2020 was an awful year, and people turned to astrology – entrepreneurs say the $2.2 billion industry business is booming

SHAKIRAH_Square
Kirah Tabourn.

  • During the coronavirus pandemic, the astrology business has been booming.
  • The industry was already on the rise, and, with daily life so altered and unclear, more people are turning to astrologers for clarity and guidance.
  • Insider spoke with five astrologers and the CEO of an astrology company about the business of interpreting the stars during a pandemic.
  • Astrologers say they’ve seen huge increases in demand, booked-up schedules, and more people than ever trying to learn about their craft.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Let’s start with the good news, straight from the stars.

“2021 will be a lot better.”

That’s per Jade Sykes, 23 (who is a Leo sun, Leo moon). She’s just one of the astrologers who has seen business boom during 2020. She also happens to be the personal astrologer to singers SZA and Kehlani.

Insider spoke with five astrologers, many of whom were a little bit more astrologically optimistic about 2021. A common refrain this year is that pretty much anything would be better than 2020. But they all said 2020 has been a good year for the astrology business.

In a year economically and cosmically like no other, astrology seems to be one of the industries that’s seen substantial gains. Amidst the uncertainty of a global pandemic, a crumbling economy, and some murder hornets, people are seeking clarity. 

Astrologers are feeling the results

Sykes has seen a growth in demand for her services, where she answers questions that clients pose. Her Patreon, where she charges $9.98 a month, has taken off – she has 3,820 subscribers – and she has over 100,000 followers on her social media channels. She’s planning on offering six-hour chart reading sessions for $998 soon.

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Astrologer Jade Sykes.

Veteran astrologer Samuel Reynolds, who’s been practicing for over 30 years (his sun is in Scorpio, his moon is in Leo, and his rising is Pisces), said that he usually has five to six students in his virtual beginner’s astrology class. This time around, he had 30 students – and had to hire a teaching assistant for the first time. 

Reynolds said that he’s usually booked about two weeks out. But as of mid-December, he’s booked through March.

Ross Clark (Leo sun, Capricorn moon, Scorpio rising), the CEO of buzzy astrology app Sanctuary, told Business Insider that the app has seen “real growth” with its paid offerings in 2020. And it’s not just new users: there’s also “a real deepening of engagement on the retention side.”

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Ross Clark.

And astrologer, author, and educator Kirah Tabourn (a Scorpio sun, Aries moon) actually made astrology her full-time job at the start of March. She just hit 20,000 followers on Instagram – up from around 5,000 in June. She said she’s done about 400 readings this year alone.

The major increases may just be limited to astrologers who offer more individualized services (like personal readings). Legendary astrologer Susan Miller (who won’t divulge her sun and moon, since she thinks it takes focus from readers) told Insider that business has remained steady this year. She attributes that to the fact that she’s already “big,” and her audience of millions continues to stick around.

“It’s steady. And thank God for that. I have people to pay,” she said.

But she did launch an app over the summer; she said it’s too early to know exactly how well it’s been doing, but it “looks like it’s doing great.”

Other astrologers are also launching new products: Celebrity astrologer Chani Nicholas announced today she’s launching her own app (she also keeps her sun and moon private). Tabourn, the astrologer who went full-time in March, launched her own paid membership community.

Astrology on the rise

Astrology as a business didn’t just come out of nowhere in 2020. It was already an industry on the rise, accelerated this year by the confusion and life-altering conditions of the pandemic. 

As Insider’s Barbara Smith previously reported, revenue for astrology apps grew to nearly $40 million in 2019 – a 64% increase, according to data from SensorTower. Per IBISWorld, “mystical services” grew by 1.4% from 2016 to 2019. The industry as a whole is worth $2.2 billion.

From March 15 to 21, the term “coronavirus astrology” spiked on Google Trends; “Astrology” itself has remained high throughout the year, and grown in popularity throughout the past month. 

Nicholas, who has been practicing astrology for 20 years and has been a full-time astrologer for the past seven years, said that she’s seen “steady growth” over the course of her business.

Chani Nicholas author photo (credit Luke Fontana) .JPG
Chani Nicholas.

One big boom came in 2016, following “collective crisis.” That sentiment was echoed in a 2019 New Yorker piece, “Astrology in the Age of Uncertainty,” although 2019’s uncertainty may feel somewhat quaint these days. 

