Meet the 2022 Well+Good Changemakers
The ways we think about and nurture our well-being have never felt more critical. Which is why, in Well+Good’s third annual Changemakers list, we’re excited to highlight the innovators who are changing the way we all eat, move, think, grow, and care for ourselves and each other.
Get to know: the founder of the first Native-owned digital fitness studio, pioneers in the home gardening space, a leading astrologer changing not only how we view astrology, but also how we value workers—and many more.
This is the future of wellness.
AK MacKellar (They/Them)
Founder of Free To Move
All bodies deserve the freedom of movement—and that’s why AK MacKellar (They/Them) is betting big on a more inclusive fitness industry. A certified personal trainer and fitness coach, MacKellar sought healing through movement after a 2019 accident led to a brain injury and chronic illness. Now, they’re the founder of Free To Move: a body inclusive digital movement platform designed for the LGBTQ+ community.
This year, MacKellar wants to welcome more folks to Free To Move by centering historically under-represented fitness bodies—including fat people, people suffering from chronic illnesses, and trans folks.
Self-Healing Educator, Mental Wellness Advocate, and Founder of The Sugar Jar Community App
Yasmine Cheyenne is helping people rethink their healing, reframe their mental health, and find community in sharing their personal struggles with her aim of “Self-Healing for Everyone.” Her popularity has skyrocketed as of late, boasting an online community of over 150,000—particularly on Instagram, where she shares affirmations, thought starters, and reframing techniques for her followers, and as the host of The Sugar Jar Podcast.
Corporate giants including ABC, Meta, and Skillshare have invited Yasmine to share her transformative teachings around self-healing, which she also offers through keynote speeches, corporate presentations, and one-on-one coaching. In 2022, Cheyenne launched The Sugar Jar® Community app, a safe space to develop self-awareness, learn boundaries, and find resources to support your mental health.
Nikhil Arora and Alejandro Velez
Co-Founders of Back to the Roots
You don’t need a huge, outdoor garden to grow fresh foods—and Nikhil Arora and Alejandro Velez are here to prove it. After a mutual love of mushrooms brought them together in college, they grew a special crop of ‘shrooms in Velez’s fraternity. The rest, as they say, is history: During their final year of school, the two received a $5K grant that allowed them to quit their corporate jobs and become full-time urban mushroom farmers. Just like that, Back to the Roots was born.
Now, the dynamic duo sells easy grow kits with the intention of everyone feeling empowered to grow their own food. Back to the Roots is already the fastest-growing gardening company in the country. And in 2022, you can expect Velez and Arora to continue giving everyday consumers the know-how and tools they need to grow their own herbs, veggies, mushrooms, and more.
CEO of State of Menopause
When fashion stylist and TV personality Stacy London was told by her doctor that the array of symptoms she was experiencing a few years ago—from depression to skin rashes to heart palpitations—was “just menopause," no feeling of relief washed over her. In fact, it was quite the opposite. She felt helpless, while also feeling like she shouldn’t discuss it, much less complain about it. “The feeling was, ‘I don’t look like myself anymore, I don’t feel like myself anymore, and I have no agency over what to do about it,’” she says. So when the opportunity to lead a menopause-care company arose, she jumped on it. She became CEO of State of Menopause in 2021, with a goal to provide the resources for menopause that she wished she had herself.
Part of a growing set of companies dedicated to solving for the 34 symptoms of menopause, State of Menopause offers products like a facial spray for hot flashes, arnica cream for joint pain, and moisturizers for estrogen-depleted skin. But while London will continue to add solutions to this lineup—up next, she’s planning to tackle painful sex—she’s also focused on filling the informational gaps about menopause. “You can’t buy what you don’t understand, and you can’t make choices if you don’t have education,” she says.
To supply that intel, London plans to expand the learning section of the State of Menopause website with content from the company’s medical advisory board and open up the company’s blog “On Pause” to consumers, who will be able to share their personal menopause journeys and connect with one another. Also on the docket? Collaborations with companies across the menopause space, including other product companies, social communities, and telehealth and pharmacy services. “These companies are emerging separately, but we can all help each other create something focused on the entire menopause experience,” London says. “Menopause is not its own vertical yet, but that’s what it needs to become.”
Founder of Studio Qila
As the creator of the first-ever Native-owned digital fitness studio, Bridget O’Carroll (a Alutiiq/Sugpiaq woman and a registered citizen of Egegik Village) is on the move. The word “Qila” (pronounced "kee-luh") comes from the Alutiiq word meaning "spirit of the earth”—a spirit that’s very much present and alive in O’Carroll’s tough, but thoughtful, high intensity Pilates classes.
O’Carroll launched Studio Qila (formerly Body By Bridget) in late 2021 with a daily class schedule designed using her training from [solidcore] and SLT. Already awarded a grant from the Penn Wharton Innovation Fund for its innovative and accessible method and exceptionally dedicated community, O’Carroll is excited to continue growing her Qila team by introducing a new instructor, a creative director, and others to make your fitness experience even better.
