Made in Tribeca: Stakt

Tribecan Taylor Borenstein and Millie Blumka don’t call themselves athletes but they are dedicated to their workouts — Taylor at The Lodge on Greenwich and Millie with the Soto Method and Sculpt Society. When the pandemic hit, and they were forced to adapt their living rooms to gyms, they found themselves rolling or folding their yoga mats to enhance their workouts. There had to be something better out there, they thought.

And there wasn’t.

“We wanted a thicker mat, and we wanted it to fold so it could be an extra piece of equipment,” said Millie, who worked in experiential retail and data start-ups. They wanted what would become Stakt, a company that makes a workout mat that folds neatly in fourths and can be used in any combination of thicknesses in place of a block or for extra support (think knees).

The two — who met as freshman at Tulane a decade ago — were starting entirely from scratch on this, so they asked around and eventually brainstormed with a friend of a friend’s brother, who runs the baby products company Lalo.

“Neither of us knew how to make a product,” said Taylor, who worked at Bloomberg in a product management role. “He connected us to a designer who connected us to a team who connected us to a sourcing agent who is the one who says, ‘ok, where can we make this?'”

During their research phase, they learned the most common material for yoga mats can include BPAs, a toxic chemical found in plastics. They needed something non-porous and grippy, but still lightweight; premium mats are usually rubber and weigh a ton. So they settled on EVA foam and their agent found a factory in China. They bootstrapped the whole thing and it snowballed: they schlepped the first mats all around the city to workout classes, hosting free events where participants could try them out. They shipped their first 20 mats in December 2021 and by October 2022, they were on Shark Tank. Not long after that, they left their day jobs.

(I had to know more about Shark Tank, since it seems like those deals must be struck ahead of time, but this from Taylor: “Nope! Everything on Shark Tank is in real time – then the deal is more thoroughly vetted after filming. We’ve watched 100s of episodes so we were able to prepare our negotiation tactics.” However, their deal never closed. “Before Shark Tank aired, we had done $140,000k in sales (about 1800 mats} and no, we never closed the deal after the show – Millie and I each own 50% of the business.”)

“People say all the time, how did this not exist before? And trust me we checked,” Taylor said. “It’s one of those things — there are foldable gymnastics mats and on-the-go yoga mats, but nothing in between. We merged the two.” (And they filed the patent.)

The mats sell for $86 (and comes in four colors) and the two support themselves; no one works for them and they fully own the company. And they are still learning on the job. “You name it, we do it — bookkeeping, accounting, marketing,” Millie said. And there’s more to come. They are launching a new product this year and an acessory product; they already have carry bags and a eucalyptus spray.

They also upcycle mats — they take them back, clean them and add them to their event stock. It’s all part of a long-term plan for the company.

“We want to be more than a product,” Millie said. “We are not trying to make prettier versions of athletic equipment that already exists — we want to make functional products and add value. We want to be more of a lifestyle brand.”