I had a chance to snag Kat Selvocki of Flat Mat Roller Derby for an interview. Kat, aka Lemony Kickit, is a yoga instructor,
retired skater from Gotham (Wall Street Traitors and Bronx Gridlock) and owner of Flat Mat
Roller Derby: Yoga for Skaters. Kat is a whirlwind of contagious
energy and excitement, yet radiates a calm and down to Earth nature. She is the
embodiment of the balance that Flat Mat Roller Derby aims to teach.
We are taking an in depth look at her business; how Flat Mat
Roller Derby started, how it has become a success, and what other entrepreneurs
can learn from her.
Editor’s Note: I have removed the curse words from this
interview. In her no-nonsense fashion, Kat does curse and will do so
in some of her videos. She is real with you.
Kat Selvocki's fun facts:
Peaks. “I still love roller-skating and it makes me the happiest when I
skate. I love to travel. I like things
that keep me on my feet and make me feel alive in some way. That idea of living
in the moment where I say, “Well, I just grabbed this map from the train
station. I don’t really know where I am going yet, but that's okay.” That’s fun.”
“I feel like entrepreneurship has been an awesome excuse to let my apartment
turn into a pit.”
Little known derby fact: She started the hard-hitting knitters on Ravelry, an online community
Favorite derby thing: Whip!
Least favorite derby thing: Plows. They are a constant focus for improvement.
Favorite yoga thing: Arm balances. I didn't think I'd be able to do them ever because of wrist issues, so the fact that I can is awesome.
Least favorite yoga thing: Power Yoga, due to previous injuries.
Spirit Animal: Sea Turtle thanks to a quite interesting yoga retreat experience. "Really though, I tell people Ron Swanson (Parks and Recreation)".
a Bomb ‘n’ a Bull:
Tell us what roller derby means to you. How did you get involved with the
sport, why did you get involved, and how has it influenced you as a person?
Kat Selvocki: When
I started learning how to skate [in 2006] it was just this cool, fun thing that
I was doing with some friends. Then I became friends with some other folk who
were interested in training and trying out for Gotham. Thankfully, we all made
it! They were only taking about 12 of the 100 trying out.
It was a big confidence boost for me as a woman who had
never been into athletics. It was a fun way to meet people and dive into a
subculture. Honestly, I stopped skating because it stopped being fun. This was in
2008, Gotham’s first championship. It was competitive. I didn’t want to have to
be there 4-5 nights a week at practice just to play in home games. I didn’t
have the drive to do that with everything else going on in my life. Roller
derby allowed me to explore that competitive part of myself, which I hadn’t
really done before. It was awesome to be a part of that and really hard to be a
part of that.
Bomb: How did yoga
and roller derby come to intersect in your life and how has that influenced
you? How does a sport like roller derby meet an activity like yoga?
Kat: Yoga was
what saved me after I quit playing roller derby. I didn’t know what to do with
all of my free time! I found a yoga class called Yoga Fight Club and I thought,
“Yes! Then I can hit people and
stretch.” Because stretching seemed like this thing that I should be doing more
of. Eventually, I realized that I didn’t even need the kickboxing part. One of
the things I really liked about roller derby was the need for intense focus and
yoga was that same kind of focus.
In yoga, there is that idea of being in the moment. As you
are doing yoga you are training yourself to focus. You are training yourself to
stand and see if you can move your toes individually. You are focusing on your
breath and training to move with your breath. It translates to the track where
you are better able to stay in that moment. You are able to think and see what
is happening around you more clearly. You are there. It is training. The more
you train your mind to do that stuff the more that it will carry over into
other things. Having that focus is what is going to keep you in the game
I also think that there is this idea in fitness where you
have to go hard and train hard. If you always go hard and train hard then you
are not keeping your muscles balanced. You are not staying flexible,
flexibility and mobility help keep you from getting injured. Yoga is not about being the
bendiest person ever. It is about balance. Finding that balance in your body
and how to use it. It breaks my heart every time someone tells me that they
can’t do yoga because they are not flexible enough. It’s not about that. It’s
about balance and finding a balance in your body between this really intense
sport that you are playing and something to counteract that. If you are just
doing strength training then you are just reinforcing the same movement
patterns that you have already created with derby. You want to balance that
out. I don’t care if my students can touch their toes. I want balance in the
body. You want your muscles to be strong and mobile. You want your joints to be
supported and moveable. That’s yoga meeting roller derby.
Bomb: Who is one
person that has influenced you in regards to Flat Mat Roller Derby?
Kat: Erica Mather. She is one of the teachers who taught Gotham yoga. She is one of the
people that I began practicing with regularly after I quit roller derby. I love
her attitude when she teaches. I like that she encourages teachers to find
their own path with it. She taught me that teaching does not have to be only studio
classes because studio classes are a hard way to make a living. It is not a
sustainable income. She’s been a role model for how I want to teach and how I
want to look at teaching.
