Flying with Air: A story of survivors, resilience and a never seen embarked journey
Flying with Air was founded on April 29, 2019, by human trafficking survivor and former model, Airica Kraehmer (Air), who brought a new meaning and healing pathway to what it means to be a survivor to thriver. Air wanted to bring a natural healing pathway and new tools to survivors of all walks of life in a judgment free, safe place.
Originally, Air had no sights on starting a business. Behind this strong woman is a powerful story that gave her no choice but to launch into entrepreneurship. Despite having a polished resume as a multiple time bestseller author and top of her class bachelor's degrees in chemistry, nutrition and health human sciences, her public status as an advocate and human trafficking survivor was declared too high risk for many employers. As another means of survival, she entered into entrepreneurship to make an income.
With the residual income from her first book, Models Stop Traffic, and her little savings, Air decided to invest in herself and trust her talents and education. The idea that sparked Flying with Air’s first products may have been divinely placed in Air’s mind as result of her need for somatic and spiritual healing. Like most of us, Air spent days looking in the mirror analyzing her appearance and judging her physical flaws due to her trauma. The beautiful model she knew from her youth was now covered in scars. She had tried dozens of products both over the counter and by prescription to erase the damage done to her body. When all failed her, she decided to use her biochemistry, nutrition and plant knowledge to manifest her own solutions.
The first products at Flying with Air were the topical scar oil and headache salve. They are still two the bestsellers today with a full range of herbs, naturally derived skincare, candles, crystals and metaphysical healing tools. To this day all of the products on the shelves of Flying with Air are rooted in her customers requests for their physical, mental and spiritual healing. In seeking out many ways to move forward from her trauma, Air committed to physical, mental and spiritual health.
Many aspiring business owners do not have the capital to lease large spaces, hire employees or buy the type of heavy machinery required to launch their brands. For Air, this was even harder with her public platforms. Perhaps with naïve optimism or use to hearing the word no, she reached out to one of the top malls of America, Aventura Mall. For two months, she felt like she was chasing her tail to get in contact with the leasing director.
Aventura Mall felt like a magical place for Air right off the bat, she had walked the mall hundreds of times. She knew which brands had moved store locations and which were new to the scene. She studied the unusual and fascinating architecture and design not found in most places, and after a while it was not just part of a routine but felt like a home for her. Even before the devastating global pandemic of 2020, Air had committed to becoming part of the magical home owned by Jackie Soffer.
One day looking down from the second level atrium she noticed the farmers and artisan market vendors. She noticed how unique each small business owner was and saw a small spot in the corner in front of the former COS. She vocalized that’s my spot. She was on a mission to start something uncharted and never done before for a survivor.
Up until early spring of 2019, Flying with Air was a friends and family type of resource for the essential oils, salves and soaps Air had created from her small kitchen space. She had been attempting to create a brand image but with no money for fancy packaging or even nice marketing materials she was pushed into using every artistic ability she had to make nice chalk signs and loose packaging styles for her products. The quality of the product was 100 times better than the packaging at the time. She knew her herbalism facts and educating her customers, unlike all the alternative options out there, was going to be the key to the success.
The special day of June 2nd, 2019 was unique for Air in two ways. It was her birthday but, more importantly, it was the first time she met Jackie Soffer. During one of her daily routine walks around the mall she spotted the highly successful business woman in one of the nail salons. Now in her early twenties, Air was petrified to try to introduce herself to one of the most influential and intelligent businesswomen of South Florida.
Pushing down all her insecurities, Air approached Ms. Soffer as kindly and professionally as she could. The conversation only lasted two minutes but it ended in three impactful results. First, Air was acknowledged by Ms. Soffer as she listened to Air’s goal. She was given a business card, and validated on her goal to grow Flying with Air.
Over the next six months, Air learned the hard business lessons of finding your place, your worth and your tribe. She worked throughout the week exploring what products would be best to accomplish her goal of helping survivors. In addition to her chemistry skill sets she had learned sewing from the years in the modeling industry working beside fashion designers. As she accepted into the weekend market at Aventura Mall, her counterpart vendors watched firsthand as she polished and refined her product line. Knowing she was being critiqued at every corner she did her best to keep her head down and be adaptable as she learned and observed.
Air officially joined the Aventura Mall farmers market in quite frankly the absolute worst time in the entire history of mall retail. Through the months of March-August 2020, Air witnessed the mall she knew to be packed with crowds become barren. She trusted the process and knew that the greater plan was to be here, weekend after weekend. For months she saw little to no profit, and while many vendors walked away, she stayed.
Even from a young age, Air understood everything changes if you are patient enough. This down time was an opportunity to strengthen an online presence and observe those around her. She took quick admiration to the leasing directors as she found them to be very strong and independent women. Much like Ms. Soffer she was inspired with how they carried themselves with such class and authority.
In late 2020, Air’s patience was rewarded with patrons returning to the mall. She was quickly growing a customer base and was gaining a reputation as the “witch” of the mall. Air found amusement in it. She could very well see how with all her herbs, oils, candles and now crystals could easily equate such a title.
