In work and in life, Dean Jerrehian is inspired by relationships.
After learning to appreciate the outdoors as a child in Philadelphia and as a college student in Vermont, he decided to dedicate his life to environmental law, practicing for the Environmental Protection Agency. And he found a perfect partner in his quest: A wife who, as a fellow lawyer, helps abused and neglected children.
Ultimately, he channeled that impulse to make the world a more positive place into his family’s business, JadeYoga, helping to launch the first non-toxic, natural rubber yoga mats. The company also recently launched a “Buy a Mat, Plant a Tree” campaign to plant over one million trees.
Here, Jerrehian explains why, cliché or not, spending time with friends and family really is the key to happiness:
Live The Process: How did you become passionate about and involved in environmentalism?
Dean Jerrehian: I grew up loving the outdoors, participating in activities such as fishing, skiing and simply being outside. I went to college in Vermont where being outdoors is everything. After law school, I thought about ways I could make a difference in the world and started working in environmental law and eventually working for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, where I enforced federal environmental laws. Since then, environmentalism has impacted everything I do.
LTP: When and how did JadeYoga come into being?
DJ: The story of JadeYoga really starts over 100 years ago, when my grandfather emigrated to the United States in 1904 and began an oriental rug business, Jerrehian Brothers, at the age of 16. He quickly turned this business into one of the most well-known and well-respected rug dealers in the country by focusing on quality and service.
My father followed my grandfather into the business in the 1960s and founded Jade Industries in 1974 to solve a problem for oriental rug buyers around the world: There were no high-quality rug pads to go under fine oriental rugs to provide cushion and prevent them from slipping. Jade began making natural rubber rug pads to go under area rugs.
Actually, the birth of JadeYoga really brought yoga mats full circle, as one of the first known yoga mats was a rug pad. As the story goes, B.K.S. Iyengar was in the United States doing a demonstration on an oriental rug, but he was slipping. A student took away the rug, leaving the pad and the first yoga mat. Strangely, the yoga mat that became the norm from here was made with cheap, imitation plastic (or PVC). It was also annoyingly slippery—almost useless for most practices and likely toxic.
JadeYoga began in earnest in 2000. We developed Harmony, the first natural rubber yoga mat. People had never seen anything like it and were thrilled to be able to get a mat that actually gripped. In addition, natural rubber has better cushion and resilience, making it more comfortable. Finally, tapped from rubber trees, natural rubber is a renewable resource. Our mats are made in the United States in compliance with U.S. environmental laws and contain no PVCs. They are the first truly “green” and non-toxic yoga mats.
Directly across from my desk today, there is a drawing of the oriental rug store my grandfather built. Just as my grandfather built the oriental rug business on quality and service, we try every day to do the same at JadeYoga. Jade is still a family business. In fact, the “J-A-D-E” initials stand for Jackie (my mom), Amy (my sister), Dean (me) and Ellen (my other sister).
Now, we also carry yoga blocks (made of natural materials: cork and balsa wood) and yoga towels. We have a number of other products in the works that should be available later this year.
LTP: Is yoga an essential element in your life? In what other ways do you keep yourself feeling balanced and well?
DJ: I came to yoga fairly late in life—only after I began working at Jade. While yoga is an important part of my life, I still don’t do it as much as I would like, as there is really nothing better for my body and mind.
In addition to yoga, I walk my dog in the woods near my house every day. This is an incredible start to the day—like a walking meditation—that I try not to miss. I also run, bike, ski and swim as much as I can.
LTP: What does happiness look like to you?
DJ: The every day. It is a bit of a cliché to talk about friends and family, but it is really true for me.
LTP: What does it mean to you to “Live The Process” and how can we all do that more each day?
DJ: I know he is a bit of a tarnished figure nowadays, but many years ago I read a quote from Lance Armstrong that said, “I now only have good days and great days.” The more we can all remember to stay positive, the happier and more satisfied we can all feel. For me, it’s all about gratitude and trying to see the best in what surrounds.