Today we’d like to introduce you to Kenya Jackson-Saulters, MS.
Thanks for sharing your story with us Kenya. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
My struggle with self-love and acceptance started decades ago and over the years, it has manifested itself in everything from anxiety, to depression, to a drug addiction, to an extra 30 lbs. It was lonely, but my wisdom and experience told me I wasn’t alone. The “be strong,” “autopilot,” “fake it till you make it,” syndrome affects so many women and I wanted to help. Them and myself. And for that reason, I found myself on a mountain on the longest day of the year. I climbed with a small group and was leading them in a meditation… and when we opened our eyes, 2 strangers had joined us. They wanted to know how to join the organization. I wanted to know why I had never thought to start one. Those women have no idea, but it was their trust in me that helped me trust myself enough to do something different with my time, and inevitably my life.
Ever since its inception, we (my co-founder, Michelle Jackson-Saulters and I) have listened closely to our community and hearts to build an outdoor activity organization like no other. The Outdoor Journal Tour exists to combine the healing tenets of outdoor activity with introspective journaling and mindful meditation. And we did it for us. All of us. Women everywhere; of all shapes, sizes, races, orientations, ages, religions, you name it. We know that outdoor activity means something different for women and therefore committed to tailoring our program and approach to the unique needs women espouse. For us, movement was our method, but mindfulness was our goal.
In 2017, we gave birth to our signature initiative #wehiketoheal. #wehiketoheal is unlike other outdoor wellness initiatives in that its month long, multi-city, and seamlessly combines both mindfulness and movement. Last year, we were present in 10 cities, this year we expanded to 20. Our ability to mobilize diverse communities from all across the world attracted outdoor retailer REI in 2017, and we have since become influencers within the organization. Most recently, we partnered with them to create the Journal of Mindful Movement, a guided journal, and wellness resource. This full-color guided journal is chock full of outdoor activities, journaling prompts, mindfulness exercises and moving meditations. There are over 25+ ways to interact with the journal and it one of the first of it’s kind.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
In some ways yes. The business has grown exponentially in the short time we have been in existence. Our organic growth, along with securing two national sponsorship has allowed access to spaces, people, and resources that business who have been around much longer than we do not. And for that, we are grateful. Personally, however, that road has absolutely not been smooth. And not just for the obvious reasons like lack of money and support, but mostly because of the spiritual and emotional responsibility that you take on when you enter into a healing profession. Working with and for the women that we serve requires me to come face to face with my own pain, insecurities, fears and shortcomings on a daily basis. As I work with them, I am also working on myself… and sometimes, the things I see make me uncomfortable, sad and even angry. I consider myself lucky though because my work has taught me how important is it to be gentle with the hearts you are lucky enough to hold to be disciplined in your pursuit of being the highest version of yourself.
As far advice goes, I would say its most important to take care of your heart and guard your emotional/creative space. What I mean by that is, becoming an entrepreneur is not easy… it’s time-consuming and oftentimes isolating. You have to learn to be committed to yourself. And doing that often means exercising control over what you see, hear and say. As a creator, cultivating a safe space to create is paramount. So, you have to be diligent in not allowing people or information that is counter your purpose to distract you. Notice, I am saying purpose… not goals. Goals come and go… but your purpose… your “why”, your reason for doing what you do has to remain at the center of your life… and you alone are responsible for protecting that vision from anything that may threaten it (even if it’s your own lack of evolution). So, that’s why is hard because a better business will demand a better…you.
So, as you know, we’re impressed with The Outdoor Journal Tour – tell our readers more, for example, what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
The short answer is, “create non-traditional self-help experiences for women.” What that means in practicality is we create opportunities for women to reconnect with themselves, each other, and Mother Nature trough outdoor activity and introspective practices. At our core, we are a wellness company that uses movement as a medium to increase mindfulness. We specialize in using outdoor spaces and movement within outdoor spaces to foster healing dialogue among women. We are one of the only outdoor organizations that do both. What sets us apart from others is our curriculum. Unlike other outdoor organizations, we have a host of mindfulness resources that work in tandem with outdoor activity. Things like online courses, journaling challenges, walking thought cards, and most recently The Journal Of Mindful Movement. What I am proudest of is our ability to reach women at a deeper than a physical level. We have been told that participating in a “tour,” is an emotional, psychological, and oftentimes spiritual experience. Additionally, through sponsorship dollars, we have been able to travel all over the country connecting with women. Last year, we were able to serve hundreds of women from The Bay Area of California to Washington D.C. It’s humbling, to say the least. Our participants told us that leave us feeling more powerful physically and more in touch with themselves mentally. I am also proud of the growth that we have had and of being one of the only outdoor activity organizations to have created an evergreen resource – The Journal of Mindful Movement.
Do you think there are structural or other barriers impeding the emergence of more female leaders?
Needless to say, the outdoor industry is heavily dominated by men. So much, so that a some of the larger outdoor retailers, most specifically REI has recently launched an initiative (Force of Nature) aimed at increasing the female representation in outdoor spaces. Beyond that, I think the biggest barrier to female leadership is access and perception. Access meaning because women have historically not been in positions of leadership, our access to capital (human and financial) is limited. And, even when we are able to get capital, it is usually under the guise of a program or initiative designed specifically for women. And, while I have benefited from that, I resent that idea that as a woman, I need a special category in order to succeed.
Our businesses and ideas are just as viable as those of our male counterparts. Which leads to the second issue, perception. Women are still viewed as emotional and erratic in business spaces, instead of intuitive and passionate. We are also often sexualized and marginalized. However, The Outdoor Journal Tour sits at the crux of two industries: self-help and outdoor activity. The former is a dominated by women, and the latter is being diversified more and more daily. Because of that, I don’t feel the sting of rejection or judgment as often as some other women do. I feel welcome and like I have a seat at the table whenever I go out to represent ODJT in any space and I am committed to showing up and being vocal about our issues even when and if I am the only one.
- The Journal of Mindful Movement (spiral bound)- $27.99
- Trust Walks: One-on-One Tours with Kenya -$49.99 and up
- Build Your Own Group Tours (2-4) -$189 and up
- Website: www.outdoorjournaltour.com
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/outdoorjournaltour/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/outdoorjournaltour/
- Other: www.wehiketoheal.com
Holland Reid Photography, Kristina Cooper Photography, Jamie Butler