By Mollie Mayfield
Yoga mats should be supportive, sufficient to any workout and easy to clean and carry. That is whether you are still doing home workouts or back to in-person classes. A new yoga mat that has hit the market got the spotlight on national television, and a shark took a bite out of it.
Two Tulane University roommates, Millie Blumka and Taylor Borenstein, started to work out together and grew their friendship and business from sweating it out. During the pandemic, they started to work out more, and their yoga mats were not doing the job.
“We were using a yoga mat, but neither of us were necessarily doing yoga. Half the time we were rolling up the mat for extra support, and we realized there was something missing from the market. That is when we created a mat that folds for support and also modifies or enhances the work you are doing,” said Blumka, daughter of the late Susan Blumka and Ron Blumka of Plano, who is a 2012 graduate of Yavneh Academy (now Akiba Yavneh).
Enter the Stakt mat that is now a game-changing business for the two college friends. The Stakt mat features a “unique, foldable design for greater support, flexibility and mobility as you move.” Blumka and Borenstein used the foldable concept of a travel and fold mat and married it with a typical yoga mat. What makes this mat different from its competitors is that when folded up it acts as a block for an additional piece of equipment.
With the enterprise being less than a year old, Blumka and Borenstein knew they needed help to grow their business. They turned to none other than the hit television show, “Shark Tank.”
“We wanted to go on ‘Shark Tank’ to find a partner to help us build the business. Neither of us have been entrepreneurs and we needed to find someone to scale our business,” Borenstein explained as to why they wanted to test their product in the tank. The pair have each kept their full-time jobs. Blumka is a director of partnerhips for an experiential retail start-up, and Borenstein works in financial services. Both reside in New York City.
Before pitching their mat, Blumka and Borenstein had to go through extensive rehearsal to perfect their pitch, participated in interview activities and had a lot of paperwork to prepare for their business. This process started at the beginning of this year, and the co-founders went into filming over the summer.
“The producers are really hands-on in the months leading up to the pitch. They do a lot to help you be prepared for the actual filming,” stated Borenstein.
One can imagine how it feels watching “Shark Tank” as entrepreneurs pitch their business, but being in the room as it happens is another story. Talking to successful business owners such as Dallas’ own Mark Cuban, being star struck is a huge possibility while on “Shark Tank.” Yet, the co-founders said it felt as if they were just watching the show the way they always did in the past.
“For me it felt like I was watching the show and it is very similar to what you see on television, but just a little bit longer. I heard from others that were on the show that you kind of black everything out and could not tell all that had happened, but at the end it’s like ‘Woah, we just did that,’” stated Blumka.
“I agree with Millie! It felt so surreal. No matter how much preparing we did, being there that day we didn’t know how to explain what we were feeling. Once we got in the room, the sharks made us feel very comfortable. They were all smiling and really nice. Before the pitching started, it was a comforting moment,” explained Borenstein about how she felt while in the tank.
The co-founders went on “Shark Tank” seeking $100,000 from the sharks in exchange for 10% equity in their company. During the negotiation, Daymond John was the first shark to back out of the potential deal. He was then followed by Mark Cuban, who said the product would be a conflict of interest with another company he works with. Kevin O’Leary knew the entrepreneurs were full of talent, but also couldn’t make the investment. The last shark left in the tank was Lori Griner, who ultimately made an offer for $100,000 for 15% equity and a $1 royalty until she made her $100,000 back. After some negotiating, they settled for the deal, but for a $0.75 royalty.
Stakt Mat made its first sale in October 2021, about six months before Blumka and Borenstein were cast for “Shark Tank.” Usually, entrepreneurs that have been in business for years make it onto the show, but that did not affect the co-founders’ chance to land their own deal.
“It is a fair point that we haven’t been doing this for years. It’s a combination of doing everything we can, to prepare for when we get to this point, for years anyway. We have been working very hard and talking about this idea. Even though we launched a year ago, it has been two years of culminating the idea. While we were there, we knew the idea hadn’t been alive for that long, but we were being true to ourselves and presenting a product that we believed in even though it was so new,” said Borenstein.
“I think a lot of times because we are more new, we are willing to hear what people have to say. We are willing to take that advice and we are eager to learn from people who have more experience,” said Blumka on why being a young business could be to their advantage.
After being on national television, sales for the Stakt mat have taken off. The co-founders have nearly been sold out of all inventory and have to restock almost every week to be prepared for the holiday season. Looking back on their time on the show, the pair learned a lot about themselves through the process and are excited for what the future holds for them. Some advice they give to other entrepreneurs is, it is possible to get to where they are with their business and to keep working hard and believing in themselves.
The Stakt mat retails for $86. In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a portion of October sales will be donated to Northwell Health’s Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research. The funds raised will directly support a female breast cancer researcher through the organization’s Advancing Women in Science and Medicine (AWSM) awards. For more information about Stakt, visit shopstakt.com.