Female Founders: Josei Harris of Black Bella Spa and Wellness Center on Five Things You Need To Thrive and Succeed as a Woman Founder

An Interview With Doug Noll

Doug Noll
Authority Magazine
9 min readNov 12, 2023

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Dream Bigger. Don’t be afraid to dream audaciously! Everything you want your business to be won’t happen at once or necessarily in short order, but if you keep your eye on your north star goal and follow the steps you know you need to take to get there, you will.

As a part of our series about Women Founders, we had the pleasure of interviewing Josei Harris.

Black Bella Spa & Wellness Center founder Josei Harris is a globally trained and dual-state certified massage/lymphedema therapist and esthetician. With training in both western technologies and eastern massage techniques, Harris is able to provide a holistic health and beauty experience for her ever-growing D.C. community. In addition to her therapeutic practice, she runs a training and development program for like-minded wellness entrepreneurs.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

My journey to becoming a licensed massage/lymphedema therapist, esthetician, general wellness expert, and business owner was somewhat of an unconventional one that came with some detours and working in a variety of industries including construction, pest control, government contracts and mental health. The “World of Wellness” was introduced to me during a major transition point in my life. A desire to feel and look better drew me into the industry. The gift of helping others feel, look and do better is what continues to drive me each day.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

Since I began leading my company I’ve had so many amazing moments. My most interesting stories are all about amazing people who’ve partnered with me to help me create solutions. Having the “right conversations” with the “right people” leads to great things. I’m very fortunate to learn and grow with scores of women in business throughout my career. Meeting the aspiring students at Cortiva Institute in 2017 was most impactful. Spending nearly two years learning how to support others in manifesting their dreams and ambitions changed me. That experience was most interesting because it demonstrated my true purpose. To support and elevate others professionally. The people around me also demonstrate this. My family, my team, my educators, and my clients have all been catalysts to making my business dreams a reality. And they always make me want to be a better partner and leader each day.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When I first started I was eager to co-own my business with a good friend, who in retrospect, didn’t share the same vision, dream, and expertise I had and needed for the effort. The lesson learned was to trust my own ability as an entrepreneur and acknowledge and appreciate the role that each person in my personal life could play in my business’ journey–as supporters and not necessarily expert advisors or partners.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way.

Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My mother Judith and my brother Johnnie have always offered steadfast and unconditional support, including financial support to help me achieve my dream. They’ve consistently shown up holistically, every time, without hesitation, critique, or doubt.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. According to this EY report, only about 20 percent of funded companies have women founders. This reflects great historical progress, but it also shows that more work still has to be done to empower women to create companies. In your opinion and experience what is currently holding back women from founding companies?

I believe the patriarchal systems that guide American culture are the culprit. These values are embedded in our political, economic and commerce systems. Layering that with historic and systemic gender discrimination and racism in access to key resources and capital promotes an even greater disparity. I have had the privilege of meeting and working with so many dynamic and successful women business leaders who are all deserving of the same funding opportunities as our male counterparts. My hope is that more funders and investors will recognize the contributions of and put their trust into more women- and Black-owned businesses leaders. I’m all too familiar with being the only woman or woman of color at the “funder table of opportunity,” and look forward to the day when that table has more seats for the diverse pool of business owners out there. What’s holding many women back from founding companies is lack of education and access to capital, and systemic barriers that must be dismantled.

Can you help articulate a few things that can be done as individuals, as a society, or by the government, to help overcome those obstacles?
As an individual I would say become more comfortable with being uncomfortable. Growth is usually inconvenient. As a society, we must think and make more compassionate, forward thinking decisions for every person unconditionally. The government’s responsibility is to be the steward of blind justice, balance and correction of social issues. I believe we need more women in leadership. And more honesty about what we can do better as a nation to ensure equal opportunities for all.

This might be intuitive to you as a woman founder but I think it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you share a few reasons why more women should become founders?

More women should become founders because it gives us agency to create change. We are natural problem solvers and creators. If we need better conditions then we will create them.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a founder? Can you explain what you mean?

The biggest ‘myth that I would like to debunk is that you can do it alone. I believe in the quote “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together”. Being a founder is a constant journey of building, supporting and being of service to your tribe. All the while gaining trust and motivating them to walk with you through challenges to achieve a common goal.

