We all know there’s an air of elitism that accompanies the health and wellness industry. It’s a privilege to have the money, time, and resources to take care of one’s self, even in an advanced nation like the United States. And as such, the face of wellness has wholly been white, well-off women for some time. But Gianne Doherty is doing a big part to change the landscape.
Tomorrow, the entrepreneur who created Organic Bath Co. is hosting her third annual W.E.L.L. Summit in Boston, a “curated conference promoting a 360° view of wellness.” The one-day event features thought-provoking panel discussions such as “Demystifying Trends in Healthy Eating” and the “Business of Wellness: Monetizing Social Media,” as well as optional wellness activities, like yoga and meditation.
We reached out to Doherty for insight on launching the summit — and her own business after a skin breakout — and how women of color can have a bigger voice in the wellness space. Here’s what she said.
Tell me about the experience of relocating to Boston and your skin going completely out of whack…. I started breaking out in hives and finally figured out that I was reacting to the products that I was using. My boyfriend Jay then made me an unscented, shea butter based body butter that my skin still loves to this day. That body butter is now known as Drenched and has won multiple awards.
What was the process like leaving your career and starting Organic Bath Co.? How long did it take for you to make that leap? I got laid off after closing the biggest account of my career. Organic Bath Co., had been a passion project up until that point…but once I got laid off I decided to double down and invest in myself.
Were you ever discouraged by the lack of Black women in the wellness space when deciding to launch the business? My wellness journey is intertwined with my entrepreneur journey in that I have been 100% fueled by my passion and belief that women need to know what ingredients they are putting on their body and they should have better options. It is disheartening to either be one of the only women of color on the stage speaking or in the room.
Is your partner, Jay Weeks, involved with the business? If so, how do you keep balance between your personal and professional relationship? Yes, we started Organic Bath Co. together. I founded WELL Summit based off of conversations and interactions I was having with my circle of friends. It’s not easy. Working together has gotten better as our team has grown because we both have our areas of expertise.
What sparked creation of the W.E.L.L Summit? The W.E.L.L. Summit was created to bring world-class experts together from across the spectrum and look at health and wellness from a 360 degree perspective. Our goal with The W.E.L.L. Summit is to present wellness from a practical point of view that can be implemented into attendees’ everyday lives. W.E.L. Summit has four core values: community, education, diversity and empowerment. All these are the driving forces and the true heart of the conference.
- Education: W.E.L.L Summit stands above other conferences because education is at the core of our programming. W.E.L.L. Summit is committed to educating attendees from world class experts and walk away with actionable steps that they can apply to their life.
Community: Our attendees leave feeling inspired, positive, and connected to one another. The genuine spirit of the community is what attendees will walk away with. The #wellsummittribe is alive and thriving!
Diversity: W.E.L.L. Summit is a conference, tribe, and movement geared to being 100% inclusive and diverse. From novices to wellness veterans to the well-curious, there’s something for everyone. No one should be made to feel like an outsider when it comes to their health and wellness.
Empowerment: W.E.L.L Summit encourages being more mindful of the world around us. We encourage attendees to seek innovation paths to self-care, and tools, techniques, and strategies to improve our relationships with each other and ourselves.
Who is the summit for and what will attendees take away? First-time W.E.L.L. Summit attendees can expect to find a community of like-minded individuals who want to learn more about being well. While our speakers and panelist have been living, teaching, and leading the conversation in this space, we understand others may be just starting their wellness journeys. The W.E.L.L. Summit is an inclusive and diverse space that celebrates self-love, empowers self-care, and above all shares tools to encourages each attendee to live their best wellness experiences (as defined by them).
How do you choose the speakers? Typically all speakers go through the website and apply via our speaker form. This is an easy way for us to track who we will be featuring. We also work with our advisory board to ensure we have a diverse group that can each offer something different.
Why are there still so few women of color leading the way in the wellness space? What can be done?
The biggest challenge is seeing ourselves represented in clean beauty and wellness. I’m biracial — Irish American and Afro Caribbean — For those of us in decision-making positions in the green beauty and wellness space, it’s really crucial to ensure that diversity–not just race, but also age, body type, and background is represented in everything we do. From selecting our team members, to what we post on social media, we need to think about what we can do to represent women from all walks of life.
How can more everyday women of color begin to see healthy eating, organic purchases, exercising and such as necessities rather than luxuries? We each have the opportunity to make dozens of choices daily, adding up to hundreds of choices every week. What we eat, the products we buy, every choice matters. We are presented with hundreds of choices on a weekly basis, being mindful with how we respond to those choices is the beginning of one’s self-care and wellness practice. Making those decisions and adding to them — chose to walk instead of driving, opt for water instead of juice or soda, try on the clean deodorant. Take it one choice at a time and don’t be too hard on yourself!
Where do you recommend most women start when they want to attempt to live a more green lifestyle? It really is about making small little changes, they’ll add up over time. We don’t have to overhaul our lives to start a wellness journey, but we do have the power to make small changes that can have big impacts. When a friend invites you to dinner or lunch, are you actually looking forward to it or are you saying yes out of obligation? What are you feeding your spirit with? How do you talk to yourself? What foods are you putting into my your body? How does it make you feel?