Goats, Sharks, and a Hurricane

Rachael Kitchen | March 26th, 2024 (Volume 3)
Rachael Kitchen, founder of GOGA, shares her journey from product marketer to entrepreneur in her quest to merge yoga with baby goats. She recalls the genesis of her idea in 2017 as a way to support Hurricane Harvey victims. Despite initial reluctance, she organized a successful fundraiser, leading to the birth of GOGA. Kitchen's leap of faith to leave her corporate job paid off as GOGA's popularity soared after their appearance on ABC's Shark Tank in 2018.


Hi, everyone. My name is Rachael, and I am the founder and owner of GOGA. If you’ve heard of GOGA, maybe you’re one of the ones smiling right now, maybe even thinking back to one of your experiences with one of our baby goats. If you have not heard of GOGA, it is arguably one of the most fun experiences in Austin, involving the unlikely combination of baby goats, yoga, and a whole lot of laughter.

Typically, when people find out what I do for a living, they either ask me a ton of stupid questions, like, “Do the goats poop?” or they ask me a couple normal questions like, “How did this get started?” and “Were you the one on Shark tank?” So today I’m going to tell the story that answers those two questions. If you would like to find me after the event and ask me all the stupid questions, you’re more than welcome to. No judgment here. I hear them all the time.

The story starts back in 2017. I was doing product marketing for a big tech company here in Austin. I really did like my job, but I had a couple of side hustles going on, because my ultimate goal was always freedom from the corporate world.

I met my now husband, and a few months into our relationship, he took me to meet his mom, who’s known as the Crazy Goat Lady. This is me at her ranch the very first time I met her. She has a hundred pet goats. Obviously, we talked a lot about goats that day. That’s her whole world. We kind of joked about people starting to do yoga with goats at that time, and the reason it was funny is because she lives out in the hill country in the middle of nowhere. Nobody would do yoga in her town, and nobody wants to spend more time with goats when they all have their own animals to take care of out there.

A few nights later, I was laying in bed and I had this thought just come seemingly out of nowhere, and it was very clearly, “You should plan a goat yoga fundraiser event and raise money for a good cause.” Mind you, I was working three jobs at the time. I did not want anything to do with this thought. I just rolled over and went to sleep. But that thought tormented me for the next few weeks, just kept coming back.

Then Hurricane Harvey devastated the coast of Texas, and it really broke my heart. I saw a lot of people close to me that it affected, and I knew that that was the cause that I wanted to raise money for. So I had a few glasses of wine over Labor Day weekend, and I convinced my brand new boyfriend that we should plan this huge goat yoga fundraiser event with his mom, who I’d only met one time, and he kind of laughed it off. And then the next morning I was like, “No, no, no, I’m not drunk or insane. This is a good idea. We should do it.”

So we planned this event that was an actual miracle that we pulled off. We did it on the rooftop of the parking garage at the apartment that he lived in at the time. It had a nice view of the Austin skyline, to kind of hide from the fact that it was a parking garage. I made some really crappy logos that you’ll see on our shirt in paint and put it on Facebook, and sold out in 37 minutes. We made the local news, raised a couple thousand dollars to donate, and thought that our work was done.

Well, everyone kept asking that day, “When’s the next event?” I was like, “Yeah, it’s next weekend. It’s definitely next weekend.” So we planned another event the following weekend, and we benefited Hurricane Irma. We quickly realized that we could not stop the snowball effect if we tried, so we started a real business and had hundreds and hundreds of people coming to do GOGA every other weekend.

Five months later, I realized I was making way more money at GOGA than I was at my corporate job, so I quit my job. This is me on my last day of work, bringing the goats into work with me, where they definitely were not allowed inside the building. I cried for three days in fear, and, yeah, I retired from the corporate world at the age of 27.

And then shortly after that … thank you … we started trying to get a lease, because we wanted a studio where we could be indoors, because Texas weather is crazy. We realized we were a laughing stock for every real estate agent that we talked to, because we were a brand new business, and we were doing goat yoga for God’s sake. Nobody was going to give us a lease.

Someone started talking about going on Shark Tank, and that scared me so badly. There was absolutely no way I was doing it. Well, spoiler alert, we did it. The whole process to get on Shark Tank took about six months of applications, interviews, and stuff like that.

Fast forward to September of 2018, we were in a rented SUV with six baby goats, four adults, an orphan lamb, and a pull-behind trailer to camp in along the way to get to California to pitch to the Sharks. A lot went wrong that trip. It was a whole adventure in itself. We had flat tires at all different times, four flat tires on the trailer at all different times, and then we stopped in the middle of nowhere in a junkyard to let the goats eat some grass. It was a really crazy adventure.

The night before we went in to pitch, we were rehearsing in the trailer, and my friend who was there coming on the show with us the next day went to leave, and she was like, “Hey, guys, are the goats supposed to be in this pen out here?” We jumped over her to find that the goats had escaped. They were on the other side of the parking lot eating some leaves, which the parking lot backed up to three major intersections in LA, so that was terrifying. But, luckily, we were able to surround the parking lot, get them back in their pen, and make it onto the show the next day.

Actually going in to pitch to the Sharks was the absolute thrill of a lifetime. Everything you see with the doors opening and the entrepreneurs walking out, that is all very real. We sat behind those doors for what seemed like an eternity. Our plan was to go out first, and then the goats would come in a few minutes later as this big surprise element. Well, something happened, and the goats started screaming for some reason. Something scared them. We could hear the Sharks on the other side of the doors talking, and they were like, “Is that a baby crying? Is that a goat? Is that a lamb? What is that?” We’re like, “Oh, we ruined the surprise.”

But, nonetheless, the doors opened. We went out there, and I think I blacked out for about half of the whole presentation. The Sharks were so nice, though. Mark Cuban actually stopped in the middle of his questioning, gave us a big round of applause, and just told us to keep doing what we’re doing. That’s a moment that I have to look back on all the time. Robert was obsessed with the goats. He let us put a little baby goat on his back in his very expensive silk shirt, which was also terrifying. And then Lori just jumped up in her dress and high heels, just ready to try goat yoga. Mr. Wonderful had to talk about eating the goats, of course, which if he had to say something mean, I’m glad it was that. If you’ve ever seen the show, you know it could have been so much worse than that, so I’ll take it.

Overall, they were so fun to interact with. They were very encouraging and nice to us, and I think it’s because we went in very realistically about our business and where we were at. So if you ever go on Shark Tank, just don’t overvalue your business, and hopefully they’ll be nice to you, too.

We did not get a deal, but at the end of the day, that was definitely for the best looking back now. We had gone in pitching for $50,000 to open our full-time yoga studio where we would do regular yoga during the week and then goat yoga twice a month. In between the time of going to pitch to the Sharks and actually entering on the show, which by the way, just because you go pitch does not mean that you will air, so we were very lucky to even get to air on the show. But, anyway, in between that time, we were able to open our own yoga studio, save up enough money to renovate it and open it, and that is actually where we still hold our yoga classes today.

It was a very stressful six months of my life leading up to it. Walking down the hallway through those doors was the scariest thing I’ve ever done, including childbirth. But I’m just so grateful for the experience, and I’m glad that it gave me something fun to talk to you all about today. Thank you for your time.

Rachael Kitchen
Product marketer turned entrepreneur. Founder of GOGA and former Shark Tank contestant.