She Dares To Dream: Jana Stumpova-Konicarova
Kantu is the sacred flower of life that, according to ancient Quetchua legend, is a gift from Mother Earth symbolising life energy, harmony, forgiveness and mutual connection. Over the last couple of years, I've been fortunate to collaborate with Jana Stumpova-Konicarova, Kantu's founder and creative director, and see her products bring joy, beauty and independent spirit to yoga practitioners around the world. So how do you create a natural scent that not only supports you on the outside, but opens your heart and transports you to distant memories on the inside?
HOW AND WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO SET UP KANTU?
Partly, it came out of my own need as I like to be surrounded by a nice environment and all yoga practitioners can probably relate to the fact that sometimes yoga mats are all but that. Especially, when you use a studio mat, you don't particularly look forward to the positions that require your face to directly touch the mat. You simply do not want to smell the feet of your predecessor! Being a homeopath, I've been immersed in the natural world of essences of plants, herbs and essential oils for quite some time and developed purely natural spray for my yoga mat with essential oils. I also custom made one for my friend, a yoga teacher, for her birthday. Following number of enquires by her other students, she came to me after about six months and asked me why don’t I make more and start selling them. First, I laughed at that idea and thought how could I possibly make them commercially? Soon after that, I went on a yoga retreat in Egypt where I had a lot of time to think and this idea just started to grow inside me. By the end of the retreat, I had a clear idea of the whole concept - what it will look like, how it's going to be called, what scents I'll use, etc.
WHAT DID YOU FIND BEING THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES STARTING AND RUNNING YOUR OWN BUSINESS?
Being a solopreneur, the biggest challenge for me is to juggle all the business roles at the same time. In my previous jobs, I was used to working in teams and suddenly I'm writing briefs to myself! I had to learn a lot of new skills. My background is in marketing, so I had no problem with the branding, but I had a lot of catching up to do in sales, financial management and many other skills that are needed.
WHAT'S YOUR MOST AND LEAST FAVOURITE THING ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS?
My most favourite thing is the actual creative process of taking a gift of nature and shaping it from a single idea in my mind to using my hands, then gift wrapping the products and finally presenting them to the world. Being able to see my ideas coming alive is very rewarding and I really treasure the fact that I can do it the way I feel in my heart. I'm a creator by nature so the least favourite thing is all the routine admin such as checking invoices and I also find selling myself quite challenging.
WHAT'S THE ONE SINGLE THING YOU WISH YOU KNEW WHEN YOU STARTED KANTU?
That having a good idea is not enough!
HAS THE QUALITY OF YOUR LIFE IMPROVED BEING YOUR OWN BOSS?
I love the fact that I can manage my time and schedule completely. I can travel without asking for a vacation slot and it's very fulfilling to do something I'm passionate about. On the other hand it's a constant commitment and I find it hard to take time off for myself. I always feel there is a lot of things on my to-do-list and nobody to delegate to.
WHERE DO YOU GET AN INSPIRATION DESIGNING A NEW PRODUCT? AND WHAT’S YOUR NEXT BIG THING?
The main theme I see for Kantu is to bring the best pieces from different cultures and offer them to yogis around the world. For example, one of my latest additions is a Kinchaku bag inspired by Japanese culture and made from pieces of old silk kimonos. It's designed to keep your small treasures like malas or altar things neatly together in your bag. My plan is to introduce Savasana range - including lotion, spray, oil and perhaps even candle. I have a lot more ideas in my head, but I should probably leave some surprises for my clients too.
WHAT KIND OF EXPERIENCE DO YOU WANT KANTU TO BRING TO PEOPLE'S REGULAR YOGA PRACTICE?
My mission is to make the world more beautiful with the use of scents and to offer deeper and more joyful experience for yoga practice by creating a personal space. Since scents are one of the fastest ways to access our emotions, I believe that there is a great strength in them. Also, using purely natural essences, we can faster connect to our intuition.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE NATURAL INGREDIENTS YOU LIKE TO WORK WITH AND WHAT ARE THEIR BENEFITS?
Essential oils! I select only pure ones and it's a joy to work with them. I have already mentioned the great power the scents have. They can transcend times and spaces and take us to the distant memory instantly. I also create my blends in a way that they each function differently - they either calm you down, deepen your mediative state and concentration, or they open your heart, energise you and bring joy or allow you to connect on a deeper level. All products must have the practical benefits for me. For example, Kantu Yoga Mist helps you disinfect and freshen up the mat, using anti-bacterial and anti-fungal essences, but its aromatherapeutic qualities also provide pure emotional benefits and according to your needs open your senses, elevate your mood or enhance your breathing.
WHAT THREE THINGS MAKE A GREAT YOGA PRACTICE IN YOUR OPINION?
For me it's enjoyment, variety and inspiration. I love to explore and I need to feel that I'm making a progress and moving ahead, whether it's in my yoga practice or in my life. So that, as well your self-discipline.
HOW DO YOU KEEP TRUE TO YOUR BRAND'S VALUES IN SUCH A HIGHLY SATURATED BEAUTY MARKET?
I think it's easier for me as I give a piece of myself into the products. It's personal and I hope my clients can see and feel the added value. I'm not interested in creating the mass market's best sellers, I create lot of my products intuitively and that's what makes them unique.
A PORTION OF YOUR PROFIT GOES TO THE CHARITY ACORUS. WHY?
It's an organisation that helps victims of domestic violence. They do a great job by providing a complex care from counselling to helping people get back in their life. One of the therapies they offer is a yoga therapy, so I thought it's a perfect fit. I call my program "One breath at a time" and it's something I learnt in yoga and use in my own life during difficult times. I can see the true value of yoga in crisis and feel honoured to be supporting ACORUS.
IS THIS YOUR DREAM JOB?
I didn't dream of having my own brand or my own company but I almost feel it's been given to me and it has definitely turned out to be a dream job.
WHAT PIECE OF ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE YOUR YOUNGER SELF?
Why didn’t you start earlier?
DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE QUOTE, MANTRA OR AFFIRMATION THAT YOU LIVE BY?
A quote from Rumi pops in my head: “Follow your heart, it won't lead you astray."