Be a good listener. Many people are not really listening and already thinking about what they are going to reply. This not a good way to communicate and can really be annoying. I found myself doing this all the time and it was not until running my own business that I realized how rude and insensitive it was. People appreciate when you give them your full attention and time to finish what they are saying. Do not be that person!
The COVID19 pandemic has disrupted all of our lives. But sometimes disruptions can be times of opportunity. Many people’s livelihoods have been hurt by the pandemic. But some saw this as an opportune time to take their lives in a new direction.
As a part of this series called “How I Was Able To Pivot To A New Exciting Opportunity Because Of The Pandemic”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lainey Morse.
Lainey Morse is the Founder of the viral phenomenon, goat yoga, which exploded around the world in 2016. She now has ten Original Goat Yoga locations around the United States. Lainey has been in featured in hundreds of media outlets including The New York Times, Huffington Post and The Wall Street Journal.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I was born and raised in Muskegon Michigan and I am the baby of seven. Even though my family is large, I came along ten years after my parents thought they were all done and so it felt more like I was an only child. I was the type of kid who only wanted to play outside. I never owned a doll or any toys that I can remember. I just wanted to play in the forest, ride my bike or play in the dirt.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Five Simple Rules for Happiness:
- Free your heart from hatred.
- Free your mind from worries.
- Live simply.
- Give more.
- Expect Less.
Most of my life, I have dealt with anxiety issues and these rules have always helped me. Each point is simple yet powerful and really does help me achieve peace of mind and happiness.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
The book is named How Full is Your Bucket by Tom Roth and Donald O. Clifton. The book resonated with me because I was in a relationship that was very difficult. The book showed me how even the smallest interactions we have with others whether they are positive or negative profoundly affects our relationships, productivity, health, and longevity. It was like a lightbulb went off and it changed my world.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before the Pandemic began?
My business Original Goat Yoga was set to have a record year. I had just flown back from San Francisco after doing a show with Gordan Ramsey. Our growth had been explosive since goat yoga went viral in 2016 and we were set to launch two new locations that I knew would be very successful. Before goat yoga went viral, I had spent over twenty years in Marketing and Business Development in the Corporate world. My days now were spent working from my home/farm office and managing the backend of each location doing the marketing, social media, managing my employees and trying to expand our operation. I also spent a lot of time doing media interviews, podcasts, participating in documentaries and traveling around the United States doing speaking engagements. Enter the pandemic and I put everything on hold. Our tagline was Farming Happiness, and I did not want to be Farming Sickness.
What did you do to pivot as a result of the Pandemic?
- Goat Happy Hour- What I did at first was plant a garden and cry, but then I realized that I had a life that not everyone gets to live. I live in a beautiful spot of the world on a farm in Oregon. I have the most amazing therapy animals that help me through every day. Goat Happy Hour is for small groups of up to six people. It is all about getting outdoors, surrounding yourself with loving therapy animals and disconnecting from stress. I call it Goat Happy Hour because everyone always leaves happy. It is impossible to be stressed or depressed when the scenery is amazing, the animals are so loving, and it is the happy distraction that everyone needed during a pandemic. I take each group for a short walk around the farm and then I leave them alone to soak in all the farm therapy. The pandemic stories that I have heard on those short walks have been amazing. It’s parents who are desperate to find something meaningful for their kids to do, it’s people who live in the city and work from home that just need to get some fresh air and a change of scenery. It is people that have lost their loved ones from the virus and need a happy distraction. After they are finished with their experience the main theme I hear is “I needed this so much!” or, “this was way better than sitting on a physiatrist couch.” It really gives me so much joy to be able to share this with others. It’s easier to connect with people in small groups, it’s safer than having classes where we’d need to clean yoga mats and interact with people for long periods of time and best of all, gives me so much joy to know that we’re giving people a much needed happy distraction. It has been a huge hit and some of my goat yoga locations are also offering their own Goat Happy Hour Experiences.
- The other endeavor is called The Goatel. I picture couples that are both working remotely in a small home or apartment and just need peace to focus. Artists that just need space to be able to think creatively without also listening to their partners ZOOM conference. Parents who are wondering how they could possibly make online school fun and interesting for their child. Couples that are trying to find unique date ideas! Thus…The Goatel was born. Since my life is now goat themed, I felt The Goatel was fitting and the name is fun and unique! I am marketing it as a day stay creative space for rent by the hour, day, or week. It includes Wi-Fi, a pot of coffee/tea and therapy animals that are ready to give love. I had an old chicken coop that I wanted to use for this idea. I am sure everyone thought I was crazy, but I am used to that after coming up with a concept like goat yoga. We are almost finished with the renovation and it turned out even better than anticipated. There are stunning views in every direction and so I had sliding glass doors installed in the front and a huge window spanning the wall in the back. The décor is goat themed with bright and happy colors of blue, green, yellow and red. We hope to launch by the end of the year and I already have a waiting list of people who are ready to have a change of scenery. One woman who reached out wrote, “Please put me on the most magical waiting list imaginable!” I am confident that this idea will do well because working or homeschooling from home has been tough for everyone. I know this from all the stories I hear at Goat Happy Hour.
Can you tell us about the specific “Aha moment” that gave you the idea to start this new path?
