Look around any yoga studio or Whole Foods and you’ll see that the health and wellness industry is primarily built for and around white women. My friend Shawne Johnson is changing that – helping her African American clients reduce and reverse symptoms of everything from diabetes to menopause. But that’s not the only way Shawne is paving her own path in the health and wellness world – she’s also starting a food co-op in Waterbury, CT. And she could use your help!
You’ll hear about:
- An inspiring grandmother and how Shawne got started as a health coach
- How she’s helping fight back against diseases prominent in the black community
- Food scarcity as an issue in…Connecticut? Yep.
- Overcoming the divide between black and white women
Mentioned in this episode:
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What happens is I take a breather. I do, I'll take a breather and I will find a corner somewhere and sit still, but not for long. I'll sit still for maybe a day. Take a vacation. When I go on vacation, I am quiet. I am quiet. I don't take my laptop. I am very quiet. I unplugged, but that doesn't happen often. But when I do, I do so. Yes, I do hit that burnout sometimes. And I don't hit a quit button though. I don't have a quit button.
It's time to stop being the victim of your overscheduled life and become the most powerful version of yourself. Welcome to she's got power.
You know, a good portion of my listeners are health coaches. Just like me. Maybe you're starting out, or maybe you've been coaching for a while. I've been doing it for 13 years. So I know what it's like, if this is you, I wanna make sure that, you know, I actually have another podcast just for health coaches. Yeah. I have two podcasts. It's nuts, right? The show is called the health coach power community podcast. We have over 200 episodes with everything you need to reach. Clients, make an impact and earn a living, doing the work that you love. And you can find it on apple, Spotify, or even YouTube by searching for health coach power community. I'll see you there
Look around in any yoga studio or whole foods. And you'll see that the health and wellness industry is primarily built for and around white women. My guest today, Sean Johnson is an African American woman who is changing that helping her African American clients reduce and reverse symptoms of disease that run rampant in the community. But that's not the only way that Sean is paving her own path and making a huge impact. She's also busy starting the first black led food. Co-op in Waterbury, Connecticut to address issues of food scarcity in the local area. You've heard of food deserts, right? I've known Sean for several years now. I love sitting back to watch her just do her thing, but most of all, I appreciate Sean for her willingness to walk across what can be a racial divide, welcoming me into her world and ideas and opening herself up to mind. John, thanks for being here with me today.
Thank you. Thank you for the invite.
I'm happy to have you, because I gotta say I've been a health coach for 13 years. I know a lot. I know tens of thousands of other health coaches, and I gotta say you are one of the few black health coaches out there making it happen. I mean, I know there are many more, but in terms of who I know, and who's really making a difference and working with people and changing the world, like you're top of mind, so. Wow.
Thank you. Thank you.
I have to have you on so we could talk about this. Did you realize how few black health coaches are out there doing the work?
Yes, I did notice cuz I it's hard to find. It's hard to find. Yep. I know there are some though. And so I'm excited, excited. There's definitely about the rise. I'm excited about the rise. Yes.
Yes. Tell me how you got into health and wellness. Like considering that health and wellness is predominantly a white woman's game. I am loving to know how you got into it and also how you're so successful in what you're doing.
I fell into it because I am a stylist and I wanted to help my clients because I was my first client. Something was happening with my, my body. I didn't know what was going on. And I realized it was hard for me to find someone that wanted to do anything besides give me a prescription. No one asked me any real questions. They just said, okay, what's the problem. Here's a script. I didn't like that. And I realized there's, there's gotta be some other way to do this. And I'm, I've, I've always been into natural remedies and things like that and searching on my own to do that. But I never met anybody that can really guide me in that, in that direction. And so with Google with Google and looking in different ways to help people in their wellness. And um, even for myself, I stumbled on I in, in 2011 first, and then I stumbled on it.
