Jake Leider is on a mission to calm you down, and he’s built a successful business doing it.
The 26-year-old Huntington Woods resident and MSU graduate is the founder and CEO of Meditation Works, a self-described “mobile stress solutions” company. The company operates a repurposed 20-foot cargo trailer that it hauls to the doorsteps of companies and organizations around Metro Detroit, allowing employees to take a 15-minute break from the stresses of work.
The company began, as do many great ventures, with his mother. Joanne Leider, now the company’s program director, is a 15-year veteran of yoga meditation who encouraged Jake to create 8- to 12-minute breath-and-focus sessions for busy working people. When repeated over a number of weeks, Jake explains, this type of calming relaxation is shown scientifically to improve sleep and focus at work, as well as lower stress and (even) blood pressure. But who has time in their day to do it?
“People would say, ‘At work, I’m very willing to leave my desk for 10-15 minutes to meditate — I just don’t have a place to do it,’” Jake says in the low and unhurried voice of a yoga meditator.
Jake had an idea to bring that space to them and, in early 2016, he pulled together a team to design and build a mobile meditation unit. He also found family and friends to financially support his budding endeavor to the tune of $45,000, backed up by verbal commitments from three companies in Downtown Detroit that would hire Meditation Works.
A long cargo trailer was outfitted with furniture, lighting and a sound system to play recordings, all meticulously designed to promote relaxation. For the next few months, they extensively tested this prototype design to perfect every aspect of the experience.
Ready For Business
Now Jake was ready for business. They began hauling the trailer Downtown to the parking lots of businesses like Rock Ventures, the parent company of Dan Gilbert’s family of 110+ businesses. Nate Segall, director of special projects at Rock Ventures, describes the experience of bringing his team of employees down to meditate.
“At first, we would get out of the trailer and get right back on our phones and our emails,” he says. “Over time, we started having conversations with each other. The best part is taking a 50,000-foot view of your work environment. You think you’re so busy and can’t step away from your desk — then you do it, and when you come back you’re in a better mindset to deal with the hectic craziness of the workday.”
Jake’s team would often pass by Detroit’s Third Police Precinct on the way home from work, and his mom came up with the idea to offer free sessions to the over-stressed officers, a program she dubbed Keeping the Police at Peace. Capt. Darin Szilagy, then-captain at the precinct, recalls how his officers reacted to the much-needed brain break.
“My officers really enjoyed it,” he says. “There’s a perception in the police community where we’re reluctant to do anything publicly around mental health. With Jake bringing it to the workplace, there was no reason not to take advantage.”
By late 2016, business had accelerated so much that Meditation Works needed a second cargo trailer, and they approached Hebrew Free Loan for support. Executive Director David Contorer oversees their Marvin I. Danto Small Business Loan program, which provides interest-free loans and also free, ongoing mentoring support. He was impressed and granted Jake the $30,000 loan.
“We loved the idea. He already had one truck, had clients and was showing success,” Contorer says. “He knew what his costs would be and his timeline. He had done the market research. It was an easy decision — a slam dunk.”
In spring 2017, Jake’s cousin Josh Leider joined the team as director of experience. Like his soft-spoken cousin, Josh is quiet and thoughtful as he describes how his faith informs his work.
“Judaism gave us a passion for tzedakah and being good to the world, but also Judaism and meditation go hand-in-hand. Like on Shabbat — shutting down, turning off your phone, being with family, focusing on one thing for a good 24 hours — meditation has similar ideals.”
Now in their second year, Jake and Josh have ambitious plans to grow Meditation Works to reach even more stressed-out people at work across the state. They’ve tweaked their meditation session based on participant feedback and also plan to survey their customers to gauge the beneficial impact of the bi-weekly sessions.
At the end of each meditation session, participants leaving the trailer receive a piece of paper with a useful tip on how to be more mindful in their everyday activities. One of these tip cards had some clear advice on how to keep focused in a busy world: “When you are driving, drive. When you’re eating, eat. When you are with someone, be with them. DO what you are doing.”
Justin Wedes Special to the Jewish News
More information about Meditation Works can be found at MeditationWorks.com. Group sessions for up to 15 participants start at $80 for businesses and organizations.