Welcome to Islay Interviews, where I explore some of the personal challenges and successes with leading influencers and entrepreneurs.
For the first interview of 2018 we meet Natalie Farrell, who is the founder and owner of yummyyogagirl.com; an online destination for women to visit daily to gain tips, shop for beautiful clothes and gain inspiration for living the healthiest and best versions of themselves.
We met Natalie at Chocolatl, a local, chocolate-inspired eatery and shop tucked away on the Pantiles in Tunbridge Wells. Surrounded by brightly coloured fabrics inspired by Costa Rica, this was an ideal place for our interview, as Natalie incorporates the colours inspired by her own extensive travels into her range of activewear.
Tell us, what inspired you to set up Yummy Yoga Girl?
Yummy Yoga Girl comes from a genuine place of how I’ve changed my existence and an innate yearning to share how important self-care is, then how fun it can be to create a life that you desire, wish, hope or dream about, and actually change those wishes into reality.
When I was formulating Yummy Yoga Girl, I was on a personal journey from being a yoga pupil to becoming a yoga teacher. After I qualified, in 2015, I gave myself a year, which I used to really focus on what I wanted the business to be.
What have been the biggest challenges for you in setting up and growing Yummy Yoga Girl?
Utilising and balancing my creative skills, whilst learning and building my technical knowledge. When creating my website, for example, I knew what colours and visuals to use to represent what I wanted to convey and how I wanted my visitors to feel. Colours are important to me, as was ensuring the site is a reflection and an interpretation of who I am. I love the magenta, the dark pink – and if we’re going into a more spiritual side of what pink represents, it’s the heart, love. Then there’s the blues and the purples, which are colours I have used in my clothing range, even in the Moodi leggings I’m wearing today.
There is one image, currently on the homepage, which I absolutely love. It’s of a girl in the sea on a swing. For me, it represents the impossible, like a superhero – I’d love to be able to swing in the sea. It’s impossible, but could it be possible? It reflects my journey, and perhaps those of my clients. It represents freedom and movement; shifting from a regimented business (or workplace) into a situation where your work environment is freer.
We can work from home, or what we’re doing now, in a café. We can choose to have more freedom and that’s what that picture represents for me. I feel that it is a visual representation of my business ethos.
I am comfortable making decisions coming from the creative side, but I am learning to ask more questions, and to then question the answers. I am building a strong team around me and one challenge has been learning to take a step back, to be open to and accept advice objectively, without taking it personally.
Another of my biggest challenges is around implementing the right decisions to make Yummy Yoga Girl happen, in the sense of allowing my thoughts and ideas to flow in a natural, organic way. After all, I was leaving the regimented, disciplined life of full-time employment as a singing teacher. The year off was a vital part of my transition. I went travelling – by myself; deliberately setting out to broaden my horizons, try new experiences and cultures, immerse myself in a new way of living and push against my own boundaries.
I created a little script for myself, which is “it’s going to be okay, you know how to do this and, through the process of doing it, facing a fear or a few nerves, you’re going to be proud of yourself, you’re going to be pleased when you come out the other end”.
I still use this script today and there is always a visual for me as well, which is seeing myself actually having done the thing I am building up to, whether it be driving the car on the other side of the road or presenting to over 500 delegates. This enables me to just enjoy the process and what’s happening.
Of course, I’m still learning, particularly the technical skills needed in business, but when you’re living authenticity, it’s about being true to what you want, living in the present – and that’s a challenge in itself, each day.
Another challenge is the starting point of figuring out who your clients are. It’s an exercise they call doing your ‘business avatar’ and taking yourself out of the picture because, in some ways, I am my own client, and, in other ways, I am not. So, removing yourself (in NLP we call it ‘metaposition’), but ‘fly on the wall’ is a good metaphor, I suppose. You try to embody your clients, then create a pathway and figure out how you’re going to talk to them, particularly in our online world – I’m still improving on that… It’s a constant process as I’m growing my ‘Yummy tribe’.
Who have been influential connections on your journey?
