10 Questions with Tanya Walker, Founder of Black Women Who Kayak+
During Black History Month, I’m interviewing Black business owners and founders to help bring more eyes to their products and services and also to celebrate them. Today, I’m featuring Tanya Walker, the founder of BWWK+ (Black Women who Kayak+). I asked her 10 questions. These are her answers.
How did your business come to be? What was your motivation?
It was never my intention to start Black Women Who Kayak+ as a business. The idea for Black Women Who Kayak+ came from me trying to get a couple of people to come kayaking with me. There were rarely any people of color I saw, especially women, when I was kayaking. My former fiancé is the one that encouraged me to start a Facebook group to see if anyone would join me.
There was only one woman who showed up at each event I created. I initially considered closing the group page because I was discouraged, but the lady encouraged me to keep it open. Therefore, I created another event. Initially, I did not realize I was up against one of our barriers (which I later addressed by partnering with The British Swim School), the discomfort associated with large bodies of water.
So, this time kayaking, I reached out to Whirlpool Caverns to create the BWWK+ Cave Exploring/Spelunking event. I still didn’t think anyone would attend. However, each lady who RSVP’d came, making it one of the most memorable events we have ever experienced. We did something that people of color typically don’t do. At that moment, I realized that this platform could serve much more purposeful purposes.
My motivation came when I realized that there is nothing that people of color can’t accomplish with the right opportunities, access, supportive environment, and knowledge. In an effort to change those myths about what people of color can and cannot achieve, it became my mission and vision to use my platform to break down those barriers and more.
Did you face any adversities or obstacles in the beginning?
I get asked this in every interview. I always say the same thing. There’s a higher being that chose me for this journey. That higher being has aligned me with some of the most influential people and organizations. Those experiences have not only shown the importance of creating an environment that welcomes all people of color. However, they see that implementing more diversity, equality, and inclusion in their work environments is essential.
I wouldn’t say this journey has been easy. It hasn’t been. But God has never promised me that my purpose would be easy. My biggest challenge has been learning business skills. Many of us have a general understanding of how to run a business. However, building a successful business takes more than general knowledge. It is imperative for you to acquire more than common knowledge, or you will end up working harder than smarter.
Did you have a support system starting out?
Just getting started. No. I had to build it. I had to be able to demonstrate that my vision and determination were genuine. Eventually, my community joined me in this movement after people noticed I had something here. Now I have a strong support system. It makes the challenging days less painful and more manageable. In the context of the support system, I am referring to my family and my team of ladies. My vision and the rewarding feeling of making such a positive impact on so many women and their children keeps us growing and going strong.
What void would you like to fill in the Black community with your business?
I was exposed to all of the things our chapters do now when I was pulled out of my environment. In a Christian youth group, a Caucasian woman noticed an opportunity and purpose where she could serve. Many times, white people come into black communities and expose them to things they would normally not see or experience. These encounters are known as The Great White Hope. I am grateful for my Great White Hope. Because she has saved me in many ways, and the Birth of BWWK+ would not have even existed without her.
However, the truth about the Great White Hope is, generally speaking, they couldn’t relate to me. They can’t understand why there are barriers and myths that are ingrained in our culture. No. It isn’t necessary to be in poverty to relate to someone who is. Nonetheless, wouldn’t it be nice for the brown or black children to be rescued by someone who truly understands their plight? The intervention would be more impactful if brown or black people were to introduce kids and their mothers to activities that we don’t typically see ourselves in. Also letting them know that we can do those things, too. By providing that level of access, knowledge, and a welcoming environment. It is our goal at Black Women Who Kayak+ to make the mother feel comfortable enough to not only step outside her comfort zone but also bring her family and children.
How do you keep yourself motivated to keep going?
What a great question. Watching the looks on the faces of our members who have taken advantage of our partnership with British Swim School to learn how to swim for the first time. Watching kids and their mothers holding space within the community of rowers. Our partnership with The Texas Rowing Center has given them this opportunity. Whenever members who were considering not coming to one of our events tell me how happy they are that they did attend. They did something that we aren’t used to seeing us do. They stepped outside their comfort zone and now feel accomplished and empowered, with other ladies who look like them and possibly felt the same way.
Who, if anyone, has inspired you during your journey?
The woman I call mother. She’s my biggest supporter. She was a single parent whose first priority was feeding, sheltering, and educating her children. It was a difficult task for her to raise two kids on her own, but she did it! I want to target women like my mom and myself and expose them to something outside of their priorities. Something outside of their norm and what you typically don’t see us doing.
How can we, the community, help you exceed your current level?
In all established chapters, we still need more volunteers. In addition, we need ladies who want to open local chapters of Black Women Who Kayak+ in their area. More sponsors and donations would also be appreciated. There is definitely interest in partnering with businesses that offer sailing lessons, skiing lessons, wakeboard/surfing lessons, and flying lessons. Provide transportation for members who require it. Any donated gear for camping, hiking, kayaking, golf, tennis, and more would be appreciated. The plus with Black Women Who Kayak is that we can explore our possibilities beyond what a kid or mother desires, and perhaps provide something extortionate as well. It will be a memory and experience they will never forget.
Do you have any announcements or good news you’d like to share?
Definitely! It is always a pleasure to share the great news about BWWK+. We have recently partnered with NOLS. It is a global organization that offers a once-in-a-lifetime type of excursion to those who can afford it. Part of our partnership with them included a 2,330 sponsorship for one of our members to experience an 8-day backpacking trip to Alaska this year. We raffled off this amazing opportunity and one of our faithful members won. However, we’ll be doing a GoFundMe to assist with covering airfare and the opportunity for one of our admins to attend this trip with that member. One of the barriers we face is that we want to embark on these amazing adventures but the cost and there is no other brown or black person participating. So, we don’t want this member to do this trip alone or feel as if she can’t relate to any of the other participants.
Furthermore, if there are any Kentucky residents, on April 15th, 2022, our Kentucky Chapter will hold its first event at the Mammoth Cave National Park. The cave has a rich history. Attendees must be members of BWWK+.
Last, for any Arkansas residents, our Arkansas Chapter will be kicking off their first event in June at the 50th Buffalo National River Anniversary. Attendees must be members of BWWK+.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give someone starting the business owner/entrepreneurial journey?
No matter what, don’t give up. Giving up is easier than keeping going. There is a big difference between taking a step back to evaluate and adjust your approach or how you approach your plan versus giving up completely. Set realistic goals. Browse all free resources for small businesses. Get started with Score. Score is a really handy resource that’s free. Also, capitalize on what makes your business different. Create a strong support system. Learn to delegate when needed. Understand that you can’t do it alone. You need people to help you and don’t be shy about asking for help. Learn to apologize when you’re wrong. Be willing to be taught. Learn to be and do better. Remember, there’s always a bigger picture. Never allow someone’s negativity to change your direction. Keep your head up and pray… pray for guidance, strength, wisdom, courage, humbleness, and for the right people to be aligned with your purpose.
How can we find you to give our support? What’s your website and social media info?
Facebook, Meetup, IG, and TikTok are our social media platforms! Alternatively, you can search for Black Women Who Kayak+, and you will find us. Furthermore, we have a website at www.blackwomenwhokayak.com.
Currently, our aim is to target women and their children of all social backgrounds, not men. However, we do have events that encourage women to bring their significant others and additional families. Everyone can still keep up with our progress by liking our Facebook Business page, website, or following us on Instagram.
Thank you, Tanya, for taking the time to do this interview! Everyone, please make sure to check out the BWWK+ website and social accounts to find a chapter near you.