Just three years ago technician Nicole Cardoza quit her job to turn her volunteer hobby into a full-time occupation. Launching Yoga Foster, she could barely afford a start-up. No money, no business plan. Just the idea. How did Nicole Cardoza manage to create a profitable nationwide company?

Who is Nicole Cardoza?

Until 2014 Nicole was a woman with a degree in Interactive Marketing and International Management and four internships during her time at Pace University.

As mobile strategist, Cardoza used to be an instructor at General Assembly. She collaborated with coding schools like Black Girls Code, Girls Who Code, promoting emancipation and gender equality in the programming world.

Well, apparently, Nicole Cardoza could boast of a promising career and long-term prospects… if one day she did not realize that her mission was different.

There’s plenty of people who think they can decide our destiny, but that’s always – always – our choice alone. Through introspection and self-awareness, we can strengthen that muscle to speak for ourselves in a positive, optimistic sense.

Yoga: from passion to a life vocation

One day, a college student Nicole passed by a yoga studio and succumbed to an attraction to attend a lesson. “I felt calm as soon as I sat on the mat, but it was more than that—I felt like I’d found myself,” she admitted. Later, Cardoza became a volunteer yogi at schools. Working with kids, she noticed changes in their behavior after her practices. Pupils became more relaxed, calm, concentrated.

Cardoza concluded that due to the lack of physical activity children accumulate negative emotions and tension, which can be overcome through sports. But how? Often pupils of public schools, especially in such cities as New York, literally do not have a safe space and funding for the implementation of decent physical education.

What did Nicole do? Now Cardoza’s mission has been to provide urban children with opportunities to relieve stress, not to sit up and develop mentally.

She tried to combine. Spending working hours in the offices of advertising agencies and marketing companies, Nicole devoted her spare time to producing content for teachers that would help them use yoga for the benefit of their students. It was a video tutorials with detailed curriculum and instructions.

For me, it’s not a work/life balance. It’s more like a smoothie. You have all of it together. It all comes together.

Yoga Foster

Observing positive dynamics followed her classes, Nicole ventured to make a brealthrough and launch full-pledged non-profit organization Yoga Foster. She had to apply her diverse background in tech, management, and digital representation along with expertise in yoga and teaching.

To date, teachers not only in the US, but also abroad, can use the resources of the online learning platform, using the advice of professionals. Typically, the program offers a timetable for convenient load sharing during the school day. In addition, the organization can provide the necessary equipment for practices in the classrooms.

Teachers from underserved schools get access to the platform free of charge, but in return they agree to use the acquired knowledge only for the benefit of their own students. Three years after founding, according to the organization’s annual report, 20,000 students in 800 classrooms in 39 states are part of Yoga Foster program.

Cardoza admits, ‘Usually our biggest challenges as a company are because my worries or hesitations are holding us back. I think that being a founder is a constant practice of “getting out of your own way”.’

The health of your company starts with you. Take care of yourself, and the rest will follow. – Nicole Cardoza

This year the team set a goal to cover the whole country! This means an opportunity for more than 50 million students of American schools in every state. Let’s make wellness elementary, says the call of Yoga Foster.

YogaFoster Community today involves 100 active volunteers while 267 individuals and organizations permanently support it financially through fundraising. It broadens its field of activity hosting conversations and webinars about the impact of yoga in schools with different educational actors.

Go, Mindfullness!

As practice shows, 88% of participating teachers confirmed the positive results in the studies of their wards. Cardoza repeatedly stressed that she was fighting, among other things, for the mental health of children. In her opinion, this initiative contributes to the formation of chindren’s self-awareness. Being both physical and mental practice, yoga provides an opportunity to find an inside balance  in order to achieve harmony in today’s restless, unstable environment.

Through their instruction, students learn that this practice isn’t just something that people do, but a way people can be. The practice of yoga is powerful because it gives us a space to practice being ourselves, to listen to our bodies, and dive inwards.

Program became especially essential for vulnerable children from low-income communties that undergo diffucult challenges and emotional tension both at school and at home.

A Year of Cardoza’s Milestones

In 2016 Nicole Cardoza became founding partner in lululemon’s initiative Here to Be. It supposed to be a socially-oriented project aiming at providing yoga opportunities for at-risk and underserved communities. Here to be serves vulnerable youth, victims of violence and harassment, suffering from trauma or illness, and so on.  What exactly does initiative offer? On the one side, it is launched in order to provide funding for full-pledged programs following participants from learning to capacity building. Moreover, it aims at creating broad community of yoga practioners.

Here to Be has a wide geography having programs in the countries of the Middle East and East Africa thanks to its worldwide partners.

When you suffer a brain injury, people become isolated and feel marginalized.  In yoga class, they have discussions and they’re sharing their common challenges in a much more uplifting way than meeting in a basement of a hospital.

Also, Yoga Foster has recently partnered with the First Lady Michelle Obama’s campaign, Let’s Move! Active Schools. This project contributes to improving of physical education opportunities in American public schools, ensuring that pupils get a norm of 60 minutes of physical activity daily.  Being one of dozens partners, Yoga Foster will provide yoga training, curriculum and yoga mats within Let’s Move! Active Schools network.

TEDx Talk: The Power of Paying Attention

In 2016 Nicole became a speaker at second annual TEDx Youth conference. It was inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s quote, “Be the change you wish to see in the world». Cardoza devoted her speech to ‘’the power of paying attention’’. Within her monologue she talked about the Yoga Foster initial mission, concentrating on her childhood background and the vision of the child’s perception of reality.

If we all have the tools to pay attention, we have the power to change the world, because we’ll remind ourselves all the time that that lies within us.

In 2017 Forbes mentioned Nicole Cardoza among 30 Under 30 in educational field.

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