WELLNESS: HYPERLOCAL HUBS
Playful Workouts & Lunar Maps
SHANI ANNE MARVELOUS
Conversations with Jessica & Cynthia
Written by Cynthia Harry
Shani Anne Marvelous!! She hula hoops, roller skates, and maps out a fun, yet mindful approach to fitness! Shani talks to us about her journey as a hoop-maker, artist, entrepreneur and building a brand around her own active and healthy lifestyle as a hoop yogini. The difficulties of a global pandemic, such as restrictions on recreational activities have allowed Shani to expand her offerings to an entire community interested in outdoor hoop exercise.
Becoming the Brand
What was your inspiration for creating Shani Anne Marvelous, a character, performing persona and personal brand that has now become your lifestyle? Shani: Well, my inspiration was basically myself. Marvelous is the meaning of my first name. I view what I do as a mix between wellness, art and performance/entertainment. I wanted my brand to reflect this, I wanted to be hula hoop focused but showcase the entertainment/showy and playful side as well.
Do you have a performing arts background? Shani: I grew up in music, and did musicals, but I have more of a background in instruction. I’ve done circus instruction with a team of other circus coaches. We taught in high schools. I taught hula hoop and poise, and we would create an act with high schoolers over the course of two weeks, and then they would put on a performance.
What drew you to the art of hula hooping? Shani: I was at a ukulele festival in Southern Indiana and I saw this woman using a giant hula hoop. She looked so free and like she was totally enjoying herself. I was hooked.
You are a certified HoopYogini™ instructor. Can you expand on this unique skill and share what a student would experience in your class? Shani: Yes, the HoopYogini™ curriculum is only one style of class that I do. HoopYogini™ itself is a program created by Jocelyn Gordon. It combines Hatha Yoga with mindfulness meditation, and hula hooping. If you were to come to my class, everyone would be provided with a hoop, which would be used as a prop. We would go through different Asana poses that incorporate the hoop as a prop to help you bring stability to your postures while you’re moving around with the hoop. It’s a unique experience because it goes beyond yoga by incorporating the hoop. Then, there are different mindfulness prompts as we go through a specific set of postures, called the spinal awakening series. After that, I go into more traditional hula hooping like, learning how to hoop around the waist, and slowly adding in different tricks or just stay there, but add in specific yoga postures, depending on where I want the direction of the class to go. Sometimes, I like to make it a little more free-form. It is a very relaxed and fluid class, without so much of being on the ground, like traditional yoga.
You fell in love with hooping, and became a certified HoopYogini™ instructor, how did you come to start making hoops? Shani: When I went in search of a hoop, I didn’t have much success. Being the artist that I am, I decided to make my own. I did some research via Google, Facebook, and YouTube. Later, I purchased supplies from Lowe’s as well as specialty tape and created my own hula hoops. I made some for family and friends. Originally, I didn’t intend to sell them, but I started connecting with more and more people who were interested in having a hoop for themselves.
I remember this one time a photographer bought three hoops from me so that he could have the models he was shooting pose with them. When he paid me for the hoops (I was working at a grocery store at the time), I realized that the payment equated to the amount that I would make in one shift. I asked myself “What am I doing?” Of course, it’s not that simple. It takes a long time to build the business and transition, but that’s when I really decided to go and focus on it more.
What are some of the guidelines that you would give someone looking to get into hooping or to purchase a hula hoop from you? Shani: I aim to be as descriptive as possible in the product description, providing information on the size, color, and what hoop is best used for what style of hooping the customer is looking to get into. Information such as height and weight are a few of the details needed to get you that perfect hoop. My goal is to create a purchasing resource for my customers. I do answer personal emails.
Expanding Into Community
You offered an immersive course (outside your regular product offerings) called “Pleasure, Play, Awareness” that involved working with your community. Can you tell us more about that experience? Shani: “Pleasure, Play, Awareness” was the title of the 21-day online course. The subtitle is “Moving from Self-Sabotage Into Self-Mastery”. Those three first words: pleasure play and awareness, they popped into my head, because I set out to create an online course that would bring together all these things that hooping and other self-care practices have brought to me.
