Naj Austin

Founder & CEO of Ethel's Club

www.ethelsclub.com

Frustrated by not being able to find a therapist in New York City, and driven by the desire for community, Naj Austin founded Ethel’s Club, a social and wellness club and online community designed for people of color to thrive. “I was looking for a Black female therapist and I found it really difficult. I was really surprised I couldn’t find a central place where there were therapists of color. I was like, ‘that’s something someone should definitely do.’ Around the same time I was looking for a community that wasn’t the bar scene or the co-working scene, but sort of a blend in the middle with personality and soul. I did enough research to see that I couldn’t find it, so I started thinking that maybe I could build it.”

 

"...I was looking for a community that wasn’t the bar scene or the co-working scene, but sort of a blend in the middle with personality and soul. I did enough research to see that I couldn’t find it, so I started thinking that maybe I could build it.”

“The overall consensus was that Black people and people of color were looking for a space that represented who they were..."

 

One viral Instagram post prompted a flurry of support, which enabled Naj to survey hundreds of NYC-based people and glean a better idea of what her club could be. “The overall consensus was that Black people and people of color were looking for a space that represented who they were, whether that was in yoga, coworking, events or book clubs, everything, it kind of ran the gamut. So that became what Ethel’s Club is — it’s a lot of things packed into one space. We have a wellness room, a podcast studio, a library, a café, a stadium seating area where people can screen films and more. We try to make everything really intentional and thoughtful. I think once people see that’s how we work they sense it and respond to it.”

On top of providing a physical space that brought what her members wanted to life, Naj also wanted there to be greater access and opportunity to support Black creators and business owners. “One of the important things we thought about was creating a circular economy. We started to think about all of the spaces that people of color are not represented in peoples’ daily lives. So, you wake up and you use your toothpaste and your face wash — could those moments be more inclusive and intentional? The Ethel’s Club shop is a platform for founders of color to be a part of that conversation. We really just wanted to create a one stop shop for anything through a lens of people of color and Black people. You want an electrician? We have an electrician recommendation. You want a skincare guru? She’s doing an event on Thursday. You want to buy something? You can find it here. We want to create one place that can do it all.”

 

"We really just wanted to create a one stop shop for anything through a lens of people of color and Black people. You want an electrician? We have an electrician recommendation. You want a skincare guru? She’s doing an event on Thursday. You want to buy something? You can find it here. We want to create one place that can do it all.

 

Ever since its opening in November 2019, Ethel’s Club has received an outpouring of support and a growing list of people eager to join the community. But the COVID-19 lockdown has forced their Brooklyn clubhouse to temporarily close its doors. Naj knew that she wanted to provide the support her community provides in one shape or form, so Ethel’s Club created a digital membership. Naj credits her scrappy team for translating the sense of community to an online space. “We’re a team of six and we’re all children of the Internet. We can respond pretty quickly. Our digital membership includes online programming three times every week day. And there’s always a slot for healing, grounding and wellness. We’re trying to literally put it on peoples’ calendars. I think it’s important, as a community and as an individual, to honor that time and space, and reclaim that power from healing and rest.”

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