Paul talks to Martin, co-founder of Cosmic Kids Yoga, about the incredible spike in viewers during the pandemic and how it all points back to one thing: being of service.
Episode 5: Martin - Cosmic Kids Yoga
Paul: Oh hi, friend, I’m Paul Jarvis, and you’re listening to Call Paul, business as unusual, where we explore how small business owners are living and navigating their way through their first pandemic.
Martin: “So you find a shark pose, which is essentially laying on your front with your hands behind your back and your arms lifted. It's a heart-opening pose. And you're talking about fear while you're in that pose. And she's doing a funny shark voice at the same time, and we discover the shark isn't as frightening as we thought.”
Paul: That’s Martin, co-founder of Cosmic Kids, a children’s yoga video series which features his wife Jaime leading kids through yoga poses mixed into adventurous stories. Martin focuses on the numbers and systems while Jaime, as he puts it, “Thinks in terms of fairy tales, sparkles, and magical hand grenades.”
Jaime: Hello everyone. Welcome to Cosmic Kids. I’m Jaime, and this is your place for yoga stories and fun! It’s easy, just copy the moves that I do and enjoy the adventure.
Paul: Cosmic Kids Yoga has become part of a cultural movement, with Barack Obama and Kim Kardashian mentioning their videos on their socials. During this quarantine, most kids and their parents are at home, looking for things to do while dealing with the anxiety of the unknown. Perhaps that’s why what Jaime and Martin teach has really taken off, because their focus on mindfulness and movement not only helps the children who watch, but the parents who watch them.
Martin: You've got tables and mice and eagles and cats and dogs and cows and there's a lot of animals and animals obviously you kind of anthropomorphize and give voices to and names. Then you give them the experience of going somewhere and feeling things that they don't normally get to feel. They might feel more in a safe space. They know that it's not actually happening, but they're imagining it happening. They're almost rehearsing those feelings. So if you meet a shark, you're looking for the starfish that's going to open the treasure box, and then you see a shark and then, - Jamie can then kind of go, "Well, it's a shark." We feel scared because it's a shark and we think, what are we going to do? So she's pressing pause and allowing them time to go through those processing moments, which are quite big feelings because she's dialed it up because it's a shark and they're underwater and their parents aren't there. But you're doing this while doing yoga. You're in a yoga pose.
Paul: I guess it's also interesting that it's giving kids a different way to watch things on YouTube or on screens because they're now, they're not just watching it. They're doing things that are happening on the screen along with Jamie and along with the videos.
Martin: Yeah, exactly. They're in the story. They're the heroes of the adventure. That I suppose is the real secret of it is the fact that we're able to smuggle in this goodness by using this medium that kids instinctively want to be glued to. But we get them moving, and so they get the physical and emotional upside of doing that as well.
Paul: When I first moved from the city to the middle of nowhere, I felt like this is the first time that I'm alone with my thoughts, and this is the scariest thing that has ever happened to me in my entire life, and I feel like a lot of people who spent more of their time living out in the world who now have to be isolated and locked down are probably going through similar. And I think that the only thing that got me through that was movement and mindfulness and now it seems like it's happening for other people and they're also seeing that doing these sorts of things can be a great benefit. So do you have any thoughts on why you think that is?
Martin: I think there's a very practical reason why people are using Cosmic Kids and that's probably because they need a break from their kids, that that's actually what's driving it. So it means they can send a few emails or... I think about these families that have got three or four kids, both got jobs and they're having to homeschool at the same time and so it's the engagement that's making it happen. The biggest delight we hear about is when parents go, I couldn't believe it the other day, but my kids said I'm going to breathe and calm down or whatever. And can imagine the kind of relief when a parent is that for the first time?
So how did this all start for you and Jamie?
