Story of Dr. Glynn Ryland – our first CoCreate member

CoCreate is proud to be a coworking space in Portimao that maintains strong ties with our amazing members, especially those who have been with us since the beginning. 

This member profile is about Dr. Glynn Ryland, who, as he says, was the first one to enter CoCreate’s doors “with a big smile on his face”. Glynn originally comes from Yorkshire, in the United Kingdom, but after completing his studies moved to London where he worked in the television industry for 20 years. Despite being known for his work, Glynn is widely recognised in the international communities around the Algarve. 

His vibrant energy, that is felt from the moment he enters a room, attracts people to quickly gather around Glynn. They all appear to be smiling more, speaking louder, and asking curious questions, which as an observer, leaves me speechless at his capacity to make everyone so excited. It also could be that the reason lies somewhere far deeper…

Glynn Ryland next to CoCreate coworking space

The conversation with Glynn started asking him about the beginning of his creative path as well as what flourishes his creativity. After a moment of thinking, Glynn opened up that being creative came to him naturally since he was a kid. Creativity and a good imagination followed him throughout his professional life in television, where he started as a producer and then grew his career into a creative director. 

Besides working in the United Kingdom, Glynn has worked for American TV channels such as NBC, Universal Studios, Discovery Channels and others and in the UK, the BBC, Channel 4, and ITV. It gave him a chance to travel around different places in the world and spend months living overseas.

Glynn left London in 2012 and that was the time when he decided to leave the television industry as well.  When describing his memories, Glynn added that the television industry is great and you can have a lot of fun working there; nevertheless, he could easily have stayed working for a third decade there, but that would have been about the same as the previous two. In his mind it was the right time to move on because, as he puts it “I had a plan to leave the industry and I actually resigned and left 20 years to the month when I started in television, that was my game plan. I knew there is a big wide world waiting to be explored”.

Glynn packed his bags and was off on a big digital nomad adventure, which he planned to do for a year, but is still continuing until this day as Glynn is still enjoying his dream by being a digital nomad in the Algarve.

Glynn’s new career path started five years ago when he came across the ShaktiMat during his many travels.  Having travelled extensively in India he felt close to the product and its mission to support Female Empowerment in the Varanasi region.  From there the idea of his business was born.

Smiling women working in a factory of Shaktimat in Varanasi


ShaktiMat employees push in the back stoppers to hold the circular nails in the factory in Varanasi.

To get a deeper sense of what it feels like talking to Glynn, and his exciting adventures, we continue sharing the raw conversation about ShaktiMat and the company’s journey:

-We built a company on one product which is an acupressure mat – a mat with spiky disks, like these in the picture.You lay on it, it relaxes you and actually brings a lot of benefits to the body. We are finding out now from our customers that it helps with insomnia, stress, many different issues”

-And it does not hurt? 

-It is sharp, you feel the spikes, but it is very interesting how the body responds, because the first time when you use it, you think ‘how can I possibly lay on this thing’, but then your body gets accustomed quiet quickly and soon you are just kind of throwing yourself onto it. The first two minutes are always a little intense, but then your body starts releasing its own natural pain relief.  Once you pass the 2-3 minutes mark it starts to become quite relaxing. 

-Wow really?

– Yes because your body responds to the trigger of pain, first it increases the blood flow, sends blood to that area and then it starts releasing its natural pain relief as well oxytocin and endorphins. This is why it makes it so beneficial and this is one of the reasons why sadhus and gurus in India, 2000 years ago were laying on beds with spikes, because they discovered the benefits of it. We have a facebook group with thirty thousand members who post different hacks and a lot of people say that they are even using the mat for jaw tension, for period paid, for restless leg syndrome, they are finding so many new uses for it. 

-Okay interesting, so how did you start with your ShaktiMat company?

-So me and my partner at that time were travelling in India and came across the concept of it, then we said okay this is a really good business. For me it was important that the business I launched was doing some social impact. The factory in Varanasi only employs women and does so intentionally. We have over a hundred employees working at the factory right now and there are no men working at all. The reason why we only employ women is because Varanasi is a very rural and traditional part of India, it is very religious and unfortunately women can still be quite suppressed there. Therefore by employing women we are able to create a space where they can become financially independent and self-sufficient. It is really interesting what is happening with the dynamics there, because they operate very much like a sisterhood. They are raising in their social status to become the breadwinner in a family and it is in a rural part, just outside of Varanasi with a collection of small villages and the status of women in those small villages is really rising. 

-That sounds really great! 

-Yes, besides that, they also get many benefits, starting from private healthcare for them and their families, free meals everyday, paid leave days as they want, because they have obligations as mothers. We have an emergency medical fund that employees or anyone in their family can apply to, in terms of accidents or illness. It was very beneficial for them especially through Covid times, because Indian families are very broad, and if you look into an Indian society what happens in poorer families is that if someone has an accident or illness, the entire family will go into debt in order to support that person’s recovery. That fund is to help prevent the employees from that. Then two years ago we started on a new initiative, where we sent 10 daughters of the crafts-women to a private school with a funding secured until the age of 18 years old. That went very well and a year later we made a commitment to send every daughter of every employee to the private school, adding another 15 daughters and having 25 of them in total.

