Cedric Yau firmly believes that there is a market for his BallerYoga mat. The yoga mat, which has a price tag that ranges from $795 to $1,500 depending on size, is unique in that it consists of 100% pebble-grain football leather.
Yau refers to BallerYoga as the Tesla of yoga mats -- a premium addition to the yoga accessories market much like Tesla was for the automobile industry when it introduced its first electric sports car in 2008.
BallerYoga was launched in September and Yau has mostly focused on gifting the mats to athletes in order to get the word out about his product as well as to allow his core market to test and feel the difference between the BallerYoga mat and more traditional yoga mats made out of synthetics, polyurethane and and/or rubber. Despite focusing on word-of-mouth instead of sales, BallerYoga has been selling roughly 2 mats per week since launch. Yau says he is pleasantly surprised that 2 of those mats were sold at the highest end of the price range - $1500.
A market can be found for a product that is a step above.
"I have faith that, for any product in any category, there is always a market for a product that is a step above," says Yau. "There's always a market for something premium. In this case, I figured with yoga mats, everything capped off at a $100 to $110 level. These mats take 12 feet of space. If someone is going to dedicate part of home to home gym, there's an idea that laying out a yoga mat will compliment the decor."
Yau says a New York City resident can rationalize the purchase of a BallerYoga mat considering that the individual is paying approximately $2,000 to $3,000 per square foot for an apartment rental.
Opportunity can be found when one is not actively searching for it.
Yoga was not always Yau's passion. In fact, Yau's training led him to become a computer scientist as well as a Broadway singer/dancer -- a couple of very different occupations. He found himself in the yoga manufacturing business after embarking on a yoga retreat in Bali around the end of March when he noticed cheap, synthetic yoga mats and his engineering mind began thinking up ways to create a better yoga mat.
"It came down to grip and release," explains Yau. "One thing I thought about related back to being a kid playing high school football. I remembered leather footballs being very grippy, even when wet and wondered whether I could create a yoga mat out of similar materials. I now get leather from the same facility that supplies Wilson for the NFL and Spalding for the NBA."
Getting product in the hands of influencers can help penetrate a market.
Yau says that a goal of his is to eventually become the official yoga mat of the NFL. In the meantime, he is making progress in getting NFL players to use his special mats. Thus far, BallerYoga mats are being used by Arizona Cardinals defensive ends Calais Campbell and Frostee Rucker, while Yau says that he has a player on the Denver Broncos that will soon be working with BallerYoga as well.
In fact, Yau indicates that the name BallerYoga is derived from the product's inspiration: professional footballs. Yau believes that the football athlete is the core of the market that he can attract and bases his belief on many teams, including the Seattle Seahawks and New York Giants, beginning to integrate yoga into their training regimens.
Crowdfunding and reaching out to venture capitalists is not for everyone.
At this point, BallerYoga is entirely self funded by Yau.
"Originally I was looking at doing a Kickstarter, but I realized later that without Kickstarter it gave us a lot more flexibility," says Yau. "You still need to do videos, get the word out, and even hire consultancy agency for Kickstarter to be done right. It's actually a better use of time and money to go straight to market."