O'Carroll is also making sure to create lasting impact within her community and beyond: "As an Indigenous-owned brand, we are especially passionate about supporting under-resourced communities and amplifying Native and Black voices," O'Carroll says. "We are so excited to continue to donate 10 percent of our proceeds to organizations that support BIPOC communities and offer donation classes to nonprofit organizations. We believe wellness should be accessible to everyone, and provide Qila membership scholarships to anyone who needs it." In short, it’s O’Carroll’s workout world—and we’re all just sweating in it.
Campaign Director of Liberate Abortion
Growing up as a queer Muslim woman in Queens, Sharmin Hossain witnessed the stigma and hardships faced by those seeking reproductive well-being. When a friend in an abusive relationship became pregnant, Hossain helped her seek out an abortion at Planned Parenthood—effectively setting Hossain’s course as a reproductive justice advocate. Years later, Hossain became the manager of organizing at Planned Parenthood of New York City, where she worked on initiatives to decenter white feminism in the abortion narrative and unshackle pregnant, incarcerated women.
Now, Hossain has her sights set on advocacy in a post-Roe world. On the eve of America’s dismantling of federally-protected abortion rights, Hossain has plans to activate in local settings through Liberate Abortion: a campaign comprising more than 150 reproductive justice organization and abortion providers working to—you guessed it—liberate abortion for all. In June, she’s leading a caravan across the southeast United States to honor the work of abortion clinicians who will soon be out of work, and lead workshops for self-managed abortions for the communities who need it most.
President of Food Tank
Meet Danielle Nierenberg, co-founder of Food Tank: a nonprofit organization advocating for big change in the food system. Nierenberg is a researcher, the recipient of the 2020 Julia Child Award, and a speaker at over 100 events per year (including TED, SXSW, and the James Beard Leadership Awards). Her focuses include factory farming, gender and population, and sustainable agriculture.
In 2022, Nierenberg will continue expanding her reach (she currently has about 1.5 million collective followers on social media), educating on how to grow a better food system, and speaking in front of as many audiences as possible.
Astrologer and Founder of CHANI
Chani Nicholas knows a thing or two about the future. As a leading astrologer (with 485,000 followers on Instagram alone and a community of over 1 million monthly readers), Chani launched her app—CHANI—in December of 2020, but in doing so, she has also shaped the future of tech and work (and continues to do so). As a queer, feminist leader in the tech and media space, Nicholas is on a mission to make astrology and its wisdom accessible for all as a tool for self-discovery, mindfulness, and healing. All hires of CHANI can expect living wages (no one is paid less than $80,000), parental leave, menstrual leave for those with uteruses, a wealth stipend, and more.
This year, the company has been expanding with new hires, launching the podcast (Astrology of the Week Ahead With Chani Nicholas) on streaming services, and launching audio affirmations in the app. In 2023 (with pre-orders starting in the fall of 2022), the CHANI Astro Planner will be available for purchase, filled with altar suggestions, rituals, self-discovery exercises, and reflections.
Founder of Modern Blk Grl
Tiffany James wants to smash the investing gap affecting women of color. A self-taught investment aficionado, James invested $10,000 in the stock market and wound up building a million-dollar portfolio for herself. Since founding Modern Blk Girl, the largest digital platform designed for women of color, James has helped women of color earn over $3.5 million in the stock market—and she’s really just getting started.
This year, James is aiming to introduce financial literacy to schools and bring women overseas into the fold—all while continuing her ongoing mission to bring 500,000 Black women into the market.
Vice President of Operations at Natalist
Vernita Brown was the CEO and first employee of Natalist, a direct-to-consumer brand founded in 2019 providing reproductive support for people at all stages of their fertility journey—from planning to postpartum. Natalist offers everything from prenatal gummies to pregnancy tests to at-home fertility tests, all while ensuring that their products are certified plastic neutral.
In 2021, the company was acquired by Everly Health (alongside Everlywell)—a health and wellness solutions company. In doing so, Brown became the Vice President of Operations. (The acquisition was a rare and monumental moment—few digital health companies are run by female CEOs, and even fewer of these companies have been acquired—stats say less than 30 in the past 10 years—let alone a multi-million-dollar exit for a company helmed by a Black female CEO.)
Now, Natalist is positioned to offer best-in-class fertility tests and products well into the future. And this year, Brown intends to use her product development skills to leverage the best of the Everlywell and Natalist brands. Meaning, more fertility care from the comfort of your own home.
Founder and CEO of Tower 28 Beauty
Just because Amy Liu has eczema, doesn’t mean she wants to have a bland beauty routine. She dreamed of being able to play with gorgeous colors in fun and exciting formulas without aggravating her skin. So she created her own makeup line Tower 28 Beauty, and it’s revolutionizing what beauty looks like—particularly for those who have sensitive skin.
