Leslie Salmon Jones is equal parts passion and Zen. That dichotomy is present not only in her personality but in her yoga business, Afro-Flow Yoga – a fusion of enthusiastic live drums African dance and calming yoga. Salmon Jones has been in the yoga game since her days training as a dancer at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, where she experienced the connection between the two forms of movement.
Originally from Toronto, the Boston-based yogi travels across the globe teaching one-on-one as well as group classes. Her training in wellness coaching, public speaking and personal training have enhanced her brand, making her a perfect fit for BlackEnterprise.com’s Yogapreneur feature.
What was the impetus behind venturing into the health and fitness industry as an entrepreneur?
This is a question of which some first comes first: the chicken or the egg. My father was a surgeon who worked with the morbidly obese and when I was a kid I worked in his office and notice how obesity is a life-changer for a lot of people. As Canada’s first black Chief of Surgery and an orphan, he instilled the entrepreneurial spirit in me. My mom was a nurse and was very involved in the community and a civil rights activist. She planted the seed to be an agent of change. I learned very early on that you can transform your circumstances.
I got into yoga when I was training as a professional dancer with Alvin Ailey. There, it was a requirement. I soon knew there was more I could offer. It taught me that your body is your instrument and I found a natural segue to start teaching people that (principle). I opened a studio once I got my certification and added my personal touch to it. So yoga and dance have never been separate.
I came to this whole idea of Afro Flow Yoga when my husband I traveled to West Africa after my father died. It was a way to connect to ancestry. Wanted to find out more about my roots. I began doing a lot of healing work and was invited to teach dance and yoga at the Raw Spirit Festival at Sedona. During meditation, I realized dance and yoga were fused instead of separate. I later found some drummers to add to the practice and it was epic and magical! I thought “this feels natural” and I started doing research and found that Yoga has a base in Africa.
What resources did you use to start and grow your business?
Initially it was all word of mouth, which was the most powerful marketing tool. It made me accountable to walking the talk. I used social media and my DVDs also helped (in promoting my business). I also do a lot of speaking engagements and workshops. I also had to do some free classes to get it out there
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced during difficult economical times?
My business didn’t slow down too much but I couldn’t raise my prices. I had to keep things as they were. People were nervous about [spending money on Yoga]. Being a dancer in NYC was good training for economic challenges. So I tried not to have fear around it. I stayed very confident and supported my clients.
I found that it was also an opportunity to create more services. I usually do one-on-one sessions but I offered small group classes where people would split the cost but still have personal attention. I also had the AfroFlow Core Power and Core Strength DVDs so if someone couldn’t afford the one-on-one, they could do the DVD.