Chongo Bwalya, MBA student and Founder of Anona Wellness

How social enterprise entrepreneur and MBA student Chongo Bwalya reconnected with herself, her purpose, and learned to incorporate rest and self care into her life and work

Chongo started Anona Wellness to build awareness amongst like black, indigenous, racialized and immigrant people about the importance of mental health.

She also launched a podcast where she interviewed people from different cultural backgrounds about various important topics related to culture, wellness, and mental health.

Now, Chongo’s enrolled in an MBA program at UCLA and plans to help corporations take tangible actions when it comes to wellness and social justice. 

This is Chongo’s story of liberation from the shoulds our culture, society, and the dominant narrative imposes on us.

Background

My business was focused on people who come from different cultural backgrounds and experience cultural barriers to mental health. Our work was about breaking down those barriers. But I realized my culture actually played a (and continues to play) a really large role in me not really taking care of myself with me not being compassionate with myself. 

I realized things had to change when I was working on my business with my business partner and I was really stressed. He was putting a lot of pressure on me to get a product out and I think it was then that I realized I don't want to work on my business anymore. It's draining me.

I feel like I've done so many purely business trainings, but I haven't actually done a course or training that's focused on me, or helps me understand how I can take care of myself in my business.

Because before we start thinking about having business skills, we need to ask ourselves “Do I actually have the skills to take care of myself and understand what I truly need?” 

It’s not easy - I felt like I was running a business that was focused on wellness, but I wasn't really practicing wellness myself.

It was during this time that I met Jessica via a virtual conference I hosted, and I was really interested in what she had to say about wellness, identity, and business. 

The Challenge - before working with Jess in Embolden 

At first, the program was really focused on ourselves and our backgrounds. And then it slowly started to focus more on our approach to business. So I thought it was really cool. 

There was one session I really liked - it was about decolonizing.

It was a really powerful session for me because it made me realize how capitalism really shapes the way we view ourselves. 

It made me re-evaluate the lens through which I was operating my wellness business - it was almost taking power away from communities, as opposed to giving communities the power to build their own solutions. 

And Jessica really helped me to see how my culture has an impact on how I view myself and how I almost always feel like I have to be in service to others, when I should also be in service to myself, too.

She encouraged us to challenge a lot of the beliefs we had about ourselves, about society, about what we actually had to do. 

Jessica was really flexible too - there was homework and deliverables in the program, but she was aware enough to realize that what I really needed at that time was permission to rest. 

As a mentor, she’s really supportive. And what I really loved about her was that she has a business lens to the way she speaks about things but she also has a really strong wellness lens. I think that was the perfect balance for me. 

Chongo's experience working with Jess

Going through Embolden gave me permission to stop doing something that has been weighing on me for a while - teaching yoga. I enjoy practicing yoga, have teaching certifications, but didn’t actually enjoy teaching it - but I felt like I had to. 

Embolden also changed the way I did business. 

Through my conversations with Jessica, she helped us to see that people play different roles within the realm of social justice. Some people are visionary, while some people like to be on the ground, interacting directly with the community. And I realized I'm very much a visionary type of person, and interactions with people drain me. 

Embolden helped me rise above guilt - I don't have to do things I don't like doing or I don't have to be that person who's on the ground, because there's gonna be other people who like to do that. 

Going forward I realized that I deserved to feel okay and started taking actions in a way that were in my best interest. 

I also started resting more, spending more time with my family, and doing things I actually enjoyed and helped me relax. 


The Impact

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