Emily Fleming

Yoga in Classrooms and Schools Consulting, a member of the 2021-22 Social Innovation Lab cohort, was founded by Emily Fleming.

SIL: Tell us about your company. What are you working on?

Emily Fleming: Yoga in Classrooms and Schools Consulting works directly with schools and school districts to develop tailor-made, impactful and long-term yoga and mindfulness programming for students, staff, and families through a model of coaching and support, cross-curricular integration and the creation of culturally relevant programming aligned to the needs, values and goals of the school community.

Why did you decide to start this? Where did the idea come from?

I’ve been teaching yoga and mindfulness as a full-time enrichment class at a charter school in Baltimore for seven years. When I first started, I had the luxury of creating the course, but when I was looking for curricula to use in my classroom, none of them spoke to me as a teacher in an urban middle school. The existing programs were geared either toward elementary or high school students, were meant to be implemented for just 20 minutes a day, or just seemed out of touch in some way with the realities of middle school. So, I created my own three-year curriculum.

Yoga in Classrooms and Schools Consulting came out of that. We’ve had so much success integrating yoga and mindfulness into my school’s culture organically and what I do in my class is not separate from what everyone else does — it’s interwoven. I really want to help other schools rethink yoga and mindfulness programming as being something more than an add-on but as something that is incorporated into the school culture and aligned with the school values, something teachers, students, and families buy into because they feel it’s relevant to them.

What constitutes success for you?

Knowing that I’ve provided value for people. I work with a lot of kids yoga teachers who want to bring yoga into schools but are encountering roadblocks getting in the door, and every time someone gets a position, or says they learned something, it’s success. I think that’s all we can hope for as entrepreneurs and business owners, that we are providing enough value to someone that they let us know.

How can people get involved in supporting you in your venture?

You can follow us on Instagram at yogainclassroomsandschools. But the biggest and best way you can support us is to connect me with any school leaders that you know (in Baltimore or beyond) who are invested in bringing yoga and mindfulness into their schools, and seeking ways to make it more meaningful and impactful for their students, teachers, and families.

What advice do you have for would-be social entrepreneurs thinking about starting a venture?

Take the first and then the next logical step forward. Don’t try and do everything at once, especially if, like me, you’re also working a full-time job and building your business outside of work hours. Take the next logical step forward, even if it feels small. My venture was an idea at first, and I spent a while just talking about it with friends to get their thoughts. Then, when I realized it might have legs, I got really clear about my vision and mission. It can be easy to look at other ventures and all the progress they’re making and feel like you aren’t growing fast enough, but just keep taking the next logical step forward.

Why did you apply to SIL?

My best friend, Danna Thomas, founder of Happy Teacher Revolution, is an SIL alum. When I was in the idea stage of my venture and shared what I wanted to do with her, she encouraged me to apply. I’d never heard of SIL or human-centered design before, but when I went on the SIL website, it all made so much sense and felt like a natural fit to me. What also attracted me to SIL was practical business resources and knowledge that SIL provides. It’s nice to be in a program that isn’t exclusively focused on tech or education, but rather that brings people together who are working to change systems and put the customer first while providing value.

How have you grown personally during your time in the Accelerator?

I’ve gotten a lot more confident in talking about my venture, and that’s come not just from clarity but from having to talk repeatedly about what I’m doing and our value proposition. I always felt like I could provide value to schools and districts in this way, but just knowing that others see and feel that, too, has been HUGE! I’ve always been good at managing my time, but working a full-time job and being in SIL has really helped me to solidify who and what are important to me outside of school hours, and how I want to be spending my time — and that’s meant saying “no” to more things and setting clear boundaries.

Read more about Yoga in Classrooms and Schools Consulting here. To learn more about the Social Innovation Lab and the 2020–22 cohort, click here. Join them at the SIL Innovators’ Showcase event, 4–6 p.m. on April 26.