In business, are popularity and wealth synonymous? And what does it take to be successful at success? Two entrepreneurs sit down in the afternoon sun of Stanley Park to share their thoughts on the matter.
But Ashley Wray and Matt Bateman really want to talk about their upcoming wedding. Theyre so excited, that the first stories to burst out of Wray are humourous tales about how her white gold and coral engagement ring (which they bought for $32 in a Turkish market) promptly broke pre-proposal. Then, how they erroneously tried to have a bit of beach garbage which bore an uncanny resemblance to turquoise inset into her now stunning wedding band. (Local jeweler Sonja Picard created something slightly more symbolic for their big day).
And, with that, the radiant young couple inadvertently answers both questions.
The founders of Mala Collective and the North American importers of Aum Rudraksha Designs mala jewelry darlings of A-listers, eco-fashion designers and pretty much anyone who practises yoga arent kids riding some trend in to the quick buck beach. They exude sincerity and openness.
Which played a huge role in how they came to be in business to begin with: In 2012, they veered miles off their safely charted route and began importing the distinct beaded malas from Bali, and with it, centuries of spiritual enlightenment, based entirely around a chance encounter on a plane.
When Soma Temple sat next to them mid-flight from Bali to Thailand, she said she was initially drawn to their glowing auras. But then Temple noticed one of her rudraksha bracelets wrapped around Batemans wrist.
Thirty years earlier, on a trip through India, Temples spiritual guide had told her that rudraksha seeds embody peace, and the more people in the world to wear them, the more peaceful the world will be. So she started making jewelry with the seeds, adding gemstones for their various healing intentions, and selling them in Bali.
Wray and Bateman had never seen Temples jewelry in Vancouver, a hub of yoga culture, and couldnt resist asking if she wanted help to spread her message.
And with just a handshake and her contact details scribbled inside the cover of Screw it, Lets Do It the Richard Branson book Bateman had been reading they gained distribution rights to her designs and an invitation into a lifestyle they didnt know they had been looking for.
Much has been made of that fateful airborne moment, but little has been written of everything that has come after for the two, who have slowly come to embody every facet their new endeavour.
Calling them an overnight success would be an understatement (they struck through their list of first-year goals in the first month), but it would simultaneously do a disservice to their journey. Apparently, being endorsed by lululemon, invited to the Oscars Gift Lounge and dazzling the Eco Fashion Week runway doesnt mean you are buying up real estate on Easy Street.
Bateman, a skilled carpenter, works three weeks on, one week off in environmental construction in Alberta, while Wray, a former journalist, works full time on their business. She admits that while her fiancé is away, she has many long nights of answering emails, writing speeches, eating macarons and having full-on conversations with their pug Newman.
Their one week together is often a whirlwind of engagements, photo shoots and date nights before he flies out again.
When they first started, they were both at other jobs full time and staying up until 2am working on Mala. The whole thing behind our jewelry is basically creating a life balance and becoming centred, and we were doing exactly the opposite. So thats why we made the decision for Ashley to do it full time, he says.
And full time to Wray is just a green light to go full on.
Children seemed drawn to the malas, so they're creating a kids collection for the fall (designed from drawings by little yogis). And their pearl wedding pieces, launched in time for their own wedding this week, are a celebration of marriage in general. It just kind of tied in. Taking that leap of faith and trusting in yourself and the universe.
And the risks they took at the beginning are what keep todays rewards in perspective
No one really understands how much money it takes to run a business. Getting someone to do SEO really quickly theres $1,500. Everything adds up."
At my wedding shower, a close family friend was like, It must be so nice that you can live this lifestyle without working. That would be SO nice. Whos doing that? Thats totally the dream, she laughs, kindly. If the dream is called working your guts out every day, and sometimes not even changing your pajamas because you dont have time? Then okay, cool. We love it.
They were recently told by a business adviser that they are in the top one percentile of businesses for what theyve accomplished in their first year.
Which is great, exclaims Wray. You know what? We need to hear that. Because Matt and I are in it. Were not looking through the windows, watching someone else and going, Wow, it must be so nice. Were in it and were living that truth. Its been all of our own money, all of our own everything. Our vision. Our friends in the photoshoots. Our clothes. Our writing. Everything has been true to exactly what Matt and I are.
And the highlights can get lost in the frantic pace. For example, Lululemon had called them just that morning, looking for something that embodies Vancouver to give to some VIP customers. A huge moment, sure. But then it was on to the next to-do.
Thankfully, sometimes that next thing is simply reading an emotional thank you from a customer, which always gives them pause.
A lot of the people look at the jewelry as a medium for strength or love. Its a cycle youre thinking about it, and thats already causing you to take one more step than maybe you would have before, explains Wray, who has been known to read the emails aloud to her husband-to-be him cooking in the kitchen, her tearing up at the computer.
The Fraser Valley couple, who has only called Vancouver home since November, is leaving an indelible mark on their new city. And as they touch others, so does it all come back to Soma Temple and her waves of change.
Wray and Bateman will be getting married in Temples house. But it will be the first time the three of them will have seen each other since that plane ride.
We dont really know her very well, but I dont think Ive ever been so open with somebody as we have been with Soma," says Wray. "We tell her all of our deepest fears with what were doing. All of our goals. Everything. Theres just this amazing loving relationship that we have over email and Skype. Its like were pen pals, but we work to promote her cause."
It doesnt even seem real to us, finishes Bateman, as the sun finally shifts behind the trees. Because all we do is work on it. Its hard to believe that it just happened from sitting on a plane. If we had been sitting on a different plane we would still be working our jobs, just doing whatever. Probably not living in Vancouver. Its just crazy."