Meet the Newcastle Entrepreneur Who Created a Foldable Yoga Mat
Combining his passion for yoga with his love of art, computer engineer Ahmed Hany created And Flow!, a yoga mat which folds down to A4 size
Ahmed discovered yoga back in 2014 when he was diagnosed with hypertension and burnout. ‘I was working for one of the biggest consulting firms and was told to do more sport,’ he says. After being on medication, he was looking for a way to naturally lower his blood pressure and discovered that yoga has a number of benefits for both mind and body.
Practicing yoga became a passion for Ahmed, and he even trained as a yoga teacher (he now teaches classes once a week alongside his full-time job as a computer engineer). Part of his role includes travelling for business and it was during a visit to Africa that he came up with the idea for And Flow!. ‘I was trying to travel light to be able to move between different countries for business meetings and living out of a carry-on,’ he explains. ‘Most yoga mats on the market are heavy and chunky to carry, and at that time I decided to look into a yoga mat which folded like a towel to fit into my backpack.’
Although Ahmed had the idea for a foldable yoga mat six years ago, it wasn’t until last year that he decided to launch the business. ‘I also have a keen interest in art and when I was looking at yoga mats I realised that they are quite generic in their look. There’s nothing tailored or specific to you. As yoga is a personal practice I wanted to combine the idea of a folding mat with a mat which looked arty and pretty. That’s when I came up with And Flow!.
‘I would call And Flow! a collaborative project and it’s centred around three key pillars: suitability, community and a brighter future,’ Ahmed explains. The community aspect involves the design process of each of the mats. ‘We collaborate with different artists from around the world who bring their art onto different yoga mats,’ he says.
Ultimately Ahmed comes up with the vision for each range and works with a variety of artists to bring his ideas onto the mats. ‘We have different drops and each one has different inspiration behind it. I work with different artists to bring the vision I have to life.
‘Suitability is another key pillar and that means working with sustainable materials as well as working with other small businesses to ethically source the materials for And Flow!. I would say we are a kinder brand towards the environment and this is a big part of the business. We also donate money to provide brighter futures for other communities and we are passionate about a business called SolarAid, where for every mat purchased we donate money to provide schools, homes and clinics with clean solar power in Africa,’ says Ahmed.
Having launched his first drop before Christmas last year, Ahmed says his foldable yoga mats have already been really well received. ‘There isn’t a favourite mat so far, they have all had lots of love on social media and I’m really pleased with how people have embraced them,’ he says. ‘The biggest challenge is getting the drops ready on time as most are time-bound in terms of when I want things to be out. We have to work backwards from the drop date to iron things out, as we start from the design process and getting the website ready then have to do photography sessions and also work with the manufacturers. [When it comes to the launch] it’s like the finish line of the marathon, but also the start again because you start working on the marketing,’ he explains.
Each of the drops is manufactured in small batches and only a certain number of each design is made. ‘Once the drop is finished, it depends on how popular the mats have been as to whether we might bring those designs back, or we might create new ones – each drop is a limited edition to an extent.’
The original collection which Ahmed hopes to always have available includes the Lumin and Play and Sway mats. ‘We also have newer designs, inspired by summer, which include the Wildflower, Zábava and Twister mats,’ he says.
The business was born from Ahmed’s bedroom, and currently operates from his home in Newcastle. ‘Each mat is packaged by me with a lot of care. I wanted to have a heavy local presence, so the boxes are locally-sourced and I work with other local businesses for printing of flyers or stickers which go into the boxes when we send out an order. My hope for And Flow! is to be the Apple of the yoga mat. One day I hope to have a flagship store – people say if you want to dream about something, dream big!’
Gone are the days when your yoga mat would take up most of your luggage, or be difficult to carry under one arm. With And Flow! Ahmed has transformed the traditional rolled mat and invented a foldable, minimalist and lightweight rug which combines expression of art with a convent way to practice yoga. The A4 size fold-out mat allows you to get your movement dose wherever you go. ‘The brand is built on the cornerstones of love, care and inclusivity and it brings people together from different parts of life, whether that be designers, yoga teachers or adventurers,’ he says.