Martin: Jamie, she trained as an actor and was working to a degree, but in between jobs, like all or most actors do, she had to do other things to make a living and she was doing kids' parties. So she would dress up as a fairy or a pirate or whatever, and she would turn up at a party with 25 four year olds and she'd have to entertain them while the parents all stood around drinking. She caught on to this idea that she could tell a story and if she involved a movement where the kids were briefed to move in a certain way at the key moment. In this case, she said, "There's a witch coming. I need to brief you on this. When she comes, the thing she really doesn't want you to know is these five movements you've got to do because then she'll disappear into a pile of jello or jelly if you do these poses." And then obviously they're listening now, and she did essentially adapted yoga poses and then Jamie would sort of have a fit and turn into this witch and she'd be like, "You don't know my special poses." She would have to steer it a little bit, but the kids would do the poses and they were completely in it. That was really where the idea started. And then we moved to the countryside. The work was drying up to a degree because she wasn't in town. She had been working in schools helping out a friend of hers who ran a cookery after school club. So she got to know a few teachers and head teachers and she said, "What if I did kids yoga?" And it started there and it was obvious that she was really good at it. She was getting all this amazing feedback. And I had been on a study tour with the company I worked with at the time with various chief execs to Silicon Valley. And it was all about video. This was 2011. They were saying it's all about video. It hadn't really happened then. The whole point was to set ourselves free from having to turn up somewhere and work for somebody else. We had done a few things already together and we were getting that buzz. I remember being on the phone to her and saying, "It's all about video. How do we do this on video? How do we capture what you're doing in your class?" Because that means that the kids will be able to do it any time they want. And it means kids all over the world will be able to do it. So we went down to our local sports and social club, which is basically a village hall with a friend and put a green curtain up. You still see the photographs with the quiz machine and the peanuts behind the bar and filmed. And then we spent literally about a month before we posted it. We were almost embarrassed. Well, I was more embarrassed, I think, because I had been doing grownup jobs before that and I was like, "Is this really what I'm going to post on the Internet? My first significant piece of content is Jamie and a onesie talking about a fish called Squish." I couldn't get my head around it just from where I was at that point. Finally, we posted it. We’ve basically just carried on doing that ever since.
Paul: So can you explain what goes into, just briefly, pre-production, production, marketing, the life cycle of creating one of these Cosmic Kids videos?
Martin: It starts with Jamie having a thing that she wants to talk about, and that might come from a conversation with a parent or a teacher, something that matters or is troubling kids that they know. And then she'll ruminate on that and think about what would be a good story or a good character and eventually she'll have written the story, which is basically a series of yoga poses with a story around it. Then she'll rehearse it and she'll get it line by line, off by heart.
We film down the road. We're in a house in a little cottage in a place called Hambledon, which is just outside Henley on Thames in the UK. We're about 40 minutes outside London. About ten minutes down the road, there’s a green screen studio. Film it, usually in one take, sometimes with a couple of pickups. Pretty amazing. She's a total pro. She hates being interrupted if ever there's a buzzing sound or something like that she'll be like... Her face will stop her flow because I think she's talking to an imagined kid or audience or something in the camera.
Meanwhile, if we've been organized enough, we have got a set built in 3D elsewhere. We have one person who we work with a lot who is Conrad, who is our kind of technical director person. He will do the filming and the sound and make sure all the pixels are the right stuff.
And then he'll process the footage and we'll either send it to whoever has built the set or if he's built the set, he'll just take it all in and then we'll render it. I tend to do the music, usually production music and then we'll output it. And without, to be honest, much fanfare, we just post it. The marketing bit is the bit that we never really spend as much time on as we might and generally at that Cosmic has always been a word of mouth thing. We sometimes remember to do a post saying we've just posted a new video.
Paul: Can you talk then about how the business side of Cosmic Kids works?
We have multiple revenue streams. YouTube's changed a bit. Our revenue has fallen a lot. We were just beginning to cover our costs on YouTube before this change came in on the FTC ruling, which meant that YouTube can't serve targeted ads on kids' content, they can only serve contextual ads. That means that it's harder to sell advertising on. We've seen our revenue fall by 90%. Since lockdown, we've seen a huge leap in views, you've got maybe not quite 10 times the number of views, but not far off it. And we're earning about the same as we were in December on YouTube.So, over the years we've been building different revenue streams. We've got DVDs,We have a teacher training program, which is online, which gives people certification to teach kids' yoga. We turn our videos into PDFs basically, which are class plans anyone can pick up and it'll show them what the poses are and what order and what the kind of key performance aspects are. That's another source of revenue. We have our app, all of our videos ad-free.
Paul: How has the business been or how has it changed since the quarantine and lockdown have started? Because your business is mostly online. So how is that different now?
Martin: The numbers are much bigger. Almost overnight we saw our views on YouTube go up from a hundred thousand to date, well in the first week it was like a million plus a day, or a million and a half a day.
