Chana Ewing is a multi-hyphenate professional who describes herself as an intersectional identity leader, woman advocate, and entrepreneur. She recently added published author to her list of accolades with the release of her children’s book, An ABC of Equality. Chana jokingly states she should do a Ted Talk to summarize and highlight all of the work she does and how it’s interconnected. From her business experience as a multicultural marketer to her current venture, GEENIE, that centers Black women, Ewing is on a mission to uplift narratives from underrepresented populations.
Make no mistake that her through line is a commitment to storytelling, intersectionality, and using identity as a lever for human development.
Her Agenda spoke with the New York City-based entrepreneur to talk about her professional background, women’s empowerment, and her muses–Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey.
Her Agenda: How do people know you? How are people familiar with you personally and/or professionally?
Chana Ewing: They come to find me through GEENIE. We’ve been doing GEENIE for the past three years, since 2016. We’ve had high profile Black women curate their stories and partner with us. People will know me through that work.
It’s also possible that they know me from film marketing consulting for the past seven years. It’s been my own personal bread and butter for awhile. That career has been separate from the women empowerment work that I’ve been doing.
You could know me from the film & documentary space as a marketer or you may have heard of GEENIE or before that the Michelle O’ Brunch.
Her Agenda: You’re an author now too. Do people know you in that role or is it still new?
Chana Ewing: We just released the book [An ABC of Equality]. It’s kind of an interesting experience. Everything that I do is a commitment to storytelling and advancing underrepresented voices, Black women in particular. How I arrive at that work is different. It’s the startup space, film space, and now children’s book space.
Now, parents know me. People who buy books for children know me.
Her Agenda: When you think back to the Michelle O Brunch series and GEENIE Box, do you have a dream list of women who you want to feature whom you haven’t?
Chana Ewing: Yes, absolutely. In a lot of ways, Michelle Obama and Oprah [Winfrey] were my main muses. I want to create a world where there are many, many Black women on the highest stages and there are ample resources and support for their ideas, products, books, and expertise. I see Michelle Obama and Oprah as two models of that. I would love for both of them to participate in the GEENIE experience at some point. If they don’t that’s fine. They can remain my template, my model. Essentially, I’m trying to create more opportunities for more women to have as broad of reach for their ideas, products, and influence.
Her Agenda: What has surprised you about GEENIE Box, from operations to curation to funding?
Chana Ewing: The initial thought process was that I wanted to create a high-growth company without having a technical background. I looked at different business models and the subscription box model was an accessible way of building out a tech-enabled company with a founder who is not an engineer or tech background. I thought it would be as simple as we get products, we put them in a box, people purchase that box.
I do think there was a bit of naïveté early on around how much it would take to build the business I wanted to build. I set out thinking I could self fund. After a year and a half, I realized it’s just not possible. Also, we have a broader vision beyond the box. The box is our first product but really GEENIE is about building out a massive distribution channel for ideas, products and the influence of Black women. Our hope is that we are creating an ecosystem around how we scale up Black women and their products and influence.
Our hope is that we are creating an ecosystem around how we scale up Black women and their products and influence.
Her Agenda: You have a background in film marketing but ended your consulting practice earlier this year. What was the transition like?
Chana Ewing: It was super challenging. Even though I need an income for myself, it was super challenging to manage two businesses at the same time. We’re also doing a raise for GEENIE. It didn’t make sense to continue to do the doc work and give it justice as I was building my startup.
Her Agenda: What stories excite or inspire you? How do you find those stories?
Chana Ewing: I see storytelling as a way of organizing the world. I see storytelling as the stories we tell ourselves and the stories that people tell us us about ourselves have a direct impact on how we engage in our world. I’m just really interested in how we engage that narrative that you come to know about yourself. One of the ways is the narrative we see in documentaries and fiction work. The other ways are how we are able to engage at work and in business. I’m really interested in supporting Black women in living flourishing lives.
Her Agenda: What’s your definition of women’s empowerment?
Chana Ewing: For me, women’s empowerment and advocacy is sharing what you know with other women. There are policy issues at play in corporations and within government. The work I do is how do we create a culture of women sharing all of what they know with other women; mentoring, sponsoring, advancing other women.
I don’t think any of us are reinventing women’s empowerment. We are all adding to [it]. It’s a continuous movement forward. Everyone is adding their particular grain of sand.
Her Agenda: You are in the children’s book space now. What was your childhood like and did it impact your book?
Chana Ewing: My childhood, by and large, was great. I have a fantastic relationship with my mother. I was raised by a single mother in a working-class community of aunts, uncles, my grandmother, and cousins surrounding me. What I know to be true is that a lot of the ways you think of your identity sets in when you’re young. When I was in elementary school, I started to understand how I and my family fit within things concerning race, class, and gender. I started to notice the world around me. You start to make decisions around who you are.
My book is about how do we help and guide young people at a much earlier age in their development so that when they are seeing the world around them they have a tool and resource. The book is a resource for their parents to talk about complicated issues and challenges they face today.
[The book is] giving parents, schools, children a hand around thinking about the world around them and what they may discover about themselves.
Her Agenda: What keeps you empowered?
Chana Ewing: I personally feel empowered by thinking about my experience of being a Black woman and the ways in which I connect with others who share that identity– the language that we share together, the particular experiences we may have. There is a page that I follow on Instagram called Professional Black Girl. It goes way beyond hair, it’s kind of the social equality that we’re all kind of sharing. That is what I find empowering. That’s what inspires me.
I personally feel empowered by thinking about my experience of being a Black woman and the ways in which I connect with others who share that identity– the language that we share together, the particular experiences we may have.
Her Agenda: Were you concerned or anticipate backlash as you explored ideas and norms for children?
Chana Ewing: Our intention for the book was to open a conversation for people. By no means is the book definitive or the end all be all. The book is a tool for you to have a conversation and use it as you see fit. There is information and experts around each of these topics [in the book]. We hope that it’s an easy way for people to start the conversation.
Her Agenda: Are you a one-woman show or do you have a team?
Chana Ewing: I have a small team; it’s mostly freelancers. I do not have any permanent, full-time employees yet. Hopefully, when we do our raise, we will be able to bring on a full-time employee. We have a small team of freelancers that support. I have an art director and graphic designer, copywriter that I work with that have a specialized skill set. Even though we don’t have full-time salaried employees, it’s the same group of people we use again and again.
[Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.]