A group of school girls of Varanasi private school


Daughters of women who work at ShaktiMat have been financed by the company to attend a private school.

The story does not end here, however I must admit it made me – the interviewer – very emotional, hearing about the care and support these women receive from their workplace, especially being in this vulnerable situation that they unfortunately are.

Nowadays, even in this modern society that we live in, sometimes it can seem impossible to get equal access to every opportunity that men usually have. ShaktiMat tries to create this empowerment beyond women that work for them, but create generational opportunities for their family women as well.

When asked what inspired Glynn for the work he does, Glynn continues by saying that he always dreamt of having his own business and thought e-commerce was a good way to go.  However, the product had to be good quality and it had to genuinely help people. Glynn shared “When I came across this mat and I tried it myself during my yoga, I could really feel the impact of it. I also like the fact that it is connected into ancient ayurvedic principles for improving health. We have 6 thousands of 5 star reviews on our website with people talking all different ways the mat helps them. The other thing was the  social impact. The idea of focusing on this conservative part of India – Varanasi- to improve women’s lifestyle ticked all my value boxes”.

Shakti is an ancient Sanskrit language and it stands for female nurturing and creativity, and that is the reason it is called ShaktiMat, because it is about the female energy and nurturing that goes into the creation of the product. The factory is also very special, because it is a consecrated temple. Every morning when the craft-women come to work, for the first 30 minutes they will start their day with a communal prayer, because the majority of them are religious Hindus. Then when they are making the mats and when the whole set of mats are ready to ship out, they will again gather around, do a little ceremony, give blessing and prayers for the mats wishing them to have a great journey. There is a lot of devotion involved in their work and, as Glynn says, this is an outcome of when you put females to work together.

Varanasi women praying before work


Amma-Ji performing the Morning Puja with other ShaktiMat employees in the factory in Varanasi at the beginning of the day

Another interesting fact that is happening in the factory is that other factories around the neighbourhood area, where they mostly employ men workers, exist a lot of segregation between workers. The division can be not only between different castes in India, but also between different religions of Hindus and Muslims. The craft-women at the factory take great pride in the fact that women from differing castes and religions all work  in harmony together like a sisterhood.  They see this as an example they set to the men.

Women standing together in Varanasi


ShaktiMat employees that work in the factory in Varanasi have a deep bond with each other.

Life in Portimao as a digital nomad

Glynn’s life as a digital nomad lead him to make his home in Portimao but he still travels and works away extensively. When asked what are the biggest challenges of being a digital nomad, Glynn answered:

-Let me think, well now I am much more settled, I committed to the Algarve, I bought a place here, this is home for me now. I think the biggest challenge is staying connected to the people I love back home. I wanted to say it is a challenge to meet new people when you move around the road, but actually that is pretty easy. It is all out there for you, you just have to jump in. I think when you become a nomad and you move around a lot, your life changes immeasurably and you change as a consequence of these new experiences. Meanwhile, your family and your close friends back home are not always across your explorations and the changes you are making as a person. So the challenge is to keep them in that loop, because you are having the time of your life and they are not on the same journey with you.

Since Glynn was one of the first members at CoCreate, we asked him how does it feel working from this coworking space.

-Do you feel more inspired when you work from CoCreate?

-Absolutely. I notice that I get more work done when I am here. I can be a procrastinator, at home I would always go to play with my dog, make a cup of tea or go into the garden, but when I am here (at CoCreate) I am like “oh I need to work”.

-Do you feel being a part of the community while working at CoCreate?

-Yes of course. It is a little hard to find everyone in Portimao and I think Jack made an amazing job by creating a focal point for those people to come together. What I have noticed with the nomad and entrepreneur communities is that they are extremely willing to share information, experiences with each other in a way that I think is quite rare and beautiful. Another thing, is that when you put those people together there is always value, one person has something in value for another person.

-Amazing, do you think CoCreate helps you to meet interesting people and create friendships? 

-Definitely, a lot of people that I met in CoCreate I became great friends with. Jack is one of them.  

Board game nights at CoCreate

Besides Glynn’s professional and work life, he, as he calls himself, is a “geek for board games”. Glynn organises board game events and holds them at CoCreate inviting everyone who is as passionate as he is about board games.

If you are interested to book a spot to the board night games, you can find the dates with more information in the CoCreate event calendar.

A group of happy people playing board games at CoCreate coworking space


Glynn and other board game lovers meeting at CoCreate

Here is a link to get to know more about the story of  Varanasi women and ShaktiMat.

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