Co-founders of Fifth Breath, Daniela McKenzie (Romanian/American) and Irina Marchenkova-Arya (Russian), alumni from the MBA 2008 class, write today’s guest entry about their upcoming launch.
Hard to believe that next year it will be 10 years since we left the amphitheatres benches and study rooms at IMD. Maybe because IMD has been, and continues to be, such a constant in our lives through our MBA year KIT (Keep in Touch) list that brings regular updates from across the world, or the whatsapp group or the visits and mini reunions that are going on all the time between members of our class.
Hard to believe that pressures of corporate roles, growing families and living across the world, distance and time difference have not stopped a budding idea that reunited us in more than friendship ways. Throughout the years post MBA, Irina and I kept sharing our thoughts on entrepreneurship and what would be a worthwhile mission to take on one day. We both aligned on building something that has integrity, that betters the world and delivers sustainable solutions to an otherwise burgeoning problem.
The Venn diagram confluence of all these criteria became apparent to us through our personal interests and love for yoga and wool and we set to make the first natural fibre practice mat. The yoga industry lacks truly natural and mindful product choices, and instead of fulfilling its original purpose of bettering people and keeping the planet unharmed, it is now part of the problem of overflowing waste landfills with PVC mats that will take 200 years to decompose.
Wool is the complete natural fibre, whose qualities are perfectly suited for the yoga practice: cushioning, yet light, temperature regulator, non-allergenic, sweat and odour resistant, fire resistant, biodegradable and ethically grown.
The initial prototyping, market tests and supply chain validation were so encouraging, we decided to have a proper launch for this business built during crazy hours between New Zealand and Switzerland, with four kids at times (for each of us) tugging away for our attention.
We teamed up with another mate from our class, Jesper Hornberg (Swedish), who has built a successful and impactful business in Kenya, inspired by our class expedition there back in June 2008 and we’re also launching a limited edition for the mat, with proceeds going to one of Givewatts projects of delivering solar lamps to school children.
While you might think this a carefully curated storyline, we agree that we are only giving you the clean version of this past year, since Fifth Breath was born. With all the enthusiasm, there have also been long hours, disagreements, expensive mistakes and sacrifices to deal with. Our families’ support have been outstanding and overall, our strong belief in what we are building and the complementarity of our skills in getting there carried us through the downs.
A bunch of the skills learned during our MBA applied, for others we had to dig deep in this entrepreneurial journey. But how exciting, we are about to embark on the official launch for Fifth Breath at OMYogaShow in London, Oct 20-22.
Wish us good tides. This is not only our story, it is an IMD story to add to the richness of what this institution has inspired countless people over the years with.
Daniela and Irina