I used to think yoga was for the birds. Then I tree posed with two social entrepreneurs - Generocity Philly

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Aug. 10, 2016 9:12 am

I used to think yoga was for the birds. Then I tree posed with two social entrepreneurs

PLUSgives sells artisinal yoga mats, donating a portion of the proceeds to three local nonprofits. Here's how they're tweaking the traditional "buy one get one" model — with art and yoga.

Local yogi Daniel Cordua (left) leads reporter Tony Abraham and PLUSgives founders Annika Tubito and Perry O'Hearn in tree pose.

(Photo by Joe Longo)

 Yoga is meant to stretch your mind as well as your body. Social entrepreneurs Perry O’Hearn and Annika Tubito helped me do both.

Last month, O’Hearn, founder of Philly Phitness, and Tubito, a freelance writer, founded PLUSgives, a “buy one give one” social enterprise that sells eco-friendly yoga mats designed by local artists such as Alloyius McIlwaine. For each $150 yoga mat PLUSgives sells, 10 percent of the proceeds go to the artist and five dollars each is donated to three local nonprofits: MANNA, Women Against Abuse and Back On My Feet Philadelphia.

Before meeting with O’Hearn and Tubito to talk about their newly-incorporated Benefit Corporation last month, I remained steadfastly wary of three things that have been adopted by modern American culture:

  • Yoga (especially the Bikram kind)
  • “Buy one give one” (BOGO) business models
  • Crocs

To me, yoga always seemed like little more than a bougie exercise in human contortion — a stripped-down, silent game of Twister without the color-coded spinner. Those judgments, the same ones I make about other things I know nothing about like bubble tea and hunting and G-Eazy, are why I never gave yoga a shot.

As for BOGO social enterprises, I’ve always found businesses like Tom’s Shoes to be heavy on feel-good marketing and light on the ability to provide a viable vehicle for social change — they strive to eliminate symptoms without treating the cause.

Getting me to accept Crocs as a publicly-acceptable type of footwear is beyond a Herculean Task, but O’Hearn and Tubito did manage to shake me from my jaded perspective of both yoga and the model they’ve chosen to build their business around.

Here’s why: Unlike the traditional BOGO model, PLUSgives has calculated the social impact each purchase makes by figuring out easy impact metrics.

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Every mat purchased puts one homeless individual through a day of BOMF programming, gives someone suffering from a life-threatening illness one meal through MANNA and provides one domestic abuse victim a counseling session with Women Against Abuse.

Every mat purchased puts one homeless individual through a day of BOMF programming, gives someone suffering from a life-threatening illness one meal through MANNA and provides one domestic abuse victim a counseling session with Women Against Abuse.

“We’re a for-profit with nonprofit ideals,” said Tubito. “The profit is really getting pumped back into the business so we can hold events and do pop-up yoga classes to give back to the community. It’s very holistic.”

The cofounders have challenged themselves to impact one million people. To do that, they’ll need to tap into the broader yoga community. That’s why O’Hearn and Tubito have brought on “ambassadors” such as yogi, photographer and Tattooed Yoga Project founder Joe Longo to help spread the word about PLUSgives.

After our chat, I decided to join O’Hearn and Tubito in a 30-minute yoga session led by noted local yogi and Palo Santo Wellness Boutique owner Daniel Cordua.

Maybe it was just the blissfully numb feeling Cordua described as a “yoga high,” but it wasn’t until I tree posed with the two social entrepreneurs that I realized what Tubito meant when she described PLUSgives as “holistic.”

Before I even met them, I was skeptical of O’Hearn and Tubito, two local do-gooders with lofty ambitions to “change the world” by selling high-end yoga mats adorned with local artwork through a cliche BOGO model.

Much like yoga, I judged PLUSgives before knowing anything about it.

But show me a social entrepreneur who can get me into a pair of Crocs and I’ll show you a miracle worker.

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