Goat Happy Hour- This idea came about at the end of 2015. I had just gone through a divorce and was dealing with a newly diagnosed disease. I was going down the rabbit hole of depression and all I wanted to do was be in the barn or out in the field with the goats. They are calm and loving animals and when you are around them, you take on that energy. They are also very funny animals and so they make you laugh. This combination makes them the perfect therapy animals. I started calling it Goat Happy Hour because that is how it made me feel. I would forget about stress, depression or pain and it gave me that happy distraction that I needed. I started inviting people over who were also going through tough times in their lives and it would make everyone so happy. One of the people that came to one of my Goat Happy Hour’s was a yoga instructor and she suggested we have a yoga class in my back field. That is how goat yoga was born and Goat Happy Hour took a back seat the past four years. Then the pandemic hit, we were not able to have the large group classes or do the Employee Health & Wellness Corporate events for the likes of Google and Nike. It feels like we have come full circle and it feels good. I am back to connecting with the small groups of people and seeing how something so simple is so beneficial for people.
The Goatel- This idea came about because I work from home with my partner Sean. I get to listen to every Zoom call, every crunchy bite of food and every thought that is said out loud. I will say, “Are you talking to me?” He will say, “No, I’m just talking something through.” We also have a hard time with our dueling phone meetings. We go outside each time to take calls even if it is raining or cold because it is hard to focus when you are listening in on a phone call.
How are things going with this new initiative?
Goat Happy Hour has been busy. When it aired on the local news, we were slammed with requests. My location up near Portland and my farm in Monroe are booked into December. I even have several groups for Thanksgiving Day since I am not getting together with family for the holidays due to the pandemic.
The Goatel is not quite finished and we are hoping to open in the next month. I have not kicked the marketing into full gear yet and we already have over fifty people on our waiting list, some are from neighboring states. These people are so eager for a change of scenery and elbow room.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My partner and love of my life, Sean Scorvo. We really work well together. Even though I complained about his chewing earlier, he is an excellent businessman, and he has different strengths than I do and so we make a great team. I am the creative marketer and dreamer, and he is the devil in the details, operations guy. He is also a retired ER doctor that turned serial entrepreneur and we spend most of our time discussing business strategies and ideas.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
At the beginning of the pandemic, I spent all my time learning to garden until June hit when my mother fell and broke her hip. She had to have surgery and was in the hospital and then a nursing home rehab facility. She had never been without my father in the sixty-eight years they had been married and now, no one could be with her. Her dementia spiraled out of control. This was very hard on our family and for the first time in a long time, I felt deep sadness and it was really affecting my mental health. Since focusing on Goat Happy Hour and The Goatel it has made the trauma of 2020 fade away. It has been so fulfilling being in the business of making other people happy.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Be a good listener. Many people are not really listening and already thinking about what they are going to reply. This not a good way to communicate and can really be annoying. I found myself doing this all the time and it was not until running my own business that I realized how rude and insensitive it was. People appreciate when you give them your full attention and time to finish what they are saying. Do not be that person!
- Learn how to do everything in your business. You do not have to be an expert, but if someone get’s hit by a bus, quits, gets fired or maybe a global pandemic hits, you need to know how to do that position. Before the pandemic hit, I had the most amazing Event Coordinator and Customer Service Manager. They were the best at their jobs and because I did not really have a handle on the procedures that they had in place, it made things very difficult when I had to lay them off in March because of the pandemic.
- Make a List. I have memory issues and I am the queen of lists. When you are constantly busy it is easy to forget and things slip through the cracks. This is bad for business and bad for your reputation. Trust me! My only issue now is remembering to look at my list.
- Put yourself in other people’s shoes. If you always try and think of things in other people’s perspective, it is easier to work together, to compromise and to understand situations. Do you hear me United States Government?
- 5. Hire people whose strengths are your weakness. I am a marketing mind and want nothing to do with customer service, sales, or bookkeeping. I know I could do it, but I do not enjoy it and I do not excel in those areas. My team was well rounded, and we were all the best at what we did which makes your business run like a well-oiled machine.
So many of us have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. Can you share the strategies that you have used to optimize your mental wellness during this stressful period?
At the beginning, I was constantly scrolling through the pandemic news in shock. I could not look away. If I was not reading the news on my phone, I was in the garden listening to podcasts about the pandemic. It was not good for my mental health. Between the pandemic and politics, it is jolting. First, I now only read the news once in the morning and before I go to bed. Secondly, every single day, rain, or shine, I have my own personal Goat Happy Hour in the morning and in the evening. Being around animals is natural medicine and it is almost like a reset in your brain. It washes away the constant negative news and brings a happy distraction. For me it is the animals and the farm, for others it could be something else, but the key is to find what your happy distraction is.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
The movement of finding your happy distraction when faced with trauma has always been my message. This is what helped me through a divorce, a diagnosis of a debilitating disease, a family dealing with dementia, the financial strain of putting my business on-hold and now a global pandemic.
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!
As someone who suffers with an anxiety disorder, I really respect the people who are mental health advocates and shoot down the stigma. I would love to have lunch with Kristin Bell. I think she is authentic, funny, radically honest and a great mental health advocate.
How can our readers follow you online?
Facebook: @goatyoga @thegoatel @thelaineymorse @noregretsfarm
Instagram: @goatyoga @thegoatel @laineymorse1 @noregretsfarm
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!