42 Birds is a company that creates eco-friendly yoga mats using cork from Spain and Portugal. Functionality, sustainability, and natural beauty are the driving forces behind the brand which creates products that should be owned and enjoyed with the knowledge that they come from and support nature’s eco system. These mats are also non-slip, lightweight, durable, and comfortable.
Recently, CEO Victoria Fortnum discussed the company and more via an exclusive interview.
Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you get interested in yoga and what led you to 42 Birds?
Victoria Fortnum (VF): I started practicing yoga right after I graduated college 2010 – like many new graduates, I had so much anxiety about my future, landing the right job, and honestly, just figuring life out. Yoga created a sense of peace in my life and kept me grounded. My practice has evolved since then but has remained a constant in my life.
While I ended up landing a job in the advertising industry after college, I always had a deep interest in health and wellness and knew I’d eventually want to merge my trained skillset with my passion. Fast forward to 2019, I was introduced to Addie Conner and Robyn Shapiro, 42 Birds founders. I was immediately drawn to their vision of creating eco-friendly yoga mats and accessories that were driven by functionality, sustainability and natural beauty. Not to mention, I loved the product they were working on! It was the first time I had ever been introduced to a cork mat and have never looked back.
To make a long story short, I initially became an advocate for the brand and was constantly looking for ways to get involved. In 2020, Addie and Robyn had begun to move onto other passion projects and were looking for someone to sustain and drive the business forward. My brother, Andrew Fortnum, and I were given the opportunity and acquired the business.
Currently, I work as the CEO and am focused on driving awareness of 42 Birds and generating growth. Andrew acts as the COO, works on maintaining an operating rhythm to ensure the goals and objectives of 42 Birds are met.
MM: I’ve got to ask, what kind of birds do you think of when you think of the name?
VF: Interestingly enough, the name 42 Birds actually comes from the number of bird species in the Mediterranean cork forest. One of the most notable is the endangered Iberian Imperial Eagle, which one of our mats is named after!
MM: Cork is such a wonderful resource; how did you find out about its uses?
VF: Finding cork came from a bit of luck but developing a product line from it took a lot of research and hard work. Addie is an avid skier and was constantly rolling to get rid of aches and pains from the sport. After spending way too much money and time on finding the perfect massage roller, she decided to make her own massage ball and cork was her material of choice. From there, she and Robyn started to learn more about the material, its sustainable attributes, and decided to investigate how it would work for yoga mats.
MM: How long did it take the design your products and how did you raise awareness about them?
VF: Designing and evolving our product line took a few years. After developing the first version of our best-selling Robin mat, we surveyed customers on what they liked, what needed to be improved, and evolved from there. We also launched a Kickstarter campaign when we launched into the massage roller space. In order to drive awareness of our products, we’ve relied heavily on our community and partnerships. We owe a lot of credit to instructors and studios who have carried our products in their classes. We’ve also been very lucky to partner with great brands like Free People, Goop, and Madewell, who carry our products.
MM: Out of all the products that 42 Birds sells, do you have any personal favorites? If so, which ones and why?
VF: The Imperial Eagle is my favorite! Since the pandemic, I’ve become accustomed to working out at home. This mat provides extra cushion so it’s not only great for yoga but more intense workouts like HITT classes. I’m also a huge fan of our massage therapy balls. I find myself hunched over at my computer screen more often than I’d like to admit – they help relieve a lot of shoulder discomfort and pressure I get from this.
MM: What’s the best fan feedback you’ve gotten about your items?
VF: I have to say I love all feedback but my favorite is when fans share how products have changed their practice or had a positive impact on their overall wellbeing. I recently had a customer reach out after purchasing our massage therapy balls for her husband who was recovering from surgery and how they were helping aid in his recovery. She even mentioned he carries the smallest ball in his pocket everywhere so he can use it on the go!
MM: How do you hope 42 Birds evolves over the next five years?
VF: There are three key areas I’m really looking forward to over the next five years:
- Product Expansion: Our team is constantly looking for new ways to expand our product line, so I’m really looking forward to introducing the yoga and wellness community to additional products. When we think about product expansion, something we always take into consideration is feedback from our customers and their needs which is extremely motivating and rewarding.
- Community Growth: One of the pillars 42 Birds was founded on was developing a strong sense of community. We are currently in the process of developing a new brand ambassador program, which will roll out this year, and expanding wholesale opportunities for local studios, corporations, fitness professionals, and more.
- Giving Back: 42 Birds is a proud member of 1% for the Planet and giving back is extremely important to us. Over the next five years, I anticipate our philanthropic efforts to evolve and for our brand to become a resource for sustainable education.
MM: What do you wish more people knew about yoga in general?
VF: That you don’t need to be flexible to get started. Oftentimes when I talk to people who haven’t tried yoga or are intimidated to get started, they have this huge fear that they aren’t flexible enough. However, there are so many different types and levels of yoga practices that are great for beginners.
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To learn more, visit the official website https://42birds.com/