You know, when you write things down, it, it, it manifests. So in 2011 is when I saw it first, but I didn't, I didn't think about it. And then when I wrote it down again, I realized, okay. And then I am popped up again in 2013. So 2013, I found it and I love how it teaches how they teach us to help people one on one individually and you're always guiding people. So, and in that, I'm a hairdresser. I've been a hairdresser for 36 years, 37 years. So my clients have become my, my hair clients have become my health clients. And I see what we are dealing with in our community. Cuz you know, we are the highest in almost all diseases. As far as being black, African American women, African American men, we are the highest in most diseases. You know, my family was riddled with so many different things, but my grandmother was always that one that did not take medications and things like that. So I always had it in me some kind of way. And my grandmother was one of the people that would help in our community in many, many different ways. And so that's where that came from. And then here we are,
Sounds like she was a real role model for you.
Did she teach you about natural remedies or doing things a natural way?
Yes. And let me tell you, I have not used an over-the-counter cough medicine in over 15 years because of my grandmother. She gave me apple CI of vinegar and honey. She had a book and matter of fact, I have the book right here. It's called kitchen counter cures. So when I was cleaning her house out, I found all these books and that's where she got most of that information. You know what I mean? So yes, yes. She's the one that would teach us those things and not just by medication. And she always fought with her doctors
so she, yes, good for her.
When she, she passed away at 95 by just going to sleep, you know? And she was on no medication by the time she passed away.
Wow. What a woman and here you are walking in her footsteps and teaching others to do the same. You mentioned how there are a lot of, uh, diseases and chronic conditions that are prevalent in the black community. What are some of the ones that you see most often with your clients,
Diabetes or prediabetes and they're being medicated for prediabetes, which is crazy to me. Cholesterol, heart disease edema is another one too. Huh? Edema. Yep. Circulation and things like that and cancer.
Wow. So you're coming up against all of that with your current clients?
Yes. With my current clients.
Ooh, that is some stuff. And what sort of successes are you seeing? I know it's hard to create change and reverse diagnose conditions. So mm-hmm are you seeing incremental change with your clients?
Absolutely. Absolutely. I have a many clients that have reversed. They're not on medications, you know, they're not on medications, they're not taking high blood pressure anymore. They're not taking diabetes medications anymore. They have more energy to boot. They're not even having hot flashes anymore. I've, you know, that's my big thing right now. They're they're not having hot flashes anymore. So, you know, they're really like, and they're over 50 years old. My oldest client I believe is 77. Wow. 77. Let me tell you this woman is a firecracker. Okay. And yeah, they're, they're making changes, increment changes. And they realize that staying with those changes and they're sustainable and they're easy for them to do and how they feel different right away within a two week period, they already feel a difference. You know what I mean? So, yeah. And, and they reversing everything they're and their doctors is like, whatever you're doing, keep doing it. They're still going to their doctors. You know what I mean? And the doctors are like, oh, now you don't have to take this or now you don't have to take that, but not knowing. They basically took theirselves off.
Awesome. You know, so yeah.
Wow. So you are in Waterbury, Connecticut?
And are all of your clients local to you?
No, not at all with the pandemic. Wow. I have clients all over the nation now.
Wow. Tell me about
That. As far as San Francisco, Oregon, North Carolina, Virginia, Atlanta. I mean Georgia, not, they're not in Atlanta. They're in Georgia. Mm-hmm where else, Florida, you know, and you're
One international client and she was from St. Lucia.
Wow. Okay. So are you finding that even if they're not in your local area, they're up against some of the same issues that your community's up against? I know before we started recording, you were talking about food scarcity in your local area.
Mm-hmm so I'm not sure about the food scarcity, but they are dealing with the same type of diseases and taking medications and things like that for basically the same things.
Okay. Well tell me more about the food scarcity happening in Waterbury. Cause I think that's really interesting. It's not far from where I am. It's it's Connecticut. You don't really think, you don't really think of this. When you think of Connecticut, you think of LA maybe parts of New York, but tell me what's going on there.