Nicholas said that, throughout the year, she’s seen increased interest in workshops and general astrological information.

“I think just naturally, because of the conditions that we’re in, it led to people being perhaps a little bit more open or curious as to what other people were saying about why we’re in the moment that we’re in,” she said.

What people want to know

If you had been paying attention to the astrology of 2020, you would have kept a close eye on January’s Saturn-Pluto conjunction. Several astrologers Insider spoke to highlighted the significance of the conjunction. 

The last time we had one was at the start of the AIDS epidemic; it also, according to Nicholas, aligned with the Bubonic Plague.

But while a destabilizing pandemic may have prompted more people to seek out astrology, their concerns weren’t necessarily virus-related.

“What I expected was people asking specifically about things related to COVID-19, ‘Am I going to get it, am I sick?’ Things I really didn’t feel comfortable answering and wouldn’t have really answered,” Reynolds said. “But I only got one question like that.”

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Samuel Reynolds.

Instead, Reynolds said his clients were more “reflective.” Stuck at home, they began to reflect on their relationships with their families, significant others, and careers. He’s gotten very little panic from those seeking out his services.

“I think people have been dealing with deep seated reflection, and they’re primed for more  change,” he said.

Sykes said that the biggest question among her clients is their careers. That’s still its own form of reflection.

“What we do, instead of pinpointing exact and precise careers – I’m not saying that it can’t be done, but it is more difficult – is we tell the client what they need to have in their career in order to feel satisfied,” she said. 

So will 2021 actually be better?

Tabourn says that the astrological forecast for 2021 is “less intense.” Per Sykes, we should expect a boom in the tech industry and stock market. 

But the most interesting period of all should be from mid-May to July. Tabourn, Nicholas, and Reynolds all highlighted those months as particularly astrologically relevant.

Reynolds said we’ll still be dealing with the fallout of the pandemic in the first quarter of the year, and there will still be some unrest to contend with as well. 

And during that time, things might be looking up, according to Nicholas. 

“It feels like either something really good happens with the economy, or perhaps we have enough vaccines at that point to feel like we have a little bit more freedom, but there’s something that feels relaxing and helpful and open – and, dare I say it – maybe even joyous around mid-May to end of July.”

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Tony Hsieh was more than a successful CEO – he was also a giver, community builder, and visionary ahead of his time

Aimee Groth and Tony Hsieh at a Los Angeles event
Aimee Groth and Tony Hsieh at a Los Angeles event.

  • In addition to Hsieh’s prominence in the business world, he also was a community builder and visionary outside of work.
  • Weaving together anecdotes and photos from people in Hsieh’s inner circle, writer Aimee Groth paints a picture of an “inquisitive, impactful, loving, kind” leader who was masterful at making connections wherever he went.
  • The former Zappos CEO died on November 27 at the age of 46.

The outpouring of love for former Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh since his tragic passing on November 27 is astounding. We lost an incredibly bright light and one of the boldest visionaries of our time far too early.

“The tapestry we each weave in life, extending all around us, is always farther reaching than we know – but Tony’s was enormous, impacting so many,” Jen Consalvo, an entrepreneur who helped build out the tech scene in support of Hsieh’s $350 million Las Vegas Downtown Project, shared with me over the weekend. She and her husband, Frank Gruber, had been neighbors and business partners with Hsieh for nearly a decade.

Aimee Groth author
Author Aimee Groth.

I met Consalvo and Gruber on a 2012 trip to Vegas, which I documented for Business Insider. It happened to be the day they were moving into the Ogden, the luxury apartment complex across from Zappos where Hsieh and many of his friends and employees lived and worked. When I pitched Hsieh on writing a book about him and his Downtown Project a couple months later, he immediately agreed. 

“It’s fascinating,” Consalvo continued, “as much as Tony was known and admired, he was often too quiet for people’s comfort – yet his words were smart, inquisitive, impactful, loving, kind, and generous. His ability to withhold expression made people uncomfortable, yet he was actually the most thoughtful host and caretaker you’ve ever met.” 

Read more: Tony Hsieh, the late former CEO of Zappos, wrote the definitive playbook on good corporate culture. Here are 4 lessons from his bestseller ‘Delivering Happiness.’

