We had the good fortune of connecting with Karyn Poe and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Karyn, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?In 2021, like so many, I exercised from home since the gyms were closed due to COVID-19. I needed a new mat for my practice and started looking for quality mats that represented me and my culture. I struggled finding one, and that’s when I got that ‘a-ha’ moment. Since I couldn’t find a mat that represented me, I decided to create one. I knew I wanted to empower women of color and provide what the fitness industry has been lacking–representation.

The social unrest during this time played a major role in creating the mats as well. I was angry and tired of being tired. The Assata Mat, which is my most expressive mat, is named after Assata Shakur. With messages like “Black Lives Matter” and “No Justice no Peace,” I found my way of protesting through the mats.

All the mats represent powerful women that are not taught in the history books. I felt the need to educate myself and my customers on how powerful our ancestors were. The designs are inspired by Malian mudcloth of West Africa. I felt a connection with the cloth’s earthy tones and unencrypted motifs. The symbols and colors capture their unique traditions and communicate significant events. I wanted to honor the cloth’s cultural significance while offering a modern twist.

When creating the brand, I wanted to give back. In 2019 I traveled to Zimbabwe and got the opportunity to visit the Masuwe Primary School. I fell in love with the students and staff and wanted to help. Despite having limited resources and supplies, the staff and students have an uplifting spirit and undeniable strength. Everything came full circle when I started the business. I was able to get in touch with the school’s superintendent and began communication on how Jayei Athletics will assist them in further developing the school.

What should our readers know about your business?
I have always wanted to be an entrepreneur and had many ideas over the years. I wanted to create something for the Black community that embodies our culture. However, I doubted myself at every step. Imposter syndrome is very real, and took hold of me. I struggled with overcoming self-doubt, the idea of my business failing, and waiting until I was “ready”. What helped me overcome this was to accept failure. I realized failing is part of the journey and how I would grow.

One thing that I learned from starting this business is you have to show up for yourself! No one is going to save you or push you. You must show up, even when it’s difficult.

What sets us apart from other brands is our mission. Jayei Athletics’ mission is to pay homage to African heritage, honor the strength in women, and promote conscience giving. Proceeds support the Masuwe Primary School’s infrastructure and provides supplies and equipment for various educational initiatives. So far, we have updated the curriculum for the 7th graders by providing new books, replaced the broken doors and locks, and helped develop a better environment for the livestock for the community. We are dedicated to continuing the development of the school.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
There’s so much to do in Southern California, especially during the summer. My friends and I like to relax, have a good time, and discover new things. For a weeklong visit, we would take a day trip to Catalina Island and relax at the Descanso Beach Club for some drinks and nachos. We would have to visit Long Beach on Second Street. We would get lunch at Open Sesame, which has great Lebanese food and peruse around and make our way to a nice walk on the beach.

My friends and I also like to stay active so, we would go on a hike, maybe Griffith Park and get brunch after at Republique, or attend a yoga session at Keffi studio. We would also go to a Black marketplace on the weekend, like Black on the Black and Black Market Flea, to support local Black- owned business.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I would love to shoutout the Masuwe Primary School! Their spirit and kindness make everything worth it. Working with the staff and students is more than fulfilling. I enjoy working on projects with them and seeing what is really needed at the school and community level. The Superintendent, Tsitsi Mwadzingeni, is an amazing woman who helps streamline communication and updates me on projects. They are very appreciative of the help we’ve provided, however, I am not sure who is helping who at this point.

Website: www.jayeiathletics.com

Instagram: @jayeiathletics

Linkedin: www.linkedin.com/in/jayeiathletics

Facebook: www.facebook.com/jayeiathletics

Image Credits
Photos by: intuitive social Ig: @intuitve.social Makeup: Jazmine Martinez Ig:@Makeupbyjazmine7 Headshot photos: thirtythreefifteen, LLC Ig: @thirtythreefifteen Makeup: Jazmine Martinez

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutSocal is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.