So where I live, I'm in a central central part of Connecticut and it's an urban city and where we live, we have a bunch of grocery stores and things like that. But in our community that we are serving, you can't walk to a grocery store, you know? Yes, there's community gardens and things like that. And there are changes that are happening in our community. But one of the things that we want to bring back, cuz when I grew up, we had grocery stores where we can walk to and things like that. And they were owned by, they were owned by the people that lived in the community. It wasn't, you know what I mean? It wasn't a, a stockage shop
Chain. It wasn't
A big chain. It was owned by a family in the community type of thing. And so we're trying to bring that back with a, uh, food co-op and with the food co-op that, I don't know if anybody is familiar with how the co-op works, but the co-op is owned by the community and it's gonna be a grocery store and we're gonna have our food. That's gonna come in. It's gonna be from local farmers and things like that. And it's gonna be the first black-led co-op. So we are from the community that we're gonna be serving. We don't all live in the community. Like we, you know, when we were kids, but we're from the community. And also we are making sure that everyone in that community has the option to be a member slash owner of this co-op. And when you do that, then what happens is it grows right?
And you're bringing economic culture, you're, you know, economics back into the area and you're, you're encouraging people and, and empowering people to live a sustainable life. So I was saying the thing is, is during COVID, you know, they were giving out food and things like that. And a lot of people lost their jobs or you know, or they lost their place to live and things like that. And that's fine. We always had food pantries and you know, and shelters and things like that, but that's not sustainable. Someone can't bring their family up or live like that, you know, for a long period of time. Mm-hmm . And so, but you have to teach a person to fish, right? And so that's where we're coming from, we're coming from a person to fish and it doesn't matter who you are, you are welcome to become a member of the food co-op and in different ways.
And also we don't have a store yet. So we're at the very beginning of this, but we need everyone's help to make this come together, you know? And in that we're gonna be doing, um, uh, farmer's markets and things like that. It may take about three to five years to get to the brick and mortar store. But in the meantime, we're educating people about it. We're bringing, you know, asking for volunteers, we're looking for people to just be a part of it because when you're a part of it, you have a vote and you help create the store that you need, not the store that we think you need or not the store that people think you want.
Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. Yeah. This is what I mean about you just getting in and doing stuff and making it happen. How did you get involved with this in the first place?
It started with a community garden, my girlfriends and I, we did a community garden. One of my friends, he has a big farm here in Waterbury and, and we're all black and we, everybody thinks this doesn't happen with black people, but yes it does. right. When you think about that, we're all black. And we are just like, okay, what else can we do? How can we do this? How can we make this, you know, more sustainable? How could we bring everybody else involved?
Wow. Okay. So I don't know who will be listening to this episode, but I just feel, we need to put it out there. You said, you know, it'll take three to five years to get to a brick and mortar store. I need people and a need volunteers. If you had a wish list of like your top three things that you need to make this happen, I'm just putting you on the spot here. But what would the
Three things maybe
Say, or even just
Why? Oh man money.
I would think so. Okay.
Yes. Money donations, investors, people that have expertise in this area because we don't, you know, the great thing is there are so many organizations out there that are, that are helping startups to do this. You know, there's, there's an organization called food coop initiative. Okay. And let me tell you something. They have really, they are educating us from the very idea of it to actually open in the store. So there's organizations out there, but there, and this is a, a rise like co-ops have been around for a long time, but you know, now it's like more people are, are doing this. More people are like really looking into doing this and bringing communities back together. And that's, our slogan is bringing unity in our community, you know? And so that's one thing, money investors and people that are experts in this that can help us out. They can reach out to us, you know, with zoom and everything. Doesn't matter where they are. If you are a part of a co-op, we would love to know what your co-op is doing and things like that. The co-op culture is so amazing because it's each one teach one, you know, it's each one teach one. It's so amazing. So we are meeting some incredible people with the co-op community and things like that around the nation.
