Excelling in college and getting a good job was the only path Boston native Caroline Vo, now 36, felt she could follow. "I come from Vietnamese immigrant parents: It was very much ingrained that you go to school, work hard, get good grades, and then you go to college, get a good job, and kind of find your way," she explains.
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Vo attended American University's Kogod School of Business, studying business administration with a specialization in marketing and management. After graduating, she says, "I interviewed with a company and I secured a job and then worked my way up the corporate ladder to get that high-paying salary."
Even as Vo worked her way into new roles and jumped to different companies, she felt stuck. "It was actually a constant struggle for me to fit in," she says. "I didn't feel like I had an authentic voice. ... I did that for about 10 years before I quit."
She left her job in April of 2018 and ended up in Houston, Texas, creating a company where she could share the art of mindfulness to the world. First, though, Vo needed to reset.
Vo's reset came in the form of travel. In May 2018, Vo booked a one-way ticket to Vietnam and ended up spending eight months in Southeast Asia. She traveled to Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia, Singapore, India, Bali, Australia, and New Zealand.
While in Thailand, Vo participated in a Vipassanā, a silent meditation. "I really learned to understand, appreciate, and fall in love with my breath," Vo says. "After that, I thought, you know, I would love to take this breath, this power of the breath that I learned, and see how I can apply it to the practice of yoga."
Vo learned to practice mindfulness and completed her yoga training and certification while in India.
After returning home, Vo founded Omflow, an at-home, interactive, live online yoga studio. "I said, 'I'm going to make an investment in myself,'" she says. "This is an investment in me. I've given all of my savings and pulled all of my 401(k) [out into] to this vision that I have, to inspire more mindfulness in the world."
The biggest challenge for Vo was searching for and training yoga teachers. Omflow is an online platform and she wanted to ensure the teachers were still able to enforce mindfulness through a screen. "Just because it's online and virtual, it doesn't mean that has to replace human connection. It could enhance it," Vo says.
The number of Omflow users ebbs and flows. Vo says the site has had more than 4,000 signups since its May 2019 launch and currently has more than 400 unique users. Omflow offers both single yoga practices and bundle subscriptions: For $14 you get one yoga practice, while $56 will get you five. Unlimited class access is $159 per month.
Vo initially wanted to make Omflow as big as possible, similar to other at-home wellness systems. But she didn't want to impose a cost barrier on her users.
"There's a huge part of the population and demographic that cannot afford a $2,000 to $3,000 piece of hardware," Vo explains. "I wanted to instead offer them a solution where they could still have high-quality yoga practices at their convenience, on their schedule, at their affordable budget."
The article "Exec Uses Life Savings to Start an Online Yoga Community: 'I'm Going to Make an Investment in Myself'" was originally published on Grow (CNBC + Acorns).