Connect
To Top

Hidden Gems: Meet Bianca Wilson of Say Space

Today we’d like to introduce you to Bianca Wilson.

Hi Bianca, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
I guess my story begins where any good story begins – at a breakdown. It was the first of many in my life and at 15 years old, it was my first time really being confronted with racial identity and the deep trauma that can accompany that. After going from an incredibly diverse elementary school to a predominantly white and prestigious middle/high school, I was starting to deal with the emotional repercussions of being the “only (black) one” which was a theme I would see for years to come. Although the experience was incredibly painful at the time, it did serve another purpose which was lighting the flame of passion towards creating equitable environments and healing trauma in black bodies. That passion amplified when I found myself yet again (by choice to be clear) in a predominantly white college, Villanova University, and I channeled the sometimes painful experience of being “the only one” into a minor in Race Relations and a study abroad program in South Africa. Both of these continued to feed my passion around understanding the true colonized history of this country and the colonization in other countries while also building the imagination muscle of what new futures could look like.

After graduation, eventually I found myself in the ad agency where I would be for the next 5.5 years. While I loved the people that I worked with, I knew that job was not for me and I knew deep down it was not what I wanted to dedicate my life to. However, I did realize that instead of jumping from job to job, I could shift my mindset to see how I could make a difference and somehow fulfill my passions while I was still gainfully employed. In this shift, I started speaking out more and more both around what “wellness” could look like in corporate settings as well as the lack of diversity I saw not just in the agency but across many organizations. With the latter, I began forming close relationships with people in the agency who had a similar mindset, voice and perspective. I spoke openly about my own experience as “the only one” and I often listened to the experiences of other underrepresented folks while watching the toll it took on many of their souls and their overall experience at the company. One of those people I created a close relationship with was my now business partner, Emily Race.

As we joined forces with others to create some of the first diversity, equity & inclusion initiatives at the company, eventually we both realized that this was something we both wanted to dedicate our lives to. We wanted to transform what equity could look like within companies because we knew shifts made within the walls of organizations would equate to shifts made out in the world; we wanted underrepresented folks to have the same opportunities their white counterparts were afforded; we wanted to create spaces where people could feel like they could thrive; we wanted to shift the kinds of conversations that were possible in a workplace; we wanted connections to our bodies and to nature to be a fundamental component of what “well-being” means; we wanted to cultivate cultures of nourishment vs. depletion and we wanted environments of sustainable change. With that, Say Space was birthed in January of 2019 and that is what we have been doing ever since.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
This has been the furthest from a smooth road but at the same time, it has been the best road I could have ever been led down. I would say one of the biggest struggles was decolonizing our ideas of success and what a “successful” business looks like; if we wanted to build new futures in companies, we had to start with our own. We are by no means perfect and we have a long way to go and a lot to learn but understanding how deep the wounds were around money / time / resource scarcity, hyper-productivity and leadership were and still continue to be a challenging yet healing and critical part of the journey. The second biggest struggle was and still is the personal transformation journey within all of this. Talking about diversity, equity and inclusion all day is not necessarily the easiest conversation to be in and understanding how my own identity as a black woman with my stories, experiences, wounds and gifts I carry with me impacts and guides my work has been a healing journey all on its own.

Just because I am black does not mean I know all there is to know about race, equity and all the topics in between and it does not define all of who I am – understanding that my work is a part of me and not all of me has been a bumpy road but ultimately very fulfilling one. The last final big struggle was finding Say Space’s true voice. Now more than ever there are a lot of companies who want to put (perceived) focus and commitment towards diversity, equity & inclusion and there are a lot of consultants and companies who are out there doing good work. Over-saturation is a real thing as are the expectations and ideas that organizations have for what they think will be the best course of action for them. Additionally, we noticed a pattern that most people and places are VERY good at pointing out the problems around white supremacist structures, racism, colonization and how that may be showing up in an organization. There is nothing wrong, we need to understand the problems. What we often found missing; however, was a real struggle in imagining and envisioning a new future.

As Audre Lorde says: “For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house” and deep down we knew that Say Space wanted to find that balance of identifying problems while also healing our imaginations so we could actually envision new futures. Despite this deep knowing, for a while we were stuck in a cycle that we had known and were comfortable with which was running unconscious bias workshops and as time went on, even though that was a very popular request from companies, we ultimately did not feel it was our zone of genius, our true path of fulfillment or the difference that we wanted Say Space to make. It was really hard to let go of something that felt so familiar to step into the unknown but to be honest, that is the overall theme of being an entrepreneur. Letting that go ended up being the best thing we ever did since it opened the door to our true passion which is coaching, creating community, supporting the change agents within organizations and envisioning new futures.

We’ve been impressed with Say Space, but for folks who might not be as familiar, what can you share with them about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
I am the co-founder of Say Space: a collective building thriving, equitable and inclusive companies who make a positive impact in the world. There are a lot of people and organizations who focus on the educational piece of anti-racism and general diversity & inclusion work. We need that. That is necessary; however, what we found was missing was supporting the unsung heroes at companies who are on the ground, in the weeds, trying to make change happen. They are the passionate ones, usually (but not always) unpaid and doing it because they want to make a difference. Alternatively, they are also the ones who become responsible for it on top of other their other job responsibilities. What we are known the most for is supporting these Change Agents because we were once in their shoes. We know what it’s like to want to make a difference and not have the team, structure, coaching, support, roadmap or resources to do so.

We also know the power of supporting the leadership of those people because it creates long-term sustainable change from the inside which external workshops and sessions can parallel path and support. Our Change Agents Program is a three months program that does just that: provides community, structure, resources, emotional and logistical support (because this work is emotional labor) and a roadmap for their internal initiatives to create the foundation for that long-term sustainable change. With group and 1:1 coaching, the Change Agents can bring all components of themselves, their identity, their personal journey and the challenges they are facing creating and/or executing their initiatives and learn from their peers to make the difference they want to make within their organization.

Risk taking is a topic that people have widely differing views on – we’d love to hear your thoughts.
My view on risk-taking is that there are two kinds of risks: there is the risk of not following your heart and there is the risk of following your heart. The question is, which consequences are you more willing to be ok with? Following my heart with the support of my head and not the other way around has by far been my ongoing risk. In a very externally obvious way, my biggest risk has been leaving a very steady job after 5.5 years with not one thing lined up and learning to trust myself as well as forces beyond myself. Learning to leap and trusting that the net would appear defined the first two years of entrepreneurship and continues to define it on a daily basis. A lot of people thought I was crazy for leaving but I knew that the risk of me staying in a job that I was not passionate about and ignoring the nagging feeling in my soul would likely have far more dire consequences than me at least giving my heart a chance to speak its truth.

I acknowledge that I was and am still very fortunate to have my family close by and they have always supported me in the pursuit of my dreams and that is a privilege that not everyone has. I am grateful for their support every day of my life. The other major risk that I have taken and continue to take on a daily basis is that of loving fully. Whether romantic, familial or platonic, I have found that creating and maintaining authentic and vulnerable relationships has been one of the biggest risks even beyond leaving my job and starting a business. To love and be loved, to see others for who they truly are and to be seen as you truly are is risky because in the business of love, our hearts can get hurt and those are not always as easy to recover. But they can and they do and we continue to grow our capacity to love ourselves and others more deeply and if that is not a risk worth taking, I am not sure what is.

Pricing:

  • Change Agents Course: $2,470/month (3 months)

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Siouxzen Kang Photography

Suggest a Story: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

More in