Sitting in the lotus position on a green yoga mat, dressed in tights and a bright purple sweater, Alex Leikermoser doesn’t look like a stereotypical business maven.
But this Ryerson grad is quick to dispel the myth that entrepreneurs need to fit the profile of a suit-clad number cruncher, falling asleep in front of the computer.
“It’s really about finding a good balance in all areas of your life so that when you do have a crisis you have some kind of system or a routine to fall back on,” she said.
That’s the motto that led Leikermoser to her successful line of yogawear called Yogagurl and owning a boutique yoga studio on the fifth floor of the Ritz-Carlton hotel.
It began after graduating from Ryerson’s interior design program in 1994, when Leikermoser opened her own interior design studio.
But like many small business owners she quickly found herself burning out. And after a health scare, she realized she needed to make some changes.
She eventually gave up her interior design business and began training to become a yoga instructor.
While completing her training, Leikermoser began making hand-stencilled shirts, which other people noticed and wanted. As she recalls, it was the beginning of Yogagurl.
“I was sewing my own yoga clothes at that time because there was really nothing available,” she said.
It has since grown into a successful online clothing line, which includes shirts, scarves, pants and accessories. Yogagurl has also been compared to yogawear titan Lululemon.
“The clothes are made in Canada and we make them in small batches like you would a batch of cookies,” she explained.
The company tries to make eco-friendly choices in everything from the paper they use for business cards to the furniture they choose for the yoga studio.
“It’s definitely not a traditional business model but we’re enjoying it and it seems like our consumers are as well,” she said.
Finding balance is an ongoing challenge. A few years ago when the production for the clothing line became very high, Leikermoser scaled back, took a two-month sabbatical and went travelling.
Although it may seem counterintuitive to leave a business, sometimes it’s just what’s needed to get the creative juices flowing again.
“It’s impossible to innovate and be creative when you’re under a lot of stress,” Leikermoser explained.
She has also managed to impart that attitude on Ryerson students who intern with her. The 43-year-old small business success story takes on interns from the fashion, business and graphics departments at Ryerson and enjoys mentoring them. Her biggest and most unlikely piece of advice to budding entrepreneurs? Prioritizing health and personal life.
“Even now that I’m working at Bloor and Yonge in a busy office, I still have my 2 p.m. yoga stretches on the floor beside my desk,” said Erika Lucivero, a Ryerson fashion communication grad who interned with Leikermoser in 2012 .
Leikermoser’s come a long way from the Ryerson student who wanted to drop out in third year.
“If you told me one day that I would be a yoga teacher, a ‘yogipreneuer’ and ‘ecopreneur,’ I would have said ‘no way!’” she laughed.
“It’s important for students to realize; complete your degree, finish what you’ve started and you never know what’s coming ahead for you.”
This story was first published in The Ryersonian, a weekly newspaper produced by the Ryerson School of Journalism, on October 9, 2013.