Haley Byfield took her love of upcycling her parents’ clothes and made a career out of it. Today, this eco-friendly fashionista helps women create a platform to feel inspired and seen, through her co-owned company, Yoga Democracy.
“It may seem cliché, but I dreamed of being a fashion designer ever since I was a little girl,” Byfield says.
At a young age, Byfield was forever foraging through her parents’ wardrobe, creating outfits to wear to school. And creativity was a household activity.
“My mom had a flying trapeze over our pool,” Byfield says. “And she let us cover ourselves in paint and roll around on the tile, and dance on the tables to the Tarzan soundtrack.”
Although it may sound like the perfect upbringing, there were some hardships. When she was happily expecting her fourth sibling, Jack, her younger brother was diagnosed with a brain tumor. After surgery, he was diagnosed with autism.
“My mom swallowed her grief and learned everything about Jack’s condition and how to help him lead a normal life,” Byfield shares.
Byfield’s older sister, Brittany, voluntarily and without a complaint, stepped in at 10 years old, cleaning and caring for her siblings so that their mother could focus on the best care for Jack.
Byfield reflects, “My mom never gave up, and she never let the pain of losing a normal future for her son cripple her. She always pushed forward knowing normal was different, and embraced the abnormality and had fun with it. My sister exuded such leadership, which taught me that life is going to throw you curveballs, and you choose whether to sulk or rise up and actually enjoy the challenge.”
These life experiences are what fuel Byfield today.
Just before beginning her senior year at The Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, Byfield met Travis Strote. It was a match made in heaven.
The pair created Yogavated Athletics, which took off like wildfire. For the next three years, Byfield kept up with the demand using a barely functioning 1960s-era sewing machine. Something had to give. A serious cutting accident landed her in the emergency room, and gave her the much needed time to reflect—they needed help.
The partners learned about the company Yoga Democracy, which was for sale in Cave Creek. Yogavated transcended into Yoga Democracy Activewear. The fabric of their inspirational pieces comes from her customers’ quirky attitudes, bright spirit, voices during social injustices and commitment to the environment to create change in this world.
All of their activewear is produced from plastic water bottles and discarded ocean fishing nets. The entire team is deeply rooted in honoring Mother Earth. Byfield developed a fun culture and takes pride in her hard working “free-range humans.”
“Every single item leaving our door is touched by 10 artists. It doesn’t leave their hands until it is perfect,” she says. “It is uplifting to be able to work together creating something beautiful to be worn by such incredible women living their best life.”
Are there ups and downs?
“Starting a business is such an unbelievable emotional roller coaster,” Byfield shares, reflecting on the last 10 years. “Putting your true self out there is so vulnerable, especially when there is so much intention and care put into the concept. I was sewing each and every legging myself. My soul felt personally insulted if there was a complaint or, if they tore or ripped, I would be mortified and embarrassed! With so much passion infused into everything the business had to offer, it was hard not to feel everything so deeply. Luckily, I got to a point where if one good thing would happen it would sustain me for weeks.”
Haley’s favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
“I think being a female entrepreneur is an important role. We have the ability to share a voice that hasn’t always been heard. We are now highlighting women who inspire us, we are applauding women who lead organizations focusing on lifting up other women, and getting involved in the work they are doing. This is truly magical. In today’s world, ‘achievement’ is a weighted word; instead, let’s honor women who get up in the morning and live the life they dream.”
Byfield’s advice for females interested in starting their own business is to “check out the book Building a Story Brand, Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen by Donald Miller. It is my favorite. Seriously a game-changing book. It will help any entrepreneur polish their business in a way that is crucial to their success.”
Would Byfield do anything differently?
“I would do everything exactly the same, even though it wasn’t perfect. This time, I would focus on the present moment, worry less, and enjoy more. I spent so much time worrying about the future or the past, I let fear and stress cripple me in moments when I should have been focusing on how proud, happy, and grateful I was. Every single part, even the struggle, is what makes a business great, and I urge other entrepreneurs to appreciate every single moment of the adventure.”
For more information, visit https://yogademocracy.com.