During a time when health and wellness is more important than ever, Footprints To Fitness has modified their programs to continue offering them to the community in a safe and responsible manner. We reached out to April Dupre, the founder of Footprints To Fitness to ask her about her inspiration and drive in starting a community-based fitness program and how her business adapted during this “new normal.”
Tell us what inspired you to start Footprints To Fitness.
I started Footprints after seeing an absence of high quality fitness and wellness programming accessible to the community. As a former educator of 10 years and being in the fitness industry for almost 20 years, I found myself providing top notch resources for many that were able to afford a comfortable lifestyle at gyms and fitness studios, but watched my students and their families struggle to access basic necessities. I knew I had to create a community that would change the narrative.
What makes Footprints To Fitness different from other fitness programs and gyms in the city?
We are not a gym or fitness studio, which is exactly why I created this amazing community. Our mission at Footprints is to create fun and unique fitness and wellness experiences, while showcasing our city’s best locations. Instead of going to the same space daily, we have the opportunity to partner with so many amazing spaces in New Orleans and highlights what makes the Big Easy so special. This allows both locals and visitors to experience the true authenticity of New Orleans and our culture.
We combine our love for fitness + wellness, New Orleans culture, and tourism to create a memorable experience for all directly on site! From weekly fitness classes, CPR training, bachelorette + birthday parties, tourism + workplace wellness sessions, to our signature “Healthy Happy Hours” and more. There’s truly something for everyone. At Footprints, we dance to the beat of our own brass band!
Tell us a bit about your foundation and community outreach programs. Why was it important for you to start them?
Learning how to put your health first doesn’t have to be hard or unattainable. I started both Footprints To Fitness, and most recently our nonprofit Footprints Foundation, to create a diverse and inclusive space that provides cultural AND education based fitness and wellness experiences. By not having a brick and mortar, our business model allows us to impact more lives throughout the community, as well as tourists. We’ve collaborated with huge organizations such as the Downtown Development District, New Orleans Pelicans, New Orleans Recreation Department, City of New Orleans and many companies through New Orleans & Company as members to provide fitness and wellness programming in a way that allows both underprivileged and privileged groups to learn and grow with one another. This is extremely important because it allows multiple groups to be exposed to each other’s lifestyles while experiencing tangible ways to enhance their health and overall well being.
We have programming and experiences for everyone from youth groups to seniors that are both local and visitors of the New Orleans metro area as well as the state of Louisiana.
In your perspective, why is the tourism and hospitality industry important in a city like NOLA?
The tourism and hospitality industry allow our city to be recognized on an international level. Oftentimes as locals, we take for granted just how incredible the “New Orleans experience” is. This is why I love working with tourism and hospitality leaders on a consistent basis to help enhance that unique feeling that’s shared in the heart of the city for both locals and travelers. For locals, our fitness + wellness events allow them to see the versatility that the Big Easy has, while tourists are able to experience the authenticity of the deep traditions that make our city one of a kind.
I love that we can help change the perception of visiting New Orleans through health, fitness, and wellness. Yes, enjoying our spirits, cuisine, music, and iconic landmarks are fantastic. Including the Footprints experience helps enhance those moments with more balance and allows visitors to see that they don’t have to completely abandon their healthier routines they have while here. After all of those beignets and hand grenades we all could use a little dance, yoga, team building and French Quarter jogging in our lives.
What is your favorite thing about living and working in NOLA?
New Orleans is like no other city. As a native, it’s a blessing to be able to call this amazing place home. Working to provide incredible experiences for locals and tourists is no easy task, but our team takes great pride in showcasing what makes our city so unique and relatable. Small businesses and locals make up such a large part of what attracts others to live and visit our gumbo pot filled with love and celebration. It feels special to share and educate others on the traditions we experience and know as a way of life. Everyone should know what it feels like to dance in the street, workout along the river, and run through the French Quarter.
What advice do you have for young entrepreneurs and the next generation of business owners?
My biggest advice for young entrepreneurs is to set yourself up for success by becoming an expert in the field you desire to be in. Much of that is learning by doing! Oftentimes as an entrepreneur you want to plan and pray that everything goes perfectly. That’s just not reality. You will stumble and receive many rejections before you hear yes. Embrace those challenges and allow it to fuel you to become better at what you do. I always look to others who are more successful than me in my field, and others, to see what has worked for them while working to put my own spin on what will help me grow and become more efficient.
Research and START. The first step is the hardest. I would also suggest investing in learning basic entry level skills for photography, video + photo editing, website editing, writing, social media marketing, and networking. These skills are invaluable and will take you far, especially at the beginning of your journey when you may not have as much revenue to outsource these services.
How have you successfully adapted business operations?
In the fitness and wellness industry, you MUST have thick skin and be flexible (pun intended). Adapting to find ways to help others realize that investing in the health and wellness and themselves and employees is a constant. Fitness and wellness is all about connection and consistency. Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve certainly been hit hard and feel the impact on what restrictions have done to the economy, especially in tourism. Prior to the pandemic we were successful at securing tourism wellness contracts and partnering with amazing organizations in New Orleans and beyond.
Although we’ve paused most of our in person experiences and do not have the tourism industry for consistent contracts, we have been successful at shifting our programming to both virtual and extreme socially distant in person outdoor/indoor experiences while following all city, state, and CDC guidelines.
Investing in technology that allows us to still provide high quality experiences for clients is something that we take great pride in. We have to work harder to convey that connection online than we do in person given the nature of our field, but it’s also allowed us to reach more people outside of New Orleans who are unable to travel here right now due to COVID-19. We’ve still been able to work with groups virtually for conventions, conferences, parties, and community programming in some capacity.
We’ve all been hit hard in some way from the pandemic and will be dealing with these challenges for a very long time. Finding creative ways to adapt and collaborate to help another organization will save many businesses. It has helped us to see how other brands are conforming to the restrictions we’re facing and what has been successful for them. Don’t be afraid to communicate with others who are experiencing similar challenges as you are. Most importantly, we see now more than ever that HEALTH AND WELLNESS should be a huge focus in our lives both personally and professionally. Invest in your health and the wellness of your loved ones any colleagues in any way you can.