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MILTON — Locally made. Sustainable. A focus on giving back.
Those sound like points a big corporation would tout in a marketing campaign, but for the family behind Milton-based Yoloha Yoga, there isn't any other way to do business.
“We don't have a trashcan in here. We just have recycling bins,” said Cliff Willey, standing in a new company warehouse. “We truly are about sustainability, and this truly is the most sustainable yoga product out there in the industry right now.”
The sustainable product was born of a mix of business and pleasure, as Cliff's oldest son, Chris, began experimenting with different materials to add grip to surf and paddle boards shortly after the family moved to Milton in 2004.
The Annapolis native and avid surfer eventually found cork, and continues to find new uses for the all-natural material. Because cork doesn't absorb water and contains suberin, a wax-like component that gives cork a better grip when it's wet. It was a no-brainer for Chris to ditch the environmentally-unfriendly wax that surfers usually use and start piling on the cork.
After carving waves with that grippy new surface, Chris found another new pastime that, as he explains in a video on Yolohayoga.com, provides the same euphoria as surfing: Yoga.
But when he started practicing more poses at a local studio, he found himself slipping and sliding all over the synthetic mat he was using in class. Recalling how well cork works on his boards, he decided to try it in a new setting.
Two years ago, the first 200 mats were made by hand on the floor of his family's garage and Chris brought a few mats with him to his local yoga class. As he watched the instructors scoop them up without giving a second thought to the plastic-smelling alternatives, Willey knew he had found a niche.
“The goal was to make it as sustainable as possible, using a recycled rubber tire backing to make it really work,” Chris said. Joined by Cliff and his mother, Lisa, the family business has now outgrown its home base and moved to a warehouse just outside of Milton. There, Chris and Cliff work side-by-side packaging mats to ship to customers in California, Texas, Australia, Norway, Vietnam and all around the world.
“It's the professionals that really like the mats,” Cliff said. “They're using their mats all the time and the [synthetic mats] become a nasty, smelly mess. Every month they'd have to throw it out and get another one. This is a mat that will last.”