From Magazine Controversy to $1M Raise
Introducing Reclamation Ventures and my strategy to change the wellness industry — for good.
tl;dr: I’m raising a million dollars for my fund that invests in making wellness accessible. I’m also on the cover of a magazine.
Last June, I was asked to be on the cover of Yoga Journal, the biggest yoga magazine in the country. It has a paid circulation of 360,000 and reaches more than 1.5 million readers*. Its website, yogajournal.com, has more than 1.2 million unique users monthly. This was part of a bigger partnership (a feature in the issue on Yoga Foster, a feature on me, and a social media partnership to support Yoga Foster’s nationwide tour) and I was, quite frankly, honored to have all this work prominently featured inside and out. I’ve been acutely familiar with the brand’s past mistakes regarding representation, but felt comfortable with my contact there and was already deep in conversation on aforementioned initiatives; the cover felt symbolic of the value the brand saw in me and my work.
Two weeks after my cover photoshoot and without my consent, Yoga Journal posted a survey asking their community to choose the next cover model. They didn’t ask their community to choose between three inspiring individuals the work they represent. Instead, they posted pictures — with no words, no titles, no coverlines. Screenshot below.
A follow-up email from the editor-in-chief re-iterated their excitement to feature my work and mentioned that since “the data is predictive of newsstand sales”, they were using the survey to make sure that my cover would sell. I expressed how this made me feel, and after a few days of no response, I shared the same sentiment on Instagram. Here’s a snippet what I shared:
Which cover do you prefer? Three weeks ago, I shot a @yogajournal cover. Last Wednesday (#Juneteenth no less) they posted this survey. In it, they ask their audience to choose their next cover. And posted a cover shoot of me alongside two other covers asking their community to choose.
Look at these two photos. Two people, in casual dress and casual postures, giving the camera warm and welcoming vibes. There’s no names, no storytelling, no context about what we might offer between the pages. What are they asking the community to choose between?
I don’t have the answers. But I know how this made me feel. I know how this comparison has made me feel for my entire life. The first thing I did was shame myself. What if my skin was whiter? What if my hair wasn’t natural? Am I sitting too casually? When will my body be acceptable enough to sell my story?
Yoga Journal published this survey because “the data is predictive of newsstand sales”. And I think that means they don’t think that my picture would have sold. And sometime between shooting and sending it to the printer, there was a worry that I wasn’t good enough physically to represent my story that lies inside.
This isn’t just my story. It’s the story of many marginalized people in wellness.
Perhaps not as blatant, perhaps not as outright racist or sexist or ageist, but still happening, every time someone dark-skinned is hired to work in a retail space — but only in the back of house, or a yoga teacher with a physical disability is questioned about their capacity to lead, or a wellness entrepreneur is turned down for a grant because they don’t “look like they know how to handle money”. (All anonymized examples shared with me before and after I posted this).
As a result, the post gained traction quickly, reposted with words of solidarity and heartfelt stories by others who have experienced something similar. In just a few days, the post gathered over 81,000 organic impressions and nearly 7,000 organic engagements.
In this post, I expressed my desire to invest in another entrepreneur, so they could do their work with more ease in the face of adversity like this. I think that’s something we can all agree on – we need to reshape this system so there’s space for all of us to breathe. When people started asking how to help, I started a GoFundMe that raised $3,200 in donations, and other people pitched in to help us raise $5,000 for our first grant. The concept grew into a movement from a simple idea:
What would it look like if we invested in changing the wellness landscape – for good?
So, Reclamation Ventures was born. As the post circulated the wellness industry, I created a brand identity, launched a GoFundMe, created an advisory board, designed a grant application, and promoted an opportunity for an underestimated entrepreneur that’s making wellness accessible to receive $5,000 in unrestricted funding to help their work grow. We raised $3,200 from online donations and over 200 grant applications for our first opportunity, all through organic traffic on Instagram alone.
But, what about the cover?
Yoga Journal was swift in their response after I posted online, taking down the survey and offering me the cover as initially agreed upon. That put me in a predicament.
I knew that if I were to be on the cover, a fair share of the community that rallied online in my support would be quick to purchase the magazine to show solidarity. But that felt wrong to me. Why should a brand that caused so much harm have the right to benefit from it? But if I wasn’t on the cover, and just walked away, have I done enough to repair the harm that could be perpetuated on another entrepreneur the next issue?
I agreed to be on magazine cover with a condition – that all profits from the sale of this issue will be donated to Reclamation Ventures, and invested into our ongoing $5,000 grant opportunity. The issue is now on stands and can be found at most major grocery and publishing stores for September and October. The sale of each issue invests in the future of wellness we all deserve.
But $5,000 isn’t enough to create systemic change. That’s why we’re raising $1M.
This $1M investment will support the legal, operational and capacity we need to keep moving forward. Because we’re growing — fast. Since announcing our first grant round and receiving over 200 applications, we’ve already planned two subsequent grant rounds, hosted four in-person events in key markets and scheduled three more, and scheduled a series online webinars to engage and learn from our community of wellness advocates across the U.S. We’ve also created a Patreon community of investors with the goal to collect enough monthly to have a community-funded grant available each and every year.
Help us create more space for all of us to breathe.
For those interested in getting involved, please send us a note on the website. If you’re interested in applying for a grant, sign up to get notified when when the application for the next grant round is live. And you can always invest $4 “four” the future of wellness on our Patreon.
Wellness becomes accessible when we invest in it. We need to look at accessibility as a KPI when building new studios, creating new digital platforms, and hiring talent. We need to begin every class with the intention of unlocking one for someone else who deserves to practice. Join me.
Nicole Cardoza is the founder and Executive Director of Yoga Foster, a national nonprofit that makes yoga and mindfulness accessible to public schools through subsidized training, videos and yoga mats. She’s also the founder of Reclamation Ventures, a fund investing in underestimated entrepreneurs making wellness accessible. She’s a serial entrepreneur, seasoned speaker, and nomad currently traveling across the country learning about what causes the wellness gap. nicoleacardoza.com