Innovation Destination Hartford met Holly Wheeler in May 2016, before she joined forces with her twin sister Natalie to launch VASU Tribe. At the time, Holly was focused on her organic beauty bar Field to Face Organics (read the interview: CT Entrepreneur Launches Organic Beauty Startup), which has been absorbed into the new startup.
VASU Tribe has built a brand and found its place in Hartford. IDH Website Curator Nan Price chatted with Holly and Natalie to find out more about their startup journey.
NAN PRICE: A lot has happened since Holly launched Field to Face Organics in October 2015. Tell us about the evolution. How and why did you two decide to join forces?
HOLLY WHEELER: Natalie and I had always talked about working together in the future.
NATALIE WHEELER: The thing was, we were never in one place at the right time! Then we finally were.
HW: Natalie’s yoga studio closed and my lease where I was operating Field to Face Organics was ending.
NP: The stars aligned.
HW: Exactly. We saw green lights. And, once we saw the space here at the Arbor Art Center it was go time.
NP: Was it important for you to have a presence in Hartford?
HW: We always had our eyes on the Arbor Art Center. Parkville is a very creative district and it’s a great community of “creative entrepreneurship”—entrepreneurs whose business is an extension of their art.
There’s a lot of passion and energy with a lot of young movers and shakers. We work in healing arts, so the energy around us is important.
Also, Hartford is where we live. We thought: If we’re going to live here, let’s bring our business here.
NW: We moved quickly, too. It was just six weeks between seeing the space and launching the studio.
NP: Tell us about the studio. What makes it unique?
NW: We chose the name VASU because it’s Sanskrit for “the light that dwells in all being; the universal soul.” Our goal was to create a “conscious community,” so we offer empowering yoga classes, organic spa treatments and products, and soulful events.
NP: VASU Tribe is larger than just the two of you. How many employees do you have?
NW: In addition to Holly and me, there are six other teachers and two other therapists.
NP: Let’s talk about community—it’s obviously very important to you.
HW: Definitely. We wanted the yoga studio to become a hub of community. It’s one of the reasons we started. It’s important to that we’re making connections and helping to build and support a strong community.
NW: I want to note that it’s been great to tap into the college scene to extend our community. Our classes draw a lot of students and student artists from the University of Hartford and Trinity. It’s helped build our “conscious community.”
It’s also important to us to support and attend events so we can be in the scene and collaborate with the local community. And we support other local businesses, too—as well as our teachers, students, and clients. For example, we have locally sourced artwork, clothing, and wall décor.
HW: And being here in the Arbor Art Center has been a great way for us to barter and trade services with other small businesses here. It’s like a creative hive!
NW: Right, and we’re cross-pollinating with like-minded entrepreneurs and small business owners whose businesses are driven by passion and creativity. There’s a lot of cross promotion. We all support each other.
NP: What’s next for VASU Tribe?
HW: We’re working on a space expansion, which will be open in January 2018. Our focus is to bring lifestyle into our brand. We offer classes and services and now we’ll be offering a lifestyle lounge. Our tagline is “Sip, shop, learn.”
We’ll have a tea bar, a library of books, and a DIY classroom. We want to extend and enhance the experience at VASU—encourage people to stay after a treatment or class and connect with others.