Every time you think you’ve heard of a more quirky product or business offering, it seems there’s another out there to fascinate and delight.
Here’s our chat with the female founder behind a very unusual new accessory in the fitness and wellbeing world – the colour-in yoga mat.
Who might have thought a few years back, that launching the idea of an ‘adult colouring book’ would be something which would really capture the imagination.
Sure, it was just a twist on something that’s existed forever.
After all, who hasn’t sat alongside a child and found themselves immersed in the therapeutic nature of colouring in between the lines of a drawing?
But did we REALLY ever think that adult colouring books would become ‘such a thing’?
Roll forward a few years, however, and here’s the story of an entrepreneur seeking to take that colouring fascination a little bit further.
Maria Metea is a self-confessed yogi.
She may have only fallen in love with it in relatively recent years (about five, to be exact), but during that time she’s been having a hankering for combining her creative side of her personality, with the humble accessory she now has with her on a daily basis.
Yes, she’s become fed up of the more predictable plain yoga mat designs, and she’s decided it’s time we all got a little more creative with the ones we’re busy ‘downward dogging’ on, on a regular basis.
Cue her entrepreneurial creation then.
Welcome the new DIYogi mat – a ‘colouring in’ mat which you can personalise to your heart’s content.
“I’m so blown away by how people have reacted to the mats already,” beams Maria.
“I only launched at the beginning of February, and already we’ve had such global fascination with the idea that we’ve even secured a distributor in the United States.”
She admits it’s a rather quirky business idea, and something quite unexpected, perhaps, from a young woman who has had her career in the rather less creative world of banking.
“Ah yes, that’s true,” she admits.
“I think people think it’s very different to my background, but there’s a side of my world which is incredibly creative, loves colour and the ability to personalise things and inject fun.
“For years I had been going to yoga classes and looking at the mats and thinking ‘how plain’, and somewhat uninspiring they seemed.
“At the same time, I’m someone who loves colouring and has a huge number of adult colouring books….so that was how the two came together.”
She continues: “One night I was back from a yoga class, and sat with my adult colouring book doing a bit of ‘creative time’, and it made me think about combining the mats and colouring.
The process took Maria down various dead-ends and frustrated alleyways, as she sought to create a mat which would have premade contours that people could colour into.
She had also envisaged – and has now released – some plain mats, which come with drawing stencils, making it possible for people to create their own creative designs.
Eventually, having drawn a blank with a number of UK suppliers, she reached out across the world to see who was making mats which could be of the kind she needed.
After countless deliveries to her home, and rigorous testing processes, in conjunction with perfect pens, she hit upon a solution with a factory in East Asia.
“Picking the perfect production partner has probably been the most difficult in the early stages,” she says.
“Eventually I discovered the people I am now working with.
“They’ve been so accommodating and have made all sorts of adjustments in order to get things just right.
“The first batch of completed mats finally arrived in the UK early this year, and by the time we formally launched in February, we’d managed to spread the word via social media and other contacts enough that I’d got global interest.
“I’m thrilled that we now have a distributor in the United States, and look like getting another one in a different part of the world very soon too.”
While Maria hasn’t felt fully able to quit her financial career post just yet, she’s hopeful that her future is very much in growing her fascinating business idea.
At 26, she certainly still has plenty of time on her side.
“I’m in no hurry, although I am ambitious and do really want to make this work,” she says.
“I think if I’d decided not to give this a go, I might always have wondered ‘what if’.
“Everyone who has purchased one so far has been incredibly pleased with their mat, and I know the yogi community is such that good recommendations spread far and wide very fast.
“I’m not putting myself under too much pressure, but I’m excited by where this might take me.”