Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting over 40 million adults aged 18 and older, or approx. 18.1% of the population every year. With 2020 here, that number only seems to be going up, but being able to cope with anxiety has now never been easier thanks to a new product on the market called The Shift, by Komuso Design (www.komusodesign.com) and the company’s co-founders Todd and Vanessa Steinberg.
As anyone who has had an anxiety attack can attest, being able to control your breath is one of the most important objectives to calming yourself down. Enter in The Shift, a cool looking jewelry piece with a purpose that is based off an ancient eastern tool to help calm you down through guided breath.
With 2020 now here, we sat down with the married co-founders of this popular new device to learn more about how we can keep a clear mind for the rest of the year to come and how Komuso Design has ties to right here in New York City…
1. How and why did you first decide to create Komuso Design’s “The Shift”?
Komuso was born because we wanted to find a practical solution to our growing stress. My wife and I had fast paced careers that eventually started to take a physical toll on us. We heard meditation was a really effective way calm your mind but we were having a hard time staying consistent and didn’t like being so tethered to our phones. One day at lunch with our friend who is a therapist, he grabbed a straw from our water and showed us a simple breathing technique which slows your exhale to trigger the nervous system to relax. The results were immediate and impressive. We wanted to create a more sophisticated version of that straw that people could use as a function to keep them calm, wear as a reminder to be present, and as a commitment to a more mindful lifestyle. After two years of testing different diameters of the piece and reliable metals, we were able to design what we call ‘The Shift.’ The Shift an organic tool that slows your breath to calm your mind.
2. Why the name Komuso Design?
During our research and development of the necklace; we bumped into a flute dealer at an art show who told us a story about the Komuso Monks of Japan. These monks used bamboo flutes to meditate as their minds were redirected from their thoughts to their body. We found the experience to be serendipitous in that we could inherit the monk’s wisdom to use an organic tool to center our mind through breath. We named the brand Komuso Design to honor these monks and to inspire people to return back to a time when life was less complicated.
3. While being stylish on the fashion side of things, your product is mostly aimed at those with anxiety and PTSD… How have you been successful at marketing it to these individuals in need? What makes your product different than others out there?
Creating a completely new category of fashion wellness was intimidating so we wanted to start reaching people who we felt needed the tool the most. We’re also fortunate that mental health has been destigmatized so people are more open about their anxieties. Our marketing primarily centers around being honest about our thoughts so we can normalize the conversation about anxiety. If we have an average of 50,000 thoughts per day, some of those thoughts can be negative which is totally normal. The problem is when we let those thoughts take control and that’s where The Shift comes in. We’re built with a natural defense to anxiety which is the power of breath. If we can use a simple tool to unleash that power, we can regain control of our minds and consequently elevate the quality of our lives. Other products in the wellness space typically depend on a Wi-Fi signal through a phone which we think can harden our co-dependency to tech. We want people to unplug from all of the notifications, apps, beeps, and alarms because it’s not natural for our minds to be stimulated so often. The Shift is totally organic and effective because it relies on neuroscience to calm the mind. Breathing matters and we’re on a mission to make it mainstream.
4. You have family here in New York and visit often… How has New York influenced your brand, if at all?
Both of our extended families live in New York so we’re huge fans and often think about how that lifestyle affected us. The fast and busy culture of the city can easily sweep you away if you’re not able to slow things down once in a while. We created Komuso to reach people who enjoy life in the fast lane but have a hard time reaching those zen-like moments without having to fully engage in a session of yoga in Central Park. We want people to have a practical way of chilling out by simply extending their breath. If we can simply add some balance to their lives, we’d be so grateful to leave that kind of bitemark on the big apple.
5. Where in New York are some of your favorite places to visit when you come to town and find your own “zen”?
We’re notorious for those clichéd long walks in the city instead of the subway. People watching in the city is relaxing for us because we’re able to really experience how big this world is. We’ll typically walk about 10-15 miles ranging from the Meat Packing district over to the upper east side while stopping to snack on bagels, pizza, coffee. Our zen is found within movement. We find that the movement of walking can quiet our minds which ironic in that we find stillness through motion.
6. What is the best advice you have ever been given as an entrepreneur?
The best advice I’ve ever received with regard to business, is “go slow to go fast.” Most entrepreneurs get into a frenzy of trying to do everything at once which dilutes successful results. Our mantra is to provide as much oxygen as the task needs in order for it to be successful. When you can slow things down, you become more efficient with your process and can then go faster because your mind doesn’t feel rushed. Resist the temptation to juggle and instead make sure you’re focused on one task. This moment is all that matters so respect it.
7. Is it easier or difficult at times working alongside your wife with your company? (don’t worry, we won’t tell her!)
I’m trying to figure out a way to answer this honestly and not sleep on the couch. On any given day we experience the entire spectrum of emotions because we deal with so many strains of adversity. The perfect example is when one of us has an idea and other one hates it. It’s like watching two fighters circle each other in a boxing ring. We’re both very passionate about the business and about each other so there’s some fireworks but we always manage to solve it, especially since we literally across from each other. To experience success with your partner who is also your wife is like nothing else in that our bond grows with every experience. Komuso is us and we are Komuso.
8. Where in New York can people buy The Shift?
We only offer The Shift online right now at www.komusodesign.com but plan on opening our first retail location very soon. We envision that store being a hybrid location of Komuso product marketplace and a chill pit stop to slow down and breathe with relaxing music and imagery. We’d love to hear from customers within NYC about where we would be best represented and why. Our customer’s feedback is always critical!
9. What are your goals for Komuso Design in the future?
The real dream is that we’re able to lead somewhat of a revolution in wellness guided by breathing. If more people understand the power of breath because of Komuso, we consider that a success because actual lives are changed. It’s the personal stories that fuel us. We’re smitten just knowing that someone was able to quit smoking, survived a rough break up, or simply was able to fall asleep easier at night because of us. Those small success stories provide people with that first domino to perhaps cause a seismic shift in their lives toward peace of mind. If we’re able to scale those those results, we think the world would be a more peaceful place. it’s crazy to think it all started with a straw.
10. What do you want your company and products to be remembered for years down the line when people look back at how it all started?
It’s important to remember where you came from. I’m able to look back and laugh now at the “huh” look on people’s faces when we first told them the idea for Komuso. There wasn’t much support and I can’t blame them. The concept seemed silly on its surface but we knew we had something special because the straw technique was working for us. The process was years in the making but we think we’ve only scratched the surface with how far we can go. We want to be remembered as fearless trailblazers who took a chance on an anti-tech idea so we can all breathe a little easier.