Who We Are
My name is Alina Liao. I'm founder of Zenit.
I didn't plan to start Zenit.
The spring of 2019, I left a non-profit I had co-founded and poured my heart, energy, and soul into building up for almost four years. I left because it was the right thing to do for my health, even though leaving it was the hardest choice I had made in my professional life.
So there I was, working through my loss, hurt, self-blame, despair, and the therapist and coach I was working with both recommended I journal.
Just journal, right? It seems so basic. Yet, journaling was something I had l long known would be good for me but always struggled to do. I'd open my journal, stare at the blank page staring back at me, and give up. Then, I'd merely imagine my journal and already know I wasn't going to use it. So there my blank journals sat, collecting dust.
One day, though, I after enough conversations with my therapist and coach, I thought of a few prompts that were specific to what I was working on: "What serves me today?" "How am I honoring my wants?" "What am I learning?" I dug up a blank journal and wrote them down. Now, my journal wasn't staring at me. It was inviting me in.
Soon after writing those same prompts in my journal day by day, journaling went from impossible to easy. I was feeling the transformation from it. One day, after writing my same prompts in my journal, I thought, "damn, it would be nice if my journal just had these prompts in them."
Then I thought, "hm, I wonder if other people would like that, too?" And so, Zenit was conceived.
Prior to Zenit, I co-founded a non-profit that provided mental health coaching over text message to youth of color exposed to trauma. I provided mental health coaching directly and built trauma-informed, culturally responsive, healing-centered training programs for our coaches, with the guidance of clinical advisors, social workers, and youth advisors. Before this work, I spent a decade working directly with youth affected by trauma on a volunteer basis. I have a Master of Art in Education and Master of Business Administration from Stanford University, as well as certifications in Supporting Students Exposed to Trauma by Cognitive Behavioral Intervention for Trauma in Schools (CBITS) and Mental Health First Aid by the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI).
A Radical Wellness Company
As a radical wellness company, everything we do must advance the wellness of our stakeholders: our customers, employees, the communities we operate in, and our planet. We reject norms that devalue wellness and put profits over people and planet. We intend to be a model for systemic change that promotes individual and collective wellness.
Zenit Founder Alina Liao, on how we're building Zenit as a "radical wellness company."
Our core values dictate how we operate as an organization. They are:
MADE WITH LOVE
We make everything with love for all our stakeholders. We vow to:
- Ensure our employees enjoy a work environment that supports their holistic wellness.
- Make our products with care to detail and high-quality, locally sourced materials.
- Build and operate a zero-waste supply chain.
DESIGN FOR EQUITY
Wellness requires equity. A world with systemic injustice cannot be a world that is well. We believe that there is no neutral zone when it comes to justice - you are either contributing to a more just world, or you are perpetuating existing inequities. We approach all decisions with a lens of equity. This means:
- We will help build an inclusive wellness market that invites people who experience greater barriers to wellness into the marketplace through our branding, product development, and strategic partnerships.
- We will increase equity to economic mobility through our talent strategy, including hiring and developing talent in under-represented communities and partnering with Black-owned and minority-owned businesses.
- We will ensure that our growth in a community adds to the economic and cultural wellbeing of native residents, and never contributes to the displacement of residents.
We believe that wellness is a personal journey, everyone has their unique brilliance, and each person knows themselves best. We are NOT here to tell you what to think or do. We are committed to honoring the agency of all our stakeholders, so that:
- Our products will always be designed to foster each customer’s agency and power to own their healing and wellness journey.
- Our employees have a voice in all decisions that affect them.
- Residents in the communities we operate in have a say in the impact of our presence on their community well-being.
INNOVATE FOR SUSTAINABILITY
It is necessary to be intentional about what we’re innovating for. We reject the notion that more or faster is always better. We innovate to advance the sustainability of all our stakeholders, meaning:
- Empowering our customers to practice wellness daily, preventing burnout. We want everyone to go to bed feeling at peace and wake up rejuvenated, everyday.
- Ensuring that we are contributing to environmental sustainability.
- Supporting societal sustainability by closing racial and socioeconomic disparities in access to wellness and economic mobility.
KEEP IT REAL
The trust we build with our stakeholders is sacred. We are committed to:
- Continuously seek and incorporate the honest feedback of our customers.
- Maintain a work culture where all our employees can be their whole, authentic selves.
- Include in our decision-making unintended consequences, so that we can mitigate negative unintended consequences and have a net positive impact on the world.
The name Zenit comes from "Zen" and "it." Zenit! The term "Zen" comes from the Zen school of Buddhism. "Zen" is the Japanese translation of the Chinese word "Chán," which means "sitting meditation" and is translated from the Sanskrit word for meditation, "Dhyāna." The Chinese Chán school of Buddhism originates from the original Indian Buddhism.
The fabrics we use for our covers are Ankara print fabrics, which are rooted in West African and Indonesian cultures.
We acknowledge that the healing and wellness practices permeating our work are rooted in Indigenous, Asian, and African cultures.
Zenit is located in Washington, DC, which sits on Nacotchtank and Piscataway lands. We acknowledge that this city where we reside came about through colonization, theft of Native land, genocide, and a history of Native invisibility and erasure. We recognize, respect, and honor the Indigenous Peoples of these lands as the traditional stewards and owners of these lands.
We acknowledge that the city of Washington, DC, where we reside, was built by Africans who were enslaved. We acknowledge that to this date, African-Americans have yet to receive reparations they are owed for the atrocities committed against them and their ancestors in the founding and building of this country.
We stand in solidarity with Indigenous, Black, Brown, and Asian Peoples in our work in healing and liberation.