Category Archives: Lifestyle

03Feb/19
Self-Love

Self-Love Is Not a New Concept, Self-Care Just Happens to Be Trending

It’s weird that self-love is trending at a time when most of the Black women I know are struggling so acutely. On the flip side, some of the most toxic people on my timeline are boasting about their ability to cut out people who don’t “spark joy”. It feels like Black women aren’t allowed to be depressed or vulnerable. There’s so much filler out there, but how can we truly practice self-care and self-love with the weight of the world on our shoulders.

Here are 5 tips for self-care. These self-care tips are broken down into the physical projection, spiritual healing, intellectual release, mental deflating, and aromatherapy. These are small, actionable steps that can lead to a much healthier disposition.

1. Self-LoveHit something: There is so much going on. And for those of us in the corporate space, we have to code switch so many times a day, it can literally make us sick. Between juggling a career, a family, and a dream, there are so many instances where we want to slap someone but have to repress the urge. That energy doesn’t just disappear though. Instead of letting it fester, just hit something. Kickboxing is an excellent way to let that stress go. This sort of physical projection can be really fun too. You can even tape a phrase (or face) to a punching bag and hit it. Maybe it helps you to growl out your racist supervisor’s name with your tennis racket hits the ball. Regardless of what it actually represents, I encourage you to hit something. Hit it hard and hit it often.

2. Self-LoveSay “AH”: When I lived in DC, singer Tamika Love Jones taught a toddler class for Black children in Anacostia Park. One thing she said to me years ago when my son was in her class was this: “Just about every spiritual practice says “ah”. That ‘ah’ sound is in every God’s name I can think of. Allah, God, Buddha, Jah, Ra. Chanting the sound can bring you to a place of peace. Let it serve as an anchor.” Sometimes the world’s insanity is raining down and hitting you harder than a hail storm. It may take everything in you not to break. In those moments, sometimes you call on your God, your ancestors, the universe, and whatever centers you by just saying “AH”. Allow yourself the room to meditate on the sound. Whether you do it for 30 seconds or 30 minutes, you owe it to yourself to say “ah.”

3. Write it out: You know on Insecure when Issa gets in that mirror and pumps herself up or has one-sided rap battles in the bathroom? Well, you too can stretch out those tired latent gangster muscles with a verse, prose, poem, song, or limerick—yes, I said limerick. I’m a nerd. It doesn’t stop there though. Journaling is an excellent way to practice self-care. Doing it before you sleep can help ease anxiety. Dr. Joy of the Black Girl Therapy podcast even has a breakup journal! If you write it out, you’re one step closer to working it out. Continue reading

02Feb/19

5 Do’s and Don’ts when Taking the Leap to Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship is trendy right now. You may be feeling the need to “create multiple streams of income” and “become your own boss.” To many, that sounds like a dream come true. Entrepreneurship will show you who you are and challenge you in ways you’ve never imagined. However, many entrepreneurs become frustrated with a lack of quick success, and many customers become frustrated with a lack of quality products or service. The following five tips will help your transition into entrepreneurship, whether part-time or full-time, be as smooth as possible.

Do: Focus on the right product or service

This is particularly important if your business will rely solely on you, at least starting out. To make sure you are providing a quality product or service, you must focus on something for which you possess sufficient talent and that you enjoy. Think about it: if you absolutely love playing the piano, but the extent of your skills is Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, then you should not become a piano teacher. Conversely, if you hate playing the piano but are an exceptional player, could you really be an effective teacher? Find something that you can do every day and do well.

Don’t: Reinvent the wheel

Once you figure out your product or service, focus on making sure the core of your business is exceptional. It may be tempting to want to make your business that takes a standard product and shares it in a way that the world has never seen before. Don’t. Yes, there may be twenty other cake designers in town, but you already have one thing that none of the others have–you! You will be different from everyone else. You have your own network. You have your own style. You have your own experiences. Lean on those, and your business will naturally stand out.

Do: Be consistent

Consistency is the key to achieving anything you want in life, including being a successful entrepreneur. If you want to grow, develop business, and make money, it is going to take more than a couple of hours per week in your spare time. You are going to have to commit to making the time to work on your business, and some things may have to take a backseat to your business. A few options for encouraging and tracking consistency are setting a schedule, writing a list of weekly goals, and having some progress benchmarks. Whatever you want to accomplish with your business, you will not get there without consistency.

Don’t: Get discouraged

You spend months doing market research, writing a business plan, developing your product, building a website, and finally launch your business. Then nothing. Or worse, someone buys your cake or hires you to decorate their home and are dissatisfied. You get a bad review. Maybe one of your clients can’t pay you. Maybe you miscalculated your expenses, and can’t pay your expenses for the month. Do not be discouraged! Every business, including yours, is going to face challenges. Instead of looking at challenges as setbacks, focus on how you can use those experiences to create systems to solve problems in the future. What can you learn? How can you move forward? The more challenges you face, the better you will get at bouncing back, and in the end, you’ll be a better entrepreneur because of it.

