In recent years, the wellness industry has exploded, and the popularity of yoga, meditation, and other self-care practices. The sector—which consists of everything from food products to clothing to conferences to mental wellness—was reportedly worth $4.9 trillion in 2019 expecting it to continue to rise. MarketWatch reported that the average American spends $199 per month on self-care!
Despite its juggernaut size, the over-development of this industry has led to yoga and mindfulness classes, becoming something that's no longer attainable for everyone, particularly those in lower socioeconomic groups. It's time for the wellness industry to widen its lens.
Candy Calderon entered the wellness space after several family members, including her mom, were diagnosed with cancer. Two of her aunts and her grandfather died because of the disease. She said, "I started like just reading books and trying to find ways, something like holistic and natural that we could do on top of her, sticking it out with, with the regular medicine and the chemo. My mom doesn't speak English very well. So had I not been bilingual and been able to gather all this information, I don't think she would have been here because even her doctor said, oh, like, this is almost a miracle.
And we know it's because of the holistic approach that we took on top of her doing the chemo. So for me, it was so interesting. The experience of seeing how my mom overcame her cancer, and then everybody started asking me, like, can you share what you did? Can you share it with us? And it was like a snowball effect." Candy switched her career from business administration to nutrition and became a certified health coach. She saw the lag in the industry on both sides of the fence.
Candy is the founder of the Glow Wellness Tour (GWT). GWT is a health and wellness community, educational platform, and event series focused on decolonizing wellness and making healing more accessible and affordable to Women of Color from multicultural backgrounds. They create health and wellness workshops, signature wellness events (virtual & in-person), private memberships, and digital activations. To reach more communities without access, GWT went on tour to several cities and states, but GWT had to pivot to 100% virtual at the height of the pandemic.
What are you most proud of when it comes to the Glow Wellness Tour?
Candy is most proud of GWT's impact on the community and the testimonials of the lives it has changed. GWT has covered taboo topics that include spirituality and mental health. This is a space where the women can come as they are, be celebrated, and be understood by the nuanced lives they live as BIPOC individuals. The space gives women an opportunity to explore all facets of themselves non-judgmentally.
She said, "It's bigger than I ever thought it could be because it just started as an idea of creating this space where we could come together and speak about these topics. But now, seeing the impact, I know that this is something that even if I remove myself, it can keep going."
What fears did you have along the journey?
Candy had a unique fear along her journey. Being a child of immigrants, she deviated from the traditional 'get a good education by becoming an entrepreneur’. Candy questioned whether or not she would make them proud. She feared that the sacrifices that her parents made might go in vain.
What's the biggest risk you've taken so far?
Candy hopes to grow Glow Wellness Tour into a business that doesn't need her to be the face of it, that it can stand on its own. Being the face of the company is a considerable risk for her. She said, "But I think there is no other way as a small business owner. You are the face of your business until you're not." It's essential for the community to see her, know, like, and trust her, but eventually, she hopes to exit, so GWT stands on its own gracefully.
Tell us about any major setbacks that you had and how you recovered.
A considerable part of GWT's revenue was in-person events and sponsorships. At one point, Candy thought her business would go into bankruptcy because she spent months without receiving any income.
She said, "Do I need to close this because how am I going to be able to sustain it? Nothing is going on in person. So I, you know, I took that "L" for a while. Then I decided to keep it virtual. Before the pandemic happened, I was toying with the idea of going hybrid because I already had my private practice as a holistic health and wellness coach online." The pandemic rushed Candy into another business model. The pivot was a blessing in disguise because going online allowed her to expand her reach and not worry about housing 1,300 women.
Describe what it was like preparing for the pitch competition.
Candy didn't make it to the final round. Someone reached out to her after a participant had dropped out of the competition. She only had two days to prepare for the pitch competition. She didn't know what a pitch deck was. Candy admitted she suffered from imposter syndrome. She said, "You don't want to put yourself out there like that. You want to try and do soft things in the background, and if you succeed, well, good."