Air hired her first employees a month before the holiday season. She had led teams for previous employers, but once again she felt entirely over her head. She had spent countless hours perfecting the product, understanding customer needs and navigating the foreign world of business. Becoming someone worthy of being called a leader was a whole new objective.
Everywhere Air looked she felt surrounded by people way smarter and experienced than her. At times she felt a crippling paralysis of breaking a rule she didn’t know existed or the judgment of not being good enough. It made an atrocious pairing with the mission in her mind and the ambition in her heart. Air continued to have visions on being part of the mall -part of the magic.
A month before the height of the 2020 holiday season, the leasing directors offered Air the opportunity she hadn’t been entirely convinced was possible. Presented with a run down garden cart the size of a large vehicle, Air adopted the cart while the mall adopted Flying with Air as their newest tenant.
December 2020-January 2021, was one of the most physically demanding times for Air as she worked 90 hour a week helping customers at the garden cart, creating product solutions for customers and hiring like minded individuals. Fast forward to the end of 2021, she was surrounded by a strong survivor-to-thriver orientated team, returning customers and signed renewal lease with Aventura Mall.
Without doubt, Air understands the sacrifice and persistence are keys to launching not only a new brand or business, but a new way of living for survivors of human trafficking. This is highlighted in the respect and gratitude of the relationship she has grown with Aventura Mall.
SUNNY ISLES SQUARE:
Flying with Air’s second location at Sunny Isles Square, is located at 3093 NE 163rd Street, North Miami Beach, 33160. This location would grow into being the first headquarters for Flying with Air’s apothecary and metaphysical stores. Air realized not that having space to create products and more personal conversations with customers seeking guidance for the business was becoming a hindrance to their growth. With Aventura Mall’s team secured and prospering, she decided to take on a new chapter with the first retail front. Up until this point, Air had been operating in a trilocal collage of spaces between Aventura Mall, green warehouses and her home. The risk to combine the headquarter, production and storage into a freestanding retail space would expand into great new horizons for everyone involved.
With limited funds Air herself built the Sunny Isles Square store into what it is today with the assistance of her female team and local artists. Once opened, customer comments of the sweet earthy aroma, unique wall artistry and mother nature with a touch of occult theme made the store radiate unlike anything else they have experienced in Miami. This cottage core space would be highlighted by a mission statement reading at the front of the store proclaiming:
“Welcome to our sacred place,
Flying with Air was created by a human trafficking survivor, Air who found healing in the natural remedy lifestyle. Today with good vibes, and love, we have an amazing tribe. Those who find themselves here are accepted with no judgment. We strive daily to help others on their healing and spiritual journey with Mother Earth’s help and metaphysical tools.
Flying with Air is filled with PETA approved products, all naturally derived from our planter. We are so excited your journey led you here.
Good Vibes and Love, Flying with Air tribe.”
Decorated in her favorite shades of greens, Air has created her first true spiritual home to share with customers and clients. The conversations discussing philosophy, spiritualism, natural medicines and more have shapeshifted a traditional storefront into a place of healing.
Air has coined her personal quote as, “We are all survivors of something.” It can be found on the community wall of inspiration in the heart of the store where well over 100 more messages of inspiration, motivation and encouraged healing can be found by the community.
WHOLESALE & PRIVATE LABEL:
Unlike other apothecary and metaphysical stores, Air has placed strong emphasis on the reach of Flying with Air’s products than the capitalism of the profits. It means more to her to have amazing products that reach various audiences and demographics than to have the Flying with Air name attached to their sourcing.With this concept, Flying with Air has placed several resources to building out the backbone of the business -wholesale and private label.
By allowing her products to be sold at private label and resell, Flying with Air has been able to expand their reach not only in the United States but all over the world. Flying with Air products has currently been deployed into these countries:
- United States of America
- United Kingdom
- Dominican Republic
Flying with Air’s vision has expanded past survival into thriving. When asking her what's next her eyes water as she explains her now elevated driving force.
“I’m not just surviving anymore, and Flying with Air has outgrown me in so many ways like a child may outgrow the mindset of their parents before them. At this point, I’ve had thousands of conversations about spiritual devastations, human rights violations and the impact humanity has on the planet and each other. I’m no longer interested in being a human trafficking survivor much like many others do not want to be defined by a single chapter in the story of their lives. The butterfly is the symbol of Flying with Air, and at first I thought it was good enough to be transformed from victim to survivor. But I no longer live in that complacency and have been called to transform once again.
It is my goal to help assist in bringing honor to all woman survivors of human trafficking and sexual assualt as survivors are the driving forces of the community with strength, resourcefulness and relentlessness. I am going to become the first publicly recognized and known human trafficking survivor CEO of a fortune 500 company. We will be known for our strength, determination, and survivor and planet positive focused healing. All who come beside us will not only do so for their own interests but for all survivors everywhere.