From Yale To The Wellness Industry – How Dr. Kristian Is Changing The Landscape For Black Women + Artisans

When I first discovered BLK + GRN, I was immediately intrigued by the brand’s positive mission and movement. After I started following both BLK + GRN and its founder, Dr. Kristian, on IG, I knew I was witnessing something powerful. In addition to BLK + GRN, she is a professor, a speaker and a yoga teacher with a penchant for vintage and secondhand clothing. She’s a Type A, earth-loving, spreadsheet-making woman after my own heart, and I know you’re going to find her just as inspiring as I do. Let’s get into the interview…

Can you give us a bit of backstory? Who are you and how did you land where you are today?

My background is in public health, and I worked in hospital administration. My research interest has always been health disparity, particularly looking at Black women and why our health outcomes seem to be worse even when you consider things like age, insurance and income. It was challenging to me, and I wanted to figure out what was happening. At the same time, I just happened to be going on my own personal wellness journey, trying to be more conscientious about what I was eating, the products I was using and moving my body. So I said, I want to do an even better job at selecting products that are natural and organic. With BLK+GRN, we solve two problems: one, Black women’s lack of access to high-quality non-toxic products; and two, Black artisans’ lack of access to retail platforms to scale. Black women spend twice as much on personal care products, yet 75 percent of the products marketed to Black women are formulated with ingredients that are considered toxic and linked to cancer, hormone disruption and reproductive damage. Black women are looking for higher-quality Black-owned products, but there isn’t an easy way to purchase these green products. At BLK + GRN, our marketplace connects Black women with natural lifestyles to high-quality, toxic-free brands that share in our mission of health, wellness and community cultivation. BLK + GRN currently carries products from more than 63 Black women artisans ranging from body scrubs, multivitamins and sunscreen, to natural deodorant and laundry detergent.

Tell us about your typical workday. What does it look like?

My team of estheticians and I test every product, from skincare and haircare to natural deodorant and vitamins, that is sold on the site. On day one, I started with a few brands. Now I have more than 90-plus artisans and brands that I work with.

What led you to launch BLK + GRN? Can you tell us more about the mission behind the brand?

After reading the book Our Black Year, I knew the importance of buying Black. I personally tried to buy from as many Black-owned brands as possible. I had an Excel spreadsheet with a list of all the natural Black-owned brands I wanted to buy. Because of my background in public health, I understood the importance of natural, toxic-free products. Products marketed to Black people are often more toxic and full of dangerous ingredients. I wanted Black products and Clean products. I started BLK + GRN to solve my own problem of having to buy my products from lots of websites and I was looking for an easy marketplace to support. So I created it.

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“At BLK + GRN, we’re about more than selling products. We’re about creating a safe space where women of color can normalize self-care.”

 

Tell us about the process. How do you decide which brands and products to carry?

At BLK + GRN, our Black artisans are carefully chosen by Black health experts who know what an all-natural product truly is. We’ve seen firsthand the damaging effects of harmful ingredients and practices have had on our community. Our marketplace connects Black people with natural lifestyles to high-quality, toxic-free brands that share in our mission of health, wellness and community cultivation. We promise to maintain that connection by curating, crafting and consuming consciously for our community. Additionally, it’s about economic empowerment. We recognize we have the ability to vote with our dollar and can essentially determine which brands thrive and which do not. When purchases are made via BLK + GRN, there’s a direct correlation to supporting small Black businesses who are otherwise competing with mega commercial brands. BLK + GRN encourages you to #buyblackandlivegreen as more than a hashtag and more so a lifestyle.

How have you been spending your days at home recently?

I’ve been spending time playing with my son, and watching him grow up in front of my eyes. I’ve also been spending time and watching a favorite show with my husband. We don’t pay for cable, but we stream all of our TV and movies with an app—Netflix, Hulu and Sling. We are currently rewatching “Game of Thrones.”

What does self-care look like to you? 

The emotional part of self-care is having a really honest conversation with yourself about what makes you happy and what pulls your joy. I started my self-care journey years ago and it completely changed my life. I had the honest conversation with myself and I realized I was in a really horrible marriage. I didn’t want to make that mistake again, so I wrote a really specific and detailed list describing my ideal life partner having the same attributes that I do. My new partner had to be a graduate of an Ivy League school (I went to Yale), come from a loving and educated family as I do, and have a similar eating style like me (I’m a huge foodie and pescatarian so I wanted someone to get me amazing food within my dietary lifestyle). Let me tell y’all, my husband is even better than my list. Talk about manifestation! My husband went to Penn, an Ivy League. His parents are loving and they went to Cornell. Also, an Ivy League school. And my husband does better than get me amazing food. He cooks it. He is a chef and chefs up all my meals. The way to my heart is through my stomach, and boy did he cook his way right to my heart.

I started BLK + GRN because I want to help Black entrepreneurs thrive and elevate. I learned that a relationship wasn’t the best place to help others, so I created a company that allowed me to help others. Additionally, I realized I was happier when I moved my body. So I tried to figure out a way to incorporate fitness into my life. Yoga is my thing, so I became a yoga teacher.

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How would you describe your personal style?

Are we talking about physical dressing style or personality style? I’ll answer both! For dressing, I work with a stylist who gets all of my clothes at a secondhand store. I love that because it feels more eco-friendly for me to wear clothes that were just made for me, but for me to reuse clothes that are already made. I love to wear green, which is actually my favorite color. From a personality standpoint, I am a Type A, an overachiever and a very goofy girl who likes to eat good food, travel around the world and laugh with friends. I have a natural eco-friendly lifestyle. I try not to waste plastic; I want to have a beautiful lawn so I’m investing in eco-friendly fertilizer, and my husband has a no-waste kitchen, where he refuses to throw any food away.

“I started BLK + GRN because I want to help Black entrepreneurs thrive and elevate. I learned that a relationship wasn’t the best place to help others, so I created a company that allowed me to help others.”

What’s on your must-read list? 

I love reading!! This is an easy question for me to answer, because I have an entire list of books in the notes on my phone. Some of these books I have read and some of them are on my reading list!

Shop Dr. Kristian’s reading list:

 

Do you have a go-to recipe you always cook at home?

My husband is basically a chef, and he cooks all of my food. And he doesn’t cook from recipes. Once a year, when I might cook, I always roast broccoli and cauliflower and sear some salmon.

Who has been your biggest inspiration in life? 

Michelle Obama

Any favorite podcasts right now? 

BLK + GRN podcast

Favorite quote?

“Be happy, healthy and free.”

 

Connect with Dr. Kristian

@blkandgrn | @drkristianh

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Author: Samantha Welker

Samantha Welker is the business manager at Glitter Guide. She has an Master's in Corporate Finance & Sustainability from Harvard Business School but prefers working in the creative industry. She also hosts a weekly business podcast for creative women called Pretty Okay Podcast. She loves spending time with her husband and her son, Rocky, in sunny San Diego. Follow along on Instagram