Yoga dad Dennis Ingui has a story to tell that all you dudes need to hear.
Now, I don’t normally turn over the precious white space here at A Dude’s Guide very often, much less three times in less than a week, but this is a special case. See, a friend of mine told me about Dennis and, once she did, I knew I’d have to have him share his story here with all of you. It’s a long story, so I’m going to have a jump that I want you to follow and I think you will.
This yoga dad is more than a health nut, more than a cancer survivor, more than a business man. Although he’d probably fight against anyone telling him this, he’s a bit of an inspiration. But let’s hear the story from Dennis’ mouth instead of mine.
Despite completely changing my life starting with a yoga practice at the age of 48, I wouldn’t call it a mid-life crisis.
My mid-life turnaround was brought about after a stunning diagnosis of prostate cancer and surgery. What began as a journey of recovery and self-discovery has grown into a new business venture, mentorship for other budding entrepreneurs and a path toward philanthropy, touching the lives of children and adults across the globe.
Born and raised in the Bronx, I’ve always been athletic and physically fit. Which meant I was thrown completely off guard after a cautionary check up with my urologist showed a slightly rising PSA test. I will never forget the moment I received a call from the doctor on my way to the airport for a business trip. Immediately, I turned the car around and my wife and I went straight to the doctor. Within a few weeks, I was scheduled for surgery.
The Journey Begins
Post-surgery, while lying in bed recovering, I had an epiphany. With little to do, I was watching television when 9/11 happened. Helpless in more than one sense of the word, my world shook. I had never felt so helpless and incapable as I did at that moment.
I needed help, but my formerly dependable body had already let me down. I had no idea where to turn. Which was when I decided to start reading about practices of peace and of positivity.
Once the doctors allowed me out of bed an onto my feet again, I began taking daily walks with my wife and business partner, Valerie. But walking soon became a synonym for boring. I needed more. Shortly thereafter, I heard about a local yoga class, but laughed it off.
Still, knowing that I had to rebuild both my mind and body, I decided to try something different. I began my journey of a thousand steps by sitting on my butt on a mat in a church basement in New Jersey. The only man in the class, I met a group of women who instantly made me feel comfortable and have since become some of my closest friends.
I quickly learned an important lesson from them. I learned about the power of accepting others and being accepted by others. They allowed me to learn something about myself: Despite my diagnosis, I wasn’t done and had much more to give.
Prior to my diagnosis, I had been very successful, working in textiles, creating unique brands of denim for various clothing labels. I’m a businessman at heart and my natural business acumen had always steered me right, allowing me to provide a comfortable life for my family. I had closed my business after my surgery, but I still needed something else to keep me busy and focused beyond my yoga practice. How could I use my talents as a businessman and incorporate them into something that was meaningful, would allow me to give to others and included yoga?
I realized I needed a product.
My experience taught me that I needed to create a great product that fit a niche, to go with great packaging and excellent distribution. My yoga mat had become an important element in my life and I realized others felt the same.
I designed an affordable, eco-safe, biodegradable yoga mat with a focal icon to help yogis focus. Into this design I incorporated colors that would reflect the personalities if the mats’ owners.
Not wanting to take on a brick-and-mortar storefront, I decided to learn more about selling online. With a “Dummies Guide to Amazon” and guidance from a special young family friend, I learned everything I could about selling products through Amazon. A business was born.
The name Aurorae has deep meaning for me and my family. My son Michael came up with the name Aurorae from Aurora Borealis.
“We were discussing the incredible colors and the energy these various skies create,” he said, reflecting on how he came up with the name. “Each color in the universe has a meaning and generates a certain emotion with in us.”
Previously, I had already named each of the first five colors of the Classic Yoga Mat (1st product) and developed a marketing plan around those colors and the meaning of each, to help yogis select a color that best suited them.
I didn’t want to simply name the company after the Aurora and so I looked up the plural of Aurora and it was Aurorae. It made sense and fit in with my marketing goals.
What finally convinced me that this was the name for the company was a connection to yet another family member.
As I stared at the name AURORAE, I realized the last three letters were my late mother’s name, RAE, and that was all I could see for a moment. I knew then this was the name, as my mom was always my best friend and lucky charm. Call it what you want, but for me it brought a warm feeling and was a sign from mom. That was the birth of the Aurorae Brand.
Family and community mean everything to me. My sons, a few close friends and other family members are contributing to the Aurorae brand as well. Some are recipients of my mentorship and are responsible for selling different Aurorae products through licensing. Others work on the marketing efforts using their own unique creative talents. I am completely committed to helping others become successful and I make sure to reach out to those who share my passion for business.
Although I’ve brought others into the fold, I remain 100 percent responsible for communicating with customers. I insist on personally answering every email and inquiry Aurorae gets. It’s business, but it’s also personal. Though I do have a marketing department, I still read all social media posts and makes it a point to stay connected to my clients and fellow yogis.
To me, this business is all about people. I make a point of communicating with people who have questions about yoga, or who are unhappy with our product. My end goal is to make others happy and I will do whatever it takes to ensure it happens.
My commitment to my customers is that Aurorae guarantees 100% satisfaction and, if they have any issues, contact me directly and we will solve that issue. Much of the feedback on the Aurorae website sings the praises of the company’s customer service. It is a source of pride for me and my family.
Aurorae also gives back to many communities in need by offering free mats and Aurorae products to those who can’t afford to purchase them. Partnering with organizations such as Kula for Karma, we sends mats and yoga products to inner-city communities, cancer patients, abused woman and children, prisons, disaster relief communities, veterans and many others.
We believe in yoga and want those most in need to feel its powerful healing power. Though not an instructor myself, I and my wife have connected with many wonderful teachers through various communities.
Recently, Aurorae sent boxes of yoga mats to a village in Guatemala, where the mats were used to sleep on, proving yoga sometimes heals without even being practiced. In addition, we shipped 500 mats to an inner-city school system in Paterson, NJ, to start a yoga program. The program is designed to help these kids refocus their energies in a positive way though yoga.
I’m so grateful our products are being used in the best way that suits that community and feel wonderful knowing Aurorae is helping others in the truest sense possible. Going forward, I’m exploring a partnership with the local chapter of the Special Olympics, to see how Aurorae can contribute to its success.
What began as a personal journey of healing has turned into something much more than I ever imagined. My original intention was to find a hobby that kept me busy, used my business skills to the best of their ability and to give back to others.
I’m blessed to have grown my concept into a successful business, bringing other young entrepreneurs into the fold by teaching them valuable skills and helping them create their own successes. I’ve found more peace and joy in helping others through Aurorae and see no reason to stop.Share on Facebook