Hsieh had a grandiose mission: He wanted to build the “most community-focused large city in the world”

Tony Hsieh with friend Frank Gruber, a fellow entrepreneur and CEO of Established, at the Tech Cocktail Celebrate event in 2014.
Tony Hsieh with friend Frank Gruber, fellow entrepreneur and CEO of Established, at the Tech Cocktail Celebrate event in 2014.

He wanted to do it in the accelerated time frame of five years. He poured his windfall from the 2009 Zappos/Amazon sale into buying up real estate in a blighted part of town where the Zappos HQ was relocating and invested in local tech startups, small businesses, arts, and culture.

To measure success, he put forth a new metric: ROC (“return on community“). He sought to create a new kind of economy, a society where human goodness was the primary currency. It was an attempt to engineer socially-conscious capitalism, before the idea of stakeholder capitalism really entered the mainstream. During one of my interviews with former Zappos COO, CFO and chairman Alfred Lin at Sequoia Capital, he told me that Hsieh’s ideas were often years ahead of their time. This grand social experiment in downtown Vegas was no exception.

Hsieh’s propensity to reimagine the ways in which society might work was compelling and drew thousands of entrepreneurs into his orbit. His huge heart made him even more magnetic. Over the weekend Gruber described Hsieh to me as “one of the most selfless, generous, and kind spirits I have ever met. Most people with his level of success and financial freedom would never do what he has done.”

To lay the groundwork for this new economy, Hsieh prioritized experiences. Instead of meeting through roles, titles, and other forms of hierarchy, Hsieh wanted people to meet through shared experiences and establish common ground that way. Done well, events allow people to discover more of who they are in the process.

Aimee Groth and Tony Hsieh at a Los Angeles event
Aimee Groth and Tony Hsieh at a Los Angeles event.

Hsieh knew how to do events well – going all the way back to his days at 1000 Van Ness in San Francisco, the apartment complex where he lived and worked during the dotcom boom. It’s where he launched the startup incubator Venture Frogs with Lin after they sold advertising network LinkExchange to Microsoft for $265 million. A masterful systems architect himself, Hsieh knew brilliant event curators when he saw them.  

Consalvo and Gruber were clearly pros. With Hsieh’s investment in their company Tech.Co (formerly Tech Cocktail), they applied their years of experience building startup ecosystems around the US to developing a tech scene in downtown Vegas. They regularly flew in dozens of entrepreneurs and VCs to mingle with locals for a week of talks, dinners, social events and tours. Attendees stayed for free at Hsieh’s 100-some “crash pads” at the Ogden and other Downtown Project-owned apartment complexes downtown. Tech Cocktail’s events rivaled high-priced tech conferences, without the pretense.

Instead there was a focus on “serendipity” and “collisions,” terms Hsieh embraced as a way to encourage chance meetings. His marketing vernacular at times was borderline silly, but that was kind of the point – to create more light-heartedness around the idea of connecting with and pitching strangers, to make it less awkward and more fun.  

No matter where he went, he easily formed a network of friends and professionals

Frank Gruber Birthday May 2013 with Jack Vrett, Mollie Andrade, Justin Thorp, Jen Consalvo and Tony Hsieh
Tony Hsieh (right) with friend Frank Gruber (second from right) and others at a birthday event for Gruber in May 2013.

Hsieh was a beloved member of Summit Series, an international network of social entrepreneurs based in Eden, Utah. He drew inspiration from the organization’s fresh approach to community design and its focus on social impact. So when Hsieh met Summit events worker Amanda Slavin, he asked her if she’d consider doing something similar in downtown Vegas.

Hsieh had a gift for eyeing talent and hidden genius early and recognized in Slavin someone who could do the same – a skillset that made her an excellent event curator and host, just like Hsieh was himself. He helped her incorporate her events company, CatalystCreativ, and she helped him launch his Downtown Project.

Given the opportunity of a lifetime Slavin delivered tenfold, regularly flying in a compelling array of social entrepreneurs and influencers who were curious about Hsieh and what he was building. Hsieh was also curious about them, and asked guests to “speak on whatever you’re passionate about.”