That's a multiple of 10 to 15 in the first few days. It's settled down a bit now to about 7-800,000 today. People who seem to be in the rhythm of it and who knows what will happen once we will come out of lockdown, I'm sure it will drop down a lot. also as a consequence, we've seen our numbers on our app increase with people who want it ad-free and who want all of our videos. Moms especially are really good at swapping lists of what they're using. And so we see a lot of mentions on YouTube. Teachers are mentioning us to students, parents, and saying, "We normally do Cosmic Kids". So that one class that maybe does Cosmic Kids two or three times a week, it's now 20 kids doing it two or three times a week. So there's been this kind of amazing inadvertent growth hack. Luckily we had built a system over the years, we've been going eight years. But fundamentally it doesn't matter whether you've got a hundred thousand or a million people coming in at the top, it'll still work. We've had a lot more inquiries, which has been quite stressful. We have Francis who works with us and she looks after all the inquiries and a lot more people getting in touch asking questions or saying, "I signed up, it's not working" or "I signed up, I want to cancel" or whatever. And the numbers are quite big. Some with a bit of energy, there's people kind of responding out of a place of like, "I'm being charged and I'm not getting what I want". And so there's a bit of energy around this growth. We're not sort of popping champagne corks and it's actually been quite stressful. And a lot more inquiries from brands. Interestingly enough, it started out with the most unhealthy brands getting in touch, sort of sugary breakfast cereals. Wanting a bit of healthy brand assistance. Actually increasingly some quite interesting people are getting in touch who can help us with spreading what we do around the world. And a lot more press. Jamie's been interviewed by the Wall Street Journal, on various TV shows, and the news around the world,It's been a weird time. I wish it hadn't happened. I'm not sure it would have happened without this growth, I mean . It wouldn't have happened without the virus, but I kind of wish it had because it would've made it so much more fun and so much more like a source of celebration, but I’ve just been stressing out. I think Jamie handles it better than I do. She's like, this is great.. I guess the thing is, like with any business or any project, you're always at a crest of a hill and then there's another one in front of you that emerges so there's no kind of like we've made it because there is never going to be a "we've made it".
Paul: I guess with more eyeballs and more people paying attention, just there's a lot more to do and that's kind of an interesting aspect of all of this is that some businesses are not necessarily doing better, but just a lot busier and just have so many more things going on. And that in itself can bring up challenges and stresses, like you said.
Martin: Some people are incredibly nice and just talking about amazing transformations they're seeing and with incredible gratitude for the role that Jaime plays in their kids' lives and what that means for them and how that means they sleep better or they know how to manage their emotions. And it's awfully heartwarming. I think it's just partly because of how I am, I tend to notice the ones that are saying, "I tried to cancel than it wasn't possible" and "You're taking my money and I'm disappointed". And there might be one of those for a hundred of the other ones, but I personally am obsessed about that one sorts of chunter about what I should say to them or how I make it better, it's weird.
Paul: I do some support for my businesses and I think the pendulum is swinging a bit more widely now where I'm seeing some people who are far more understanding and human personable with their support and some people who are just upset, things aren't going right and it needs to direct somewhere. And if it's part of, I just need to cancel this charge on my credit card, then that's where I'm going to focus that energy for right now. And it could have been anybody, but it just happens to be you because that's the thing that I'm having to deal with right now.
Martin: Yeah. That's the outcome I need from this conversation. They didn't even say, "Hello". You're right, it's just straight to the point. This has happened. I think it's also because people are very busy. And pleasantries take time. Luckily, Francis, who does our sort of customer support, is very resilient, way more resilient than I am, and she can deal with it. We sometimes talk about it and sort of joke about it. But the world does basically, I think, split into two types of people. The sort of people who go like, "Oh, there's probably a person at the end of this email" and there's sort of people who haven't even realized that. It's possibly because they haven't created something and felt what it's like to create something and see the world respond to it. I don't know, that's my theory. The people who do things like that, they get that there's someone trying at the other end.
Paul: Typically, for business, you sell directly to your customers, but in your case your audience are children who don't buy what you provide, their parents do.
Martin: Five-year-olds have zero buying power. I think the way I think about it is we are providing a service. Jaime happens to have an amazing, magical talent for connecting with kids and taking them with her. And we've cottoned on to this space, which includes movement and mindfulness. It can have an amazing impact. Fundamentally, it's when we're serving that we're at our best. In a simple way, I don't know is the answer. I don't know what the business model is. I suppose that's how we wrap our head around it. We've dodged the question. Just go, it's not a business, it's a service. That's why we're here. But there are a few things that really help the business. One is that parents love taking photos of their kids doing yoga. If you've got a four-year-old and he's doing downward dog, or something a bit more sort of flamboyant as a yoga pose, and then you want to take a photo and you want to tell all your friends how much of a little yogi you've got. I think that's one of the things that's helped us grow. And the other thing is teachers have discovered us.