It almost reminds me of those who homeschool cause there's their doing their own thing and their own home. And then there's a community. They help each other and they absolutely teach each other. Okay. So anyone listening, who has any of this stuff to lend a hand to this new food co-op in Waterbury? Um, we're gonna put a link in the show notes where you can reach out to Sean. You can get on their newsletter and get in touch because I mean, this is how we help each other, right? Especially women, we network, we have friends, we know someone who knows someone. And um, I know we have somebody listening who has expertise. I used to shop at a food co-op in Cambridge when I lived in the Boston area, the hardest co-op and I could just go in and shop and I didn't have to be a member. Am I thinking of the same type of thing that you eventually want to build?
Yes, absolutely. And, and as a member, believe it or not as a member, what we do is you, there's an equity. I'm gonna say investment for lack of a better phrase, there's an equity investment, right? Mm-hmm but you can also earn dividends for shopping in your co-op. That's what keeps the co-op going. Okay. It's not a non-profit organization. It is a for-profit organization. Right. And as a member, you have a vote and you also have, have an opportunity to earn dividends down the line when the co-op, you know, starts to earn a profit.
Got it. Okay. I miss that co-op I used to be able to go in and get everything in bulk and it was such great prices. And anyway, I miss having that. You're doing a great thing. And, uh, we're recording this in June and this episode will be released later in the year. But you said that you guys are doing something for Juneteenth coming up. Tell me a little bit about that.
So our community has four, three different events that are happening this weekend, coming it's the 17th, 18th, and 19th, and each event piggybacks off the other. And so we, as a co-op, we are going to introduce ourselves to our community and let everybody know that this is what we wanna do. And if you wanna be involved, this is how you can be involved and things like that. And so that's happened in this weekend and there's a young lady that did a, um, documentary on a food scarcity in our city. And she, the name of it is called green thumb brown hands. And she interviewed me and a couple of other people in our community that are making a difference in the food scarcity that's happening in our community, specifically with black people.
How fun. So that's so interesting to me because when I started my career as a health coach, I was interviewed for a documentary. I don't know if you know this. OK. No. And I was in a documentary and like, tons of people are gonna see this, Sean, some tons of people are gonna see your name and they're gonna see what you're doing. And they're gonna be like, oh, you're the one from the documentary. They'll be saying it for the next year, five years. 10 years. Wow. So I'm so excited for you to be getting this kind of exposure.
Yeah. Yeah. I am too. I'm I'm honored really? I'm honored.
Do you know where it will be available if we wanna watch it online?
It's um, I believe after the premier is gonna be available on YouTube, I'll make sure you get the link.
Yes. And we'll put that, that in the show notes, cuz I definitely wanna watch it. I think this is fantastic stuff. So you've got, you've got the co-op going on. you're doing some Juneteenth celebrating. You're being interviewed for a documentary. I mean, there's got I bet. And even in your personal life or even with your clients, you've got like 20 other things that you are making happen at any given moment. Do you ever reach a point where you're like, I'm the I'm tired? absolutely to that burnout point.
Absolutely. Absolutely. But what it, what happens is I take a breather. I do, I'll take a breather and I will find a corner somewhere and sit still, but not for long. I'll sit still for maybe a day, take a vacation. When I go on vacation, I am quiet. I am quiet. I don't take my laptop. I, you know, I am very quiet. I unplug, but that doesn't happen often. But when I do, I do so. Yes, I do hit that burnout sometimes. And I don't hit a quit button though. I don't have a quit button. You know what I'm saying? If it's not working then I do. But if it's working, I don't have a quit button. I just slow down for a second. I pause, you know? And you have to cuz if you don't, you're gonna be you you're gonna stay burnt out.