Bomb: The Flat Mat
Roller Derby website went live June 1st. And although you have
taught some yoga for skaters previously, most notably at Roller Con last year,
this is a new business. How has the response been?
response has been awesome. I’m the first person doing yoga for roller derby and
a few posts have gotten a crazy amount of shares on Facebook. It’s been really
overwhelming to watch, in a good way. It confirmed that what I am producing is
something that people have been wanting but did not know where to find it.
I had someone fan girl me for the first time, which was
really weird. She was like, “Oh my god I am so excited to take your classes and
I just made the connection that you are you and who you were. Your real name,
Kat Selvocki, is you and you are Lemony Kickit. And you are going to be
teaching at Roller Con! You are blowing my mind!” Which was awesome. It was
Bomb: What have
you learned from Roller Con last year and how will that influence your classes
this year? How many people are you expecting in attendance?
Kat: There are
things that I have thought about overall as an instructor, but I had not
thought about in terms of skaters. Last year, I taught a couple over all
stretch classes. About a third of the class could not kneel because of knee
stuff from derby. As a teacher, I am used to giving a lot of adjustments and modifications,
but that is one I hadn’t considered. A lot of times the modification is to kneel. That was really interesting
and challenging to think about. It has really guided how I conceptualize going
Last year I had between 40-80 people in my classes. This
year I am expecting about 80 and it could be even bigger. And with the classes
that I am co-teaching with Booty Quake, who knows how many people will attend. I
want to give her a big shout out to Booty Quake of Roller Derby Athletics for
her support and willingness to partner. People already know her name and people
are starting to know my name a little bit more. S**t could get crazy this year.
Bomb: You are a
relatively new entrepreneur, do you think that the roller derby community has
provided an avenue for your entrepreneurship that you would not otherwise have
Kat: Oh yeah.
Derby is a close-knit community; it is a huge community, but it’s still somehow
small. If I [started Flat Mat] as a yoga teacher who had not played derby, the
perception is that sure I know yoga and I know bodies but derby is such a
different sport. It is a very unbalanced sport because you are going in one
direction all the time. If I come into the derby community and say that I
skated, I still skate; I’m just not playing competitively, I get your body. There
is a larger uproar of support because I am a part of the community.
I think just that is a huge help for being an entrepreneur
to have this huge community that you are a part of. I hate to use the term
niche market but roller derby is a really niche market. Coming from derby, we
did everything. There was someone in the league that knew how to do whatever
stuff we needed to come up with and those people would step forward and take
I am doing everything myself now for the most part.
Hopefully as I grow, I can tap into some folks in the community and use them to
create a better product. There is a great group of minds that have all these
skills within the community. They are supporting me; I want to support them.
Bomb: Let’s look
at business and time management. You are really lucky in the sense that your
business is run online. Without a brick and mortar store, you can use smaller
chunks of time for operations. What are some benefits and challenges of an
online platform? What advice would you give to those who are trying to balance
life with skating and a business?
really helped me is finding the time that I work most productively on this kind
of stuff. It’s finding those little blocks of time that you are at your peak.
So if you just get home from practice, have some snacks and think, “I’m ready
to go. This is when I feel creative.” Do it in those moments. One of those
benefits of my online program is that I am able to work whenever I want. I can
work in the ebb and flow of my creativity. If I am subbing more classes one
week then I can offset my workload.
That being said, I have definitely given up a chunk of my
social life to teach yoga and to run Flat Mat. I know that I am going to be
working from 6 or 7am to midnight some days. Those days I won’t see friends and I
know that that is a process of growing. Someone who is doing derby is already
sacrificing a large portion of time and this does not have to be that much
more. When you feel like you are at your most creative, take a half and hour,
jump in and do something.
The challenge of online programming, for me, is that I am
more stilted because there is not that immediate feedback. I am producing stuff
in a vacuum. I know what people need but I am not sure if [I am producing
content] in a way that people understand. In a class, I can see those puzzled
looks. I like it when people email me.
Bomb: Roller derby
provides a vast opportunity for entrepreneurs that have something to offer the
community. What advice do you have for those who are hoping to take a similar
Kat: One of the
most helpful things I did was to actually do market research. I did an online
survey, a short survey of about 10-12 questions. I sent it out to everyone that
I knew who did derby.
I wanted to make sure that what I created fit a need that
was actually out there. I wanted to make sure that people were interested in
yoga as cross training for derby. I wanted to hear about the challenges as to
why people were not already doing yoga. So that what I created met those
issues. Then other general questions like how would people like their content
delivered to them and stuff like that. Then using that as a place to build from.
Doing that market research [helped me] to know that the need,
the interest, and the challenges that I thought existed, actually did exist.
Knowing that stuff and then being willing to put the time in. It takes a lot of
time and effort to build a business- to make passion into a business. To have a
functioning and successful business it takes three years so you can’t give up.
