of Yellow Willow Yoga, was one of the first OG leaders in yoga mat chicness, creating beautiful mats that tick all the boxes: eco-friendly, high-performance grip and no nasty chemicals! In our interview, we chatted about Jess's journey in launching and establishing Yellow Willow, as well as her own yoga practice and penchant for crackers!
Tell us about your yoga practice and what it means to you.
For me (and probably any yogi you speak to), yoga is a pretty special thing. The beauty of yoga is that it does so many things for the mind and the body. The reasons I personally love it is because it’s a form of exercise; it helps you with lung capacity, so you can better perform high intensity workouts; it stretches your body and makes you feel like you’ve just had a massage; and it’s 60 minutes of ‘me time’, allowing all the clutter in your mind to disappear and just be present on the mat. I also love the stories, the encouragement and perspective the yoga instructors give. I always leave class feeling refreshed with a better perspective on life.
How did the idea of Yellow Willow yoga come about?
Funnily enough, the idea for Yellow Willow came to me when I was on my mat, in a yoga class. As mentioned, I do yoga because for me it’s a mental ‘time out’, where I feel like I have space to think—without all the things about my day going through my head.
So, back in 2014, I was in a yoga class, feeling really frustrated with my current yoga mat—it was old, I was slipping around, it was slipping on the floor, and it was ugly when my outfit was on-trend. I looked around the room and noticed that everyone had put so much effort into what they were wearing (bright coloured yoga pants were all the rage back then! And I live in Bondi, so everyone was fashionable!) and everyone had ugly yoga mats—they were black, green, or blue.
'I decided in that moment that I was going to investigate to find a yoga mat that ticked all the boxes—fashionable, functional and eco-friendly. When I couldn’t find one, I decided to create my own.'
I was tired of being distracted by my yoga mat—I wanted to create a yoga mat that you don’t need to think about, that takes you deep into your yoga, so you reap the maximum benefits.
What were the key steps in establishing your brand, particularly on the already yogi-saturated social media platforms, like Instagram? What was your point of difference to be successful?
Instagram was very different back in 2014, so we were lucky enough that the ‘fakeness’ you see in IG hadn’t taken over just yet. We seeded our products to micro influencers who were happy enough to exchange product for posts because they believed in the product and our brand. We were super lucky that our account grew quickly and this led to sales. We were authentic, true to our brand pillars, and the difference we had in our branding was clearly communicated through all our channels.
'If you stay true to brand and what you believe in, then you will attract a loyal audience.'
What was the biggest challenge in launching your business?
The biggest challenge was that we didn’t really know where to start. We didn’t have a business or mentor we were taking advice from, so we had to teach ourselves. We learnt along the way, and often learnt the hard way. It was trial and error a lot of the time, but learning this way has meant that we are a lot stronger and more savvy when taking the business forward.
You also juggle mum duties and two (!) other jobs. How do you find balance and zen in your daily life?
Yes, I have 2 children under 4, so it’s definitely busy! I also run another business (skincare) and work part time in Marketing for a Big 4 bank. My businesses have kept me sane when I’ve been at home with the kids. I know 100% mum-life isn’t for me and I’ve always loved to work. I really love the balance and sense of achievement that the businesses give me.
I launched our Invisible Active Undies range in the first 6 months of my son being born. He was a terrible sleeper (often waking every 30 mins overnight), so it was a tough 6 months, but I wouldn’t have done it any other way.
'I feel like I’m a better mum doing it this way because it’s something I’m doing for myself, while trying to contribute to the family as well.'
My husband says I have the worst work-life balance of anyone he knows, but I work flexibly, around the kids; I’ll do emails at odd times, but I always try and find time for myself everyday—whether it be a quick run or a yoga session.
Foodie question: What's your go-to snack when you're busy working? If you could pick only one cuisine to eat, what would it be?
Crackers! I could eat a packet of rice crackers (with hummous) a day. Unfortunately I’ve passed this onto my kids who could also eat a packet a day :) Cuisine would have to be Japanese. So much variety (and healthy) that you’d never get bored. Japan is on our travel list as soon as travel is back on the cards.
What advice do you have for other women wanting to create and launch their own brand?
To be clear on your purpose and point of difference. If you are distinctive in the way your product performs, your branding and messaging etc., then you’re already halfway there. It’s a crowded market, so if you’re distinctive, then people will sit up and take notice, and it will take less convincing for people to form a bond with your brand and product.
I recommend looking for other women to connect with who are in a similar place to you, so you can learn and grow together, bounce ideas off each other.
I also suggest to start small: do everything yourself—PR , Instagram, setting up your online store, SEO, customer enquiries—then outsource as you grow. I’ve seen too many people flip it and it’s led to disappointment.
What's next for Yellow Willow Yoga?
We’re going to strengthen our relationships with existing retailers this year. We’re stocked in Myer, The Iconic, and Shopbop, in the USA, for our yoga mats, and many other stockists for our undies range. While we aren’t looking at expanding the range, we’re looking to deepen the relationships with our partners, offering them more range and designs.