Whether in her career or personal life, creating a safe space for Black women has always been extremely important for Demarra Gardner. So it’s no surprise that in 2017 she launched Black Women About Business, a sacred space where Black women can receive wellness and business support.
The organization provides business planning, executive coaching, training, and retreats designed exclusively with the Black woman in mind. Gardner understood the unique challenges so many Black women entrepreneurs face as they seek support. “It can be challenging, depending on where you live to get culturally relevant [help]. To get people who support you, that are willing to mentor you, and who are willing to help to give you a leg up in the business,” she shared. This year Gardner decided to take Black Women About Business on a three-city tour in Michigan and bring a group of multigenerational women together that could speak to experiences connected to Black women and address them in a holistic way.
The “Be Well Fabulous Black Woman” Tour visited Battle Creek, Detroit, and Grand Rapids and included speakers like celebrity financial expert, Dr. Lynn Richardson, Dr. Geneva Williams, and certified plant-based nutritionist, Lisa Smith. Black Women About Business in-person events are expanding to the Be Well Beautiful Woman Retreat this October in Michigan. The three-day luxury retreat will overlook Gull Lake with wellness workshops and nature-inspired activities.
“We talk a lot about the problems of the world, but you have very few people that activate and do something about it. [There’s an] opportunity for us to turn the passion that we have about the ills of the world into something that’s going to transform the world,” she said.
Incorporating wellness into Black Women About Business is Gardner’s way of wanting Black women to put themselves first. “We don’t feel as if we have permission to live our lives in a way that puts ourselves first. There are so many things that we have taken on that have created limiting beliefs about who we are, about what’s possible for ourselves and about what’s important,” she explained. Throughout her career, she’s worked with many professional women striving in their amazing careers while taking on leadership roles in their community and managing their households. However, she also hears their “devastating stories” about women living with disease and other physical ailments. “We are not healthy the way that we should be,” she explained.
She attributes Black women’s lack of attention to their wellness to being left behind in the conversations and experiences. “It’s a whitewashed space. A lot of the wellness practices more recently being introduced have been a part of our indigenous landscape for many years,” she explained.
Gardner is currently working on her book, Be Well Black Woman: Charting a Course for You to Live an Optimal Life which will highlight the indigenous aspect of wellness, a myriad of ways we can be well, and how accessible it can be for all of us. Her mother was engaged in the natural health movement long before it became popular and introduced Gardner to living a holistic lifestyle as a child. “She had a yoga practice, she grew wheatgrass, and went out to retreat centers,” she explained. As Gardner got older, she started to look for ways that she could be more whole and went back to her mother’s early teachings.
Gardner wants to help Black women know they have a place in wellness and that the practice is a birthright. “It’s the foundation by which we build on so that we can live vital lives across our lifespan,” she shared. Gardner believes wellness is the key to being a better businesswoman, partner, and mother. When you do the “deep internal work that wellness requires” you become a better human. “I think many of us die never uncovering all we were created to be, and so I want to help to create a pathway for us to be everything that we were created to be,” Gardner shared.
Although she is a licensed therapist, she too had to work on her mind, body and spirit to be well for her clients. Gardner is a survivor of molestation and rape; she did not realize at the time that her trauma inspired her to become a therapist. “My trauma then is being filtered through the work that I’m doing, which is transformative for the people that I’m working with, and it was enough until it wasn’t anymore. As life happens to us, we have to begin facing ourselves in ways that we’ve never faced ourselves before,” she shared. As some deep-rooted issues started to present itself, she knew she had to do more work to work authentically with other people. It is why she is intentional in creating a balanced blend of wellness and professional development content. She believes by owning your story, including the “unsavory parts” of your past and forgiving the ways you have not always been kind to yourself allows you to thrive.