|Ashland's new age economy|
|The business of spirituality|
|A new age mecca|
Dona Zimmerman moved her family from Southern California to Ashland to raise her children in a healthier environment.
// Photo by Jamie Lusch
Deliverance complains about being tied to her computer and about the steady stream of messages that pour into her email account, but she willingly demonstrates how customers can easily navigate Pacific Dome’s site in search of products and corporate information. Her attachment to the wonders of the Internet underscores the crucial role the Web performs for Ashland’s New Age businesses.
These business owners and their key employees are extremely savvy about online community building and marketing. Many of these business people have worked in the world of Internet technology, and they have used those skills to find business partners and customers who share their spiritual quests. The Internet has allowed them to connect to a global market for their goods and services from Ashland.
The startup Yogi Tunes exists almost entirely online. Its co-founders use their connections with the world’s leading yoga instructors to aggregate yoga session playlists into an online music library. Alex King-Harris, who writes and performs mostly electronic music under the name Rara Avis, explains: “The No. 1 question every yoga instructor gets after class is, ‘How can I get a copy of the playlist you used during that session?’ Most of the time, they don’t have copies of them floating around — they change them frequently. Yogi Tunes solves the problem for them.”
Yogi Tunes created a website with individual pages devoted to each yoga instructor who is a site member. Not coincidentally, some of the music used by these instructors was written by Yogi Tunes’ co-founders, musicians who specialize in soundtracks for yoga teachers. The instructors’ favorite playlists are available on the site — for a price. All commerce is conducted through the site.
Several businesses have been created to connect the spiritual community. One is WebSpirit, which offers a directory of like-minded members in Southern Oregon. Its directory for Ashland alone lists nearly 100 businesses. Among them: Excalibur Computer Solutions, whose tagline is: “Your computer techs in shining armor.”
One can also join the online community Southern Oregon TimeBank where its 120 members exchange hours with each other for goods and services. For instance, co-founder Will Wilkinson “pays” his barber a fixed number of hours when she cuts his hair. These hours go into her TimeBank account. She can use them to purchase goods and services from other members — any member, not just Wilkinson.
TimeBank was created to give structure to the sense of community that was building within Ashland’s spiritual community, Wilkinson says. The ultimate goal is to do away with the tracking of hours and simply have members providing goods and services for one another out of a sense of community. “Dollars, hours — all those things are illusions. When people live in harmony, they get what they need from each other without keeping track.”