women-in-bloom: questions for dr. kristian

(Photo credit: Erika Layne Photo)

I learned about the brand 'BLK + GRN' from a friend of mine that was telling me about a recent purchase of hers. I checked out the site and completely fell in love with their mission to "connect people with high-quality toxic-free products that support wellness and to cultivate forward-thinking Black artisans and entrepreneurs."

I am so happy to have been able to connect with the founder of BLK + GRN, Dr. Kristian H., for our first #womeninbloom interview ever. She notes that her brand is "the only premium purveyor of a variety of clean, natural, and Black-owned products." Alignment led us to this collaboration of energies and it is such a treat to be able to share it.

We view you as a woman-in-bloom, consistently flourishing with growth and insight. What fuels your passionate approach to the work that you do?

I was tired of complaining about brands neglecting Black women, so I decided to create a platform that promotes and supports Black women and their brands. I was tired of using toxic products that were negatively impacting my health, so I created a way to easily find better, healthier options. I was tired of just talking about the economic problems impacting Black people, so I decided to find a way to circulate our dollars within our own community. I created what I felt was missing and that is what fuels me.

How does being a black woman inform your desire to create change in the world?

Happiness was difficult to find while I was trying to outrun and outwork racism and sexism. Working in a corporate environment historically created by and for white men made it nearly impossible to escape bigotry. I had a choice – either I would fight to change the organization or I could create my own. I needed to take some risks in order to find happiness so I chose to build a company that is consistent with my values, supports black women entrepreneurs, understands the importance of self-love, and is built on holistic health.

What do you wish that you could go back and tell your 17-year-old self to propel her forward?

Slow down. I have a tendency to move fast. I rarely procrastinate and I truly live by the words, “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.” But as I get older, I am learning the value of being present and slowing down. That stopping to read a book, or taking sometime to myself is just as valuable as being productive.

How do you incorporate wellness and self-care practices into your everyday life?

I have a adopted a healthy lifestyle that is infused with self-care and self-love. I have a mostly plant-based diet, which means I eat tons of fruits and vegetables, incorporate green juices and smoothies, drink plenty of water, and avoid processed foods. I also workout at least three times per week, although some weeks are better than others. I am also very protective of the energy that I am around, managing the people I interact with and the places I visit. I truly believe that holistic health is a lifestyle.

(Photo credit: Erika Layne Photo)

In what ways do you feel your work aligns with your purpose?

My background (i.e. my doctorate degree) is in Public Health, and I have always felt like my purpose was to address health disparities. Even when we control for education, insurance status, and income, Black people still have worse health outcomes than their white counterparts. There is an array of potential root causes - systematic racism, unconscious and conscious bias, and mistrust. If we do not begin to question our habits and change our behaviors, our life expectancy is only going to continue to shorten. I want to empower our communities to take control of our health and wellness, and BLK + GRN is the first step.

What are three things that you have recently learned about yourself?

The greatest teacher is experience, and there is nothing like a failure to let you know what you still need to work on. I love the idea of embracing failure to ensure that we learn from our mistakes. I agreed to speak at a retreat, but I neglected to get a contract signed, and subsequently we didn’t have a clear understanding of the expectations. I have invested thousands of dollars in business ventures that I later decided were not a good fit for me. I have invested time in people and refused to let them go (even though I know I needed to), simply because I had already invested so much time and energy. The first lesson is always get a contract, the second lesson is do your due diligence before you spend any money, and the third lesson is value people for what they are, not what you need them to be, and let them go when it is time.

What are you most proud of at this point in your life?

I’m taking risks, caring less about what people say, and finding my happiness. I quit my corporate job, got a divorce, became a professor, moved to a new city, started a new company, and became a yoga instructor. I am truly living my best life and that makes me proud.

What is one thing you would share with others on the path to becoming a waymaker for women-of-color?

Self-care, self-care, self-care. As a waymaker, there is always something that needs to be done: an e-mail that needs to be written, a phone call to be made, or a website update to implement. It was really easy for me work 20+ hours on BLK + GRN in one day, but I quickly realized that working non-stop with no time for self-care wasn’t good for me or my business. I had to quickly learn how to outsource tasks that I didn’t enjoy (or that someone else could just do better than me). I had to reframe how I thought about downtime. Instead of seeing yoga, meditation, or watching a movie as a distraction, I started to frame it as necessary downtime. It helped me achieve balance, which has ultimately propelled my brand.

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