The Namaste Bae is an independent, Black female-owned and operated business with products that cater to yogi’s who like to say it with their chest. Tawanda Asamaowei is the HBIC (Head Bae in Charge). She’s an ENFP, Libra, Hufflepuff, and Ennegram 2w3 or 3w2 (she can’t remember and won’t be taking the test again). Tawanda is a devoted health advocate who was certified as a yoga teacher by My Vinyasa Practice in 2020. Her goal is to make yoga more inclusive and accessible and her shop is an extension of that desire.
We talked to Tawanda about what it means to be in the plus size yoga space, how she got started, and why it’s important to do what you want, when you want.
When did your entrepreneur journey start?
That’s hard to answer. I’ve always been entrepreneurial, even when I was little. I started a car wash business with my friends. We would do this squeaky clean test. If the car didn’t squeak when you ran your hand across it, your wash would be free. I was very inspired by the babysitters club so I’d go to the grocery store and put up fliers to be a nanny. I’ve had at least a dozen businesses that have made various amounts of money but this business developed during quarantine in 2020, I thought “there’s a market for this. I should try it.”
When I became a certified yoga teacher, I felt like there wasn’t enough representation of my specific brand of yoga, wellness, and self care. You’d see all these things about yoga but there wouldn’t be any for the black girl or the fat yoga babes.
I think we’re in a unique place fashion wise where people wear their values on their clothing. I like a good graphic tee and I’m also about that action. I wanna say it with my chest. So basically, I’m a consumer first. I saw that gap and figured I’d fill it.
What has been your biggest accomplishment?
It’s difficult for me to give myself accolades. In my business, the sheer fact that I’m still doing it is a big accomplishment for me because I’ve never been consistent. The fact that I’m almost a year in, very dedicated to it, and looking for opportunities for growth is really an accomplishment. I’m really good at starting something new and when it wears off, I pass it to the back burner. But I’ve found this foster’s my creativity and give me an avenue for my ambitions.
I’m pleased I’m still doing it and people are responding to it. It’s a small group of consumers for now. But I’ve been able to get it into a bookstore and there is a yoga studio in Canada that wants to buy it wholesale.
What has been your biggest challenge?
My biggest challenge has been my limiting beliefs around money. As a solopreneur, spending money on my business means spending money on myself, which makes me so uncomfortable. As someone who has experienced a lot of financial insecurity, it makes me feel crazy to pay someone for a logo or a website. My other challenge has been marketing myself and my business. As a woman, it feels very weird to be salesy because I don’t want to seem aggressive. I want my brand and product to feel natural and I can feel icky about always selling while trying to create a safe space and community. I can’t wrap my head around that and I think it holds me back.
How have hard times made you who you are?
My ADHD makes me more likely to take risks which is directly tied to entrepreneurship. I think in that way, my brain operates differently than others but it’s become an asset. Growing up in financial insecurity has helped me understand the value of something. That translates in how I price my items because I want to be inclusive and accessible. When we talk about these things, we usually talk about size but we don’t talk enough about financial diversity. I want things to be accessible for people and I think that comes from my background, where I’m from, and what I value.
Do you have a personal mantra?
I have a couple. The one that really helps me when I feel alone, as a solopreneur or in general, is that “God is always conspiring with me for my better good.” When things seem hard and are not turning out how I want, I remember my higher power is literally conspiring with me and working overtime for my good. It’s comforting and it helps me release any anxiety around the moment. And it’s proven to be true.
What advice would you give someone starting a new business?
Don’t let perfection be the enemy of progress. It’s better to put something good out there as opposed to not putting out anything at all because you have analysis paralysis. Aesthetics are the first thing people see about you and it’s easy to get in your head about it but at the end of the day people can see your heart. If you have something that speaks to people but you’re not putting it out there because it doesn’t look right, just get it out there. Tweak it on the way. I’ve tweaked and pivoted a thousand times since I started. I started out on teespring, then amazon, and now I’m on my own site.
What are you doing when you’re not working? What are your favorite things to do? The things that calm you. Replenish you.
Well, I’m very into yoga, probably one of the major things that has helped me during quarantine. I actually enjoy social media. I didn’t consider myself a creative person before but content creating allows me to tap into my creativity – I can be fun, resourceful, or funny depending on the day. I love to travel and eat and spend time with the people I love.
What are your motivations?
I have far more external motivations than internal ones. Seeing a community represented in a space they were not previously represented in motivates me. I feel like there are so many identities I hold. Plus sized women are not represented in yoga and wellness spaces and I’m older than your average influencer. I love being in that space and forming a community and that’s my biggest motivation.
I had a medical trauma when I was 21 that “almost left me for dead” to quote Lil Scrappy’s mom. I think being really young and having to confront my mortality made me realize that nothing is promised, do it today. That makes me do things with more urgency. I’m not used to delaying gratification whether that means a meal, a trip, an outfit or whatever – I’m going to do what I want.
What does it mean for you and others to spend with black businesses?
I think it’s like cooperative economics. We are marginalised in every sense of the word. The statistics say only 7 percent of female entrepreneurs receive financing. Our businesses don’t get the money or the marketing. There are a lot of things against us. Even starting the business is very difficult because we don’t have the time or the capital. When you’re supporting a black business, especially a small one, it’s community economics. It’s a meaningful way to spend your dollar and it’s going to mean that much more to the community and business owner. Sure you can go to Target and get this shirt for $10, but it makes our day, our week, and sometimes our month when you spend with a small business owner. Somebody dropped $150 in my store and I was over the moon. Mouth agape — I couldn’t believe it. I find it important to shop with black businesses and I think everyone should, even if you’re not black. How you spend your money is political – or spiritual. Where you put your money matters, and it matters so much to a black owned business.