Nicole Zhang: Founder of Yogapeople Bags

Special Edition of Campus Celebrity:

Nicole Zhang is a sophomore/junior, currently residing in Breen-Phillips Hall, is an Entrepreneurshp major in Notre Dame's Mendoza School of Business. HerCampus Notre Dame had the pleasure of talking with Nicole about her most recent entrepreneurial endeavor, Yogapeople Bags. Nicole is not just a Campus Celebrity but an inspiration to all ND Collegiettes. Check out our interview with Nicole!

Nicole has offered HCND readers a special offer for Yogapeople Bags: Until the end of September, use the code "loveND" at checkout and receive $5 off your order! 

1. When did you get the idea for Yogapeople Bags?

I got the idea for creating my own yoga mat bag in the summer of 2012, and about one month after my first yoga class!

2. Why did you want to start this business?

You can read my full story on how and why I started YP bags on the YP website, but I'll give you the brief version here. After doing yoga everyday last summer, I really wanted a yoga mat bag to hold my mat, keys, IDs, and phone, when I traveled to and from the studio. I looked at the yoga mat bags in the studios and online, but could not find one that matched what I was looking for in a bag: high quality, spacious, comfortable to carry, and most importantly, pretty to the eye. At that moment, it hit me that this was my opportunity to begin my first entrepreneurial project. I had always planned on starting my own company after college, but a few life events (which you can read about on my website) really motivated me to begin my entrepreneurial journey early.

3. How long did it take for your project to come to fruition?

I came up with the idea for the YP bags in July of 2012, and launched the product a few months later in December.

5. What obstacles did you have to overcome?

One of the biggest obstacles I've had to overcome was marketing and getting the word out there about the YP bag. As a one-woman show and with limited funding, it's been more difficult to advertise my yoga mat bag. However, I'm so lucky to be surrounded by people who are supportive and willing to help out in anyway they can. Golden Tate was kind enough to tweet about the YP bags and a few yoga blogs and review sites have been willing to do giveaways and promotions on it!

6. What did you learn from developing your idea into a business?

I've learned so much from these past few months, but I think the most important lesson I learned was to be brave and execute your ideas. There are so many times when we have wonderful ideas and projects we dream of taking on, but in most cases we put those ideas off because we think they are out of our reach. But the longer we put off those ideas and projects, the more out of reach they seem and eventually we forget them. Having the entrepreneurial mind that came from my father, I've come up with lots of inventions in my head in the past. This was the first time that I have actually acted upon my idea, and I'm grateful everyday for doing so. 

7. Do you see this as a long-term project?

Initially, my plan was to just sell the 3000 bags in my garages and move on to my next idea. However, after hearing the great feedback from customers and experts in the yoga industry, I can definitely see YP bags as a long-term project. I have lots of ideas for the next editions of the YP bags, so hopefully YP bags will be around for years to come!

8. Have you been able to market or sell them on campus?

Being Canadian has its perks (ie. health care), but not when it comes to selling the YP bags in the States. Since I'm Canadian, I legally cannot sell the bags directly to consumers in the U.S. At times, I've even considered pulling a “Sandra Bullock” and marrying an American so I can sell my bags here. Just kidding, that's really illegal.

9. How did you choose the designs for your bags?

My vision for the YP bags was to make them in six gorgeous and chic styles. I adore floral patterns and chose designs that are bold, yet tasteful. It was also my goal to choose a variety of colors to suit a wide range of preferences and tastes.

10. How has starting Yogapeople Bags changed your life?

Being the founder of a company has made me more responsible and mature. No matter how much I have on my plate at the moment, whether it is school or events, I've learned to be responsible and take care of my business tasks first. It's also really fulfilling to know that the YP bags have added a bit of happiness to the lives of yogis. I put a lot of thought and care into the design of the yoga mat bags, and I'm so glad to know that people enjoy them!

11. Have you enlisted any other members of your small business?

I've been fortunate enough to have family and friends who are supportive and willing to help me in lots of ways. The lovely models that you see on the YP website and Facebook webpage are my close friends from High School, Kaitlyn and Victoria. Also, my parents have been a huge part of my business. Without them, there is no way that I would have been able to turn my idea into reality. My dad is also an entrepreneur and I've learned a lot about business from him over the years.

12. How did you get the project off the ground? What kind of people did you have to contact (e.g. manufacturers, distributors, etc.)?

The first stage of the project was designing the bag. I did a ton of research on the yoga industry and the current yoga mat bags on the market. After discovering what consumers want in a yoga mat bag, I designed one that fit their descriptions. The next step was to find a manufacturer and get a prototype made. Being fortunate enough to have an entrepreneur father, I was able to travel to China and have a prototype made by a couple of different factories in Shanghai. I compared the prototypes and chose the factory that made the highest quality bag to make 3000 bags for me. As for marketing and getting the bags in studios, I contacted several studios in Calgary and showed them the YP bags. The studios loved the bags and are now carrying them in their studios! I've also contacted popular online yoga blogs (ie. Yoga Eat Run) and yoga product review sites (ie. YogaFinds) who have been gracious enough to do features on the YP bags.

13. How has developing Yogapeople Bags changed you as a person? (e.g. new skills, motivation, etc)

Probably the biggest change I've seen in myself since starting the company is my sense of adventure and courage. Rather than coming up with ideas of things I would love to do, I try to make them happen. It's so much more rewarding to look back on all the things we have done instead of all the things we wish we had done.

14. How do you hope to expand Yogapeople?

Seeing as Yogapeople bags have been very popular in the yoga studios in Calgary, Canada, my plan is to expand to studios in other parts of Canada and the United States. I'm also working on teaming up with a non-profit organization in Canada that teaches yoga and meditation to children who have been affected by disabilities or illnesses.

15. I noticed you distribute mostly in Canada, where you're from. Do you have plans to get your product in US Stores?

Definitely. This summer, I'm working on getting the YP bags in yoga studios across America, including some studios in South Bend, Indiana!

16. Where can us Her Campus Collegiettes' purchase Yogapeople Bags?

Her Campus Collegiettes' can purchase the Yogapeople bags on my website (www.yogapeoplebags.com) or on Overstock (in the Yoga and Meditation section)! If you would like to see the bags in person, please feel free to contact me!

17. Why should we purchase this product?

Whether you are an expert yogi or a beginner, you'll love the Yogapeople bags. Lots of customers love the uniqueness and bold prints of the bags. Plus, since you're wearing cute yoga clothes to the studio, it's vital that you have a cute yoga mat bag to complete your look! YP bags are also the perfect gift for the yogis in your life. In fact, about half of the bags bought are given as gifts for friends and family!

If you would like to purchase a Yogapeople Bag, and support an awesome Lady Domer, don't forget about HCND's special offer!

Use the code "loveND" at checkout on the Yogapeople website and receive $5 off your order!

Thank you to Nicole for sharing her story with HCND, you are a true inspiration!

Photo Credit to Sarah Lattal and Yogapeople