Sitting on a secluded beach in the stunning Tayrona National Park, admiring the tranquillity, the raw beauty and the almost baffling serenity, two Frenchmen, Jean-Baptiste Degez and Geoffroy Dumesnil, have their very own light bulb moment. A business idea, a brand born out of love for Colombia and a passion for sport, inspired by the beaches of Tayrona.
I met them both about a year ago, when the idea was becoming a reality and immediately saw that we shared the same love for Colombia.
So, after several years living in Colombia, the two lifelong friends decided to take the plunge and move back to France to follow their dream. Leaving behind a comfortable life and heading into the uncertainty of France’s economic situation was no easy decision, but it was something that they believed in.
So, early in 2013, they packed their bags and headed home, with a heavy heart and cherished memories, yet also with hope, determination and excitement about the challenge ahead. “Of course, leaving Colombia was testing in itself,” claims Jeff, “but we were also excited by the challenge of running our own business as well as reconnecting with our culture and returning to our home country after so long.” They quickly set up Tayrona, the name just acting as proof of their insatiable love for this incredible country.
With a name like that and taking into consideration the seemingly unbreakable connection with Colombia, you might be forgiven for thinking that their new business venture was involved in the coffee trade, or the importation of sombreros volteaos or the hottest new vallenato hits. But you’d be wrong.
In fact, Tayrona is a responsible and ecologically-friendly company which sells yoga mats, bikram yoga mats and accessories. Given that JB previously worked in consultancy and that Jeff’s trade was commercial logistics, this might seem like an incongruous decision. So why yoga then?
Jeff explains: “we want to bring about lifestyle changes, inspired by the happiness of Colombians”. So influenced were they by the positivity and friendliness of Colombians that they have made it their mission to pass some of this on to people in France. Tayrona embodies this optimism, and hopes to bring about a new way of thinking. Despite the challenges ahead, JB goes on to claim that “attitude is everything” when overcoming such obstacles.
“Yoga, as well as having a spiritual dimension, is also a physical activity that leaves people happy in their own bodies,” asserts JB. He continues to explain that this ancient discipline goes hand-in-hand with a healthy diet and better attitudes towards the environment. This respect for nature and the surroundings is something that can partly be attributed to the attitudes of Colombians and the stunning natural phenomena that they encountered here.
However, Colombia is more to the dream of these two young entrepreneurs than merely an inspiration. Jeff and JB wanted to contribute something to Colombia, to give back to the country that has given them so much. With this in mind, they made a deal with a French NGO, Tchendukua, which works with the Kogis to preserve their lifestyle, customs and traditions in the face of the onslaught of modernisation and globalisation. They are committed to helping the indigenous people protect their habitat and environment.
Their passion for the project shines through when speaking with the bright and enthusiastic pair. “Tchendukua’s project aims at giving ancient and sacred land back to the Kogis, which is why Tayrona is committed to planting a Guaimaro tree for every product sold.”
When asked if they had plans to return to Colombia, the answer from both was a quick and emphatic “yes”. As the business grows they hope to continue to contribute to the future of Colombia, their adopted home for so many years, and will no doubt be visiting in the near future. Who knows, their next business idea could come to them while scaling the mountains of Cocuy, wandering through the Amazon or even twisting their hips in the salsa clubs of Cali.