charities + chakras: PLUSgives

our pop-up yoga partners, Philadelphia-based yoga company PLUSgives, are on a mission to provide high-quality yoga mats + materials, while supporting charitable organizations throughout the region—ultimately improving the quality of life for many, not just yogis. We talked with founder Annika Tubito to learn more about what inspired her to pursue such a charitable business model, the designs of the mats + what her plans are moving forward.

hg:  tell us briefly about your background in fitness + yoga specifically.

annika:  I grew up in the country, so being outside in nature + playing/running around the woods in all kinds of weather was always a big part of my life.

Over the years, I really got into long-distance running. I ran my first marathon here in Philly, in fact, and followed that up with half-marathons in the years since. Because of injuries and lack of prioritizing my health before my work, I really fell off the running bandwagon but, thanks to yoga and how it helps me focus on myself + my body, I’m finally finding my footing again. I plan to get back out on the Philly Marathon course in 2017. 

hg:  what brought about the initial idea that has now become PLUSgives?

annika:  in the Fall of 2015, I was looking for a personal trainer to help me get rid of fears associated with a back injury + get me back into fitness safely. I met with Perry O'Hearn of Philly Phitness who was offering a 100-Day Transformation program. We hit it off really quickly and over the next 100 days really got to know each other. We discovered that we’d both grown up in households where the destructive forces of alcohol and illness played too large a part for us not to be affected. We’d both had to walk the arduous path of coming to terms with our pasts in order to turn them into something positive for the future.

One day, Perry suggested we combine forces to make a big-scale impact on issues we hold close to our hearts—homelessness, domestic abuse + malnourishment. After months of putting our heads together, meeting with local brick-and-mortar business owners and e-commerce business owners, translating legalese and corporate docs to make sure we could incorporate as a Benefit Corporation, having the honor of speaking with members of local charities who are fighting the good fight daily, practicing with local yogis and asking their advice on everything from designs to textures to quality, and witnessing insane talent in local artists of a multitude of mediums, PLUSgives was born: a Benefit Corporation dedicated to…

"…encouraging health + wellness, producing a product of quality + creativity, and lifting up the power of yoga to effect real change in the lives of those in need."

hg:  you worked with a local artist, Alloyius McIlwaine, to create the stunning visuals on each of your yoga mats (each representing a different chakra). Why did you decide to employ a Philadelphia-based artist for this project + are you planning on featuring future designs from different artists?

annika:  from the get-go, we knew that art was going to play a big role in our work. We also knew that we wanted to lift up the power of local artists who are making a name for themselves in the Philly arts or who are just starting out. This would be an awesome way for them to get some love for their work.

We discovered Alloyius, a local freestyle abstract artist, who’s big in the Philly Mural Arts community, and it was pretty much love at first sight. Alloyius’ vibe is incredible—you really feel his energy + authenticity. He got on board with the PLUSgives mission quickly with his stunning interpretation of the chakras; everything just came together perfectly.

hg:  will there be future mat series (or other goods) featuring other artists work? Do you think you’ll continue with the Chakras as a theme?

annika:  our hope is to create a community for local artists to showcase their work, earn money for their talent (we give 10% of each mat sold right back to the artist whose artwork is featured on that mat) + help their neighbors! We are always on the lookout for local artists—illustrators, graphic artists, graffiti artists, photographers, all kinds—whose brand and spirit aligns with ours.

We’re really happy focusing on the chakras right now as they explore harmony in the mind, body, and spirit, and that harmony is what we’re hoping everyone in the PLUSgives community can achieve.

hg:  PLUSgives is much, much more than just yoga mats. Tell us a bit about your charitable goals with the organization + how you’re using sales from your mats to help fight homelessness, domestic abuse + malnourishment.

annika:  our initial goal is to help one million people gain independence from homelessness, domestic abuse and malnourishment. Working with our charity partners, we established clear metrics so that every customer + member of our community knows exactly where their money’s going when they buy a PLUSgives product. No matter what, no matter if the product is on sale and the price is marked down, we will always give $5 to EACH of our charity partners:

$5 to Back on My Feet = a day of support (and a spot in their morning running program) to fight homelessness

$5 to Women Against Abuse = access to trained, professional support (hotlines, emergency shelters, legal services) for victims of domestic abuse.  

$5 to MANNA = a medically tailored nutritious meal delivered to the home of someone battling a life-threatening illness.

hg:  why did you decide on these three notable struggles? Who are the charities which you’re partnering with to start out? Any chance of introducing additional charitable organizations into the mix?

annika:  we were really drawn to the idea of trying to answer basic human needs: shelter, safety + food.

Perry has had a great relationship with Back on My Feet for some time now and homelessness hits close to home because his dad, after a long battle with alcohol abuse and living on the streets, died homeless.

