About 77% of people hold stress in their bodies. Parents battling stress tend to transfer that stress onto their children. This means more and more children's stress levels are at maximum levels. So, what do you do with a population of teenagers who tend to switch to fight or flight mode? Well, this is where Vikara Village comes in.
Black Girl Ventures spoke with third place pitch competition winner Hannah Davis, founder of Vikara Village. Vikara Village is on a mission to build more resilient citizens through the communal spirits of yoga and the arts.
Hannah's organization focuses on helping teenage girls build their confidence and self-esteem. Vikara Village has trauma-informed yoga teachers who create safe spaces to heal from toxic stress and overcome obstacles. While also helping professionals to prevent burnout and compassion fatigue. The word vikara means change and transformation in Sanskrit, the ancient language of yoga.
The Launch Of Vikara Village
Hannah openly shares her challenges with mental health. She has always battled with depression and anxiety, but she recognized she needed more support. In her search for ways to manage her health, it led her to begin a yoga practice.
Hannah felt the benefits of creating a consistent yoga practice. She said, "It was the best thing that ever happened to me." She learned how to apply yoga to her everyday life. Through her practice, she developed physical and emotional strength.
When she's in her yoga poses, she can feel her body taking up space the way it needs to, when in a warrior position, she can feel the stretch and the reach. Holding these poses helps build strength and confidence. The mindfulness of yoga, the balancing of the postures, the slowing down of the breath allowed her to manage whatever challenges that life would bring.
Hannah's long-standing career as a licensed social worker, specifically in the child welfare sector, revealed to her the amount of stress and trauma children were experiencing. Yet, there wasn't enough supports in place to help young people manage both their bodies and their emotions mindfully.
The Proudest Moment
"The shift of energy in the room is what I'm most proud of," Hannah says. Many people enter class with heightened anxiety and frazzled energy. The energy shifts as the yoga teachers transform the room from one state of energy to the next.
The sounds of "aahhh's" and the deep breaths melt away the stress in people's bodies. Vikara Village feels the impact once that happens. The body is a wise instrument once people learn how to use it effectively. Hannah believes humans align with nature. As a result, people do what nature does--which is not to fight or resist but to allow.
Setbacks Will Happen
With any business, setbacks will happen. Working in a non-profit organization and running one are two different variables. Hannah admits she was a bit naive about the process. She thought applying for grant money was the main focus. She lacked the practical knowledge to sustain her business in the beginning. Hannah thought things would move faster than they did.
There were times she had no choice but to put Vikara Village on the back burner because she had bills to pay. Furthermore, when it came time to pay her staff, to buy materials, and to keep the lights on, she quickly realized she couldn't just wait for grant money. She needed to learn the art of fundraising.
However, she quickly realized most investors wouldn't look at a business unless it's making an impact (and money). She calls this, 'the chicken and the egg". Hannah found herself in a double bind. For her to have an impact, she would need to curate the programming, but for her to do that, she needed more funds. She found herself giving a copious amount of free yoga and forwent receiving a paycheck so she can pay her yoga teachers.
"The biggest struggle was to take a step back and re-evaluate the business." She learned it wasn't about checking items off a list and filing paperwork. Hannah said she jumped the gun. She wished she piloted her program first and worked out the infrastructure. Doing so would've helped her to figure out what was working and what wasn't working. She also wished she had researched other similar businesses that were potentially already on the market.
Mentors are crucial for not just individual development but business development as well. Hannah has her mentors to thank for guiding her through the rest of the journey. She's thankful for her friends, her family, and supporters who donated $5,000 to get her started. However, what helped the most was securing a fiscal sponsor.
Lessons From Pitch Competitions
Hanna immediately reached out to her mentors and friends to help her with her pitch. She received support with her pitch deck and her delivery. She practiced her pitch with others who both knew and didn't know about Vikara Village.
So, her advice to those who would like to perfect the art of pitching is, "Remember; you know your stuff. You know it all. It's in your head and your body." Some people believe cramming all night and studying will do the trick. But she says, "You created it." The three most important considerations to remember are the problem that needs solving, the solution, and the why.
Pitching to a group of investors and audiences is stressful and nerve-wracking. People hold stress and anxiety in their bodies. Take a moment to pace, shake, and jump up and down.
Move the body to get rid of the pitch jitters.
The Fundamental Skills Of Every Business Owner
There are three assets that every business owner must have to be successful, says Hannah. That's persistence, tenacity, and resilience. It's essential for entrepreneurs to build their reserves for when times get rough--because it will.
Persisting allows an individual to continue chasing their dreams, while tenacity maintains that firm grip and then resiliency shows up when the "no's" become too hard to bear. Remember, no can mean not right now.
It's crucial to find different ways to sell yourself and your product. It's equally important to remember a product or service may not be right for this particular customer. But they may have a friend or family member who needs the product.
Have A Self-Care Practice
"If my cup isn't full, I'm not going to be able to help others." Hannah practices what she preaches. Yoga and being out in nature are the key components that support her when she's stressed. More people must honor themselves first. "It's not selfish. It's self first." She says.
It's easy to burn the candles on both ends. However, when that happens, people aren't able to give 100% to a task and find themselves exerting half the effort in multiple directions. Also, spending time with family and friends is necessary. As a business owner, it can become quite lonely. It's crucial to reach out to loved ones consistently.
Stress can stifle one's creativity. When people create a self-care practice, it creates room for new ideas to be birthed because there's room for it. "Stop juggling the poison. Until that moment where both your cups are overfilled, it just spills out, but where is it going? Nowhere but back into your body." She says. Over time, long periods of heightened stress destroys the immune system. The more one pushes, the higher the probability of the body becoming sick.
What's Next For Vikara Village?
Vikara Village is focused on exposure and ramping up their marketing. They are currently working on their social media platforms and curating happy hours to connect with the community. Even more so, they are focused on getting their programs filled and getting people excited about it. Ultimately, Vikara Village wants to be a national program that serves youth and people in as many states as possible.
Favorite quote: From the Elf, "Smiling is my favorite." Hannah believes a smile and a laugh is a beautiful way to connect with others.
Favorite book: A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson
Podcast: Making Oprah
Best productivity tools for business: Wave app, an accounting software. 10to8.com for scheduling.
Favorite Tv shows: Golden Girls, King of Queens, Fraser and Teen Mom OG
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