You can only control yourself, so do it. In business, there are a lot of things that are out of your control. Trying to control everything will just add stress to your life. Instead, focus on yourself. How do you approach a challenge? How do you speak to employees? How do you maintain your own mental health? How do you maximize the value you are providing to others? Answer these questions and life will be a lot easier.
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 Steve Hart.
Steve is an eco-conscious entrepreneur from San Diego, California with a strong passion to promote health and happiness in the world. He founded HART Eyewear, a sustainability focused brand of high-quality blue-light glasses, and Riffs Yoga Studios, a multi-location yoga operation in California.HART Eyewear
We save eyes with our sustainably made, high-tech, blue-light blocking glasses.www.youtube.com
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 grew up in Park City, Utah and always had an affinity for nature and the outdoors. I attended Middlebury College in Vermont with the intention of pursuing environmental work, as I developed a passion for protecting the planet. After college, I worked as a sustainability consultant for Deer Valley Ski Resort until my father retired from his career and started a music shop in Park City. I decided to help him with the new business and quickly developed a passion for small business and community building. A couple years later I set off for sunny San Diego at the age of 23 to start a business of my own. What started as a guitar store, slowly pivoted into a yoga studio as the music industry was moving online and yoga industry was growing.
In 2014, the sudden passing of my mother left me in a very uncertain place. My business was struggling, and I was depressed, anxious, and broke. As we were just exploring the idea of shifting focus to yoga, I decided to go do a yoga teacher training myself and it completely changed my life. The yoga practice helped me crawl out of the hole of depression and ignited a passion in me to share this practice with as many people as I could. What was once Riffs Acoustic Music morphed into Riffs Yoga Studios, and business turned around dramatically. The lessons I learned from healing the wounds of losing my mother have inspired everything that I have done since that time and taught me to see challenge as an opportunity for growth. It was through this value that when COVID hit and shut down my yoga businesses, HART Eyewear was born.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
With compassion, patience, and persistence, anything is possible.
I firmly belief that any obstacle can be overcome, any business can thrive, with these three qualities. Compassion to care deeply about the needs of others and the desire to service those needs, patience to grow naturally, and persistence to push through the ups and downs of starting something new.
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?
There are many, many of these, but one of my biggest professional inspirations has been Tim Ferris. He showed me in his writings and podcasts that life can be lived in a different way than I grew up expecting. I learned it wasn’t about the hours of work you put in a week, but the quality of work, and the effectiveness of your time. It was reading one of his books during COVID that sparked my interest in starting an eCommerce brand.
The other big influence on my lifestyle is 7 Habits of Effective People by Stephen Covey. This book helped me to look at each week with a different mindset and prioritize my time to be able to handle the workload of owning two businesses.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before the Pandemic began?
Prior to the pandemic, my yoga business was booming. At the beginning of 2020, I had two thriving yoga studios in San Diego and a full operating staff that was running the show. After almost 8 years of hard work, I was finally enjoying some success and finding time to myself outside of work.
What did you do to pivot as a result of the Pandemic?
Once the pandemic hit, everything turned upside down. We had to close both studios with no idea of how long it would take before we reopened. Within 48 hours of closing, we took our entire business online. Wanting to keep my staff on payroll, I kept them engaged with the online program, which, after the initial push of going online, left me with little to nothing to do with my time.
I was living alone and the whole city around me was closed. I couldn’t see friends. I couldn’t go the gym or even get in the ocean. I was forced to sit alone, day in and day out, wondering if my studios would survive this, and what I would do if they didn’t.
It was during this time that received a message of inspiration. I remembered back to the time it took me to bring my yoga business online, and how uncomfortable it was on my eyes to be sitting in front of a screen for so long. I realized that the entire world had shifted to a remote-work lifestyle, and likely there were many more people who felt the same eye strain that I did.
With the uncertain future of my yoga businesses, and an unwavering passion to help people feel better, I decided to put work on developing a product that could help with increased screen time. The more I researched, the more I learned how harmful blue-light from your screens can be, and how few products on the market actually helped with this issue.
Can you tell us about the specific “Aha moment” that gave you the idea to start this new path?
