Do-Good Tranquilista: Interview with Kimberly Wilson

BlogHer Original Post

"That's why it's, "Enlightened Work and Mindful Play," because it's incorporating, wrapping up, and interweaving this notion of making a difference through your daily actions, and also infusing your life with style, and throwing really fun parties for good causes."
--Kimberly Wilson, author of Tranquilista: Mastering the Art of Enlightened Work and Mindful Play

I'm always experimenting with how to stress less, enjoy life more, and make a positive impact. One of the places I go for inspiration during my day is to the books, blog, podcast, and Twitter feed of Kimberly Wilson.

Kimberly is a teacher, writer, do-gooder, entrepreneur, and eco-fashion designer who is currently obsessed with, "Paris, potbelly pigs, and all things sparkly." She is the creative director and founder of Tranquil Space, which was named among the top 25 yoga studios in the world by Travel and Leisure. She is also the creative director and designer of TranquiliT, an ecoluxe lifestyle clothing line, and the founder of Tranquil Space Foundation, a nonprofit that brings yoga, creativity, and leadership to women and girls. Kimberly has authored two books: Hip Tranquil Chick: A Guide to Life On and Off the Yoga Mat, and Tranquilista: Mastering the Art of Enlightened Work and Mindful Play.

Below is an edited transcript of my November 3rd interview with Kimberly for the Big Vision Podcast. Our conversation began with Kimberly explaining what Tranquil Space Foundation is, and why she started it.



Kimberly Wilson: Tranquil Space Foundation started in July of 2006. We decided with my yoga studio, Tranquil Space, that we really wanted to expand our do-gooding efforts, and create a 501(c)(3) that we could really focus our efforts on. I put a note out in the Tranquil Space newsletter asking for interested participants to come to my living room. There were about 20 people huddled around talking about what we were going to be, what we were going to do, and how we could have the most impact.

Out of that, over about six months, we came up with our tagline. We came up with our first program. We came up with a curriculum for the program. My big focus, with a Masters in Women's Studies, has been on empowering women and girls. We decided to start with teen girls, ninth through twelfth grade, and with the notion that that's when as a young girl we're beginning to make important decisions about college, about life steps, and about goals.

We came up with the notion of bringing in three big components:

  • Yoga: to really help the girls get connected with and in touch with their bodies.
  • Leadership: to focus on goal-setting, and to become strong leaders in their own lives.
  • Creativity: to really explore coloring outside the lines, doing things differently.

These were tools that many of the people involved in the organization wished they'd had when they were in ninth through twelfth grade.

The big premise is really with the programming, but then over the past couple years another thing that we've branched out and been doing is we just adore giving microgrants to other organizations. We have this really great process from a woman who heads the generosity committee. We all present organizations that we'd like the Foundation to consider donating to that are in alignment with our values of yoga, creativity, and leadership.

We sit down, and there's this big voting process, big discussion, and then we contact the organizations to let them know that they're going to receive a grant from us. That's been a really fun piece, to give money away in a very targeted manner has just felt amazing. That's pretty much Tranquil Space Foundation in a nutshell. We're a little over three years old now.

Do you have any favorite Tranquil Teens success stories?

I would say my favorite stories for the Foundation so far have really been the organizations that we've granted money to who come and share what they've done with it, how it has made an impact on their organization, and how grateful they are.

With the Tranquil Teens program, where we go and actually take our curriculum out, so far we've just worked with girls in a one-time setting. Although we get really glowing testimonials and feedback from the girls, there is no way to really follow up with them a year later and ask, "So, have you been utilizing this? How has it made an impact? Are you writing in your journal?" things along those lines.

We can't yet fully speak to the impact that Tranquil Teens is having, although we're hopeful that it is making an impact. We do know that the money that we have been giving away has had a significant impact on the organizations.

What tips do you have for starting a nonprofit? What tips do you have overall for starting a nonprofit, but also for business owners. I see that as a growing trend, "Here's my business, and then, I also have a nonprofit arm of my larger brand."

In an odd way, I feel like everyone who has a for-profit should have a nonprofit arm associated with their organization. I just feel like it makes sense. It just shows and exemplifies values in a way above and beyond giving money does.

The reason I say that is because since the inception of Tranquil Space, I've donated money to various organizations, and partnered with organizations for events and things like that, and those felt really good, but to have an organization that its sole purpose is do-gooding, just feels amazing. It's really fun because people who are involved in the Foundation are often involved in the studio, but not always. That might be their main thing that they want to get involved in is just the do-gooding aspect, and so that's felt really good.

