When Naj Austin—one of our 2021 Changemakers—opened the doors to Ethel's Club, a Brooklyn social and wellness club for people of color, in late 2019 she didn't expect to shift to a fully digital landscape a few months later. Austin is like many small business owners who were forced to pivot operations during the pandemic. Moving online positioned her to be able to serve Black and brown people around the world, during a time when these communities needed it most.
"I felt there needed to be a space that centered people of color in all the ways that they exist. Whether that's through wellness or culture or just networking," says Austin. "And so we started up Ethel’s Club to become that space for people."
Austin shares her journey with Ethel's Club and all about her newest venture, tech platform Somewhere Good, in the inaugural episode of Changemakers, Well+Good's newest YouTube series that highlights the people who are making innovative and inclusive improvements to the wellness industry.
Austin, who previously worked in real estate startups, says she founded Ethel's Club because it was a space she wished existed to help her through her journey with her well-being.
"I needed a space like Ethel's Club myself, I had a lot of things in my life that I was not happy with. And I started to look for specifically a Black female therapist and it felt like it was impossible," says Austin. "I didn't know where to start. I didn't understand the different disciplines. I also didn't have the community to connect around the problem with and I needed that."
Now, Ethel's Club hosts daily virtual events centered around holistic wellness and hosts smaller clubs that function as chat rooms for people to gather around topics that interest them, like beauty and music. This latter bit will soon be fleshed out into Austin's newest venture, Somewhere Good, a social platform built by Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) by BIPOC.
"People are looking for alternatives, whether it is, you know, around the idea of posting images, connecting with others simply having a new space to discover and explore it doesn't exist," says Austin. "We started to think much bigger in terms of our digital offering and thought, why don't we own the technology that we're offering these events on? I believe there need to be more technology platforms created by Black people and people of color."
Austin hopes that these platforms help people feel reflected and safe.
"Both Ethel’s Club and Somewhere Good were born from much larger problems, many of them that we've been sort of trying to solve one by one," says Austin. "With Somewhere Good specifically, we want to ensure that people feel they can spend their time there and not feel depleted after and actually foster meaningful connections, all things that are missing from the larger landscape."
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