Wellness

Somerville Yoga Company Wins Mastercard Grow Your Biz Contest

More to Love founder Rachel Estapa will receive $25,000 and one-on-one business consulting.

Rachel Estapa with the Grow Your Biz judges and emcee. Photo by Scott Eisen, AP Images

Rachel Estapa, founder of yoga company More to Love, saw the opportunity to enter Mastercard’s Grow Your Biz Contest on Twitter just a few days before the November deadline. The contest, which offered both a $25,000 prize and one-on-one professional business consulting, seemed like the perfect fit for someone who was ready to take her business to the next level. So she didn’t let the short timeline discourage her: She quickly put together a 30-second video about how she plans to grow her small business, and entered the competition.

“You can’t win if you don’t try,” says Estapa. “That attitude of ‘go for it’ is what I try to achieve a lot with More to Love. You’ll surprise yourself when you just go for something and try to be your authentic self in it.”

And surprise herself she did: A few weeks later, Estapa was one of four Boston-based finalists pitching their small business to a panel of professionals at the Seaport’s District Hall. Now, she’s the proud winner of the Grow Your Biz Contest and has both financial means and expert advice to better her company.

For Estapa, the sole owner and instructor for More to Love, that means empowering individuals to embrace body positivity through a welcoming yoga community. More to Love—based in Somerville—is that community.

The company was born out of Estapa’s desire to help people with larger bodies practice yoga in a welcoming environment—something that helped her in her own journey to body positivity—but she felt More to Love’s student base could be expanded.

Estapa herself struggled with self-confidence growing up, but worked on learning about body positivity in her early twenties.

“I started to write and share my story about what it would be like to appreciate myself, rather than try to change myself, and in that time I also began practicing yoga,” says Estapa. “I really had to adopt a yoga practice that was going to be much more what my body needed.”

Once she earned her teaching certification in the summer of 2016, she held a class in a local park, and More to Love was born. Over the past year, Estapa has focused on ensuring More to Love remains a community, somewhere people can practice yoga and “participate in a body positive approach to health and wellness.” Though some studios have approached with an interest in hiring her, she says she’s chosen to remain independent to keep the practice focused on More to Love’s mission.

“I made the decision very early on, before I even taught yoga, that I always wanted [More to Love] to be something that I was going to create,” says Estapa.

With the mission already established, she’s determined to translate this into a successful business plan, even with no professional business training. Now, with the support of Mastercard’s experts, plus those of their contest partner Bank of America Business Advantage, Estapa has resources to make More to Love even better.

While the consultation aspect of the contest win is still being finalized, it’s definite that each of the judges will be available to Estapa as a professional resource. This includes Ginger Siegel, small business lead for Mastercard North America; Kevin Kelly, small business division executive for Bank of America; Bonin Bough, host of CNBC’s Cleveland Hustles; and Barry Charton, certified mentor for SCORE Boston, a business counseling service.

“It was important to us to not just bring in judges to be a part of the live pitch, but to actually have them engaged in this effort and play a role,” says Sarah Ely, vice president of communications at Mastercard. “Each organization brought a different expertise to the table, and our intention was not to just hand over an amount of funds to the small business owner, but to really give them the resources to take those funds and do more with it.”

The contest is the first of its kind (and was only held in Boston), but Ely says the companies have a “see where it goes” policy regarding expanding to other cities.

For her part, Estapa says she plans to ask consultants about where More to Love should grow—whether that be from its current rented space at the Somerville Arts Armory or potentially at its own studio. She’s also looking to grow her client base outside of the Somerville classes and her online courses, possibly through the publication of a book.

“What’s on my mind now is getting more people aware and coming to experience More to Love,” says Estapa. “I want to be able to reach many more people that may not be able to physically experience [my work] in the Boston area.”

Aside from the regularly scheduled classes on Sundays, More to Love also has a workshop at the Museum of Fine Arts planned for May, plus a retreat at the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health in June.

Rachael Estapa with some of her More to Love students. Image via Vimeo/Mastercard.

Image via Vimeo/Mastercard

Image via Vimeo/Mastercard