I would say the main way to really get started with a foundation is to have strong people on your Board. I'm blessed with a boyfriend who was a nonprofit attorney for years, and he's also a tax attorney, so he's been super helpful with all the questions that you have to think about with a nonprofit, that you don't have to think about so much with a for-profit. That's been super handy.

I would definitely say, have an attorney on your Board. Setting up your Board; of course, is one of the first things. Have an attorney on it, an accountant, and just people who have been involved in the nonprofit sector to give a lot of great feedback. I've really found that to be a powerful piece. Also, determine your mission.

In my new book, Tranquilista, I write all about this because I think it's really critical, how to set up a nonprofit. I had no idea. I was reading Nonprofits for Dummies, I was asking my boyfriend, other people who had founded nonprofits, other people who had worked at nonprofits, and just asking all I could to find out more about the creation of a nonprofit. There are so many people, probably within your own sphere, who can provide lots of great insights on how to do this.

The theme of all of your different enterprises: your clothing company, your books, your blog, your podcasts, and your yoga studios, is "tranquility." What does tranquility mean to you and why is it so important to you?

The whole notion of tranquility was a way to rename a yoga studio that started with, "Yoga at Kimberly's," in my living room in October of 1999. A little less than a year later, I decided that I needed a sexier name. I needed something that focused on what I really wanted to evoke, and what I wanted students and yogis to feel when they walked through the doors.

I came up with the name Tranquil Space. Loved it. I began to create other arms of the business, the first one was the clothing line, and it started with T-shirts, so that's where TranquilitT came to be, and that was 2002.

The next piece was the creation of my book, Hip Tranquil Chick. I really loved the title, Hip Yoga Chick, but hipyogachick.com was taken. You can't write a book, if you can't get the .com! [laughs] It just made sense to make it Hip Tranquil Chick, because then it wove in the whole notion of tranquility. The next piece was the foundation, Tranquil Space Foundation.

For me, it has been a constant reminder of the striving, and searching, and looking for tranquility in everything we do, whether it's clothing, do-gooding, yoga, etc. It's all about, ideally, bringing about this holistic balance to our lives.

How do you maintain your own tranquility with so many different enterprises? How in the world do you balance all of that, and keep your own tranquility?

That's a great question. Self-care, that's totally important, and I love to sleep. It's my favorite thing. A lot of people will ask, "Well, how in the world do you even sleep?" I'm like, "Oh, no-no-no, you don't understand. It's a priority." It's one of my favorite things to do.

As a matter of fact, last night I went to bed quite early, for me, and then I slept probably 10 hours I was so exhausted from the past few days. It is a priority of mine. I would say that is number one of self-care basics, sleep, critical, especially because I just absolutely adore it.

Also, hot baths, I'm a hot bath girl, every night. I love tea. I always have a nice cup of green tea first thing in the morning. I have a candle burning right next to me during this podcast. I always try and infuse little doses of tranquility into a very, busy, full life.

Why do you think it's important for people who are trying to create social change to be tranquil, and do you have any tips for busy changemakers?

It's critical to take care of yourself. There's that whole notion of refilling the well, and making sure that you're nice and full; otherwise, you cannot give what you need to give to others. That goes from parenting an animal, or a child, to taking care of aging parents, to taking care of your organization, or those who work for you. If you're not feeling full and feeling cared for and fed in many ways, it's going to be hard to give back, and really make the impact that you want to make.

Sometimes it can feel maybe a little selfish to say, "No, I have to stay in to take care of myself," or "No, I think I am going to pass on that invitation. I really just need an extra few hours of sleep," or "I just to need to curl up with a good book in front of the fire." I think it's really critical to make sure that is an absolutely important focus for all of us in order to really make the change, and really be the person that we want to be.

You talked a little bit about your new book, Tranquilista: Mastering the Art of Enlightened Work and Mindful Play, which is coming out 2010. What else will people find in your new book?

Oh my gosh, there's so much. It's an interesting compilation of my journey. There are three chapters on entrepreneurship, and that's where there's a piece - I can't remember actually if the setting up your foundation piece is in the do-gooding chapters, or in one of the entrepreneurship chapters - but there's a lot on creating what it is that you want to bring to fruition in your own life, and what you want your legacy to be, so to speak.

