The newest Millennial On A Mission has not only turned her personal trials into triumph, but she is determined to inspire and empower other women to do the same. After overcoming her own mental health battles, she created Nia Noire, an organization that is focused on shifting the narrative of mental health among women of color.
Ladies and gentlemen, meet Jessica Gaddy.
A native of San Bernardino, California, Jessica attended California State University, San Bernardino and received her bachelor’s psychology and ethnic studies. Immediately after graduation, she moved to Virginia and completed a “gap year” working as a case manager in Washington, D.C. Just two weeks ago, she received her master’s of social work from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia and is currently developing Nia Noire.
MOAM: What inspired you to launch Nia Noire? Who are some individuals you admire in and out of your field of work? What challenges have you faced in building your business/brand, and what have you learned from them?
JG: A few years ago, I was formally diagnosed with major depression, though I recognized I had been experiencing the symptoms for years prior. I sought out support groups for women of color to help me through my depression, however, did not find any in my area. NONE. That alone made me question if women of color even talk about mental health, let alone have safe places to discuss our experiences. Nia Noire was born in response to the disparity of black women not only evading the conversation of mental health but not seeking treatment when needed, and in turn providing a safe space to discuss our most intimate issues in a welcoming and comforting environment.
When I began building Nia Noire, it was so clear to me that this was my calling and my purpose. I’ve always wanted to build a business or organization, but the ideas were always fleeting. I think the biggest mistake that I made in developing Nia Noire was not trusting God’s plan for it. I was always thinking about, always brainstorming new ideas for it, but I would always tell myself that I wasn’t ready. Most of it was fear. But it was my family and my boyfriend who inspired and pushed me to share it with others, seek advice, and begin growing the brand. And I really have them to thank, because when I started TRULY believing in it, people were jumping at the opportunity to contribute their help or ideas.
What I’ve learned from building a brand and developing my passion is the following:
1. You have to be confident and believe in it. If you don’t believe in the quality of your own product, no one else will. You have to OWN IT and wear it proudly.
2. Don’t be scared of failure. Things won’t work out 100% of the time, but like Wayne Gretzky says, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.“
3. Ask for help! No one accomplishes anything completely on their own, so don’t be afraid to ask for help .
To Jessica, being a Millennial On A Mission means being fearless and following your passion and purpose without doubts or distractions. “I strive to live and achieve my dreams daily by having constant reminders of what I’m working so hard for, and that’s building a network for women to get the help they need, but also building a legacy for my children and grandchildren,” Jessica says. One piece of advice that she would give to her peers? Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. “You never get anywhere by staying in your comfort zone. You have to jump, take risks, and skin your knee sometimes — that’s literally the only way that you can grow. If the road you’re on is too easy, you’re going the wrong way.”