Naya Powell is the founder and CEO of Utopia Global Wellness (Utopia GW). A mission-driven social enterprise that is revolutionizing wellness worldwide with thought leaders and community members across 5 continents. Naya is a #1 Best-selling Author of 30 Day of Utopia Living and has been named 1 of 50 CEOs in North America to be a recipient of Google’s Black Founders Fund, 2021 and as a CNBC Rising Woman Africa. Utopia GW is a graduate of Google For Startups: Black Founders Exchange. In this interview with Alaba Ayinuola of BUKZONE, Naya shares the Utopia GW, upcoming retreat and much more.
Alaba: To begin, could you briefly tell us your attraction to Wellness?
Naya: My passion for wellness is deeply influenced by my health-conscious marathon-running father and the influences of my mother, the 1st Black National Director for Mary Kay Cosmetics in the state of Virginia. I saw both of my parents working hard to empower their communities with employment opportunities. I certainly lived through the feast and famine of entrepreneurship as a child and adult. Their entrepreneurial grit, wellness, and beauty influences shaped me into the wellness pioneer I am today.
My first-hand encounters with intense stress levels, extreme work-life demands, and never-ending deadlines resulted in my own personal burnout. I learned that I was not alone from years of experience in the global talent acquisition and DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) leadership space working with worldwide companies such as Red Hat, IBM, Intuit, Microsoft, International Monetary Fund, among others. Like many, I have experienced unexpected setbacks and trials, such as redefining my life after divorce, relocating to a new city, and essentially starting over.
I am well aware of the extreme seasons of life and therefore, understand the desire to unleash abundance in our mind, spirit, body, and relationships.
Alaba: Talk to us about Utopia Global Wellness, its mission and offerings.
Naya: Due to impact of the pandemic, global burnout, the great resignation and mental health crisis there is a decline in *wholistic well-being and workplace productivity. Utopia GW offers globally relevant wellness elevating workplace culture. Utopia GW is a B2B digital wellness subscription platform addressing global burnout and the future of work, wellness, and DEI. We offer virtual live and 24/7 on-demand wellness experiences, including mindfulness, yoga, pilates, cultural movement, wellness and DEI coaching/workshops, and retreats (virtual and global including on the continent of Africa.) Our goal is to bring awareness to wellness practices around the world.
Utopia GW helps employers achieve their talent retention, recruitment and productivity goals and allows people to show up as their healthiest and happiest selves daily. Worldwide, 615 million suffer from depression and anxiety and, according to a recent WHO study, which costs the global workforce an estimated $1 trillion in lost productivity each year. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 90 percent of all illness and disease is related to stress.
Utopia GW’s mission is to revolutionize self-care, so the world can show up as their best selves
Alaba: Who is your target market?
Naya: We are disrupting the $60B workplace wellness market. Utopia GW offers globally relevant wellness elevating workplace culture. We help enterprises, SMBs, educational institutions, and organizations achieve their talent retention, recruitment, productivity, DEI and ESG goals. According to a Harvard Research study there is 6-to-1 return on investment on employee wellness programs; on average, for every dollar spent on employee wellness, medical costs fall $3.27 and absenteeism drops $2.73.
Additionally, the Global wellness tourism market is $639B. Our target audience is the over-extended executive and professional that needs to replenish and restore while desiring a global experience (market size source: Global Wellness Institute). Our uniquely curated luxury spa & global retreats are designed for corporations, executives, VC firms, startups, entrepreneurs, couples, women, and faith-based groups. Our target audience is 60% B2B (business to business), 30% B2G (business to government), and 10% B2C (business to consumer).
Alaba: You will be in Senegal and The Gambia to host a retreat in partnership with The Woman Boss, a female-focused entrepreneurship accelerator. Could you tell me about this event?
Naya: On October 14-23, 2022, women CEOs, executives, investors, and thought leaders will ascend from around the globe to Escape, Elevate, Enrich, and be Empowered at our inaugural Utopia Spa & Global Wellness Retreat in Senegal and The Gambia. I serve as a global mentor and Advisory Board member to The Woman Boss (TWB) founded by Awamary Khan; while we are in The Gambia, we will extend the opportunity for our Utopia Global Wellness Retreat guests to meet, mentor, and do business with this amazing community of founders.
