Three weeks ago, Utah-based company Gathre launched a Kickstarter for its newest product, vegan leather yoga mats. Yoga is new territory for Gathre, but leather mats are the company’s expertise.
In 2017, the company’s play mats were called one of Vogue’s “‘Do’s’ for road-tripping with tots in tow” and Reader’s Digest called the company’s mats one of 10 “ingenious beach day lifesavers.” And considering its Kickstarter was funded, collecting $22,500 in just over an hour and over $100,000 to date, it would seem the company was developing a following.
“We’ve very choosy about what we put out and market,” said co-owner Jessica Eraso, who graduated from BYU with a degree in human development and nonprofit administration before later getting a master’s degree in public administration. “We could put out a million different products. What couldn’t you put leather on, right? But we really try and find products that encourage gathering, that really give a foundation for meaningful experiences.”
Since their company’s rebrand from “Let’s Playground” to “Gathre” two years ago, Marilee Killpack and her business partner, Eraso, who joined the company after the departure of Jeni Awerkamp, who moved out of state, have frequently been asked how to pronounce the name of their company. It’s spelled g-a-t-h-r-e but is pronounced “gather.” Contrary to popular belief, the spelling is not an attempt to be hip; rather, the explanation is simple.
“When we were rebranding, we couldn’t find any websites or Instagram handles that all coordinated,” said Killpack, a family life graduate from BYU. “So we had to switch the R and E to land a website and to land an Instagram handle.”
While the spelling is the result of necessity, the brand name, its inclusion of the concept of gathering and its design is not.
“When we were rebranding, we couldn’t find the right fit, and when we hit on Gathre, it just clicked and felt so right. And I think it’s because that message is fading and families are falling apart and there is such a need to come together,” Killpack said.
“Gathre felt so simple at first and we were like ‘Is that too simple and vague?’ But it really is our core principle, and it comes with so much intention,” Eraso said. “It’s an intentional thing to gather something. And we’ve just really tried to push that: intentional living and making an effort.”
The two moms, both members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, say their message is inspired by their faith and its core principles. It's also a message they have tried to apply not only to the way they run their business but also in the way they live their lives.
"We’re kind of weaving this storyline of light and goodness and faith and hope and these things that have carried us through our personal lives and centered us,” Eraso said. “We try to weave that into our brand messaging and it’s been really well-received.”
Killpack and Eraso have sought balance in their efforts to build a business while also raising their children. They have trusted in the counsel of former LDS Church president Ezra Taft Benson, who said, “When we put God first, all other things fall into their proper place or drop out of our lives." Trusting in that promise has helped the two moms, who have seven children between their two families, to overcome feelings of "mom guilt."
“If it wasn’t right, we would’ve given up a long time ago,” Killpack said.
As Gathre’s audience has grown to over 100,000 followers on Instagram, they hope that in sharing goodness, they will succeed in helping others gather goodness.
“I think we really want people to find good whatever that is and wherever that is in their life,” Eraso said. “And I think that ultimately funnels down to, for us, our faith and our family.”
The company’s success was not immediate and after its rebrand, there was a period where business was “just slow.” But they found that success cannot always be measured by numbers.
“It’s easy and standard to measure by numbers, but I think there’s a greater way to measure things for us, I guess,” Killpack said. “I think you should work on the right things and try to hire the right people and put out the right message and products and growing personally like we should be.”
Yoga mats feel like a natural progression for the two former athletes. Eraso is a former BYU track and cross country runner at BYU and Killpack a dancer. As as young mother, Eraso discovered when she tried to take the time to do yoga, her daughter would always come join in her practice. Instead of becoming frustrated by a lack of alone time, Eraso invited her to join in and thus, the Gathre toddler and child’s yoga mats were born.
“It turned into this moment that I knew I could count on to spend time with her even though life is so busy,” Eraso said. “So we just wanted to create more of those moments. It’s such a part of our brand.”
The two are believers in the power of exercise.
"We need to take care of ourselves, and we need a timeout and you need a place to do that, and I think teaching your children at a young age to take care of yourself and not just your physical self, your mental and emotional and spiritual self,” Eraso said. “It’s so important, and when we’re carving out time to do that, everything else, the stresses of life and everything, it doesn’t go away, but the impact of it on you is different because you’re now equipped with what you need to handle it.”
There was a time when Eraso and Killpack resisted the stresses associated with Gathre’s influence on their lives but, for now, they have chosen to embrace it.
“I feel like once we really started trying to do that, it’s really probably only been in the last year or maybe six months ... where I feel like we’ve found a lot more happiness and peace and we’ve seen a lot of blessings and growth doing that,” Killpack said. “I think that would be my message: No matter what you’re doing keep going at it and chasing it and Heavenly Father will bless you if you do what he wants you to do.”