Jordan Ashley is the brains behind Souljourn Yoga, a non-profit that helps raise awareness and funds for girls education in developing countries by teaming up with both local and international non-profits.
The company also help create opportunities to explore, practice, and educate through yoga both on and off of the mat by offering a spectrum of workshops and global retreats to continue to promote female empowerment and education to communities where equal opportunities aren't always readily available.
In the interview below, she talks about her journey so far since starting Souljourn Yoga.
Hi Jordan, thanks for agreeing to share your story on YHP. Can you give us some background information about yourself?
Hailing from LA - relocating to NYC - studying journalism - moving further East to Cambodia and Thailand to live, work, learn, and discover. It was when I moved back to New York City that I fell HARD for yoga (finishing my teacher training).
Eager to fuse my love of travel, movement, and women's empowerment I plotted. I schemed. Finally I meditated and thus Souljourn was born.
Tell me about the early days, the type of challenges you initially encountered?
Yoga and wellness are massively oversaturated markets, especially in the West.
So far from the aim of the practice is the habit; compulastion of tuning-out. Practitioners are separated from the activism that underlyings the ancient yogic teachings.
Souljourn is the opposite of "checking out" Souljourn is about listening, doing our part and more.
Hard part: How do you get to people to want to connect to girls and women who live on the other side of the world? Faces they may never see. Lives otherwise unknown. We bring our courageous, compassionate, curious retreat participants there - Souljourn trips forge global friendships and sustainable support on the ground.
What is your company? And what are you trying to solve with it?
As a non-profit (a US 501(c) 3 charity) Sojourn Yoga Foundation raises funds for girls education in LEDCs (Lesser Economically Developed Countries). These funds are not tokens- we create sustainable/committed relationships with the on-the-ground groups and women we partner with.
The opportunities we are so fortunate to create offer exploration, adventure, education - through yoga and beyond. Our work promotes (LOUDLY) empowerment and emancipation - of body, mind, and soul. In the places where resources are unequal - so comes Souljourn.
How have you been able to fund it so far?
Through grants, events, private donations, and general hustling to get the word out on how currently, over 130 million girls around the world are denied an education, which also means they're denied the chance to improve their overall health, income, quality of life, and the ability to empower themselves with endless opportunities. A girl with an education is also less likely to become a victim of violence and child marriage, which are two predominant issues that women face across the globe.
About the first few months, how excited were you, tell us about how those months felt, what happened?
It took about 9 months to receive our non-profit status, but once we did, anything became possible since we had government legitimacy to back us. We decided to launch our first service-based retreat to Peru, which is a destination so magical and life-altering for those who visit it as a tourist, but desperately needs on the ground support to provide education opportunities for the local girls who reside in the Sacred Valley. It was the perfect place, organization, and time of year (over Memorial Day Weekend) to run our very first adventure and the response was extraordinary.
How did you initially get traction?
Invaluable word-of-month and LUCK! Mega gratitude to all the yoga teachers who volunteer with us to lead retreats live across the country (Los Angeles, Chicago, New York City and now London) and were able to promote our mission and how seva (the Sanskrit word for "giving back") takes yoga out of the studio and to places and women that need access to higher learning.
What are the most crucial things that you have done to grow your business?
Building relationships - can't say enough about that!
By working on four continents and partnering with over seven sister organizations, we have been able to offer multiple service-based retreats every single year taking yogis from gorilla trekking in Rwanda to horseback riding on the Tibetan Plateau for a deeper, cultural immersion then your average yoga retreat. By continuing to visit the same destinations every year with a revolving team of teachers, it's our lifelong commitment to nurture the girls that we visit and support for decades to come.
What would you say has been the highlight of your entrepreneurial journey so far?
In 2017 I had the honor of being one of the speakers at TedxHanoi which was an extremely empowering experience to be able to share my mission and why it's vital to change the way that we give/donor-recipient relationship to one of equality.
What should we be expecting from yourself and your team for the rest of 2018?
We are getting stronger. As we gear up for a full program of retreats in 2019. The last fleeting months of 2018 are being spend investing in the team and internal infrastructure to sustain all we want to do - new retreat locations, yoga teacher trainings, advocacy efforts - speaking, writing, teambuilding with like-minded groups and individuals.
Like any ardent Yogi, we are diving deep to expand outward.
Lastly, what three pieces of advice would you offer entrepreneurs starting out today?
1). Don't be intimidated by other individuals or businesses that are similar to your idea, what makes your business unique is YOU so highlight your individual take or personality to make it your new venture authentic and real.
2). Whatever journey you chose to embark on, have it be something you love so even on days when it feels like it's you against the world, you can remember that your heart is truly in it and your passion is what keeps you going.
3). Work you network! Those already in your contact list are your first and most ardent supporters. Good work begets good work. Honest heartfelt effort is un-ignorable. Ask for help. Vet advice - move forward. When you stumble remember there is a lot to learn from the ground that carries you as you shall again rise.