Startups Out To Build A Mindful Miami

By Nancy Dahlberg The Miami Herald

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Startups are clearly hopping onto the mindful bandwagon to service a growing market of consumers, searching for well-being. From yoga, to meditation to special clothing and food...many entrepreneurs (especially in Miami) are tapping into the quest for inner peace.

The Miami Herald

Miami a magnet for mindfulness? Really?

If you are reading this stuck in Interstate 95 gridlock, stressed out at work, or distressed by news of yet another senseless shooting death or an only-in-Miami fraud, you may think not. But a growing number of local startups are betting the time has come for mindfulness and well-being in the Magic City.

Consider this: While yoga classes, spas and life coaches have long been a part of the scene, the past year has brought businesses specializing in serene spaces, education and training. Product companies create clothing and accessories, even reminders to be mindful. Food product companies are taking root, and farmer's markets and healthy, organic food restaurants are now plentiful, including Dr Smood, which launched in Wynwood and South Miami in December and is now on a fast track to global expansion. There's a bit of mindful-tech, too: A Miami Beach startup uses biofeedback to help you change your state of mind.

Events are multiplying, with Miami's first mindfulness festival next month and a three-day World Happiness Summit planned for March.

The Sacred Space opens a mindful world to Miami

"For all the superficiality that sometimes our city is known for, there is a large and growing community of fascinating people, places and companies that are building a much more interesting and healthier Miami," said Demian Bellumio, COO of tech company Senzari and founder of a new bimonthly event series for entrepreneurs. Called Dawnings, the events begin at sunrise in different locations around Miami and include yoga, meditation, lightning talks and business networking over shots of organic ginger and apple juice or cold-pressed cucumber, spinach and kale.

To be sure, mindfulness has gone mainstream nationally and globally. Nearly 700 academic studies last year examined the positive effects of mindfulness -- being in the moment -- on stress, brain connectivity and chronic medical conditions, according to the American Mindfulness Research Association. And in his book "Mindful Work: How Meditation is Changing Business from the Inside Out," author David Gelles describes how companies such as Google, Aetna, General Mills, Goldman Sachs and Target have built extensive programs to foster mindful practices among their workers, from meditation rooms to coaches on staff.

Startups are clearly hopping on the mindful bandwagon to service this growing market. Still, it's hard to say what exactly a mindful business actually is, said Gelles, who also covers the topic for The New York Times.

"Rather than think about a mindful company, I try to keep the focus on employees. If folks are working with good intentions, trying to make products and services that help people and make the world a healthier, more harmonious place, and are doing so in ways that minimize personal suffering and the suffering of others, including co-workers, I think that's a pretty good start."

The marketplace is large and growing. Research company IBISWorld estimates that meditation-related businesses in the U.S. last year generated $984 million in revenue. Some of this is corporate mindfulness training, which 22 percent of employers will offer this year, according to a survey by Fidelity Investments and the National Business Group on Health. But the estimate doesn't include the hundreds of meditation apps now available like Headspace, with some 8.5 million users, or wearable gadgets that measure brain activity during meditation.

The estimate also doesn't include companion practices, such as yoga -- as many yoga aficionados also practice mindfulness.

Yoga's popularity also offers a case study on how big the mindful market could become. An estimated 36 million people practice yoga in the U.S., up 44 percent from 2012, and another 80 million Americans will at least try yoga this year, according to a study by the Yoga Journal and the Yoga Alliance. Already, yoga-related industries including accessories constitute a $16-billion-a-year business.

Clearly there is opportunity. "I think that now Miami is a place where people are not just coming to play, they are here to live," said Chira Cassel, co-founder of The Sacred Space Miami, one of the new businesses catering to the mindfulness movement. [See related story on The Sacred Space here.]

Cassel, who also has taught meditation and yoga, moved from Los Angeles back to her hometown of Miami five years ago, and sees a growing mindful scene: "With the influx of young professionals, I think wellness is in that same spirit. It fulfills a need for people who live here now."

Within blocks of Sacred Space, a 12,000-square-foot center for holistic transformation on nearly an acre of property, a cluster of mindful businesses is sprouting up in the Wynwood area, known for its creative energy.

Last year, Rene Sindlev, co-founder of Pandora, today a $2.5 billion jewelry company, chose the Wynwood neighborhood to launch a restaurant chain, Dr Smood, after three years of development working with world experts. Recipes were formulated "to reach a higher level than just being organic and healthy, so it really benefits your body and mind," he said. All the recipes and products are labeled by the mood they are created to enhance.

This fall, Dr Smood will open three more cafes in South Florida and a central kitchen and four locations in New York City.

By 2020 it plans to have at least 50 corporate owned stores.

He is also talking to potential joint venture partners in Japan, Dubai, China and South America, and envisions as many as 250 stores in total in 2020. "We want to bring healthy food to the world."

Tucked away in the building next door to Dr Smood is the small business The Bodhi Tree House, a cozy cafe, shop and event space for holistic living, with meditations nightly, alternating in English and Spanish.

A few blocks to the south, entrepreneur Myk Likhov has set out to build a lifestyle product brand for the mindful. He launched Modern ÅŒM in January, but it's not his first mindful business. In 2007, at age 26, Likhov founded the successful Green Monkey yoga chain and in 2011 sold his stake to his partners.

"What I saw was if mindfulness is where yoga was in 2000, wouldn't it be a place to get involved? And I think it will grow bigger and faster because of all the science behind mindfulness and because of all the social media," Likhov said. Like most of the entrepreneurs interviewed for this story, he is a passionate practitioner. Since launching his product company in January, "I've discovered that for the mindful consumer, we are solving the gifting problem."

Modern ÅŒM's affordably priced malas -- prayer beads -- are infused with the meaning of seven chakra-based intentions.

Although Modern ÅŒM set out to create everyday objects that people can use as reminders of how they want to live, a lot of customers are buying them as gifts, he said.

In April, Likhov launched The 7, an underground meditation studio in Miami, to continue to build the community. Next month, Modern ÅŒM is partnering with The Sacred Space on Miami's first mindfulness festival, called Modern Life, on Oct. 15.

Likhov said he has been working with mindful and entrepreneurial organizations to make Modern Life an interesting, thoughtful community event. In addition to top meditation teachers sharing their wisdom, there will be workshops on sex and intimacy, spirituality, humanitarianism and building mindful communities. Other tracks will focus on mindful tech and mindful entrepreneurship, too, and of course experiences, Likhov said. "Frankly people really need it right now. We are bombarded with information," he said.

We use technology to create interactive personal experiences that produce a positive change in well-being. Patrick Hilsbos, founder of Neuromore

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