Do: Rely on your network for support

Your friends, family, neighbors, coworkers, and social media acquaintances will be essential to the success of your business. From the research stage to selling your product or service, make sure you keep them involved and aware. They will be your first customers. They will provide your first referrals. They will encourage you when you face challenges, and cheer you on when you succeed. Do not passively include your network in your business, be strategic and intentional. Know when and how to reach out to each person. Your parents may not receive information or have the same needs as your coworkers. Throughout your entrepreneurship journey, your network will grow as your business does.

Making the decision to become an entrepreneur is a major commitment. Whatever your product or service, whatever your goals, these five do’s and don’ts will start your business off right.

With the right network, success is always possible.

31Jan/19
Ashley McDonough

Ashley McDonough, Howard Grad & Journalist Behind Articles of Self Love and Media | Self Love Series

Ashley McDonoughMartin Luther King once said “Everybody can be great… because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve.” Which is true, all of us can be great by giving back and being the best version of ourselves.

Ashley McDonough is one of many examples of this as a Howard University grad, producer, journalist, media professional, and modern-day renaissance woman.  She has utilized all of her talents to inform, celebrate and entertain. Taji Mag was able to talk to her about self-love in the many aspects of life.

Dapper Dr. Feel (DDF): What is self-love to you and how can people better practice it?

Ashley McDonough (AM): Self-love is an appreciation of yourself, you have to know who you are and what you deserve. Self-love is appreciating the promise you made to yourself. Living your life accordingly to the promise that you made. 

DDF: How do you practice self-love?

AM: It is a day-to-day basis of being kind to yourself. I, myself, am a very busy person and I have a lot on my plate. I can be hard on myself with completing things in a timely manner. To me, it’s truly about being patient with yourself. Just take time out to talk to yourself in a positive, uplifting way.

Relationships & Self Love 

“You’ve got to learn to leave the table when love’s no longer being served.”- Nina Simone 

DDF: You have some great articles about dating. Advocates say you should love yourself first before entering a relationship but when do you know you are ready?

AM: It’s just a matter of self-healing. When you are healed enough and your mental health is in order, then I think that is the right time to date. A lot of times I think that relationships don’t work because everyone’s walking around with these traumas and insecurities that they haven’t healed from.

Once you have healed fully, know what you want out of a partner and you know what you deserve out of that partner and know what you are willing to give that partner in return, I think it’s a healthy ground to go out there and see what the dating world has to offer you.

DDF: Let’s say you are in a relationship, how do you maintain that self-love? 

Ashley McDonough

AM: I’ve definitely been in that situation before. You can really get caught up in the idea of love but you have to understand that you can’t love someone if don’t love yourself.

Understanding that you deserve a certain type of love, your partner should understand and be respectful of that. Also, you have to understand what you want out of life, its a beautiful gift from God. You are whole by yourself, I don’t believe in that whole “you complete me” thing. I really think you need to be complete before you get into relationships.

DDF: Can situation-ships be included in self-love?

AM: If that works for you then ok. I think every person is different, I’m not going to say that this is the ideal relationship because sometimes that freedom is a form of self-love. It depends on the person, some people are looking for long term commitment and other people just want to have fun, be free, have options. Society can put these ideas/beliefs on people and that can cause relationships not to work a lot of times.

Work to Live, Not Live to Work

“Even if it makes others uncomfortable, I will love who I am.” – Janelle Monae

DDF: You have an article about the importance of setting boundaries, how important is that to self-love?

AM: You can get caught up in everyday life sometimes and you need to set boundaries in order to keep your sanity. You don’t want to spread yourself too thin, sometimes we treat ourselves like superheroes… we are not. Setting boundaries in every aspect of your life is important for your sanity and overall mental health.

DDF: Pursuing your passion or desired career is also a version of self-love, agreed? Why do so many struggle with it and what did you do to keep moving forward?

AM Definitely because it’s safe. It’s scary to follow your dreams. It’s not something for everyone. Everyone can’t do it and everyone is not in that space to do it. You have to have a strong sense of faith, you have to believe in yourself.

I was born and raised in New York but I took a leap of faith and moved to L.A. because I felt it in my heart to do it.  You really have to believe in yourself, work hard and know that God is going to take care of you.

Articles of Self Love and Media

“You are your best thing.” – Toni Morrison

DDF: You have written some great pieces about people embracing the beauty in themselves, what inspires you to write pieces like these?

AM: What inspires my writing? Well, even before I went to college, I knew I wanted to produce and create content that I thought the world needed to hear. I really like doing the backstories of the people that are seen as the overnight successes because I feel like those stories are important and need to be heard by everyone.

Social media has changed the mind state of success and the hustle and the grind. To hear those stories change perspectives.

DDF: Out of the articles you have written, which is your favorite?

Ashley McDonoughAM: One of my favorite stories was about Jessie Woo, she is a comedian and singer. She’s amazing! Her story is so inspiring because of her journey to success. Everyone on social media was seeing her as an overnight success but in reality, it took her some time to get in her position.