There have been two people. My singing teacher and my boyfriend and my business partner, businessman, Nick Sohail. I’ve always been intrigued by the relationship between couples who are also business partners and now it’s happening to me. Nick and I chat and discuss business often, not necessarily our businesses, but business in general. For example, how do people develop their businesses? How is that business working, what marketing and promotional activities are they doing? We are currently sitting in this café and supporting local businesses in our town, which is important to us.
We also discuss how to develop systems and improve services. This was another challenge for me, a push-pull. Because I’m very intuitive, people call me fun-loving, but there is the other side of me (relating back to music, where there are also systems – scales, chord progressions, etc). My friend and businesswoman, Sue Nelson told me that as a business-person you have to be in love with your product and work with a business head, and it made me realise that ‘systems’ are really important.
Especially in my case; because I have an online shop, many of my systems are designed to improve the customer experience. I didn’t mind dealing with my first refund because it gave me an opportunity to discover that my system is working. There’s a metaphor in there somewhere, but efficiency is important to me and Nick.
Your business is just over one year old – in terms of communications, what is your priority right now?
Building a tribe of people who are authentically feeling the vibe of what I’m sharing, trusting me enough to join my tribe, along with developing and creating partnerships. I am loving Instagram, I’m trying to be really heartfelt in my posts. Posting and sharing my message is an important part of my day.
I am planning a photography session and I will be doing more videos, including food and yoga videos. I could do it by myself but collaborating with others brings additional creative input and an added level of professionalism.
Of all your current projects, which are the ones that really excite you?
Starting to be featured in magazines which, up until now, I have only ever enjoyed reading. Seeing my clothing range featured in OMYoga was like a dream come true. I was excited, thrilled and felt proud of how far I had come, but realised that I can still go so much further. Nick said, “you have no idea what you are capable of”.
The other thing, which is going to become more apparent in our next photo shoot, is using more clients as models. Authenticity is about being real and loving our bodies for what they are, even if some bits are bigger than others. That’s about self-love, the part where you recognise your own beauty, that you are amazing. And that’s where the healthy living and the Amazing You comes from.
So, the other thing I’m looking forward to is the launch of the new clothing collection Pura Vida, which translates as ‘Beautiful Life’ and will be launched in April 2018.
In communications terms, what piece of advice would you give to your 22-year old self?
Dear 22-year-old Natalie,
What you have to say is important. Over the next few years, you will cure yourself of panic attacks and an eating disorder, become a yoga teacher and also inspire hundreds of people to feel better about themselves and achieve their personal goals. You will make friends with your dad, the pain from his drinking will ease as you develop new skills, non-judgement, goodness and gratitude. You rekindle this relationship and also see your mum remarry.
So, speak out and enjoy building relationships and know that you are enough.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
What is interesting to me is the power of letting go. My singing teacher, Howard Milner, said that “feelings can only be released in singing if we let go of our tension”. He also said to me one day, very bluntly, “go sort your shit out!” Although I left that lesson in tears, it was a turning point for me. He made me understand how feelings can’t be forced and that we must form a relationship with something that has its own rules and, I think, for me, this applies to my teaching as well. If we abuse our feelings, they will stop working; that’s that thing about negative chatter/positive chatter. Abuse your body physically and/or mentally and it’s going to stop working. Give it too much stress and it’s just going to go ‘bleh’. As Howard says, “Follow your feelings and the unknown will be revealed, unexpected sounds or feelings will emerge and make you feel alive in a way that you could never have imagined. This is called ‘flow’, and it’s the heart of singing, but also living. It brings life, but only when you let go of what you thought it ought to be.” And you can take what you want from it, but for me, that’s just beautiful. Howard was an amazing influence on my life.
What would you like your legacy to be?
To know that more and more people are at peace with themselves as a result of my sharing and guidance, alongside their own self-discovery and learning.
What are you most looking forward to this year?
Finding a perfect property abroad, where I can be able to teach yoga, run wellbeing coaching and lifestyle-changing workshops and Yummy Yoga Girl retreat programmes. This is an exciting new venture for me. In the short term, I am about to launch my first online course a 21-day Well-being Challenge which people can find out more about on my website and facebook page.
And finally, where can we find out more about you?