In light of the staggering number of women affected by domestic abuse + violence in Philadelphia alone, I felt a very personal connection to protecting and empowering our neighbors. We discovered Women Against Abuse, and with their long-standing and revolutionary work here in Philadelphia, the choice was clear.

After researching local charities addressing hunger and malnourishment, we were wowed by MANNA’s efforts to feed people who don’t have the faculties or facilities to feed themselves + for whom nourishment is an extra hurdle in their fight against a life-threatening illness. When we discovered their origin story of helping victims of the AIDs epidemic back when there was so much homophobic stigma around it, we knew we had found a company who aligned with our values of compassion + community.

hg:  your mission is broken into three sections: Product, Charity + Experience. Briefly highlight how each of these values translates into not only PLUSgives, but your personal life as well.

annika:  one of PLUSgives biggest values is integrity. We aim every day to be honest and respectful of ourselves + with the people and world around us—whether that’s in how we communicate with ourselves and others, how we move and respect our bodies, what products we buy and where they’re sourced, how we recycle and pick up trash we see on the street…. There’s always an opportunity to give back to yourself and others and we try our best to live that intention, not just talk about it.

So, when it came to building our business, we knew that every product stamped with our logo had to be a high-quality, eco-friendly, and charity-connected product that we’re proud to offer because it’s made ethically + thoughtfully, and it’s made with intention. We want every touchpoint of the PLUSgives brand to act as a power tool that. . .

". . .unites a community of people sharing their stories and talents to build a healthy and happy world for everyone."

hg:  you’re also an approved Benefit Corporation which means you meet the requirements in each field of Purpose, Accountability + Transparency. Explain the significance of being registered a B Corp + how you intend to honor the goals set forth by the rating.

annika:  as a registered B Corp, we're held to the highest standards of verified social + environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability, and, as is the B Corp mission, we "aspire to use the power of markets to solve social and environmental problems".

We honor our responsibilities of B Corp status through mindfulness of quality, experience + impact. That means when we source materials, for example, we’re choosing what’s best for the planet both in how it’s made and how it’s transported. And, when we explore how we’re going to use the profits we earn, we analyze the value of our decisions based on how they’ll impact the general population, not just our shareholders. So, we’ll put money back out into the community by hosting pop-up yoga events, talks, and yoga/meditation retreats. We also honor transparency and so, in addition to making it known that we are held to the same tax regulations as a regular corporation, we’ll make public an annual Benefit Report that shows our social and environmental performance so that everyone knows we really do give back as much as we say we do + we really are working to be a socially-mindful corporation.

hg:  you recently partnered with honeygrow + hgAthletics on a series of pop-up yoga sessions at Cira Green, honeygrow HQ, Reading Terminal Market + 30th Street Station. Are there any plans for additional sessions coming soon (wink, wink)? Are there other types of yoga-centric activities you’d like to engage the community in?

annika:  our partnership with honeygrow and hgAthletics has been really inspiring—so many Philadelphians have come out to our pop-up events and have helped us raise money for our charity partners all while doing yoga in iconic locales like Reading Terminal Market + 30th Street Station. It’s been a ton of fun to see all the passersby stopping with their camera phones to capture a shot of nearly 100 people doing yoga in the middle of a train station. We’re excited for all the pop-up events we’ve got lined up and are always on the lookout for new collaborations with local health + wellness organizations to offer awesome experiences around the city.

hg:  do you feel yoga itself has gotten more approachable over the years? What would you say to those who are still a bit “on the fence” about signing up for a class?

annika:  absolutely. When you start seeing more characters in popular TV shows doing yoga, more men filling up your restorative yoga class, you can definitely feel how much more approachable yoga has become. People are finally catching on to all of the incredible benefits of yoga—for cross-training, therapy, agility, digestion, meditation…You name it—yoga is such a powerhouse for well-rounded health benefits. It’s great that more + more people are stepping on yoga mats and allowing themselves a moment away from the frenetic pace of our daily lives.

To anyone who’s on the fence, we say try a few classes where you’re getting to see different types of yoga with different instructors. You might find that you’re not into Bikram, but Hatha is right up your alley. And you might find that one instructor’s energy + voice transports you to a meditative state and another gets you so pumped to do head and handstands! We truly believe that there’s a yoga style out there for everyone. Once you’ve found the type that sings to your heart, you’ll be in it for the long haul.

visit PLUSgives' website to see their products + learn more about their artists, charities + ambassadors! Stay up to date with pop-up yoga classes + other happenings by following them on Facebook, Instagram + Twitter

join us for our next pop-up yoga, Wednesday 2/22 at South Philly's Bok!

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