She told the story about her start in New York, becoming unemployed within the first two months and not having enough funds to buy a plane ticket home but through it all she made it. Jessie’s story encourages people to follow their own dreams, whatever path may be for them.

DDF: How much of an influence do you think the media has on self-love?

Ashley McDonough

Ashley in her Howard grad cap and gown.

AM: Howard gives you a sense of self, I don’t think many of the students have. It’s the overall experience because you are surrounded by such Black excellence and you are being taught by the most amazing professors with extensive careers.

They are teaching you to love yourself and appreciate your history. A lot this stuff you don’t get see growing up. I grew up in Queens, NY so I grew up in a very diverse area and went to public school my whole life, we learned the basics of Black history.

That changed when I went to Howard University because we learned everything, the good and the bad. The experience taught me how amazing my people are!

See more from Ashley via her website!

30Jan/19
Taji Mag Vol 18 Embrace the Black

Taji Vol18: Embrace the Black

Release Mar 7 2019 | Vol18 of Taji is packed full of Black Beauty & Culture fulfilling its theme of Embrace the Black! This volume’s cover features the #SlayBells of model Jennifer “Milk” Laloi. Gracing the pages are the Editor’s Pick on The Laya Center, a Plant-Based Preventative & Rehabilitation Center; our Community Spotlight; our highlighted Hair Feature; “Solo Travel: What Does Your Travel Say About You?” by D. Carrie; “Everyday Spiritual Teknowledge Everyday” by Jashua Sa’Ra; “Representation in Education” by Janelle Naomi; Our Vol 18 theme “Embrace the Black;” Fitness Feature on Athlete, Actress, Wife, and Mom, Gillian White; Vegan Fun with Delliz the Chef; Black Business Grant Winner: The Unique Foodie Witchery; “#BlackLoveConvo: “Fennell Adventures: A Family of Authors” by Dapper Dr. Feel;” Featured art piece by Will Focus; Must Have Graphic Novel: “Cypher Team i01” by Tyrone Jackson/SoveReign Comics; Black Business Highlights; Taji Mag Model Contest Winners; and more!!

Purchase your copy now at ‘Shop Taji’!

Taji Mag Vol 18 Embrace the Black

Purchase Taji Mag | Vol 18

Taji Mag is the epitome of the positive Black experience. Our brand embodies the traditional and modern royalty of Pan-African people via our quarterly digital and print publication and live events.

13Jan/19
APAP Conference

The APAP Conference, and Why You Should Go

I don’t even know where to start when it comes to the APAP conference, there’s so much going on! If your work falls within the world of performing arts, this is a conference you should attend at least once. First of all (as per to NYC fashion), there are 3 important music events that are intersecting at this time of year: APAP (Association of Performing Arts Professionals), Winter Jazzfest, and GlobalFest.

The Basics of the APAP conference

There are 3 floors of expo hall full of booths — it’s pretty crazy and can be overwhelming so it’s best to attack it in segments! Exhibitors range from management companies and booking agencies to touring groups and performing arts venues. My suggestion is to know who you are looking for — know the type of people you are looking to meet. The best way to maximize an expo is to search the list of exhibitors (ahead of time if possible) and see which booths you definitely want to visit. Next, there are professional development workshops on a variety of topics in breakout rooms on the lower level of the hotel (Hilton New York in Midtown). On the printed schedules, you may not see the actual breakdown of workshop locations so it’s best to go down to the lower level and check the signs near each room and decide if you want to sit in for the presentation. I didn’t find too many workshops that piqued my interest or applied to me, but I pretty much check out anything that has to do with fundraising. So once you figure out the workshop times, you will know what time you have to spend at the expo hall and showcases. Speaking of which, that’s where the real magic happens, in the rooms dedicated to performances by APAP member groups like independent bands and dance companies. Landing a showcase at APAP is great exposure for up and coming artists who are hoping to catch the attention of venues and talent agencies for booking opportunities.

The Important Stuff

Networking can make or break your career in any industry, especially entertainment and performing arts. You can end up meeting a booking agent, record label, or potential manager. You could even run into an artist that you’ve wanted to collaborate with. I met some interesting people at APAP, like representatives of organizations that support independent artists. The Center for Traditional Music and Dance, for example, provides resources and technical support for artists who work within their communities and traditional culture. I also spoke to some booking agents and received the inside scoop on what they look for when taking on a new client: the keyword was “authenticity” especially for agents who work in music like Chris Mees, President of talent agency B Natural Inc. “I like to see that the artist has done their homework on the history of the music they play, and who isn’t trying to be like an artist we already know. I also like a level of mystique to an artist, I need to be intrigued. Having a great work ethic and being a good human being are important too.”

The for real for real important stuff – the music and art!

