A Note from Marguerita Cheng, CFP® Pro and Hope Katz Gibbs, producer of Inkandescent Radio +TV, and publisher Inkandescent Women magazine — We invite you to tune in for this episode of Rita’s podcast and video show, Margaritas with Marguerita, where for 15 minutes each Friday at 5 pm EST, women learn from industry experts how to flex their financial muscles live on Facebook. Learn more at MargueritaCheng.com, and don’t miss an episode of her show in 2022: MargueritaCheng.tv.
Today’s guest: Truly amazing Alina Liao, founder of the radical wellness company Zenit, which is on a mission to make wellness accessible to everyone.
Our topic: How to thrive mind, body, spirit, and soul in 2022 and beyond!
- What led her to start Zenit
- How she’s used journaling for my healing and wellness
- What she has learned about starting a business and about herself
- How Zenit helps others with their well-being
About Alina: A proud daughter of immigrants and a resident of Washington, DC, Alina is the founder and CEO of the radical wellness company Zenit, Alina is on a mission to make wellness accessible to everyone. Having struggled with mental health challenges and the belief that “wellness isn’t for me,” Alina is working towards a world where we can all feel pride and joy in taking care of our well-being, especially in communities of color. With Zenit, Alina makes customized journals and provides journaling workshops that make it easier for people to gain the mental wellness benefits of journaling. Alina has a background in trauma-informed, culturally responsive mental health coaching. She has over a decade of experience building teams and programs that have advanced the wellness of employees, customers, and communities. Alina is an avid practitioner and kids program teacher of capoeira, an Afro-Brazilian martial art outside work. Find your next journal: zenitjournals.com.
Click here to take a Mini Journaling Retreat with Alina to launch your health and wellness in 2022! And please scroll down to read Hope’s Q&A with Alina.
What’s Next for Alina Liao, founder of Zenit
Hope: It’s a pleasure to be talking with you today, Alina, about your wonderful wellness company, Zenit. Tell us about your adventure and what inspired you to start this radical organization.
Alina: In the spring of 2019, I was working through loss, depression, and trauma. The therapist and coach I was working with recommended I start to write in a journal. Just journal, right? It seemed so simple. But, even though I had long known journaling would be good for me, I had always struggled to do it. I’d open my journal, stare at the blank page staring back at me, and give up. So there my blank journals sat, collecting dust.
But one day, I thought of a few prompts specific to what I was working on: “What serves me today?” “How am I honoring my wants?” “What am I learning?” I dug up a blank journal and wrote them down. My journal was no longer staring at me. It was inviting me in.
Day by day, I wrote those same prompts in my journal. Soon, journaling went from impossible to easy. I was feeling the transformation from it. I wasn’t only piecing myself back together, I was healing. One day, after writing the same prompts in my journal, I thought, “dang, it would be nice if my journal just had these prompts in them.”
I followed that, and Zenit was born.
The name Zenit comes from “Zen” and “it.” Zenit! The term “Zen” comes from the Zen school of Buddhism. “Zen” is the Japanese translation of the Chinese word “Chán,” which means “sitting meditation” and is translated from the Sanskrit word for meditation, “Dhyāna.” The Chinese Chán school of Buddhism originates from the original Indian Buddhism.
The fabrics we use for our covers are Ankara and Batik print fabrics, which are rooted in West African and Indonesian cultures.
We acknowledge that the healing and wellness practices permeating our work are rooted in Indigenous, Asian, and African cultures.
Hope: I’m guessing you realized that zillions of others would benefit from your experience?
Alina: Absolutely. I started Zenit to make it easier for people to experience the healing power of journaling, especially people of color, who have historically faced, and continue to face, systemic barriers to health and wellness. When I think about accessibility, it’s not only about removing structural barriers. It’s also about the deep, slow work of letting go of the internalized beliefs that “wellness isn’t for me,” or “my feelings don’t matter.”
Hope: Is that something that you have believed since childhood?
