5Q'S WITH KRISTIAN HENDERSON, FOUNDER OF BLK+GRN : A Q&A BETWEEN WOMEN WHO'VE STARTED THEIR OWN BUSINESS
I met Kristian Henderson before the launch of BLK+GRN. Kristian was passionate about creating a space that would target black wellness. Kristian achieved that goal - she launched BLK+GRN and the online space took off like wildfire. To date she has been recognized by media leaders like Essence magazine, Glamour magazine, Teen Vogue and Blavity. I am so happy to share her story! Enjoy, LN
1. Looking back on your first job, what skill did you use that you still use today?
My background is in public health, leadership, and management. My first job was working in a lab in Arkansas and I was a hospital administrator for 6 years at Johns Hopkins Hospital, where I learned the importance of balancing margin and mission, a very important skill for growing BLK + GRN. We rarely make decisions best solely on revenue. We intentionally and consciously partner with Black women service providers that are often more expensive, because we truly live our ethos.
2. Was there a defining moment that made you start your business?
I founded BLK + GRN, a marketplace of all-natural products by all Black artisans. There are two key movements that are currently happening in the United States: the buy black movement and the green movement. The buy black movement is an acknowledgment of the tremendous buying power of the African American community and the realization that we can literally vote with our dollars. The idea that we can build our communities by supporting small businesses and entrepreneurs.
The green movement is a movement towards holistic health. It is the idea of removing toxic chemicals from our diets and products and instead using the power of plants and nature to heal and thrive. BLK + GRN was born out of these movements, allowing Black people to be conscious, politically and socially, with our consumption decisions.
3. What was the first step you took to launch your brand?
I had the idea for BLK + GRN around 5 PM one evening, and within 12 hours I had a website up and running. Now, my first website was not the prettiest, it didn't have all the functionality we needed, and it wasn't even on the right platform for a marketplace. But it was a start. With business, you can not let the quest for perfection stop progress. But each day, we are getting closer and closer to our full vision of BLK + GRN. If I wasn't willing to start with step one, I would never have been able to get to step 2.
4. What is the greatest lesson learned in your first year in business?
Being a Black entrepreneur that has created a platform that unapologetically highlights Black-owned businesses presents a unique set of challenges around funding. Securing capital using traditional funding methods is particularly difficult, requiring bootstrapping. My biggest lesson is that PR does not generate sales. It is great for brand awareness, but in my first year, I invested too much in PR and not enough in marketing.
5. What is your best piece of advice for your fellow Female Founder?
One, develop a self-care routine. Entrepreneurship is full of ups and downs, so developing a routine to help balance the lows is a key. I found that I had to fight the external pressure to work constantly. The no sleep movement sounds cute until you crash. Develop balance, create a sustainable business that can thrive. Two, develop a mission-driven business. Our core mission is connecting people with high-quality, toxin-free products that support wellness, and to cultivate forward-thinking Black artisans and entrepreneurs. Our vision is to radically disrupt the global economy to equitably include small, black-owned businesses by empowering artisans to grow and scale their businesses. We will revolutionize holistic health by providing people with a customer-centered platform to discover products from all-natural, black-owned brands. This mission, this vision, is what keeps me going when I want to quit. If the goal was just to make money I would have quit a long time ago.