APAP ConferenceOkay, so, in my mind, the performances I saw are a whole separate article (who knows if that will actually happen but we’ll start with this). The showcases I went to were mostly jazz and international artists, like my Haitian brotha, Wesli! ( @wesli2 ✊🏾🇭🇹🙅🏾♀️ Yea, I’m extra)! I saw him perform 2 years ago at AfroJam (by @afromondoproductions), and he is still touring the world and bringing energetic Afro-Caribbean fusion music to the stage. I was able to catch a quick interview with him and ask about how he got started and how he’s been able to continue. Wesli got his first major break by winning a contest by Radio Canada that led to him winning a prize to fund his participation in a major showcase in France where he connected to international talent agents and managers. He even took classes at the School for Show Business in Montreal, and he suggests that other artists do the same: “I recommend artists take charge of every aspect of their business. There’s plenty of talent out there, the person who doesn’t wait for others to handle their business gets further.” I’m always happy to see an indie artist who is always leveling up his/her grind.

APAP Conference

I was invited to attend some shows for the Winter Jazz Festival after APAPing all day (sidebar: I can’t hang with musicians noooo more), and I heard some great music from impressive artists. First stop was to see vibraphonist Joel Ross at Subculture with his jazz ensemble. It was a mix of traditional jazz elements with the modern sound of the vibraphone, I dug it. Next stop was at LPR (Le Poisson Rouge) to see the legendary Richard Bona. The textures of the instruments and vocals carried you to a different place, a whole romantical mood even. There was even a flamenco dancer to amp up the vibe. I wanted to hear and see more, but alas the show was over. I finally took my arse home after that.

APAP Conference

APAP ConferenceOn the second day of the APAP conference, my wannabe-dancer spirit was blessed with a performance by the Hiplet Ballerinas! I didn’t check all of the performance schedules in advance (again, there was too much going on) but I had gone into that showcase room to see the Cirque Zuma Zuma African Acrobats, which was a treat too! Both groups were blackity black black, super talented, and beautiful! The performance by Zuma Zuma incorporated African dance, musical instruments, and balance tricks. And Hiplet is by far some of the coolest dancing I’ve seen in a long time. the costumes were beautiful, the movement was a mixture of classical and in-the-club. They created a visual experience and had dancers working in different shifts so when one group went off stage the other group came right on so there was a continuous performance. Homer Bryant, the creator of hiplet, has done an excellent job with these dancers and I hope to see hiplet become a staple dance style.

APAP Conference

That was a lot to read.. I know. it was a lot to write 😏 and experience but again attending this conference is totally worth it if you’re a performing artist, a manager, booking agent, or aspire to be any of the above. Here are some links to the people and organizations mentioned in this article. Shout out to the APAP media coordinator for having me out. Stay tuned for my next adventure, peace!

APAP Conference:  https://www.apap365.org/Conference

Center for Traditional Culture and Dance: https://ctmd.org

Wesli: http://www.wesliband.com/en

Joel Ross: http://bnatural.nyc/project/joel-ross

Richard Bona: http://bnatural.nyc/project/richard-bona

Hiplet Ballerinas: http://hipletballerinas.com

Cirque Zuma Zuma African Acrobats: www.ecetouring.com

06Jan/19
Bourne Brilliant

3 Sibling Kidprenuers Own Plant-Based Patisserie, Bourne Brilliant LLC, for Over 5 Years

Bourne Brilliant LLCLyrica, Zaira, and Nadira, ages 11, 10 and 7 respectively, are a budding sister trio of kidpreneurs. In 2013, the eldest, Lyrica, started a bread ministry at the age of 6. She would bake bread and other goodies to distribute them throughout their community of Woodville, FL. In order to fund their generous donations, she pitched the business venture to their parents. Over the years, the trio has created their own recipes and branded their business into Bourne Brilliant LLC.

Lyrica, Zaira, and Nadira are now the CEO’s and founders of Bourne Brilliant LLC. They handcraft plant-based baked goods, beverages, and other tasty treats. They have even “hired” their Mom and given her a host of titles and duties. The goals of these multi-award-winning culinary creatives include promoting healthier eating habits to entire families and to see kids participating more in the kitchen. They are also passionate about encouraging other youth to find and create their own business enterprises. With the help of their parents, they have managed to own and operate this venture for over 5 years while maintaining a charitable and philanthropic component to their module.

Bourne Brilliant Bourne Brilliant Bourne Brilliant

To find out more about them and to see more work from Bourne Brilliant, visit their website and pages on Instagram and Facebook @bournebrilliantco.

Bourne Brilliant Bourne Brilliant

01Jan/19
That Suits You

That Suits You has Suited 8000 Black Men For Success

That Suits YouFirst impressions can be vital in this life and have a major influence on our journey in the career world. We live during a time when individuals are judged on the basis of their outward appearance, especially young Black men, which is why it is important that we are given tools to break any stereotypes and show our talents. That Suits You does just that — provides information, training, and clothing to Black boys and men to increase their odds of success.

That Suits You is a Black-owned organization based in Brooklyn, NY that focuses on not only providing suits for Black men from high school students to the elderly but gives them the training and tools required to compete in the fields of their choosing. I had the opportunity to speak with Brooklyn native and brainchild of the That Suits You organization, PK Kearsy, to receive more insight about the program.

Dapper Dr. Feel: How did That Suits You originate?

