Mateo Marquez Teaches Mindfulness and Respect Through Yoga
The alumnus’ latest project, PoserKids Yoga, came after failure and acceptance.
Mateo Márquez ’00 compares his career to a cat.
“I’ve lived, like, nine different lives,” he said. “I’ve put myself through school. I’ve been a self-made millionaire. I’ve been broke. My different professional experiences have completely run the gamut.”
Failure is one of his secrets to success.
“I often joke with my daughter that I’m the biggest failure I know, but that’s also what has made me so successful. You have to take chances. You have to embrace change. You need to fail with the same enthusiasm as you succeed. I just try to live my daily life with acceptance. When you embrace a presence of acceptance in life, life starts getting really cool.”
Following the Money
Originally from Albuquerque, New Mexico, Márquez was recruited by TCU to play soccer back when men’s soccer was still a varsity sport. Even though he only played a semester (there were too many other campus activities he wanted to try), he fell in love with Dallas-Fort Worth and put down roots.
After earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in international communication, he declined an ad agency job writing radio spots — “it wasn’t a lot of money” — and instead pursued the more lucrative field of executive recruiting.
“I was a headhunter right out of college. There were a lot of emerging technologies and I was really on the front lines, helping startup companies grow rapidly with the right people,” he said. “I didn’t even have a base salary until I was 27. I was straight commission my entire early career.”
Márquez initially focused on information technology professionals, followed by medical device companies and then sales roles specifically. He built the sales force for ReachLocal, a search engine marketing company, and led it through a successful initial public offering.
After eight years in the talent acquisition industry, he turned his focus to sports and founded iMMpact Talent Partners. He helped front offices “of generally not the best teams” in the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB and MLS develop internal recruiting and training processes for their sales organizations.
Rising From the Ashes
But success began to take a toll.
“The combination of success, money and power was feeding a lot of my not-best qualities,” he said.
After the birth of his daughter and a divorce, Márquez was ready for a reset. “It was time to step back and reassess my priorities. I had gotten away from who I was. I was very much about me and making money.”
His sister — Kelsey Márquez De la Torre ’05 — dragged him to his first yoga class.
“It was so opposite of me. I don’t eat kale. I don’t use incense. I’m the last person on earth who would take a yoga class,” he said. “I felt like a fish out of water, but it was so awesome to feel good.”
As he started to find healing, Márquez put pen to paper and wrote The Phoenix of Hotel Freds (Lulu.com, 2010). “It’s like a confessional of sorts. It’s autobiographical. It’s all real stuff, people, places and things.”
Determined that others could benefit from his hard-learned lessons on the importance of honesty with self and others, Márquez self-financed a book tour.
“I had a giant pink-and-purple truck and gave away 5,000 copies of the book signed by hand, very personally, to people all over the western United States,” he said. “It was this organic, grassroots marketing experiment that — despite being a financial disaster — was a unique experience.”
The tour generated no money, and the expenses of a leased truck and trailer, a small support team, lodging, food, gas and 5,000 books stacked up.
“I joke that it was my greatest disaster. It was not about making money. It was about sharing this story,” he said. “I still to this day have people on Facebook who remember me handing them a book at one of these places we stopped along the way, and those people have made this sort of cult-y following I have now.”
Conquering Life’s Poses
After the tour, Márquez continued to practice yoga. His favorite studio invited him to teach an adult class.
“I can’t help the entrepreneurial nature in myself, and I thought maybe there’s a way to create a business and find a niche in this massive $90 million yoga industry — doing it a way that’s very unique and very Mateo.”
In 2012, Márquez founded PoserKids Yoga, which teaches mindfulness to preschool and elementary students through yoga, meditation and breathing techniques.
“The Poser name is a very tongue-in-cheek analogy. Not to poke fun at yoga people — who are notorious for taking themselves too seriously — but just a way to make it about how we live our lives,” he said.
“I’m proud of making this bigger than about flexibility. Yoga is like what do you do when you’re holding your stillborn son in your arms — how do you navigate through that pose? That’s one of the hardest poses I ever did. Thank God I was into yoga at the time or I don’t know if I would have made it through that. That’s the yoga I try to master — these poses we encounter in our daily lives. That’s more powerful than who can do the best headstand.”
PoserKids incorporates four promises: to listen, to be respectful, to do one’s best and to have fun.
“I wanted an agnostic, very inclusive core value system to the program that was open to anyone,” he said. “It is how I try to live my own life. I’m a terrible listener. I’m often disrespectful. I don’t do my best if it’s something I don’t like. And life isn’t very fun if you don’t do those things. As simple as that sounds, really mastering that can be hard.”
Márquez developed the character Mister Mateo — think Mr. Rogers meets Jerry Seinfeld — and worked with school districts and nonprofits to provide yoga programs for children. Drawing from his experience building sales teams, he recruited moms, educators and yoga instructors to replicate the classes in their neighborhoods.
When you do embrace acceptance, that wave will take you to some pleasantly unexpected places.
Márquez built a kids’ yoga sales force where he recruited and trained educators to build and manage small territories. The company peaked in revenues, but managing 1,099 contractors across 10 states was an operational nightmare, Márquez said.
“There were a lot of people making money, but not me. That’s kind of been the common theme of my past decade. In my 20s I made millions of dollars, and I was miserable. In my 30s I made no money and was very happy. In my 40s I hope to find a balance between sustenance and fulfillment. It took me 20 years to crack that code, but I’m very excited about what this next chapter holds.”
Now based in Dallas with about a dozen employees and contractors, PoserKids focuses on making yoga accessible for any child, anytime, anywhere — digitally. In 2014 PoserKids began filming original video content that grew to more than 50 segments, first released via propriety subscription and later on YouTube. In January 2018, Amazon Prime picked up PoserKids, which spotlights Mister Mateo posing his way through life, and PoserPulse, styled like a Saturday Night Live “Weekend Update” but for kids.
“PoserKids has sort of evolved into a very digitally driven brand,” Márquez said. “Thanks to Amazon Prime, we have a global viewership actively engaged in the show and with our core values in their classrooms and living rooms.”
Márquez writes the books and programming as well as produces, directs and stars in the videos. PoserKids is also a Texas Education Agency-approved provider of Continuing Professional Education credits. It recently launched online training for educators, clinicians, yoga instructors and anyone else wanting to learn PoserKids techniques.
“I didn’t plan any of these things,” Márquez said. “If you told me 10 years ago I would become kind of this neo-Mr. Rogers meets Cosmo Kramer of DFW, I would have laughed.
“But that’s the cool thing about life: When you do embrace acceptance, that wave will take you to some pleasantly unexpected places. The ceding of control is what we struggle with as humans. PoserKids’ underlying message of really embracing acceptance is hopefully a legacy that will far outlive me someday. That’s something I could be truly proud of.”