In Conversation With Erica Chidi

In Conversation With Erica Chidi

This extraordinary doula, educator, co-founder and CEO is working to support and empower women through sexual and reproductive health, and using beautiful rituals to support herself.

I first met Erica Chidi a few years ago when we were both speakers at Goop’s wellness summit, In Goop Health. The courageous conversations she ignites around all aspects of body literacy and self-love have been an incredible gift to women and I am so grateful to call her a friend and one of Vintner’s Daughter’s brand ambassadors. As the cofounder and CEO of LOOM, a wellbeing brand based in Los Angeles that seeks to empower women through sexual and reproductive health, Erica is on the front lines of so many important cultural shifts and underserved conversations around everything from periods to menopause and every step in-between. Through health education, LOOM helps to remove the stigma that surrounds our bodies and support women and female-identifying individuals in becoming better advocates for their own health and well-being. A doula and health educator, Erica’s vision for LOOM is every bit as big as the need she knows exists for its services, and in early 2020, LOOM closed on a $3 million seed round of venture capital funding. (As a side note: I am a proud investor.) As of November 2017, only 34 Black female founders had ever raised more than $1 million and the number hasn’t budged since then, making Erica the thirty-fifth. With a digital expansion in the works, LOOM’s services will soon be accessible even more broadly, an extraordinary gift to countless women.

I was so thrilled to get a chance to connect with Erica to discuss this exciting moment for her business, how greater advocacy around racial justice has impacted LOOM, and check-in on how she is taking good care of herself during these heavy times. I hope you enjoy our conversation and thank you for being here with us. 

xxApril 

So first of all, congratulations on your incredible round of fundraising. Can we talk briefly about the statistics around Black women raising over a million dollars?
I believe it’s something like 0.06% of venture capital that typically goes to Black CEOs. And I’m one of 35 black women to raise over $1 million. Which is bittersweet, because there should be hundreds of us and I hope there will be soon. 

Extraordinary. The other statistic that struck me was that female-founder companies that received funding performed 63% better than companies founded by all-male teams. What was that fundraising process like?
It was unexpectedly fast. I think a lot of that had to do with our strong value proposition and the giant total addressable market of women. I was also fortunate to have a few  mentors in the venture space and friends that had their own startups who were very supportive. It wasn’t a big group, but enough to get me on email with the right people to start the conversation. So much of the venture capital environment is about relationships, access is key and those introductions helped. 

I believe it’s something like 0.06% of venture capital that typically goes to Black CEOs.

How did you know it was time to raise money?
You never really know when it’s the right time, but I definitely felt like the women’s health and reproductive health space was overdue for disruption. Over the past I’d say three years or so, with Trump being elected and the #MeToo movement, it felt like the framework around how women were wanting to live their lives and expand into themselves evolved instantly. Sexual and reproductive health and women wanting to expand that exploration of their bodies was connected to that inflection point of change.

Absolutely. And how do you think the new wave of activism around racial justice after the death of George Floyd has impacted LOOM? Has that been another watershed moment?
We are at the beginning of a collective awakening to the importance of Black lives and making sure Black people are safe and that their needs are centered in the dialogue. And that's a good thing for humanity. We are more vulnerable and in touch with our pain, which has pushed people to acknowledge their bodies and that is where LOOM has an opportunity to come in and help anchor and guide.

We are at the beginning of a collective awakening to the importance of Black lives and making sure Black people are safe and that their needs are centered in the dialogue. And that's a good thing for humanity

And how are you supporting yourself? What are you doing to recharge and take care of yourself in the midst of everything?
I have a pretty aggressive self-care plan. It’s not necessarily a plan that has everything down to the minute, but I do things that I really care about for myself on a regular basis. A big part of my routine are baths. I take at least 10 baths a week, at a minimum. I always make space for it and really try and do two baths a day. Sometimes more depending on how the week goes.

Also, I was fortunate enough to go to culinary school before I went to college and I love cooking. So cooking and baths are really important to me. I also have a strong meditation practice that includes chanting, and I love doing pilates at home. 

It’s wonderful that you’re doing all that for yourself. Can I ask, what goes into the bath?
You know, it really depends. Most of the time I add magnesium salts to the bath. I love Ancient Minerals line of magnesium salts. I’m all about magnesium. For the most part we’re not getting enough of it and it’s such a great relaxant on the body.

I have a pretty aggressive self-care plan. It’s not necessarily a plan that has everything down to the minute, but I do things that I really care about for myself on a regular basis.

Agreed. That and vitamin D have been my saving grace.
Me too. I also really love Ritual. It’s a very simply formulated multivitamin for women. The founder, Katerina, is a dear friend. 