PK Kearsy:  That Suits You formed while I worked as a manager for the Department of Motor Vehicles. It was there that I noticed that some of the young men that I interviewed were not dressed properly and they didn’t have the tools needed to give an impressionable job interview. After doing these interviews for so long and seeing so many men not get hired, I wanted to do something about it. I started working with my brother, Jamel Thompson.

With his 12 years of experience in banking and my experience working with the government, we decided to put our resources to good use. We started to get our old suits and prepared young men for their job interviews. As a result, they started getting hired and developing more self-confidence and positive changes started to occur.

DDF: What do young men have to look forward to when entering the program?

PKK: We have a workshop called Choices where we focus on change, habits, options, image, communication, and effort which all equal success. We talk about networking, relationships, interviewing, social media, building solid relationships and not just using people on their resources. We talk about anger issues and how to manage them because some of these young men have anger issues that hinder their overall growth so we help with that.

That Suits You

DDF: What impact has the organization had and how long has it been helping the community?

PKK: We started in 2013 and so far we have helped over 8,000 men. We have seen them get jobs, develop important/professional relationships. We have made many connections and relationships as we continue to meet our goals. We have great working relationships with HBO, New York City government, Verizon, Red Bull, Via Comm, Banana Republic and many more organizations that have community outreach.

We teach a lot about self-building in these classes that many of the young men thank us for. We teach about the 7/11 rule where within the first seven seconds of meeting a person, we develop 11 judgments about what we see and those judgments don’t even have to be true.

DDF: Have the men you’ve helped come back to be apart of the program or volunteer?

PKK: A good number of them come back to help out providing mentorship or to volunteer. We had a special event, Fundraising February, where a few guys came out and spoke about their progress. It’s really been a blessing to see the cycle, to see what men do after they receive help, to see them take the lessons and blessings they have received and to pass them on to someone else.  We love to work with the guys that have been through our program because they understand the process.

DDF: What are the goals for That Suits You?

PKK:  The short-term goal for That Suits You is to continue to get our book out, Suited For Success. The book has about 25 Black authors and what it took for them to succeed in whatever field they are in (Television, Doctor, Fireman, etc.). Some of these men have had terrible beginnings but have had much success. We want to get the book out and continue to have it within our program for the men in the program to read.

Our long-term goal is to continue to build and form relationships with other organizations. We just formed a relationship with an organization, Dress for Success: Worldwide. We want to learn from them and model them since they are doing so well for women. We want to do the same on the men side. Our goal is to grow and expand, taking our organization from New York to all over the country.

That Suits You

DDF: What is the age range of the men that you help?

PKK: Originally we started with men coming home from prison, that age range is 18 and up. Then we gained a partnership with AARP so we started working with men that were at least 60 years old. Then we wanted to be more proactive with youth so then we went on to help juniors and seniors in high school. Next, we decided to go even younger and help middle school boys. Teaching them to tie ties and providing them with information, even though we don’t have suits for them yet. Sometimes we participate in Career Day in grade schools.

We are also helping men in homeless shelters and provide our services there. They may be living in a homeless shelter but have job interviews coming up. We noticed there are a lot of men living in these homeless shelters. Some of these men may have children that may be around or even in the shelter with them, so it’s important that we help them. When you can empower a man and teach him, not just tell him, suit him up and give him something, it does wonders to his self-confidence. These are the things that can help push him to success.

That Suits You is continuing to grow but looking to connect and form partnerships with other organizations. If you are looking help or become part of the That Suits You movement, email [email protected] or they be contacted here. For more information, visit their website, ThatSuitsYou.org.

That Suits You

Avatar

16Dec/18
grpfit

GRPFIT, A Black Social Fitness Network For Health Goals

grpfit taji mag

Screenshots of the GrpFit app

If you are looking to achieve your fitness goals for the new year,  then the  GrpFit app will help! This fitness social platform will help educate you on workouts and health info to keep you on track with your aspirations. Not only does the app provide education, but it’s also a place where people can interact with others who are actively reaching or looking to reach their health goals. I had time to talk with the CEO and co-founder of GrpFit, Richard Bailey, to discuss the benefits and what to expect from the fitness platform.

Dapper Dr. Feel: What made you come up with this platform? At what point did you think Black people need this?

Richard Bailey: The idea came from a previous project that my partner and I came up with called Crowdfit. The idea for that finds an exercise partner in your area based on your fitness goals. For example, if you were preparing for a marathon, you could find someone in your area that was training as well.

It was met with moderate success back in 2016 (its first year) but then we hit a huge wall in engagement and growth. What we discovered was that people were more interested in the social aspect, (i.e. profile display, what people ate, how they worked out, etc.) At the time, social fitness wasn’t a popular item, even today fitness apps don’t really cover the social or community side of fitness.

Fast Fact: Richard Bailey (GrpFit co-creator and CEO) inspiration for health/ fitness came from being active in youth sports and competing professionally in dance from ages 8-23. 

DDF: What was your next move after your research?

RB: With this information we went back to the drawing board, keeping the same motive but approached it in a different way. While researching we ran into some eye-opening stats in relation to black health. These stats included, 76% of the Black community is obese, 43% suffer from hypertension, death by stroke, heart disease, diabetes, and the list goes on.

