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Working up a mental sweat at the IFE


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Fierce racing action at the Centertec VR booth

Inside the massive, glass-encased Javits Center in New York City, this reporter was struck by the compelling new concepts on display at the International Franchise Expo in July, rather than the typical list of usual suspects.

My list of franchises to visit later steadily expanded to include cryotherapy, landscaping, brain training, kickboxing, home transformation, contemporary furniture, cold-pressed juice and fruit bowls, video surveillance, virtual reality, luxury chocolates, indoor rock climbing, upscale coffee and beer, canine spa and training and garage makeovers. Here are a few standouts.

After seeing attendees being blasted in the face by ice-cold air, my first stop was Orange Cryo Wellness Centers—a Philadelphia-based cryotherapy concept that uses extreme cold to reduce stress, soothe muscles, help top-level athletes perform at their best and even, allegedly, to reduce bitterness and anger. After watching someone else get blasted in the face by cold air, I excitedly took a seat awaiting my own transformation.

I can attest that a focused treatment on an old wrist injury helped as I scribbled and typed notes during the three-day show. The intense cold was refreshing, and the logic of the business model began to emerge. Truth be told, my bitterness was harder to treat.

As a gardener-in-training and an occasional gamer, two other Philly-based startups also stood out above the rest, including Enliven Planters—a landscape subscription service—and Centertec, which was giving guests the chance to sit down in a driver’s cockpit and experience the crazy, exploding world of VR gaming.

As I strapped in for the ride, I thought about how I’ve wished for this kind of racing game since I was a kid. In the here and now, I made it about four minutes into my race before feeling nauseous and looking for the nearest Dramamine. Nausea aside, it was the most visceral thrill at the show.

Climbing Lady Liberty

Climbing Lady Liberty

Hoping for a more cerebral experience, I sat down with Tanya Mitchell and CEO Kim Hanson from LearningRX, a brain training franchise geared toward kids and people with traumatic brain injuries. Before the show, they promised to help me work up a “mental sweat” through a glimpse of their curriculum. With flashcards and exercises focused on repetition, color, shapes and memory, I felt shades of pride, embarrassment, excitement  and frustration as I tested my own mental fortitude.

They weren’t kidding about the mental sweat, but I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge. With all the talk of concussions and the impacts of traumatic brain injuries, this meshes well with the ever-growing educational and medical service categories. I wonder what I’ll see at the next show.

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