Nina Westbrook, like many of us, is anxious to finally see Beyoncé.
It’s boss-recognizing-boss energy. Westbrook has been working hard. She deserves this. I tell her that I wish her the best of luck with securing those Bey tickets.
Then we get into business matters. “There’s a season for everything,” Westbrook tells Sweet July, as we segue into our conversation about her career. For the entrepreneur, licensed marriage and family therapist and mother of three, it seems this season is all about expanding her growing empire, which includes Bene, a digital mental health & wellness community, Do Tell, a conversation card game, and Minibrook Kids, a children’s apparel company.
When did your passion for entrepreneurship first emerge?
Nina Westbrook: I really never saw myself as an entrepreneur. Growing up, my dad was a serial entrepreneur. He had so many businesses—restaurants, pager stores (remember pagers stores?), all types of different businesses. And he was constantly on-the-go, stressed out, trying to manage it all. Whereas my mom, she went to medical school, she became a PA, she had a very structured, calm type of experience. And I kind of gravitated a little bit more towards that. I was like, “I’m going to go to school, I’m gonna study something I enjoy.” Fast forward, and life happens. Because of the structure or the lack there of in my life, I had to kind of pivot and figure out different ways to express myself and chase after the dreams and passions that fit into this new kind of environment. That’s how I got into entrepreneurship.
How have these brands—all these businesses you’ve launched—helped you grow as a person?
NW: I think it’s been so important for my growth. I feel like I kind of had to grow up fairly quickly. And I had to make a lot of decisions really quickly, not really having all the information that I probably needed to make more sound decisions, which means I made a lot of mistakes. But the beauty of it is that I had a support system and people around me to help me grow and blossom and learn and evolve. That has led me into the person that I am. I was given the grace to make mistakes in my businesses and to take my time.
Everything I do I’m very intentional about at this time. If it’s going to take time away from family life or my personal time, it better be worth my time. It’s been an evolution—I’m still growing and learning every day. And that’s what I love, I always want to be on a continuum, moving upward and forward. For me, it’s just about continuing to experience things and gain more knowledge and understanding about people, about business and about the world.
Who have been some of your biggest inspirations as a business owner?
NW: I feel like business wasn’t something that came extremely naturally to me, it still isn’t. I’ve learned to think more business minded and to make decisions that are better for my businesses. I do think that effort and work ethic are things that anyone who’s going to start a successful small business is going to need. And I think I learned those skills from both of my parents. My mom was a single mom. And I have three siblings. Raising four kids, she went back to school—medical school—to provide a better life for us. My dad was constantly working and trying to provide a better life for for us as well. And then, of course, I have a really strong base and support system of friends and family that have allowed me to give so much of myself to my work and to my passions. And that is key. I found that over the years, if you’re not extremely passionate about something and you’re not connecting to your “why,” then it’s hard to withstand the struggles and the challenges that come with running a small business.
How would you say your Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist certification has helped you as an a business owner?
NW: I think it’s helped with being open; it’s helped with understanding the importance of collaboration, the importance of taking care of myself and my mental health and the importance of knowing when I need to delegate. The way that I process information—always seeing how each step in every challenge is just part of the process—I attribute to my background in mental health. I have to practice what I preach.
When it comes to all of your brands, what unifies them? What’s your overall mission?
NW: As a licensed marriage and family therapist, a lot the scope of my work is helping patients understand their interpersonal and interpersonal relationships. That’s something that is so important to me. And through the my new podcast, through my conversation card game Do Tell, through Bene by Nina, even through my kids clothing brand, I think that the messaging is always one of positivity. People want to feel like they relate or connect. They want to feel the realness of situations, and I feel like by sharing relatable information in a way that’s easily digestible, people can see themselves and their relationships through what I’m doing. They’re able to take from it, learn different lessons or gather different tools to implement into their own lives to better their own journey to mental health and wellness.
As far as we’ve come, I think that when it comes to mental health awareness, there’s still the stigma that’s attached to it, especially in communities of color. And so I’m trying to show people that our mental health and wellness is so intertwined in our daily choices. That’s why community building and showing all the ways we’re connected is so important to me.
Nina Westbrook with husband and podcast guest Russell Westbrook.
How do you feel now that you’ve kicked off your newest venture, The Relationship Chronicles Podcast?
NW: I think doing the podcast was a natural progression. I had been thinking about doing one for a few years now, and it was never really the right time. I was a little questionable about doing a podcast—I thought, “Is it oversaturated?” Then one day, I just decided that I wanted to go for it. I feel like we each have a unique voice. It’s also really fun. I love connecting with people, I love having conversations. And the podcast is another way for me to do that and be able to share that knowledge with all of the listeners.
I’ve learned through the podcast that people have been through so much and are extremely resilient. And I’ve learned that there isn’t one way to get to an end game. Success comes in many different ways and it means so many different things to different people. But the challenges that we are faced with—and it doesn’t matter who you are—in our relationships, in family dynamics, whether it be breaking generational cycles or dating, these are all things that we have in common. And listening to the stories, hearing and recognizing parts of my guests’ stories in my own life and hearing how they navigated through those difficult times, it’s been a growing and healing process for me as well.
Nina Westbrook with podcast guest Shan Boodram.
How do you navigate all the important aspects of your life—your businesses, family, personal time and beyond?
NW: I’m like most other entrepreneurs and moms of young children: I kind of struggle with this back and forth. I don’t believe in balance. I think that there is a season for everything. If you are really paying attention to the things that are going on around you, you’re able to take the time and pour into certain relationships when you feel it’s most necessary. It’s like a scale. Maybe you’re launching a new product, maybe you’re launching the business itself, and it’s going to take more of your time. Then that’s when you’re putting more of your time into your business. But sometimes your kids are going through a transition and they may need a little bit more of your time and support. You have to stayed tuned in and connected with yourself and your own emotional wellness to decide where your energy is best spent.
One of the things you heavily promote are speaking positive affirmations. What’s the value of this kind of practice?
NW: I think that in today’s social media-driven society, there’s just so much messaging that is doing the opposite of affirming. One of the simple things that we can all be doing on a daily basis is affirming ourselves. I don’t think that we have to wait, nor do I think that it’s healthy to count on affirmations from outside sources, because you don’t know that those are ever going to come. I think we each have our own responsibility to affirm ourselves and to practice positive self-talk, and help to boost our own morale and be our own best cheerleader. The security and the confidence and everything that comes along with self-love comes from within.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.