We started doing our diligence to find out more solutions for the Black community in health and fitness. To our surprise, there weren’t a lot of solutions from a consumer tech perspective. There were a lot of Black publications, non-profit and public organizations that tackle health/fitness as a separate vertical. The only issue is that they were regional and local in nature, not globally. It was at that point we had an epiphany and decided that we needed to be the first consumer tech product that specifically dedicated Black health and fitness. That’s when we launched GrpFit, which was late 2017.

FYI: GrpFit has workouts varying by length, time, and difficulty and provides workouts that can be performed anywhere.

DDF: Basically, your product is a one of a kind social fitness platform for Black people?

RB: Yes, our goal is to be a one-stop shop. Providing information, inspiration and being the catalyst for change in health and fitness in the black community.

RB: Our goal is to partner with different certified trainers and fitness influencers. We partnered with a few in the past, this time last year we worked with Gym Hooky for a new years resolution fitness campaign. We also worked with 21 Ninety, a Black millennial woman lifestyle brand under Blavity. Travel safe fitness. Periodically we reach out to influencers and certified trainers to partner with content for campaigns or just being a guest blogger. Although we don’t have much content on nutrition, we look to add more content in that area in the future. 

DDF: What should first time users expect from the GrpFit app? 

RB: We expect first-time users to embrace the community behind health and fitness. Seeing somebody like you, living a similar health and fitness journey is huge. For example, if you are a mother with a huge family that doesn’t have time to work out, you can come to the [GrpFit] app and see other women that fit those criteria. You can see what things they are doing to stay in shape and hopefully get some inspiration. GrpFit is serving as a tool for motivation, information, and inspiration is huge, it’s our biggest goal!

grpfit taji mag

Motivational quotes from the GrpFit Instagram account.

DDF: What advice would you like to give people who want to improve their health and physical activity?  

RB: Although its the end of the year, it’s okay to start on your fitness and health goals now before the new year. So sign up and log onto GrpFit to get your journey towards health started.

Fast facts: According to the CDC, The leading causes of death in the African American community are: 43% heart disease related, 41% stroke-related, and 29% cancer-related. Although the numbers are still slightly high they are steadily on the decline. With educational, social and interactive tools like GrpFit, the numbers will decline even more. 

Check out the GrpFit app which can be purchased at the Apple store. For the Android users, there are still plans to release the app later but for now, you can check out the GrpFit Instagram and Facebook page for content.

grpfit taji mag

Richard Bailey (Co-Founder &CEO of GrpFit) and Christopher Ketant (Co-Founder of GrpFit)

grpfit taji mag

11Dec/18

Health: How Can Start Ups Partner Responsibly?

Health and technology are intersecting in interesting ways lately. Coping mechanisms like group therapy are more socially acceptable. Now is the time for Black tech developers to carve space in the health field to ensure diversity & inclusion remain a top priority. Solome Tibebu is a  Investor for  and founder of  501c3. Sis is also the co-author of  behavioral IT Innovation. She shares some behavioral health start up tips for emerging entrepreneurs.

Original health expert & writer: Solome Tibebu.  This article was re-posted with the author’s permission – you can read the full article HERE.

How Behavioral Health Startups and Payers Can Partner Successfully

Solome Tibebu

Over the last five years, a plethora of mental health and substance abuse startups has skyrocketed. And rightly so. Many of these solutions are finding ways to reduce the cost of care delivery, improve quality of care, reduce inappropriate healthcare service utilization. [They also] increase PCP usage, and increase staff capacity in an area where qualified professionals are few and far between.

Many payers still aren’t very sophisticated about implementing digital behavioral health tools yet. Innovators must be prepared to offer considerable education for payers to adopt such offerings. Payers are complex organizations to navigate, and launching a new solution of any kind isn’t easy. This post is intended to equip both innovators and incumbents to partner in addressing our society’s most pressing behavioral health issues.

Now, payers have moved from “it matters” to “now what do we do?!” with many still struggling with the best course of action. Payers are recognizing the value that frontier technologies and startups with new care delivery models can make on their businesses, such as:

  • The ability to improve patient outcomes via tech-enabled delivery of evidence-based practices
  • Access to local and regional mental health care professionals and delivery networks employed by the behavioral health startups
  • Reduced cost of care delivery through AI, machine learning, chatbots and other automation tools
  • The right solutions to continue adding value to members at any acuity or stage of care
  • Enhanced data, analytics and care coordination from their existing health IT tools
  • Overall more consumer-friendly experiences
Too much of what payers are adopting today are made up of one-size-fits-all models.

