The travel industry has been gravely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, but that hasn’t stopped entrepreneurs from pivoting their businesses as business travelers and essential workers still frequent airports for work-related assignments. After her travel schedule and frequent flying began to weigh on her health, one Black woman decided to create a new travel brand with an emphasis on wellness.
Youmie Jean Francois is the founder and CEO of Flex-N-Fly, a yoga and lifestyle brand centered around travelers. The brand also includes in-flight programs that feature a collection of 1-to-10-minutes videos consisting of yoga exercises, positive affirmations, and meditations for travelers on long-haul flights.
Francois says she came with the idea after a trip to Morocco where she saw a group of men taking time to pray in the airport.
“That was the birthplace of Flex-N-Fly,” she says in an email interview with BLACK ENTERPRISE. “A couple of months later, I traveled to Israel and it was confirmed. I returned to New York City and immediately started my business.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic began to force closures across the country and world, Francois, who originally planned to launch her business with in-person classes in May 2020, had to delay their rollout, still offering yoga mats and apparel through her online store. She says while the travel industry may have been hit hard, this type of service is still needed.
“Now more than ever, travelers aren’t sure if the airport or airlines care about their wellness. There’s an element of trust that is missing. Flex-N-Fly recognized early on that this was a problem before the pandemic, but now travelers are more vocal about their concerns,” Francois says.
“The pandemic amplified an already existing problem. Wellness needs a space at the airport. There are so many people that suffer from anxiety at the airport. Avid travelers, pilots, and flight attendants need a space where they can regroup and take care of their mental and physical health. Having a 20- or 30-minute class that focuses on their well-being not only improves their day, but helps them do their jobs better. In addition, flying will be a more pleasurable experience.”
The wellness brand is scheduled to arrive at JFK and Newark Airport in late spring 2021 for in-person classes. Three major major airlines for Flex-N-Fly’s in-flight programs have already been approved.
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