In addition to a buzzing startup scene, entrepreneurial ecosystems require a community to thrive.
Three Kansas City yogis have joined forces to cultivate a space for Midwesterners to “just be” and align their mind, body and spirit.
Founders of this summer’s Heartland Yoga Festival — Lauren Leduc, Angela Cronk and Brooke Roberts — believe Kansas Citians deserve a mindfulness community to call their own, without the need to travel to the coasts to seek sacred space.
“There’s been a lack of recognition about what’s going on here in the middle of America for a long time.” said Leduc, founder of Karma Tribe Yoga and Pop Up Yoga KC. “As if we don’t matter as much or something, as if we don’t have good ideas, the same resources or that we’re not as intelligent.”
It’s time for Kansas City to flip that script and practice self-love, Leduc added. Although the market for yoga in the area — and the nation — is growing rapidly, the community lacks transformational retreat and festival options, she said.
“There are a lot of yoga festivals on the coasts and in Colorado, but there are not many to speak of here in the Heartland,” said Leduc, who also was voted Kansas City’s best yoga instructor of 2016 by the Pitch. “Although some national yoga festivals have begun coming to town, we wanted to create something that was more on the pulse with what people love and experience about yoga here in Kansas City.”
Kansas City’s regional culture is palpable, Leduc said. To feed the Midwestern soul, Heartland Yoga Festival wishes to diffuse such shared values such humility, compassion and freedom, she said.
“In Kansas City, I see a real sense of people being very genuine and at the same time polite and respectful of each other,” Leduc said. “On an energetic level, it always seems like things that happen on the coast slowly work their way within. But, I think that there is something special happening right here in Kansas City that is going to start working its way out. There needs to be a space for that.”
It’s that same energy and passion that’s been fueling the Kansas City startup community since the arrival of Google Fiber.
“There is truly a heartbeat here,” said Cronk, founder of Hagoyah Hair Studio and Yoga Den, speaking of the metro.
Different bodies together as one
Set for June 22-24, 2018, Heartland Yoga Festival is expected to offer beginner and advanced yoga practice, mindfulness meditation, philosophical talks and hiking, organizers said. The festival is planned for Unity Village, Missouri — a community just outside Kansas City that serves as the world headquarters for Unity Worldwide Ministries.
Organizers expect about 400 attendees, attracting yoga teachers, healers, motivational speakers and musicians from across the Midwest. In addition to scheduled activities, the 12,000-acre village is planned as a showcase for local, creative businesses throughout the festival, featuring clothing, jewelry, craft beer, food trucks and healing arts.
Roberts, also the founder of Yoga Travel Tree, said Heartland Yoga Festival is currently seeking health or fitness-minded startups or small businesses to act as vendors for the event.
Together, Leduc, Roberts and Cronk are yoga instructors and entrepreneurs, reaching a client base of several thousand Kansas Citians combined, they said. The co-founders share a passion for making yoga accessible for all types of people.
“Yoga is extremely beneficial to any human,” Leduc said. “What I want people to see at our festival are many different bodies doing yoga, different ages different races and different gender identities. … It doesn’t just belong to upper-middle-class white women.”
The organizers are confident in Kansas City’s ability to attract and celebrate the incredible yoga talent found right in its backyard, Leduc said.
“This is the Heartland. Where it’s still cool to be a good neighbor and to smile at strangers,” Heartland Yoga Festival states in its manifesto. “Where ego doesn’t shake authenticity. Where all it takes is a simple reason and a beautiful day to come together in celebration. Where community always trumps competition. Where we all belong. A place of great pride.”
Mindfulness advice to KC entrepreneurs
Even yoga instructors aren’t immune to burnout, Leduc said.
“For me, one of the biggest shifts that I’ve made as of recent is instead of waking up and going right to work, I do what I call ‘getting aligned’ first,” Leduc said. “I will spend a much larger percentage of my time getting aligned before work than I used to. That way, I am more productive and the world flows from me much more naturally.”
It’s important for entrepreneurs to schedule time for self-care, Cronk said.
“It’s like brushing your teeth,” Cronk said. “You have to do it every day. That’s how I look at it. … I have a disciplined evening practice where I let the day go and allow myself the opportunity to recharge and prepare for what’s new.”
Technology has brought pros and cons to society, Leduc said. Whether or not yoga is a person’s chosen outlet or activity, Leduc urges entrepreneurs to practice self-care.
“I think with technology, our lives are becoming more connected yet disconnected at the same time,” Leduc said. “We are seeing a lot of people seeking ways to be more fulfilled in their life, present and spiritually whole. There is a lot of noise. Similar to the financial concept of paying yourself first, you also have to remember to take care of yourself first.”
To learn more about the Heartland Yoga Festival schedule or to buy tickets, click here.