Home to the only complexion product to have earned the National Eczema Association’s Seal of Acceptance, Tower 28 creates products that are free of potential irritants so that anyone can use them. (Think: Cream blushes and bronzers, lip glosses, and a tinted SPF.) Though it’s a makeup brand, Tower 28’s best-selling product is its SOS Intensive Skin Spray, which made its debut as a serum earlier this year. It features hypochlorous acid, a gentle antiseptic that works wonders for calming and healing everything from acne lesions to a fresh cut. It speaks to Liu’s overall mission—to make gentle products that actually do what they promise without compromising on the experience.
Peloton Instructor, Author, and Founder of SPEAK
Listen to Tunde Oyeneyin speak about motivation, pain, power, or triumph, and it’s easy to see why the dynamic Texas-born fitness instructor of Nigerian descent has become a celebrity Peloton instructor with over half a million Instagram followers. She draws on her personal experiences, like working through grief, and developing a healthy relationship with fitness and food, to inspire her riders on the bike and beyond.
Oyeneyin co-created a Peloton class focused on social justice and making change called Speak Up in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. She then took that impulse to create space for conversation further with the launch of an Instagram Live series called SPEAK, which stands for Surrender, Power, Empathy, Authenticity and Knowledge. Oyeneyin has since turned SPEAK into a book, and brings vulnerability, conversation, fitness, and inspiration to everything she does.
TikTok Personality and Mental Health Advocate
Comedian Elyse Myers is using her 5.3 million social media reach for good. Even though Myers has only been posting TikTok videos since summer 2021, Myers has already made a massive, positive impact on the internet. She harnesses her platform to speak about anxiety, ADHD, body image, and other traditionally taboo topics—normalizing them through very funny, approachable, storytelling comedy.
As Myers crosses the one-year mark of her TikTok journey, you can expect more de-stigmatizing content that leaves you with belly laughs and a sense of belonging.
Erika and Janett Liriano
Co-Founders of Inaru
Daughters of a cocoa farmer in the Dominican Republic, Erika and Janett Liriano realized how exploitative the cocoa industry is for smallholder farmers (aka farmers that own farms that are less than five acres in size). In 2018, they created Inaru to not only keep the farmers top of mind and fairly compensated, but reintroduce the world to Dominican cocoa. The Dominican Republic accounts for over 60 percent of organic cocoa exports, however, most consumers are unaware of this because they become the source for confections enjoyed in places like Belgium, Switzerland, and the Netherlands.
Having designed a sustainable solution to the exploitative practices within the agricultural industry, the sister-led startup has onboarded roughly 520 farmers and has over 1,800 farmers on the waitlist to join the community. As for what’s next, Inaru will launch a consumer product in the next twelve months and focusing on initiatives to support cocoa farmers as they navigate the very real effects of climate change.
Founder of Nyakio Beauty, Thirteen Lune, and Relevant
When Nyakio Grieco launched her first brand, Nyakio Beauty, 20 years ago, it wasn’t easy. As a Black female founder of an independent beauty brand, she had a difficult and often lonely journey. Fast forward to 2020, and Grieco received recognition like never before. She was on countless lists of Black brands to support following the murder of George Floyd, and realized how many other founders of color there were out there who, just like her, needed support, recognition, and opportunity.
So she co-founded Thirteen Lune, a retailer that dedicates 90 percent of its shelf space to founders of color and the other 10 percent to allies. It blew up as an online retailer and is now JCPenney’s in-store beauty destination, with plans to be in 600 stores by the end of 2023. As Grieco grows, she's determined to bring other founders with her.
Thirteen Lune is home to nearly 150 brands, and it just got an exciting new addition—Relevant, Grieco’s new beauty line that designed to work for everyone's complexion and color.
Chef, Author, Activist, and Executive Director, Studio ATAO
More than just a means to an end, food has led Jenny Dorsey on a transformative journey pioneering identity, vulnerability, and social change in the food, beverage, and hospitality (FBH) industry. The chef, author, and activist is the proud founder of Studio ATAO (“ah-tao,” which stands for all together at once), an award-winning, 501(c)3 nonprofit community-based think tank and educational platform moving the FBH industry forward through social justice research, thought leadership, and education.
Founded in 2018, Studio ATAO was primarily focused on events with their flagship dinner series called “Asian in America,” which offered a symbolic exhibition and dining experience that highlighted Asian American identity through food, drink, virtual reality, and poetry. However, due to the pandemic that restricted in-person events, Dorsey rebranded Studio ATAO to tackle social justice topics like equitable representation in food media, scarcity mentality in Asian American communities, and the intersection of gentrification in hospitality. Today, Dorsey’s primary goal is to trailblaze a “world where all FBH community members can realize their power to advance equitable, systems-based change that centers on those most impacted.”
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