Alina: Yes. I think I inherited those beliefs, and the world reinforced them. I’m still on the journey of embracing that I, as a human being, have the right to take time for myself, to heal, to be well. My vision is to build Zenit as a radical wellness company that makes it easier for us to feel pride and joy in the work we do for our mental health. To not feel guilt for squeezing in a breath, but to sing self-love as we take our time.
Hope: And that powerful foundation is the beauty of Zenit.
Alina: Thank you! It is because, like all of us, I bring to my work my former experiences. These include providing trauma-informed, culturally responsive mental health coaching to youth and people of color, as well as developing healing-centered trauma-training programs in collaboration with mental health clinicians, social workers, and youth advisors. I have a Master of Art in Education and Master of Business Administration from Stanford University, as well as certifications in Supporting Students Exposed to Trauma by Cognitive Behavioral Intervention for Trauma in Schools (CBITS) and Mental Health First Aid by the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI).
Hope: Where does the name Zenit come from?
Alina: It seemed obvious to me when I was coming up with the idea of the company to call it “Zen” and “it.” Zenit! The term “Zen” comes from the Zen school of Buddhism. “Zen” is the Japanese translation of the Chinese word “Chán,” which means “sitting meditation” and is translated from the Sanskrit word for meditation, “Dhyāna.” The Chinese Chán school of Buddhism originates from the original Indian Buddhism. The fabrics we use for our covers are Ankara and Batik print fabrics, which are rooted in West African and Indonesian cultures. We acknowledge that the healing and wellness practices permeating our work are rooted in Indigenous, Asian, and African cultures.
Hope: Amazing! I love that you call Zenit a radical wellness company.
Alina: I couldn’t imagine starting an organization that didn’t advance the wellness of our stakeholders. This includes our customers, employees, the communities we operate in, and our planet. We reject norms that devalue wellness and put profits over people and the planet. We intend to be a model for systemic change that promotes individual and collective wellness.
Hope: I appreciate the vow you make.
Alina: Yes, we ensure our employees enjoy a work environment that supports their holistic wellness. We make our products with care to detail and high-quality, locally sourced materials. And, we build and operate a zero-waste supply chain. It’s not always easy, but it’s our goal.
Hope: You also believe that wellness requires equity. Tell us more about that.
Alina: A world with systemic injustice cannot be a world that is well. We believe that there is no neutral zone when it comes to justice – you are either contributing to a more just world, or you are perpetuating existing inequities. We approach all decisions with a lens of equity. This means that we will help build an inclusive wellness market that invites people who experience greater barriers to wellness into the marketplace through our branding, product development, and strategic partnerships. We will increase equity to economic mobility through our talent strategy, including hiring and developing talent in under-represented communities and partnering with Black-owned and minority-owned businesses. And, we will ensure that our growth in a community adds to the economic and cultural wellbeing of native residents, and never contributes to the displacement of residents.
Hope: Tell us about the personal journey that you encourage each of your customers to take.
Alina: Everyone has their unique brilliance, and each person knows themselves best. We are NOT here to tell you what to think or do. We are committed to honoring the agency of all our stakeholders so that our products will always be designed to foster each customer’s agency and power to own their healing and wellness journey. Our employees have a voice in all decisions that affect them. Plus, the Residents in the communities we operate in have a say in the impact of our presence on their community well-being.
Hope: Where is the home base for Zenit?
Alina: Zenit is located in Washington, DC, which sits on Nacotchtank and Piscataway lands. We acknowledge that this city where we reside came about through colonization, theft of Native land, genocide, and a history of Native invisibility and erasure. We recognize, respect, and honor the Indigenous Peoples of these lands as the traditional stewards and owners of these lands. We acknowledge that the city of Washington, DC, where we reside, was built by Africans who were enslaved. We acknowledge that to this date, African-Americans have yet to receive reparations they are owed for the atrocities committed against them and their ancestors in the founding and building of this country. We stand in solidarity with Indigenous, Black, Brown, and Asian Peoples in our work in healing and liberation.