Having never developed a product before, and being new in the eyewear space, there was a lot of doubts early on that I could pull this off. I decided to take it a baby-step at a time, focusing on making at least a little process every single day, and see what happened.
I remember the day that I first received the prototype of my finished product in the mail. It was the frame that was eventually to be called Dale, named after my late mother, and they were perfect. I took them to my girlfriend’s house with a few friends and everyone was trying them on and taking pictures with them. I knew in that moment that I was onto something. Not only did I need to provide a product that effectively blocked blue-light, they had to be stylish and wearable. I was on the right track.
How are things going with this new initiative?
Things are going great! We officially launched the product in May of 2021, and have been working hard to roll out more products since that time. We recently launched our line of prescription glasses, and will soon be coming out with sunglasses. We have lots of new styles and colors coming out as well. People love our glasses, and I can’t wait to roll out our new products.
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?
There are three people actually. My late mother, who is my guiding light in everything that I do, and my inspiration to make it through the tough times. My father who has supported me along the way and encouraged me even though I was taking a big risk.
And most importantly, my fiancé Karina, who has stuck with me through all the ups and downs of this whole thing. Starting a business is hard and scary, and she has been a rock in my life through all of it. When I get sucked into the minutia of the business and start stressing about all the little things, she pulls me out and shows me the higher perspective and keeps my connected to my purpose for doing what I’m doing. I couldn’t do any of this without her.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
The most interesting experience I’ve had through this whole project has actually been a series of instances. It seems that every time I hit a roadblock, something unexpected happens to help me to keep going. This happened on several occasions in several different ways.
One example of this, not too long ago the stars aligned for several major expenses to all land in the same month. I was preparing myself to take on a fairly hefty debt, and was really worried about how I would get out of it without damaging the progress of my business.
Sure enough, at just the right time, I received a large check in the mail, which was a refund on taxes from the government for maintaining my staff through the pandemic. It was precisely the amount I needed to stay out of debt, and was totally unexpected. This sort of thing happened on several occasions.
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 patient. I spent so much time worrying about results and wondering why they weren’t coming quickly. It took 9 years to build my first business, and it is stronger and healthier now than it has ever been. If I was more patient through the process, it would have been much less stressful.
- Focus on providing value, not making money. I’ve learned that money is the byproduct of a business that provides value to people. Once I changed my mindset to focus on maximizing the value I was providing to my customers, everything began to shift, and I started making more money.
- Just keep going. There have been so many times that I wanted to give up, that I tried to give up, but I’m so glad that I didn’t. Starting a business is challenging, but it only fails if you give up.
- Every challenge is an opportunity for growth. I used to wish everything was easier. Through the passing of my mother, I learned in a very major way that life is full of challenge, and that will never change. The only thing that can change is how I approach these challenges. Adjusting my mindset to use challenge as an opportunity to grow has not only made life much less stressful, but also propelled me to heights I never thought possible.
- You can only control yourself, so do it. In business, there are a lot of things that are out of your control. Trying to control everything will just add stress to your life. Instead, focus on yourself. How do you approach a challenge? How do you speak to employees? How do you maintain your own mental health? How do you maximize the value you are providing to others? Answer these questions and life will be a lot easier.
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?
Meditation. I can’t stress enough how powerful and necessary of a practice this is to maintain mental health. I also highly recommend therapy, it worked wonders for me in my more challenging times, but also helped maintain stability when things in my life were good. Wellness practices such as yoga, healthy eating, proper sleep, and eliminating substances like alcohol, caffeine, and sugar can also go a long way.
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?
Love yourself. If people would treat themselves with compassion, feeding themselves food that was good for the body, taking time to enjoy life, developing healthy relationships, etc., the world would be a much better place.
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!
I would love to have lunch with Dr. Joe Dispenza. His work on the power of thought and emotion to align your life with the vibration of what you want has been an inspiration to me. I do his meditations regularly and would love to be able to share a meal with him.
How can our readers follow you online?
I am present on Instagram on my personal account @_stevehart_ or my business accounts @harteyewear and @riffsyogastudios. You can also check out our websites. www.harteyewear.com and www.riffsyogastudios.com
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!