Candy's word for the year was expansion. She knew that participating in the pitch competition was part of that expansion, so she leaned in. She did her best to connect with the judges on a human level. Candy said, "Sometimes, you're selling your numbers, you're selling yourself and the impact of the business. And you feel like you're going crazy because you don't think you're going to be able to do that in three minutes."
The pitch competition lit the fire under Candy to become clear about her business, the data, and her elevator pitch. She said, "But when I realized that I could put into three minutes, my whole business, absolutely I can hook you into my mission in an elevator pitch. And it made it so possible for me because before that, I was like, there's no way."
Her advice for those looking to pitch in is, "First of all, leave your ego at the door. Pitching competitions are not for ego-driven people. They're very humbling. And if you come from a place of ego or wanting validation and your mental health is not there yet, in the sense of being open to receiving criticism that sometimes might even be seen as unfair—keep working on yourself and come back until you feel like you're prepared to receive that type of criticism.
Come with an open heart, wanting to learn as much as you can from this experience. And of course, yes, you want to win, but if not, take it as a beautiful experience. I think it is a key component to just come with the innocence of a child, leave your ego at the door, and do the best you can with what you have."
GWT used the pitch funds to provide low-cost access to their wellness programming. Candy wanted to remove the barrier to receiving wellness access that BIPOC women already face. The funds also help compensate the BIPOC experts that teach in the community. Lastly, GWT used the remainder of the funds on marketing campaigns to reach more BIPOC women.
Support isn't always given to Black and Brown women in business; when has this shown and hurt or disappointed you the most?
Candy candidly expressed, "Number one, and this was a hard lesson for me to learn, but I learned it, and there's no way around it. Your friends and family will not be rushing to help you and support you the way you think they will. I had to literally talk to my family, almost like harassing them to please like our posts or leave a comment, or, hey, I'm doing this event, do you want to buy a ticket?
We should not expect our friends and family to support us just because it's like, does it feel good? Yes, of course, but they're not my target audience, so they're not going to be so quick to support me because they're not my target audience.
Number two, you expect all other Black and Brown founders to rally behind you and support your growth because you expect them to feel this kindred, like, you know, oh, we're all growing. And sometimes, you usually ask them for help or support, and you get ignored. And especially while you're growing, but when you're popping now, all of them want to support you at the same time. Now all of them are your friends? Now all of them are like, I'm proud of you. I have all the emails asking you, hey, can you retweet this?
But now that you're featured on Forbes, now that you're poppin’, now that your name is everywhere, now they're your friends, now they're reposting, now they're so proud of you. So you have to learn to discern—and honestly, do not expect support from anybody and learn how to go and make things happen by yourself and be creative enough. And when you most need it, which is when you're starting, like not everybody will want to support you because you're not, you know, big enough.
So in terms of support, I will say, try to find communities of like-minded women, where you can feed each other in creative ways to get support. If you can find mentors, women who see you and see your grit, drive, and work, and they feel, oh, this is a person worthy of investing my time, mentors are amazing. I think each founder will have to go through the experience, the heartbreak, the sadness of not getting the support they think they deserve. If we're being honest, nobody owes us nothing. And only by going through that experience can you learn from it. But now, thankfully, I'm in a place where I do have a great support system."
What's the most critical lesson that you've learned about business?
Candy learned early on that being passionate about your business isn't enough. She said, "You need to make sure that you also know how to run a business or surround yourself with people who know how to run a business." Candy believes that most Black and Brown businesses don't make it because they lack business acumen. She said, "Communities like Black Girl Ventures and the incubators are so important because they also give us the tools that maybe we don't know, from social media, from bookkeeping and accounting, all those things that are part of this. And we only think about the pretty shiny things. This is part of the business too."
What do you think is an important skill or asset you need to succeed in business?