Jenn Lim Jen Consalvo Frank Gruber and Tony Hsieh at Tech Cocktail SXSW event in March 2011
(L-R) Jenn Lim, Jen Consalvo, Frank Gruber, and Tony Hsieh at Tech Cocktail SXSW event in March 2011.

The first CatalystCreativ event, which I was a part of, drew charismatic founders including the late mountaineer and Google X executive Dan Fredinburg, Adventure Project CEO Becky Straw, and Invisible Children co-founder Bobby Bailey, who entertained everyone by dancing on stage in a double-wide trailer to The Killers’ “All These Things That I’ve Done” while telling the backstory of Kony 2012.

The weekend culminated in a “vulnerability night,” where attendees shared their biggest fears and insecurities with the group. The entire weekend had an emotional arc to it, which crescendoed at the end, providing participants with a strong sense of community and belonging – and a willingness to contribute to the Downtown Project. 

Hsieh was masterful at cultivating community wherever he went. He always had an entourage and delighted in surprising friends when he toured celebrities like Steve Aoki and Richard Branson around downtown. His entourage often included Zappos and Downtown Project employees, as well as other local residents and friends from other parts of his life.

Read more: Tony Hsieh once ran a radical organizational experiment that prompted 14% of employees to quit. Here’s an inside look at how the late Zappos CEO made his self-management vision a reality.

At community events it wasn’t uncommon to encounter Hsieh’s friends from high school or those who knew him from his LinkExchange and Venture Frogs days.

Oksana Petrichenko Tony Hsieh Jen Consalvo Frank Gruber at Life Is Beautiful 2018.JPG
(L-R) Oksana Petrichenko, Tony Hsieh. Jen Consalvo, and Frank Gruber at the Life Is Beautiful Festival in Las Vegas in 2018.

He had broadcast his bold “community-focused” mission to the world, which inevitably attracted old friends who were in personal crises – whether it be a divorce, or some other difficult life circumstance – and he welcomed them with open arms. He secured one a place to stay in his Airstream Park and put her on payroll as an assistant. Hsieh was highly attuned and generous to those who were hurting or at a crossroads in their lives. When possible, he sought to be the bridge to getting them back on their feet. 

“Tony finds a place for everybody,” his longtime driver, Steve (“Steve-O”) Moroney, shared with me in 2013 during a car ride with Hsieh, who had stepped into a doctor’s appointment. Moroney had a unique vantage point with an ear to countless conversations Hsieh had while conducting business while traveling in his car or on the Delivering Happiness bus. By then, Hsieh had found a place for me, too, by green-lighting my book about him and his Downtown Project. 

Early Zappos investor Erik Moore made a similar observation in 2012, following an eventful evening in Manhattan where Hsieh had managed to develop a massive entourage, which included Slavin and me, by nightcap at the Ace Hotel. “Tony loves a lot of people,” he said, surveying the scene. 

Hsieh was the consummate master-of-ceremonies who relished bringing people together. Despite his massive fortune, up until 2020 he chose to embrace micro-living with friends in his Airstream Park at the edge of downtown Vegas, which is still plagued by homelessness even though the broader area has meaningfully improved thanks to his $350 million investment.

The term friends use most often to describe Hsieh’s social circles is “motley crew.” Everyone was always welcome – wandering or grounded souls – it didn’t matter where you were on your journey, or what title or lack of title you came with. Having experienced great success at a young age, Hsieh saw the world differently and chose to prioritize people and experiences above all else. It was just one more way he was ahead of his time.

Friends and family are collecting memories of Hsieh at HonoringTonyHsieh.com, an interactive website that was built and designed by Wix founder Avishai Abrahami and his team: Roee Kuperberg, Niv Farchi, Michael Mishan, Anna Kuntsman Rozenberg and Yamit Haddad. Michael Garvey, Andrew Horn, Tyler Williams and Amy Jo Martin have also contributed to the project. The website – which showcases memories of Hsieh in the form of stories, photos, and videos – is the brainchild of Lauren Randall, founder of ecommerce company Melonhopper and a close friend of Hsieh’s who participated in his Downtown Project. You can also email photos and videos to mymemory@tonyhsieh.com.  

Aimee Groth is the author of “The Kingdom Of Happiness: Inside Tony Hsieh’s Zapponian Utopia,” which was published in 2017 by an imprint of Simon & Schuster. 

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