Paul: Just thinking back to when I was in school in the eighties, I don't think I ever heard the word mindfulness and yet you're talking about how teachers are getting behind this.
Martin: Practically what has happened is a lot of adults have discovered it. I think a lot of people have been through a kind of transition where either they've had to have cognitive behavioral therapy or they've had to discover meditation or they've realized that yoga helps them. And that has slowly kind of filtered into books and finally into the classroom. And it's amazing to me that we didn't have it when I was a kid. I wish that we did. I wonder what the world would be like now if we had, if you kind of knew that feelings come and go and that you're not your feelings and how to come back to your breath rather than worry about the thoughts that are flying around in your mind, that they're just transitory. We get letters from people, emails from people saying my kid is going through whatever, we've had kids who are going through chemo for example, and she has learned to breathe her way through the moment when the liquid that they put into your vein is kind of. So she's actually in the process of taking on board the chemicals they put into your bloodstream, at five. and if you build on that, as a human being, if you have that awareness, everything that you bounced into or other people that you bounced into for the rest of your life, will have the benefit of that structural idea in your head. That's the exciting thing for me about people discovering what we're doing because of the lockdown is just the number of people who are going to know how to count down from 10 to go from being in a tantrum to being calm. That's the cool stuff.
Paul: Has this pandemic really brought anything to the forefront for you and Jamie?
Martin: I think that what it's brought to us is the difference between what we want and what we need. But that's the main thing. And we feel that on a kind of personal level. And obviously that ties up with all kinds of things relating to our relationship with the planet and each other and travel even, food, all of these things. And we've got, I think better, we've always been pretty good at this, but we've got better at really liking, enjoying the little things. It's kind of a brilliant exercise, isn't it? In recalibrating what you value, having nearly everything that you used to distract yourself. I, for example, thinking about the future, taken away from you. Whenever we felt like we had some money in the bank, we'd be like, right, where are we going to go? What are we going to do with this? What should we buy? Where should we go on holiday? And all of that stuff is like not possible at the moment. So you go, okay, well maybe we should do a jigsaw. Or whatever. I would say I sort of feel like there's a message being, there's some horror around, and I don't want to belittle it, minimize it. But there's a message in all of this, which we can take away, which is incredibly positive and powerful and it's to do with enjoying the little things
Paul: Cosmic Kids works, especially right now, because they focus on being of service to others through everything they do in their business.
Their goal, through these fantastical videos, is to create a generation of mindful and less reactive people, beginning at a very young age. I wish I had known that I wasn’t my emotions back then, and that I could use things like movement and breathing to work on my own anxiety.
While Martin is busy during this lock-down, Jaime and him still have to weather it and turn this spike in attention into sustainable revenue, working through platform and profit changes with Youtube, and continuing to illustrate just how useful exploring how we feel through movement can be.
So even if your business right now is lucky enough to be busy, it’s still important to try to not let it run away from you. The more we can all be less reactive, the easier it will be to continue to sustainably run our companies well past when this pandemic ends.
Even if you’re older than 12, you should check out Cosmic Kids Yoga and videos of Jaime shooting rainbows out of her fingertips while doing warrior pose at cosmickids.com . And if you’re a grownup and interested, you can check out Jaime’s online kid yoga teacher training on their website.
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Things are returning to normal – but that doesn’t mean we should go back to the way things were. Paul Jarvis is back, interviewing entrepreneurs who prioritize passion over profit and renegotiated the status quo.
Things are returning to normal – but that doesn’t mean we should go back to the way things were. Paul Jarvis is back, interviewing entrepreneurs who prioritize passion over profit and renegotiated the status quo.
Matt, owner of Xocolatl Chocolate, discusses business during the pandemic.
Dave, owner of Wayward Distillery, discusses pandemic-driven tough decisions.
Dan and Hillary, owners of Kin Ship Goods, discuss community support.
Archel, owner of Bombchel, discusses working long distance.
Martin, co-founder of Cosmic Kids Yoga, talks viewership during the pandemic.
Peter, CEO of online grocer, SPUD, talks about changes during the pandemic.
Sarah, owner of small agency 816 New York, discusses marketing with integrity.
Tina, a creative force with many successful endeavors, discusses letting go.
Michelle, a race director, explains what it takes to plan and cancel a marathon.
Paul checks in with his first four guests to see how they’re doing.