Candy believes every entrepreneur needs to have resilience and be quick to adapt to any circumstances. Every entrepreneur also needs to identify their own genius. She said, "Sometimes, as founders, because we don't have the resources, we want to do everything, and we're not good at everything. And if our genius is on the creative side and working with our audience, our clients, but you're not so good at the admin, and everything is piling up, get help as quickly as you can. Accepting that also comes with, you know, is holding yourself accountable, and it's like, oh, I'm not good at this."
What's the most exciting part of your business?
The most exciting part of Candy's business is the community and the in-person "spiritual magic" that happens when she's with them. She loves the connections and the energy. She also loves creating innovative activations for the brands that work with GWT. Between the interactions of her audience and the brands—her cup remains full.
How do you measure success?
Candy measured success by visibility, exposure, and money in the bank in the past. But now, she measures success by how she feels fulfilled at the moment. Because even when she had those things, she still would at times feel miserable. Instead, she focuses on the moment.
What do you think the future holds for Black and Brown women entrepreneurs?
Candy said, "I feel that we're not the future, we are the present. So I don't see it as a future theme. Whomever is in any thriving industry capitalizes on the Black and Brown purchasing power. And we are the drivers of this economy, but I feel that we need to embrace that more and that power more because I feel that we still are like, you know, tiptoeing around the idea of the power that we hold. We are the drivers behind these economies in all of them, so let's not make any mistake on that."
If you and I were meeting three years from now, looking back, what would it take for you to feel over the moon about your progress?
Candy has lots in store for GWT. She said, "I see the future for Glow Wellness Tour as a multimillion-dollar business. I feel that Black and Brown women are reclaiming their wellness. They're being well and not sacrificing the grind or their well-being for the grind and glamorizing the grind in exchange for their well-being. And I feel that if we capture that we can grow to the point that the business grows into a million-dollar business. I believe that I think we are capable of doing it. There's an audience that needs us, that needs what we're bringing to the table and the pain point we're solving."
Glow Wellness Tour also hopes to transform into a media conglomerate. GWT will be a media company providing content creation for wellness and lifestyle brands and the workshops, classes, and events that GWT offers will continue.
Running a business while balancing a personal life can be demanding and taxing. How do you take care of yourself?
Candy is very diligent with her rest. She doesn't glamorize the grind culture and doesn't overextend herself. Candy first feeds her body nutritious foods. Then she takes care of her physical body. With her family's history of cancer, she doesn't take her health lightly.
What is your favorite quote or mantra?
"This is not happening to me. This is happening for me."
"It's my time to glow."
What is a book and podcast that you would recommend?
Podcast: Charlene Jones Soul Sciences, Myleik Teele's Podcast
Book: Professional Troublemaker: The Fear-Fighter Manual by Luvvie Ajayi
What's your favorite business hack or app you can't live without?
Hatch a white noise app that helps her sleep.
What's one food item that you have a hard time saying no to?
Wine and cheese.
What's next for The Glow Wellness Tour?
GWT continues to focus on nurturing its membership community internally and creating programming for them. Candy also takes regular breaks to think creatively and strategize the next phase of her business to be more intentional about what GWT provides to the community as a whole.
Any last words…
Candy expressed her gratitude, "I'm just so grateful for being a part of the pitch competition. As I said before, this was an amazing experience and the final encouragement to every founder that really has big dreams for their companies.
You need to have an experience like this and go for it, even if you feel it's so farfetched, even if you think you're not cut out for this, try it, like, do it and see for yourself. Because at the end of the day, I feel that founders that stay on top are the ones who get themselves out of their comfort zones and stretch themselves.
Because if you want your business to succeed, you need to be able to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. And sometimes, that's putting yourself out there for a pitch competition like this. And who knows, if you win, you get some coins too, I'm not going to lie is good too.
You get the money. You also get nice connections. You never know who's watching. Even if you don't win, you never know who's watching. I'm very grateful for Black Girl Ventures."