Even being a yoga teacher outside of the Flat Mat world it has taken me three
years to feel solid in my teaching. Just to pick up gigs and be considered
knowledgeable in the yoga world. When you are a newer teacher you are doing
your time. And you have to do your time, same with any business.
Bomb: I have
noticed in my own business pursuits, as well as with others, that monetizing
their passion is difficult. Turning passion and to a viable business can be
difficult. This has been one of your strengths, you monetized right away. How
did you over come that obstacle?
Kat: For me, I
knew that I would be spending a lot of time and energy creating Flat Mat. I
looked at how much time I thought that I would need to create an online program
and what the minimum amount that I could earn to cover my time in some sense
because I am putting in a lot of time.
The idea is that I am
creating a more sustainable product that will be passive income eventually. I’m
not making a ton off the beta test. I am using this run to develop [the
content] as I go. I’m probably making $30 an hour before taxes. If I give you that amount it
seems like a lot of money but there is also the cost of doing business. I have
to pay my business registration, my personal income taxes, the taxes to the
city of Seattle, the taxes the State of Washington, and all of the PayPal fees.
You know what costs you have to cover; you know what your time is worth. Don’t
be afraid to ask for that.
Bomb: Let’s look
at Flat Mat Roller Derby. You listened to the wants and needs of the derby
community and developed a specific yoga experience for skaters. What have you
created and how much does it cost?
Kat: I am
running is an online program called 4x4 (name possibly subject to
change as I move into the next round of the beta testing). It’s a four-week
program with four emails a week. Two of those are videos, one is focused on
anatomy and one is focused on learning a specific pose.
Each week has a specific area of the body that I focus on.
For example, in the week of core I broke down plank pose. I break down other
poses in each week that are focused on one area of the body. The reason that I
set it up that way was because I think it is very helpful to have a better
understanding of some of the muscles that you are using in your sport- and in yoga.
I think it’s also important to have some sequencing. One of the things that
make it difficult to do yoga at home is the not knowing how to put those poses
I chose to do my pay scale the way that I did for the beta
test to determine the interest level and to get feedback. Does what I am
producing make the most sense for people? First, I didn’t want to have a
product that I sold for a specific amount of money that wasn’t refined. I
wanted to make sure that what I was producing was really good then refine it
before I sell it for a fair dollar amount. The second thing is that I did my
market research and people told me that they weren’t doing yoga because they
don’t have enough time, they don’t have enough money, and/or there is not a
place that they may go do it that is nearby.
Well, if I’m making a program that no one can afford to do
then what’s the point? I did a pay scale where my suggested price was $30 for
the four weeks. The minimum price was $5 so people could pay whatever they
wanted to in that range. I did have someone pay me $50 which was awesome, and I
had some people say, “thank you so much for making this a sliding scale because
there was no way that I would be able to do this right now if it hadn’t been.”
It’s the same thing with time and accessibility. The online
thing kind of gets me around the accessibility issue and to accommodate for
time, I keep the videos short. They are under 20 minutes, there is one long one
that is about 20 minutes long that is meant to do on a non-practice day and the
others are short and meant to be done in conjunction with practice days.
I want to find a way
to keep being able to offer a sliding scale. Even as a yoga teacher, classes
are too expensive. I can’t afford to go to every class that I want to take. I
may have to bump up the minimum a little bit more, like I said, just because of
the sheer amount of time that I am putting into this. Still, [the sliding
scale] is really important to me as a person. We are a community and I want to
be able to serve my community. If I am giving to my community then they’ll be able
to give back to me, they’ll tell their friends about it, they will promote it
within their leagues, they’ll sign up again.
Bomb: Whether at
Roller Con next week or through the 4x4 online program, how can people get the
most of what you have to offer? What advice do you have for those in your
Kat: Come ready
to learn and take in what I am teaching. But also be ready to take what you
like and leave the rest. It’s something that I do whenever I practice yoga and
I encourage others to do. If what I am doing does not make sense for what you
know of your own body then don’t do it. Know that I do not give aggressive adjustments
because I do not think they serve anyone well. Try to learn how to learn from
yourself in addition to learning from me as a teacher.
Bomb: In a year
from now, where will you be?
Kat: Next year
at this time I am hoping to have a really solid on-going online program. I want
to have produced some very affordable pay-to-download videos. I really want to
do a Flat Mat Roller Derby road trip tour.
Look for Kat Selvocki at Roller Con next week teaching a
multitude of classes. If you are interested in her sliding-scale online yoga
program for roller derby, sign up for the Flat Mat Roller Derby mailing list . That is where you will receive all of the latest information right
to your inbox. The next round of 4x4 will begin September 1st, 2014.
Kat Selvocki is also interested in teaching in-person
classes or workshops to local leagues. If you are in the Pacific Northwest, contact Kat for more information
Logo Credit: Shannon Light Hadley
Warrior II Photo Credit: Kat Selvocki