The Story Behind hejhej-mats
One sunny afternoon last week I met up with the founders of hejhej- mats for a cosy fika in my hometown Malmö. This German based yoga mat brand was actually born Malmö and the founders, Sophie and Anna, regularly come back to visit. What can I say other than that I was really inspired by these two ladies. They were so down to earth and really passionated about what they are doing. We need more business owners like Anna and Sophie in this world.
Why are hejhej-mats so different from other yoga mats? Well, basically Sophie and Anna have figured out a way to create yoga mats out of recycled pre-consumer waste. They are very transparent about how the yoga mats are made and it's quite incredible that the whole process takes place in Germany. Read more about it all here.
Without any further rambling, let me share this very short, but informative and inspiring, interview with you all.
Hi, Anna and Sophie. Maybe start by telling a little bit about yourselves.
We are both from Germany. Sophie (25) is from Nürnberg and Anna (26) is from Hamburg and we actually met during our semester abroad in Spain during our Bachelors in 2014. After graduating we both wanted to do a Masters in Sustainability. Both of us really liked Sweden and Scandinavia, so we decided to apply for a Masters here. Then we both got accepted into Malmö University.
So, how did it all begin with hejhej-mats? When did you know that you wanted to create a sustainable yoga mat?
It all started when the two of us went to an art exhibition close to Gothenburg. One specific art work by a Turkish female artist called Pinar Yoldas really inspired us. Yoldas was accusing yoga practitioners of acting hypocritically. Once we got back home we started thinking about our yoga practice and the yoga mats we were using. We started researching other yoga mats because we wanted to buy a fully sustainable one. None of the mats we found really convinced us. It seemed like most mats were made out of various plastics like PVC. Some sustainable options were made out of natural caoutchouc, which comes from South East Asia. This made us think that we should try and create something ourselves. From this moment onwards we couldn't let go of the vision of creating our very own fully sustainable yoga mat.
What does the name hejhej-mats stand for?
The whole company and project started here in Sweden and we wanted to make sure we kept our connection to Sweden. This is why we chose the Swedish greeting 'hej hej'. Another meaning behind the name is that we give resources a second life. With the 'hej hej' we can welcome the resource into its new life. Something else that we also liked about the 'hej hej' was the repetition of the word as we are also using the resources in repetition.
Was it difficult to start a sustainable business in this day and age? You talk about circular economy which sadly isn't what most business work towards. How did you make this work?
Yes, it was really hard actually. We had to find resources and materials that were recycled and that could be recyclable again. Most importantly we had to find something that was suitable for yoga mats - it had had to fulfil all the technical characteristics. So, basically if you want to create a sustainable product you have a lot of points that you need to consider which can be hard, but also super interesting. It's challenging, but really nice when you finally find the material or the solution you are looking for. For us this all was very hard to achieve. When launching a sustainable business we also think it's important to consider what will happen to the product once people don't use it anymore. For us it's not only about the production, but also the usage and disposal of the product.
Does this mean people could send back a used hejhej-mat to be recycled into a new yoga mat?
Yes. Those who have a hejhej-mat can send it back to us for free after they've used it for a long period of time in order for us to recycle the mat. The recycling takes place in Germany, as well as the production of our new yoga mats. We want to make sure that all of the materials from the old mats are used in new products.
What is your favourite yoga pose?
Sophie: I think mine is downward facing dog. It comes all over again. I find that the pose can be really challenging, but also really relaxing. It can be whatever you decide.
Anna: I would say that mine is upward facing dog. This pose gives you a little break in your practice and allows you to look up and notice where you are again.
Any advice for other people out there who also want to start a sustainable business?
Anna: Don't overthink. Most of the times things work out better when you don't overthink and you just go ahead and do it instead.
Sophie: Don't give up. There's always going to be times when things are challenging. You might start to think that you don't have the right idea, but I think that you'll somehow always figure out a solution. We were also at points when things were really hard and challenging, but somehow we always found a way around and found the solutions. Remember that there's often not only one solution.