When it comes to behavioral health, payers need to offer condition-specific solutions and provider networks for a wide variety of mental health and substance use issues. Today, you can find a huge list of professionals listed on their provider network portals, most of whom appear as experts in many or all behavioral health conditions. Adding more specialty areas to their profiles will get them more referrals, after all. But this comes with several issues:

  • Of course, not all behavioral health professionals are experts in each and every behavioral health condition. Behavioral health is an umbrella term for many specific conditions, each with their own evidence-based treatment modalities. Providers with such experience in certain specialty areas may be few and far between in many parts of the country
  • Payers have very little ability to actually determine who’s really good at treating what types of members
  • Payers cannot verify whether or not these providers are using evidence-based practices
Historically, these networks have been built to meet employer/Medicaid geography and credentialing requirements. As a result, [they are] stuck in the old ways of doing things.

mental health and stressDon’t treat behavioral health as one homogenous disease state. Payers need the tools to support the many diverse subsets of behavioral health. There is an opportunity for payers to adopt new tools which more accurately look at behavioral health as the wide umbrella that it is, offering condition-specific solutions that match up with condition-specific provider networks.

Tech startups can enable a future where payer networks can transform from local, multi-specialty providers to national, tech-enabled providers with the ability to deploy local, high-touch clinicians within their own specialized delivery systems. With better technology and analytics, payers will also be in a position to operate their own provider clinics. The opportunity is further supported by new payment models offered through CMS, including new Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) codes and proposed expansion on current substance use telehealth coverage.

To capitalize on these opportunities, it is critical for internal and external stakeholders to navigate complex payer organizations, especially as it relates to partnering with startups.

Clearly, both parties want to go to the dance, but will they ever connect?! Below, I’ll outline three key areas to keep in mind when partnering with an integrated health system: the Prep, the Pitch and the Plan, and accompanying tips for each.

THE PREP

How does one start a conversation with a payer? Early-stage entrepreneurs can get a head start navigating their prospective payer partners through these steps:

Where to look:

When it comes to partnering with certain departments within a payer organization, you may be tempted to focus on the Innovation department exclusively. Innovation departments are important partners for startups, oftentimes greatly helping the startup navigate to the correct department internally. But beware, they don’t typically have their own P&L, so you may find yourself in Free Pilot Land indefinitely. If they’re a tech-enabled provider, plan to approach clinical and provider network leadership. Expect to contract with behavioral health specialty companies, or the behavioral health specialty business units within the integrated payer systems. Sometimes a connection through non-traditional paths will get you to the right department, e.g. sales team members who are sympathetic to your cause. But sooner than later, identify the right person who can make decisions and write checks.

Understand your market, solution and impact better than anyone else.

This includes the ability to communicate each of these clearly and succinctly to the person in leadership who actually has your pain point. What motivation does this specific payer department leader have to pick up the phone? Just because you are saving dollars in the overall healthcare system doesn’t necessarily mean it hits this individual’s bottom line.

Consider smaller organizations first.

These smaller payers want to offer competitive offerings and may not already have a solution in place. The smaller organizations with smaller executive teams may be far more nimble than an organization like Kaiser or Mt Sinai. Consider starting with one of these first and get your proof of concept up and running there initially.

Consider getting outside support.

Remember, payers are complex organizations. There are a number of healthcare accelerators who have existing relationships with many healthcare organizations. These organizations can provide seed funding, coaching and connections to health systems to shorten the sales cycle. While advisors, board members, and other entrepreneurs can make a huge difference, someone like a dedicated, vetted consultant with a strong track record can help save startups months if not years by making outside connections very quickly.

Identify the key person who will drive your startup forward internally.

It is best practice to identify an internal champion at your payer prospect. [This will] help move your startup forward within their organization. If your champion isn’t willing to give you what you need to be successful (e.g. certain claims data, information for integration, etc), then they aren’t your champion. How do you find a champion? Leverage advisors, board members and other digital health entrepreneurs in your network to introduce you to payers of interest.

Know how decisions get made.

Ask your champion what their typical process is for working with organizations like yours. Sometimes the smallest hiccup can kill an entire deal, so be sure to stay close to the process all throughout.

Engage decision makers and influential non-decision makers alike through the entire process.

Make sure there is alignment among executive, clinical, or any other type of leadership critical to the implementation and adoption of your solution throughout the procurement and implementation process.

Once various preparations have been made about your specific solution, it’s time to dig into how you’ll position your offering with the payer and where your each parties’ assets and gaps are in the partnership.

THE PITCH

Save tons of time and resources down the road. Here is a high-level list for what startups should review before charging forth with a partnership with a payer organization:

  1. Know what specialty offerings the payer already offers their member base.
  2. Understand where behavioral health sits in the payer’s ecosystem.
  3. Think through your approach to data.
  4. Evaluate your strengths vs what the payer can bring for the most fruitful partnership.
  5. Know your outcomes, now and in the future.
  6. Be realistic about what your capabilities truly are, especially with the most complex patients.

THE PLAN

Now it’s time to start exploring an actual partnership. While there are many ways structure a partnership, we will cover some common themes.

  1. Business models should align with incentives. 
  2. Thoughtfulness required for integration: technically, operationally, and clinically. 
  3. Implementation as a process. 

In conclusion, all of the simple, low-hanging fruit tools and technologies have been tried. Payers desire novel, evidence-based solutions. With the right people at the table and a laser-focus on the clinical and financial impacts the partnership will make, there is a lot of promise for novel behavioral health solutions to transform care delivery and patient outcomes in the near future.