You'll get resentful, you'll start hating what you're doing. And things like that. I was like that with hair for a long, for not a long time. I shouldn't say a long time. I was like that with hair for a minute, to a point where it just felt like I had, I was just spinning my wheels and not going forward. And then everybody pulling on you, you know, and pulling on you. But one thing I can say is when I turned 50, a whole different light switch turned on where I just said no is a complete sentence. So I learned how to say no and not go behind it with an excuse or an explanation. So I like being in this season in my life right now.
I believe I will be naming this episode. No is a complete sentence. Thank you for that son. Okay.
That's an important one. And there is this thing that happens. I, I hear at 50, I'll be getting there soon enough, but I hear at 50 it's even better than 40. Tell me a little bit more about what that's been like for you and also what it's like for your clients
Being 50. See, I'm a per I'm a birthday person, right? So I love turning the next age. Okay. And being 50 when I turned 50 I'm 54 actually. And, but when I turned 50, it was just like what? I am 50 and fabulous. Oh, let's do it. Let's what's next. And you know, my kids are grown. I'm having grandchildren now and things like that. And it's like, okay, let's do it. What else are we gonna do? What what's next? You know? But I'm also meeting people within my practice that are not coming to me for food, you know, for diet, they're coming to me because they're at a crossroads in their life where they're like, ah, I feel unworthy. I feel, you know, insecure. I feel like I don't have anything else to do in my life. What else can I do? I feel nobody needs me cuz the kids are older now and they're moving out the house and you know, they're in college and they're doing their own things.
So the things that they used to do with their children are not there. Like it used to be. So they're feeling like that. And their husbands are looking at them like, what are you gonna do? You know? Or you know, or they're single. And the dating thing is just like non-existent or they haven't opened their self up to it because they've been doing everything for everyone else, you know, all kinds of things. So for me at this age and my clients, we I'm trying to create a space for the women that are feeling like, you know, what else can I do? And just creating that space where you can be as fabulous as you wanna be.
Everybody could just have the enthusiasm, right? This, you have this light inside of you. Cause you're doing things you're busy with things. You're starting things. You're creating things, but they all mean something to you.
Right. You're not just busy work. It's not just work like right. It's like your heart is in it. Everybody could have that 50 feels like 2050 feels amazing. Right.
Or 50 can or 50 can feel like 50 and you're okay with it. Right. 50 is what you want it to be.
Well, you're glowing either way. I'll say that every time you talk about something, I know you are like 100% in it and it's fueling you. Like I think that's why when you said I hit pause, but I don't quit. You know, it's not because you just have this. I mean, you do have a great amount of resilience and gumption for whatever you're doing, but it's more than that. It's because you really care.
Right. And absolutely.
And that's when we start making, you know, big, big changes when we're in it, in that sense, right. Again, like I said, in the beginning of this episode, there are so few black women in the health and wellness world. And we've talked about this and there seems to definitely in this industry, but just in general, there can be a divide. Right. We talked about this divide between white women and black women. Most of the women listening to this episode right now, we're white. Aren't we guys. Yeah. Like I know, I know who's listening and I , so Sean, I'm glad you're here and I'm not glad to be having this conversation. How can we do better when it comes to bridging this divide?
Doing better? I don't know of doing better. I think it's just more think about your girlfriends, right? And your circle of people. How are you including other people in your circle? And I get it though. Cause even my circle, I have very few white people in my circle. Right. And, and it's just because this is that's, that's where I am. And, and that's the same for everybody. Right. But when we're having conversations, like the big thing about it is I have a lot of clients that have long hair and people wanna touch their hair and it's like, wait a minute. We are not dogs. We are not pets. Right. Don't go to grab my hair. Simple things. You know where it's like, your hair is so beautiful. Just say my hair is beautiful, that's it? You know, don't ask if it's real, just things that people don't understand that it's offensive, you know, and just be thoughtful about it.