The whole course is rooted in hooping, the actual Zoom gatherings are basically hoop lessons and also time for us to just chat and connect with other hoopers throughout the country. The actual daily content of the course covered things like self-massage — guided to explore your neck, jaw, feet, hands. Basically, a holistic connection — a lot of mind, emotional awareness, and how to bring that awareness into how you move both without the hoop and with the hoop. It was really a holistic experience we went through of identifying self-sabotage patterns. Then understanding where you can go from there, once you’re aware of them, into self-mastery, and how to welcome more pleasure, more play, or awareness, and just a richer life experience.
There was a Facebook group that people could interact in, weekly gatherings, and then I would publish daily content. So I would make a video or maybe it would just be text, sometimes I would share an author, a YouTube video or just some other resource about whatever the topic was for the day. The program ran from September to October.
Navigating the Pandemic and a Difficult Year
Has your business suffered at all due to COVID-19 and how have you made up for the loss, if there was any? Shani: I would say some of the things that I had planned to do in 2020 suffered, I really wanted to begin performing more. I’d gotten a gig last February that I was really happy about, and then COVID-19 hit. Obviously, crowds and gatherings weren’t going to be a thing. Also, of course, I love teaching, I love getting people together, and that wasn’t going to be a real-life scenario.
As far as online sales, those actually blossomed a lot. I didn’t even plan for it or expect it. It actually was a big boost, with people being inside, and under quarantine. On top of that, when all the protests started happening in response to the murder of George Floyd, there was a lot of support coming through for Black artists. I saw growth in my Instagram following and just overall support.
It sounds like your business has been growing steadily year after year. Is this your main income, or supplemental income? Shani: It’s roughly half. I’m a part time professional hooper. And a part-time barista. So it is one of my aims by spring to be able to build up my audience, online presence, real-life presence and business enough that I can transition out of that job. There are lots of different side hustles too. You know of me because of Jennifer McChristian (impressionist painter featured in the Summer/Fall ’20 issue of this magazine), so you know I do art modeling as well. That’s another industry that’s in limbo due to COVID-19. I’m going where the momentum is right now.
Lunar Cycle and the Business’ Seasons
You offer a product called the “Lunar Map” as well, can you tell us more? Shani: The “Lunar Map” is something I make by hand each year. It’s traditional, hand-drawn art, but then I scan it and do a couple of different layers. It’s then digitally reproduced. But essentially, every single day of the year is outlined. Each circle has the day underneath. Then all the full moons are in the middle of the new moons.
What does the winter season normally look like for you? What about expansion as a whole — where are you aspiring to go? Shani: I’ve been learning a lot from this past summer season because summer is usually a busy season. For hoop-making, that’s the peak – June and July. Each year, as things start to quiet down, I work on the lunar map before the new year.
At the end of the year, I am usually getting the lunar map in order, also refining the information available on my website. I feel like I’ve learned a lot about what people need to know before they purchase a hoop, and after they receive their hoops. So a lot more content creation happens then. I eventually want to launch one-on-one instruction sessions when it comes to hoops, or even expand on that a little bit. I’d like to make it possible for people to schedule time to meet one-on-one and purchase with me.
I honestly haven’t been marketing myself or products as much lately. I needed enough of a break to produce the Lunar Map. My busy season is the summertime. I think that because non-Californians are inside more often, getting a hula hoop isn’t as popular during the winter. It’s more of a summer purchase. So traffic slowed down a little bit, but I’m grateful for it slowing down. I could have kept it going, but I realized that I needed a break.
CIRCLING AROUND, WHAT’S NEW!
There has been an uptick in the home health market. People are discovering new ways to exercise. Gone are the days of following your mother’s workout DVD. Shani offers a different take on fitness. Shani has rolled with the challenges of 2020. The growth that Shani experienced made her think of ways to better serve her customers. She created online courses, offered virtual HoopYogini™ classes and started moving her product line to “readymade.” She managed all of this while remaining true to her vision of making wellness fun.
Workshops and the zine are organized by Slow + Sustain through the volunteer efforts of our contributors. Funding comes from both the contributors and the public.