We had the good fortune of connecting with Gina Hay and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Gina, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
The launch of Plant Based Punani was born out of a decision to turn my life-long passions into a thriving business. I had been watching for years as more and more people, including myself, became more conscious of what they consumed and more compassionate about protecting our planet — a true transformational shift taking place before my eyes — and I trusted that a business focused on offering handcrafted products designed to optimize health and wellness would be received well by many.
It also required me to surrender to my calling, take some leaps of faith, and release the bonds that I had placed upon myself. The bonds that convinced me for years that I needed to stay in a career that was neither fulfilling nor utilizing my talents. The bonds that dictated that I should work for someone else and keep playing it safe for a steady paycheck while compromising on my dreams. I wasn’t certain I had the grit or the skills required to start and run a business and I certainly wasn’t sure I would be able to sustain it financially. When the pandemic forced the world to pause and reflect, I decided to envision a different path for myself. I began to see that I already had all the ideas, tools, and drive I would need to succeed as an entrepreneur and business owner. That I should no longer allow fear and complacency to take up anymore space in my life — and I have not looked back since.
The ownership journey is not one without struggle, trials, tribulations and failures. In fact, I am learning that if you’re not failing, then you’re not learning, you’re not growing, and you’re not pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone, which are all necessary components for success. The key is to never give up. Dedicate yourself to the journey — the good and the bad— and trust that if you stay true to your passions and intentions to help people, then your business will thrive.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
The Plant Based Punani is a wellness brand that offers primarily handmade, small batch, vegan and earth friendly products to encourage optimal wellness of the whole Being — Mind, Body & Spirit. We believe that self love and wellness are inalienable rights and the keys to a healthier, happier, safer world for all Beings. We are a black and woman owned and operated business and center our efforts and messaging on uplifting the black woman. Our brand name is provocative in nature for this reason. Punani, a historically derogatory term for a woman’s genitalia is now used in a completely different narrative. Helping to empower women to take back their Punani Power — that is, the divine feminine, the life-giving sacred womb space, the over sexualized and too often unprotected black female body — is our mission.
Self love and self care aren’t prioritized in many communities and we believe that black women disproportionately bear the burden of this unfortunate reality. Our goal is offer products that promote healing for self and the earth, positive messaging and spiritual enlightenment, all with the black woman’s wellness at the forefront.
In centering women’s empowerment in our brand name and messaging, we have come across some resistance. Naturally, some people are not accustomed to seeing the female form and spirit celebrated. We choose to remain focused on education, positive messaging and inclusion and know that a society is only as powerful as its most marginalized members. We don’t need everyone to love what we do and don’t worry about who we may be offending in our messaging. We know that love conquers hate and focus all of our efforts on encouraging the love of ourselves and our planet.
We are proud of our community and see, first-hand, the wave of self love rippling out against oppression, violence and hate. As a wellness brand, one of the biggest challenges we have encountered thus far is counteracting the mainstream messaging around what optimal health and wellness looks like. There is so much misinformation, even within the wellness space, and many companies promoting products, services and lifestyles habits that actually do more harm than good. This naturally creates an environment of confusion and mistrust, and so it is a continuous challenge as a small business to earn the trust of the community and be seen as different amongst the profit focused and attention grabbing industry giants. We intend to stay in alignment with our mission to truly enhance people’s lives through self care, as we believe that is the solution to setting ourselves apart and making a significant impact in the wellness space.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
We are fortunate to be in Atlanta — a city full of plant based offerings, green spaces, cultural events and a lit night life!
For delicious, all vegan bites, check out Herban Fix, Mamak Vegan Kitchen, Tassili’s Raw Reality Cafe, Plant Based Pizzeria, Go Vegan Grill, Slutty Vegan, Bar Vegan, or ATL Food Truck Park.
Check out the Avalon, Halcyon, Chattahoochee Food Works, the Beltline, and Ponce City Market, all family friendly, multiuse spaces that offer an array of bars, restaurants, shopping, and green spaces to exercise, chill and socialize from day to night.
We love vibes at The James Room, Rocksteady, and Pasha to let our hair down at night.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My two daughters, who motivate me to be the best version of myself every day. My mom, for her undying support, wisdom and belief in my dreams.
My close circle of sisters, who hold me up at my lowest and celebrate my wins.
Photos by Gina Hay, CEO, The Plant Based Punani, LLC