Is everyone cut out to be a founder? In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful founder and what type of person should perhaps seek a “regular job” as an employee? Can you explain what you mean?

In my opinion a successful founder has to be hyper-focused and passionate about their vision, and be prepared to regularly fail, make difficult life-changing decisions and extraordinary sacrifices. Not everyone is cut out to be a founder or ready to be one at certain junctures in their life, and that’s okay. Many people with “regular jobs” bring tremendous expertise and value to the organizations or companies where they work, some at places that directly support and provide resources to small business owners. So, while everyone is not cut out to be a founder, there are essential roles many people assume that provide essential expertise and value to entrepreneurs and privately-owned businesses.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?

1 . You cannot do this alone. I firmly believe in being surrounded by a supportive village–family, friends, mentors, partners, and fellow business owners–to truly realize your professional goals and reach your final destination

2 . Dream Bigger. Don’t be afraid to dream audaciously! Everything you want your business to be won’t happen at once or necessarily in short order, but if you keep your eye on your north star goal and follow the steps you know you need to take to get there, you will.

3 . The journey is not about me and not about money. Creating an improved quality of life for my team and my clients has been the best payout. And to create something that serves my community is the greatest gift. Some days I can’t believe that I get paid to do what I do.

4 . Not everyone will understand the mission. Finding my tribe of like-minded people was the thing that kept me sane and kept me growing.

5 . Entrepreneurship is a contact sport. Starting a business almost always requires you to build a network with a number of different stakeholders. Building and nurturing relationships is equally as important as sustaining your business operations.

How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

I’m using my success to accelerate and uplift other women and girls in the things they aspire to do. From the high school and college students that work with my firm to the retired grandmother working to “make ends meet”. My goal everyday is to foster a culture of self-love and self-respect. I offer opportunities that allow my team to control their destinies and have unique experiences that afford us all the ability to learn and grow.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I dream of inspiring a movement to protect and promote our girls. Especially those who are victims of economic and social disparities. I wish that every young person had the support and ability to dream and do whatever their hearts desired.

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

Oh this one is easy! I’d love to meet Mrs. Sheila Crump Johnson. She is the co-founder of Black Entertainment Television and owner of the five-star Salamander hotels and resorts portfolio. She is my mentor and doesn’t even know it! For example, I study her company’s spa manuals as guidance for my own business. She has many firsts. When she forged her way into Middleburg, Virginia, I was just amazed. She was the first Black woman billionaire, sports team owner and a very graceful fighter. Her story is inspiring and her triumphs are even greater.

Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you only continued success!

About the Interviewer: Douglas E. Noll, JD, MA was born nearly blind, crippled with club feet, partially deaf, and left-handed. He overcame all of these obstacles to become a successful civil trial lawyer. In 2000, he abandoned his law practice to become a peacemaker. His calling is to serve humanity, and he executes his calling at many levels. He is an award-winning author, teacher, and trainer. He is a highly experienced mediator. Doug’s work carries him from international work to helping people resolve deep interpersonal and ideological conflicts. Doug teaches his innovative de-escalation skill that calms any angry person in 90 seconds or less. With Laurel Kaufer, Doug founded Prison of Peace in 2009. The Prison of Peace project trains life and long-term incarcerated people to be powerful peacemakers and mediators. He has been deeply moved by inmates who have learned and applied deep, empathic listening skills, leadership skills, and problem-solving skills to reduce violence in their prison communities. Their dedication to learning, improving, and serving their communities motivates him to expand the principles of Prison of Peace so that every human wanting to learn the skills of peace may do so. Doug’s awards include California Lawyer Magazine Lawyer of the Year, Best Lawyers in America Lawyer of the Year, Purpose Prize Fellow, International Academy of Mediators Syd Leezak Award of Excellence, National Academy of Distinguished Neutrals Neutral of the Year. His four books have won a number of awards and commendations. Doug’s podcast, Listen With Leaders, is now accepting guests. Click on this link to learn more and apply.

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Doug Noll
Authority Magazine

Award-winning author, teacher, trainer, and now podcaster.