• Cicely Blain

The Villij Founders Kim Knight and Shanelle McKenzie on Adopting an Organic Approach to Inclusivity

Updated: Aug 30, 2019


Photo by Roya Delsol

Born out of their own experiences as women of colour, The Villij founders, Kim Knight and Shanelle McKenzie, hope to encourage a shift towards increased representation for women like them. “We were inspired to begin our journey as entrepreneurs in the wellness industry due to an apparent lack of representation and opportunities available to the WOC community.” Their solution? A more organic, less top-down approach to inclusion. “We craved an organic approach to building relationships and holistic experiences for our community.”

For Knight and McKenzie, creating a space in the wellness industry where women of colour can feel both safe and heard is integral. “We champion inclusion by building a genuinely diverse and inclusive community,” they explain. “We decided to respond patiently and sensitively with a solution to the unconscious biases that currently exist in the wellness industry by creating experiences such as TrapSoul Yoga, a yoga community, and Villij Walks, a walking club for women of colour. For many women of colour, the stigma surrounding wellness and healthcare intiative continues to remain a barrier to seeking these actual services that could be beneficial to their well-being.” There has, however, been a positive change in this regard. “We are experiencing a shift as more women of colour are choosing a more holistic approach to health and fitness.”

Photo by Kenya Meon

Though establishing an environment in which women of colour feel comfortable enough to explore their interests in relation to wellness is one of the main obstacles The Villij faces. “We see challenges as an opportunity for growth and to provide new healing spaces for women of colour to thrive,” they go on. “As women entrepreneurs of colour, we’ve experienced difficulties attaining financial support. We’d love to see more support for women of colour entrepreneurship.”

Unbiased inclusivity within communities that may not necessarily understand the oppression experienced by women of colour is something Knight and McKenzie feel must be addressed. “Organizations can be more inclusive towards our community by establishing a sense of belonging for everyone. It is vital that organizations understand that quotas don’t automate inclusion and must be committed to implementing a real change at every level.”

Upcoming Villij Walks in the following cities:

Saturday, July 20, 2019: Montreal, QC

lululemon, Westmount

Saturday, July 20, 2019: Toronto, ON

lululemon, Yonge St.

Saturday, August 24, 2019: Montreal, QC

lululemon, St-Viateur

Saturday, August 24, 2019: Toronto, ON

lululemon, Yorkville

Saturday, September 14, 2019: Montreal, QC

lululemon, Westmount

Saturday, September 14, 2019: Toronto, QC

lululemon, Yonge St.

Saturday, September 28, 2019: Montreal, QC

lululemon, Ste-Catherine

Saturday, September 28, 2019: Toronto, ON

lululemon, Queen St.

Upcoming TrapSoul Yoga dates in the following cities:

Sunday, September 8, 2019: Toronto, ON

Good Space

Sunday, October 13, 2019: Toronto, ON

Good Space

Sunday, November 10, 2019: Toronto, ON

Good Space

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