I wanted to curate an experience to promote self-care and cultural enrichment around the African diaspora, investment opportunities, women’s empowerment, and social impact – in collaboration with Gambia-based non-profit, The Woman Boss (TWB). While there, we spent time at TWB and Innovate Gambia headquarters. Utopia retreat attendees and I will participate in an entrepreneurship panel, followed by speed mentoring sessions with entrepreneurs of TWB. They will meet, learn and ask questions of our retreat attendees, who are entrepreneurs and executives in the U.S. Additionally, this offers mentorship matchmaking.
Finally, we will end the day at TWB with a curated market allowing us to shop with these brilliant women entrepreneurs and invest in their endeavors in real time. We will also extend some social activities for further relationship-building with our sisters across the globe.
Alaba: Who made the speakers list?
Naya: Our Speakers are Global Thought Leaders and Wellness Innovators from various countries. They include:
1). Naya F. Powell, Founder + CEO, Utopia Spa and Global Wellness Number #1 Best Selling Author, North Carolina, USA.
2). Awamary Khan, Founder + CEO, The Woman Boss and Innovate Gambia, Banjul, The Gambia and Malaga, Spain
3). Khadijah Aja Tambajang, Founder & Lead Consultant, MakalliMatta Consulting Co-owner & Publisher, NewDay Newspaper, Dakar, Senegal.
4). Aminata Mbaye, Chief of Staff- Sigma Gamma Rho, Planning and Strategy Consultant, Dakar, Senegal.
5). Dee C. Marshall, CEO, Diverse & Engaged, LLC, Co-Host of Brown Table Talk, New Jersey, USA
6). Koren Bowman, Founder + CEO, KU Real Estate Group, Owner, Keller Williams North Carolina, USA .
7). Kimmi Troy, Trauma-Informed Yoga Instructor, Wellness Advocate Indiana, USA.
Alaba: Could you share your thoughts on diversity, equity and inclusion in the global corporate and entrepreneurship ecosystem? How much progress have we made?
Naya: DEIB (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging) is a challenge and struggle around the globe. Diversity means so many things from race, gender, age, class, socio-economic status, education, abilities, sexual orientation to even communication styles, indigenous identity and ancestry background, religion, political ideologies, (dis)ability, neurological profile, language, immigration status and/or a host of other socially constructed categories.
What is equally as important as the diversity of perspective and background is the ability to celebrate those differences enabling people to feel included and have a sense of belonging. At Utopia GW, we believe that belonging is an essential part of well-being. The reach of DEIB has an impact across civilization and humanity. While this is a significant topic throughout corporations in The United States (US), it’s definitely not limited to this country. Our unique challenges here in the US are based on how this country was built and continues to operate given the foundation on which America was established – free labor of enslaved Africans.
In 2022, we are still challenged with systemic racism and barriers that are prevalent in every area of society from education, to corporate America, to the justice system and beyond. While there has been a heightened awareness around DEI efforts since the murder of George Floyd, there’s still so much further to go. However, I recognize that every country and most communities struggle with the ability to embrace differences. The more we see ourselves as global citizens and learn to value the diversity in perspectives of others, the more we will be able to influence culture in corporate and community. This is why Utopia GW focuses on a globally relevant and *wholistic approach to well-being with emphasis on the intersectionality of mindful inclusion, diversity and belonging!
We have made progress yet there still remains a journey ahead.
Alaba: Lastly, In the next 5 years, where do you see Utopia GW in terms of impact and growth?
Naya: I am confident that Utopia GW will be a worldwide transformative leader in the wellness space. Over the last two years, we have increased our offerings, corporate client list, revenue, and team of thought leaders spanning five (5) continents. The Utopia brand has evolved and expanded during an unprecedented time to respond to the world’s wellness crisis. We are proud to announce that Utopia GW just signed to become a digital wellness partner to United Healthcare with approximately 14M plan holders. This is a tremendous opportunity for explosive growth over the next five (5) years within the workplace wellness/corporate benefits space and senior population.
Additionally, we look forward to leveraging technology to create immersive wellness experiences for the workplace and home, while expanding our consumer goods, and global retreat offerings. Utopia will continue to bring innovative ways to experience the world through the lens of wellness! As a purpose-driven founder, I am passionate about empowering and equipping the next generation of women leaders. We look forward to a broader reach in the area of social impact with current partners, The Woman Boss and other international collaborations. We are on track to become a worldwide wellness brand in the workplace, self-care, tourism, and social impact.
Our vision is to be the most trusted partner to corporations, organizations, and individuals for globally relevant wellness.