What inspired you to become an entrepreneur?
This is a great question. I was inspired by so many different circumstances in my personal and professional life to become an entrepreneur. I will begin by sharing that I started working at a young age, at 14 to be exact. As I grew older, I realized how there were not many women who looked like me in either leadership positions or as entrepreneurs. This began to set a fire inside me to want to change that one day. I really wanted to be that example for the younger generations that even when the path has not been created for us, we can create it for ourselves and for those who will come after us. Now, this is easier said than done, mostly when you do not grow up surrounded by women who are entrepreneurs. Getting to where I am today, took a lot of personal self-development work by breaking barriers and limiting beliefs about who entrepreneurship was made for. I learned that if I wanted to see something change, I needed to begin by being the change I wanted to see. Hopefully, I am also inspiring other women to also do the same. Another factor that inspired me to go into the entrepreneurship world was my family as I wanted to have more flexible time to be able to do more things with them.
One thing I learned throughout this process is that as a society we need to normalize women being in powerful positions and one way to do that is by giving us the platform to share our stories. My hope is that the younger generation see me and believe that they too can be in leadership positions. My hope is that more black women are celebrated for their great work to show our younger generations that women who look like them and perhaps share similar stories can also be in positions of power.
Tell us about your experience in the beauty industry.
My experience in the beauty industry is limited. However, I have noticed how the beauty industry plays a role in individuals’ mental health. This relates back to what I mentioned before about not seeing many women who looked like me growing up as entrepreneurs. I honestly do not see many black women being featured for their great work and beauty. This also impacts our mental health as we were brought up to believe we had to look a certain way to fit in. We started comparing ourselves and the way we looked because we never saw anyone we could relate to or identify with. A perfect example is needing to have “straight hair”. This was a struggle for me growing up. I was conditioned to believe I had “bad hair” and it needed to be tamed, if not; I did not look presentable. It took years before I was able to accept my beautiful curls despite the critics that I still receive from individuals today. Once I made internal changes I was able to accept myself for who I was and not for what society expected me to be. As women, we need to learn how to find the beauty within us. There should not be a standard for what beauty is and what it should look like. We spend so much time looking at pictures of who and what we want to look like, not realizing that being different is what makes us stand out. It is a tough transition and it was tough for me to accept, especially being that curly hair was looked down upon in professional environments for years, and still the case in some places today. However, I have learned that part of what makes us beautiful is what makes us different.
In such a competitive market, why write a book?
I wrote my best-selling book Becoming A Knew You because I wanted to reach more lives beyond my practice. As a therapist, there is a limit to how many people I can reach. In writing a book, I can reach so many that I would probably not be able to ever work with.
I also wrote this book because we are currently living in a world where our feelings and thoughts are constantly invalidated. We have learned to suppress our emotions and just move forward with life without addressing our triggers. A lot of individuals have so many challenges establishing, maintaining, and/or cultivating relationships because of wounds and traumatic events that have not been processed. So, I wanted to help people find themselves, discover maladaptive behaviors, challenge themselves, become more self-aware, and at the same time provide them with the tools to navigate those behaviors in order to improve. I wrote this book to empower individuals to make the necessary changes in their lives to live a healthier life.
How do you feel about the African American community deals with mental health?
You know, I feel like many individuals within the African American community continue to deal with mental health by suppressing negative emotions and/or not even acknowledging them. They choose not to talk about the issue or not even share it with everyone because that would mean “showing weakness”. I think a lot of people within our community continue to see vulnerability as “weakness”, not realizing that vulnerability is actually strength. It takes a lot of courage and strength to have discussions about our negative thoughts and emotions and how they are impacting the way we relate to others. Now, despite the lack of open-mindedness that has existed for so long within the African American community about mental health, I am finding that more individuals are opening up to therapy now which makes me very happy. In my experience, the older generation has impacted how the younger generations, millennials and Gen Z, specifically, feel about therapy. There is still a lot of stigma attached to who therapy is for and what it is for. However, I am finding specifically in my practice that a lot of first timers are seeking help to learn how to better manage their emotions.
I know therapy can be scary and also looked down upon. However, we all need an individual in our lives that will listen without judgement in our lives. Some of us do not have that. Therapy is a safe space for you to navigate your true thoughts, a space where you can get to know yourself at an even deeper level, and a space where you will learn different tools to navigate your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. We have to juggle so much in life and just like we have to care for our physical health, it is also important that we care for our mental health. It is an act of kindness and care for yourself and you deserve that!
What has been the most difficult aspect of being and entrepreneur?
The most challenging aspect of entrepreneurship for me has been balancing my personal life from it. Mostly, when I have so many plans and ambitions of how to continue to grow my business and brand. As women, we have the tendency to be on the go 24/7 without missing a beat. Taking care of my needs, wants, and desires became very challenging as I wanted to ensure I was the best mother, wife, family member and worker. This, of course; came at a high price of constantly feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, and just drained. I remember taking some time off and thinking to myself, “what am I doing? why am I feeling this way?” Once I realized I was not being my best self to myself, I began making changes. Those changes included setting boundaries in all aspects of my life and learning how to say no to others. This brought so much more calmness to my life and joy because I then began to feel more clarity and be more present in ways I was not before. It is challenging at times, you know; dividing myself to be everything I am needed to be for everyone else and myself. So learning to balance all of it has been challenging but also refreshing. However, I have also learned I am not always going to be able to “perfectly balance” everything and I am not always going to be all that I am needed to be in the different areas of my life and you know what? That is okay. I have learned to be patient and compassionate towards myself in knowing that I am doing the best I can.
What advice would you give to someone seeking to become an entrepreneur?
I would say to have a plan of how you want things to look. Work on yourself, learn who you are first. Learn about your strengths, triggers, weaknesses, identify areas you need to improve on. Do not be afraid to ask for feedback, mostly from those people around you. I would also add to be patient with your process and very compassionate. There will be times that things will not go your way or the way you expected, when those moments show up, utilize them as teachable moments, explore what did not work and what could be done better next time. This mindset is what helps us move forward. It is also important to set boundaries in all aspects of your life and learn to say no, this will help you feel in control and balanced.
What does success look like to you?
Wow, well; success to me looks like so many different things. I will start by sharing that doing what I love while also being able to dictate the hours that work for me and does not work for me is the definition of success and freedom to me. Having ownership of my time is something that means the world to me because time is something we cannot get back so knowing that as an entrepreneur I have the flexibility to choose the hours I dedicate to my business is another level of happiness.
Success to me is feeling happy and fulfilled by doing what I love to do. Being able to be at all my children’s school events, meetings, doctors’ appointments, and everything that involves them is being successful to me. Being able to vacation when I want to vacation and not having to ask for approval means success to me.
At the same time, success to me means constantly learning and overcoming challenges. As well as, having an impact in the world by the work I put out and the lives I touch means being successful.
Kiara Luna is a bilingual, licensed mental health therapist in NYS, best selling author, public speaker and the owner of Knew You Psychotherapy. With over a decade of experience, Kiara has helped individuals, couples, and families develop new rituals of connection, increase fondness and admiration, develop healthier ways to communicate, develop a deeper understanding of how childhood trauma shows up in their relationships, the importance of setting boundaries, and actionable steps to increase their self-esteem. Kiara has been featured in Fatherly, Psych Central, Bustle, WeddingWire, Authority Magazine and more. As a therapist and powerful speaker, she has been able to help many find their voices and inspire them to grow in areas they never thought they could. Kiara loves having the opportunity to be able to empower, educate, and motivate audiences to achieve personal growth through motivating stories and knowledgeable insight.
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