It is all part of a larger wellness, but curious if you have any other beauty rituals. 
I don’t really wear any makeup, so my baths are definitely a really big part of my beauty rituals, and then my skincare. Obviously I love Vintner’s Daughter and have for a really long time. I love the simplicity of the skin ritual that I have. I’m a minimalist. I like to keep things simple and routine, so when I find something that works it’s rare that I will stray. My beauty rituals also have a lot to do with my hair. My hair is loced, and I’ve worn it in locs for years, and getting my hair retightened every six months or so is another important ritual. 

Do you think your love of simplicity stems from a focus on quality?
I’m really about quality over quantity and always looking for what else I can get rid of. Sometimes it’s a little severe, but I like to know where everything is, what the purpose of it is, otherwise I don’t see the point in having it.

I love the simplicity of the skin ritual that I have. I’m a minimalist. I like to keep things simple and routine, so when I find something that works it’s rare that I will stray.

 

Has your relationship to beauty and wellness changed over time? 
It’s definitely changed over the past decade or so. My 30s have been about just embracing myself and my body and my energy as it is. Growing up in a culture that worships a Caucasian aesthetic, I spent a lot of my younger years trying to emulate that. It’s been a really powerful thing to just be. Getting my dreadlocks was the beginning of that process, which was about six years ago. Also, from a beauty perspective, it feels good to know myself enough to just enjoy how my body and my energy wants to show up. I still have a long way to go to really integrate that, but it’s nice to be with it now.

Growing up in a culture that worships a Caucasian aesthetic, I spent a lot of my younger years trying to emulate that. It’s been a really powerful thing to just be.

What personal work have you done to get there? What have been some of the most powerful practices that have helped you on that journey? 
Definitely my mediation practice and Kundalini yoga over the years. Also, learning more about my Igbo people and my Nigerian heritage, has really helped me get more in alignment. Therapy has helped with so many breakthroughs over the years and I think that kind of deep self-reflection is so important. There’s so much that we don’t know. It’s impossible to live in a Black body without trauma, and I feel a certain responsibility to make sure I’m doing my best to make contact with that so whatever is there doesn’t spill over and harm anybody else.

I’m curious if you felt like the work you were doing as a doula was valued and accepted?
No, but I’ve never really needed external validation to feel like my work was important because of the space that I was working in. When you’re working with sexual and reproductive health and you see how much people are able to evolve and feel a sense of safety when they are learning about how to take care of their bodies, it’s such a contained and powerful experience. The exchange of what I would feel from my clients was enough for me, especially working as a doula for so many years. Culturally, on a wider scale, has the work always been valued? No. But again, I think that’s all changing.

When you’re working with sexual and reproductive health and you see how much people are able to evolve and feel a sense of safety when they are learning about how to take care of their bodies, it’s such a contained and powerful experience.

It does feel like it’s changing, but obviously not fast enough. Is there any bit of wisdom that you would share with your younger self?
I think I would just tell her to trust herself more and know that you’re not going to be able to please everyone, so just do your best to be kind and please yourself. I think women definitely struggle with that and it’s something I would have liked to hear more. That it was okay to choose yourself sometimes.

Amen. That would have been good for all of us. Just a few last, quick questions: 

What’s something that people would be surprised to know about you.
I don’t like strawberries. I really don’t, and will usually ask for the fresh fruit on the side at restaurants because it always comes with strawberries.

Dream holiday destination?
Japan.

What are some of your most beloved or cherished objects or things?
Probably my crystals. I have a very extensive crystal collection. I grew up collecting them. I’ve been looking at geodes since I was in elementary school and just really love them.

Is there anything you’re coveting now?
My Sonos subwoofer. I think one of the gifts of the pandemic is listening to music at home really, really loud and dancing. The deep bass feels amazing moving through my body and helps me reset and contact my body in space. 

What are some of your favorite nonprofits or charitable organizations?
Black Mamas Matter and Black Women for Wellness for sure. Also, The Okra Project, which supports trans people by making them homecooked meals, and G.L.I.T.S., which is focused on supporting transgender people. The Movement For Black Lives and Color Of Change are organizations that are focused on protecting black lives and getting legislation passed that will do that, and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund as well, making sure those individuals that have murdered our people are brought to justice. As we’re talking it’s been about 200 days and we’re still waiting for some kind of action around Breonna Taylor’s murder. There are so many ways to get involved and I just encourage everyone to do the work and continue doing it for the rest of their lives, because that’s how long it’s going to take.

Okay, last one. If you could have anyone’s singing voice, who would it be?
Des'ree. It’s a ‘90s moment and she’s so great.

You can learn more about LOOM on their website or by following them on Instagram @loomhq


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