Solome Tibebu is a healthcare investor and former mental health tech startup founder.

Her work as an investor, entrepreneur and health and human service technology expert has been featured in The Huffington Post, Forbes, TEDx, Inc Magazine, Upworthy, Psychology Today and more.

09Dec/18

NATURAL BORN LEADERS

Black women have often been seen as a liability rather than an asset in many careers. This can be especially true for Black women with natural hair. As the year comes to a close, Taji Mag reflects on two strong Black women leaders with natural hair.
Shauntrice Martin and Wyllene Turner come from different backgrounds, but they are both Black women focused on improving the lives of young people. They are both leaders within an organization called the Bay Area Urban Debate League (affectionately known as “BAUDL”). There are dozens of urban debate leagues across the country and BAUDL has the most diverse staff along with such accolades as National Champions, League of the Year, and Champions of Diversity. They are truly making moves. I was able to interview these brilliant young women recently to learn more about what it means to be a leader and part of #teamnatural.
DapperDrFeel: Tell me a little about your organization.
Shauntrice Martin: The Bay Area Urban Debate League is an after-school program focused on marginalized youth in Title I schools. The goal is to engage students in policy debate to improve academic performance and college acceptance.
DDF: What are your titles?
SM: I am the executive director
Wyllene Turner: I got involved in Baudl in my 10th grade of high school. Then when I graduate in 2011 I came back to work and a regional coordinator until I worked my way up to Program Coordinator.
DDF: Ok, let’s get right into it. What does it mean to be a Black woman in a leadership role?
WT: It means that I have the opportunity to show represent, especially in a sport that is primarily a white male sport like debate.
SM: More than half of my time is spent on fundraising and development. Most of our donors are affluent white males and a lot of the “experts” in the field don’t look like me or the students we work with. I’ve dealt with microaggressions (being asked how I learned to speak so well, assumptions that I never met my father, etc.). When confronted with these issues, I’ve had to make decisions about whether to react in the moment and what the consequences might be. While this is not unique to a person of any race in a leadership role, my actions are seen as a representation of ALL Black women. As a Black woman, I have the added responsibility of representing the entire race as if we have monthly meetings of the Black Monolith.

 

Three students holding trophies after a win. Hesten, Ne’Jahra, and Jessica.
DDF: So how does being a Black woman with natural hair impact your work?
WT: I’ve been natural for about 7 years now! And I decided to go natural to find my self again, as I see it black women are so held back by their hair because it is seen as a symbol to show a multitude of things. Growing my locs where a way to take my crown back and make my own image!
SM: It gives me confidence. I know I will usually stand out in a crowd. At the same time, I went natural in college because I had people around me who celebrated me without trying to change me. We all deserve that feeling. In that way, it has a positive impact on my work. Conversely, I have been told to “tame” my hair in previous positions. I have been hyped up by white colleagues and supervisors when my hair was pressed straight as a signal that my naps were not welcomed in the workplace.
DDF: Speak more on that Shauntrice–are you saying that it is a bad thing to have natural hair in a corporate environment?
SM: I’ve had hundreds of white colleagues over the years and many of them don’t know how to react to my hair. I’ve had strangers reach out to touch my hair. I’ve had donors comment on my skin tone. Several years ago, before I had my son, I was asked in an interview whether I planned to wear afro puffs to the office. There is nothing but love growing out of my scalp so if someone attributes negative characteristics to my hair, it means they have a problem, not me.

 

Executive Director of BAUDL Shauntrice Martin
DDF: Ok, right on. In what other ways does being a Black woman in a leadership role present challenges?
WT: The challenges I face are people in different spaces act as if I don’t know what I am doing…which is funny because they’ll usually do that at an event I’m hosting.
SM: Yes. Hiring Wyllene was one of my best decisions as an executive director. She was hired based on merit, and as she said, she worked her way up to a full-time position. Because of the way she looks (dark-skinned woman with natural hair) people underestimate her. I have seen people disrespect her in situations and they end up looking like fools when she comes through. She cares about her job and if people could stop projecting their bias onto Black women, they would see that.
DDF: I noticed your organization is quite large for an after-school program. How many students do you serve?
SM: This school year we are on track to work with almost 1,000 youth in the Bay.
DDF: That is impressive. How do you maintain a program like this?
SM: Having people like Wyllene is absolutely essential. Our staff is one of the most diverse groups in the country. Most of the people who work at BAUDL graduated from the program. Our budget is just around half a million dollars and thankfully we have a dope volunteer base. I also do this really innovative thing when hiring people–I trust Black women.
DDF: Well there you have it. Now how can people get involved and support the work you do?
SM: The two biggest things we need right now are volunteers and donors. We have an end-of-the-year campaign called the #MakingMoves campaign. This is a Black-run organization and we hope to keep it that way. If you want to donate $5, $50, $50,000 use our link: www.tinyurl.com/wedebate. You can also share our story and encourage others to support.

Wyllene Turner