Just be thoughtful about the things that you may ask. But at the same time, if it's a genuine question, you know, like I've had, I've had a person ask me one time, do you do white hair? Mm-hmm I've had a person ask me that and I'll say yes. You know, and they'll go, oh, because I really need my hair done. And I'm not sure if you do white hair, just like, we'll say, do you do black hair? Right. Mm-hmm , which is fine. That's a good question. Right. But don't assume I had a person that said they didn't come into my salon because they didn't see white people walking in.
I believe that.
Right. But when we look at stuff, we don't say we're not walking in there because we don't see black people walking in.
I think, understand what I'm topic. You have a lot to say about this. Like it's AMA it's awesome that you have, like, this experience is a hairdresser because so many of the topics like, like that that's really good metaphor. Isn't it? Mm-hmm when we talk about hair, mm-hmm just simple thing. We all have it. We all have to do it. Yeah. And how we treat each other and how we talk about it. I think that's really interesting. Before we hit record, you were also mentioning, you know, about how we raise our families. Mm-hmm has a lot to do with how our kids are gonna interact in the world. You're right. Like if you live in a place where everybody's white or everybody's Jewish or everybody's black or everybody's, whatever, that's probably gonna be your circle. How do you in your family, I'm gonna turn it around on you. How do you talk about inclusion? How do you talk about different types of people in the world when we are, when you're all surrounded by same.
So my stepdaughter's mom is white. My nieces and nephews, moms are white. And so, but they, as children growing up, they weren't white enough and they weren't black enough. Right. But my nephews, my nephews, family, they're Jewish, his mother sided family is Jewish. They don't even recognize them. They don't even accept them at all. Okay. And so when we're at the table and we're talking, we're talking in a way where it's like, we just love them for who they are. Period. You just have to love the, you know, I met a woman in the, in the orchard the other day and she was talking about an older woman. That's that's an a hundred years old. And, and she said, the woman, she asked her, how does she live to be so long or whatever? And she says, God, she says, we love people for who they are when you love someone like you love yourselves and you will, you know, that's what she said.
And I said, exactly, it doesn't matter if you're black or white or anything else just love people. You know, when you talk about love, how do you love your child? If you love your child, you want someone to love your child. Like you do. So it's the same for any other person is really simple. It's not rocket science. It is really, really simple. And so that's what we talk about. Right. And when we are sitting at the table, yes, we have these conversations and they're hard. And sometimes they're our heart. Sometimes they're just matter of fact. Right. And my stepdaughter, you would think she was my child because she has the hair gene. She is awesome. She is a beast when it comes to doing hair. Right. And, but when you look at her, you think she's just white. Right. But she can do my hair. She can do your hair. And you would not, there is no question. Right. So when it comes to that, you know, just think about what it's embarrassing. When people ask you silly questions, like, is that all your hair, as opposed to, I love your hair. Your hair is beautiful. Just say it's beautiful. Just say you like it. Simple. Just it's really just that simple. I hope I answered your question.
Thank you for answering my question. You certainly did. And it's been a pleasure speaking with you today. Remember everybody? No is a complete sentence. No matter what you're passionate about. No matter how you're spending your time, no matter how you're getting over 50 and feeling great about it. No is a complete sentence. Sean. I'm excited for everything that you guys are doing. And I definitely wanna keep hearing about how this co-op evolves. I know you'll keep me in the loop.
Yes, yes, yes, absolutely. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for having me. And I just wanna say, just thank you. Thank you for including, you know, us. Thank you for including me. Thank you for having that platform where we're not separated.
It's been a pleasure.
I have like no words for the amount of good work that Sean is doing in the world. She's been part of my health coach community for a while, and she's always so encouraging and so positive. You know, some people go into a new venture with a lot of hesitation and doubt and you can almost see those negative vibes around them, but not Sean. It's like she can do it. She can figure it out. And like she said, she might pause, but she doesn't have a quit button just to reiterate. Sean is looking for donations, investors and mentorship from anyone who has expertise in the area of running a food co-op is that you, if it is, please reach out. We'll help contact info in the show notes at she.power.com/podcast.
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