There's a lot of playfulness too, with regards to style, and taking care of yourself, and creativity. It's blending this aspect of work and play in a playful way, but also in a fairly deep way. That's why it's, "Enlightened Work and Mindful Play," because it's incorporating, wrapping up, and interweaving this notion of making a difference through your daily actions, and also infusing your life with style, and throwing really fun parties for good causes. I feel like the gamut is covered in this new book. I'm really, really excited to share it.

You also try to infuse sustainability and green practices into your businesses. Isn't your studio "green," or one of them, and also your clothing line?

Absolutely.

Can you talk a little bit about the challenges, or talk about that process? Can you talk about why you chose to do that, and any advice you have for folks who want to add that aspect to their business?

With the clothing line, I was sewing with rayon fabric initially, and then I came across organic bamboo at a fabric show, and I fell in love. I was like, "Oh, my gosh! I'm totally transitioning." At that time, this was '06, I really couldn't find anything sustainable other than hemp, or something that was just a little itchy, or just not the luxurious fabric that I was looking for. When I found organic bamboo I was in love, and I've been using sustainable materials, organic bamboo and organic cotton, since '06.

With the studio, when we moved into a new studio in '08, we were building it out for about six to nine months. My contractor was really great about using reclaimed materials because his whole thing was, "Why go trash old stuff to buy new green stuff and fill up the landfills?"

He was really, really creative with my request to build out as green as possible. For example, he would find things on Craigslist, like tree grates that go around trees in urban settings. We cut those up, and that was used to support the benches that were made from reclaimed wood from an old barn. We lined the sides of two walls with wood from an old farmhouse. We used the floor joists from the upper two floors, that we had to replace because they were deteriorating and wouldn't be strong enough for what we would need, for shelving. It was just really, really nice to be creative, and to not just trash stuff that could ultimately be a gem.

What's next for you? What's 2010 look like for you? Are you going to add another enterprise? I don't know how that would be humanly possible!

[laughter]

On the what's next horizon, honestly, I've just come off of one of the most challenging months of my life. There was just so much going on in October for me, and one really big exciting milestone was our 10-year birthday party for Tranquil Space.

Initially, I had planned to take all of November off to think about what was going to be next for me, what was next on the horizon. Then, while I was in Costa Rica in May leading a retreat, I had been contemplating getting a Masters in Social Work for a while, I decided to sign up, and apply, and so I'm in graduate school right now.

Instead of taking November off to play fully, I am taking 10 days to go to Paris, which I had planned on before I started graduate school. For 2010, I really haven't scheduled a lot. I'm leading a few retreats, but that's kind of the norm. I'm going to focus on school, and I'm going to focus on just savoring what is right now. There are no new business ventures on the horizon.

I feel really good with the spin-offs that I've done. I love them all. I want to just continue giving them energy, and make sure that I in turn am taking good care of myself in the process.

Do you have anything else you want folks to know about Tranquil Space Foundation, how they can get involved, any of your other enterprises, or tranquility in general?

If there is any interest in getting involved in Tranquil Space Foundation, check out our website, tranquilspacefoundation.org. We'll be donating to three to four more great causes in Spring 2010, so if you know of any organizations that cater to women and girls in the field of yoga, creativity, and leadership, please don't hesitate to let me know. I'd love to recommend them.

Also, with tranquility in general, be playful, have fun. Make sure you're taking care of yourself. Write in your journal, sip tea, do yoga. Really ask yourself on a regular basis, "How am I contributing to the well being of all?" There are small things that we can do such as just smiling to people we pass, giving compliments, giving kudos, sending snail mail. Oh, my God, the best thing in the world is receiving snail mail!

Just these small things can really make a big difference. Just reflecting on your life, that's called svadhyaya in yoga - self study, and continuing to explore, open, and live as fully as possible. To me, that's tranquility. And then, lots and lots of sleep!

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You can learn more about Kimberly and her work at www.kimberlywilson.com.

Kimberly, Jennifer Lee of Life Unfolds, Lisa Sonora Beam of Less Stress, More Joy: Adventures in Creative Entrepreneurship, and I are collaborating to create an event for creative women entrepreneurs to connect, create, and learn together so stay tuned to our blogs as the details unfold!

BlogHer Contributing Editor, Britt Bravo, also blogs at Have Fun * Do Good, WE tv's WE Volunteer blog, The Extraordinaries, and the Global Center for Cultural Entrepreneurship blog. She is a Big Vision Consultant.

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