Goodbye to mandates: “I understood that I was happier drinking mate on the beach than working in finance in New York”
He claims he had a standard childhood. Born and raised as an only child in a middle-class family in the city of Mar del Plata, at the age of 19 he decided it was time to start investing in his education and moved to the capital to give shape to that desire. During his years of university studies, he soon understood that he felt a special attraction for the conceptual behind the operation of banks.. An internship at IBM gave him the opportunity to spread his wings. Soon after, he landed a consulting position with Ernst & Young and immersed himself in the world of banking. Around 2004 he moved to JP Morgan, always interested in finance.
“Although my mother had always encouraged me to do different types of activities, especially sports, I had always liked English: as a child I always asked to study that language. That’s why when I was able to grow within those big companies I felt, somehow, that I was achieving everything I had ever dreamed of. Bank, money, information and the continuous practice of English seemed to me an incredible combination”.
Established as a young professional, his time at the local subsidiary at JP Morgan encouraged him to take the next step. Although he was going through a personal age crisis, he accepted an offer to work at the company’s headquarters in New York, United States.. There he accessed a program for MBA graduates from the United States, from Ivy Leagues (the most important universities) and shared time with people who studied at Columbia, Harvard and Yale. He had definitely earned his pass and stay in the big leagues.
New York was a before and after in his life. Although not in the way I imagined. “It opened my mind a lot, especially when, after a year and a half, I moved to Brooklyn -actually it was to Williamsburg more precisely-. In that place the hipster scene was booming and it was incredible. There too I got to know the universe of the mindful movement: greater awareness with the environment, with people and with the responsibility that each one has in their passage through this world. From the hand of all this information, I discovered the world of yoga”.
Although it seemed that he was traveling antagonistic paths since, on the one hand, he fulfilled work days with loads of up to 16 hours a day and, on the other, he made an effort to get closer and closer to a more conscious existence, the truth is that Leonardo Mustafá El Abed, I was making my way by walking.
“In the midst of this whirlwind of obligations I started practicing yoga as I needed a personal space to be able to calm down in the face of so much professional demand. I was especially interested in the physical part, because Ashtanga, the variant I had chosen, is an intense discipline that is done daily, at least six times a week, that is the goal. through her I was able at that moment to connect with myself: although it is physical, it has its meditative side and, like all meditation, It allowed me to distance myself from everyday perspective, to see things from another perspective, to put a brake on the mental models I had to think from a more authentic being.. This opened me to the dimension of the spirit: that silence that gave me between the physical and breathing practice allowed me to hear another voice that, from my way of seeing it, is the spirit or the being. They ended up uniting body, mind and soul.
Almost without looking he understood that he was going through an awakening without equal and, one by one, the chips of what he wanted for his new lifestyle began to fall. He was able to identify where he was standing, what he was doing and what he wanted to do. And, without thinking about the advantages and disadvantages, decided to return to his hometown, Mar del Plata. Then 16 years away from affection, he could see in retrospect that “I had always followed objectives that were more imposed by the family and society than the product of a real and own choice. I realised that I was happier drinking mate on the beach than working in New York. That’s why I decided to come back: to be close to my family and my lifelong friends”.
He then decided to dedicate himself fully to the discipline that had contributed to changing him as a person. He thought about opening a yoga studio, but – true to his training in the business world – he quickly ruled it out because of the limited scope it could have. It was in this context that he thought of creating Luleå, a clothing brand designed specifically for the practice of yoga. It was a clothing line that did not exist in the country and that in other markets, such as the United States or the United Kingdom, moved large amounts of money.
“The idea of the brand arose from the need to want to contribute to a change of consciousness, to take yoga everywhere, of wanting this discipline to expand and, above all, to be more aware of what we do, how we do it and why we do it. The yogi community is very large and somewhat disjointed in some ways. I noticed that there was little relationship between yoga styles and even within them and the studios, communication did not flow. Our goal, then, is to make this link, connect studios, teachers, yoga styles, students. We want to be part of that force that unites the community and develops it, connecting yogis with each other and connecting luleå with the yogi community it is already a part of.”
From the brand, Leonardo promotes fair trade and supports the workshops they hire so that they have all the papers in order from the legal and tax point of view. In general, they are family micro-enterprises, in which a mother works with her daughters. The brand had growth of over 300% in its first years of life. To do this, it relied on a system of resellers -mostly yoga teachers-, while expanding its own distribution network. Currently, it has four stores located in Recoleta, Martínez, La Plata and Mar del Plata. In the latter, they also have a specialty coffee and their own yoga studio.
Today the routine is undoubtedly very different from the years in New York. Leonardo describes it as a balance between work, luleå, family, his partner Mercedes -who is also his partner in the brand- the time with his children and a constant return to nature and the beach that brought him back to his precious life.
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