Nichelle Whitney, the CEO & Founder, established The Guarden four years ago. The Guarden is a diversity, equity, and inclusion training group that focuses on education, accountability, and grace. They create tailored training programs for teams that are committed to diving deep into understanding intercultural competence and the importance of transforming and dismantling barriers to health, education, and wealth for historically excluded populations. The Guarden is is one of the Chamber’s women-owned, and Black-owned business members.
Nichelle is originally from Indianapolis, but she moved to the Bloomington community in 2011 to start her education at IU Bloomington. She has enjoyed serving Bloomington and Monroe County for the last 10 years, and Nichelle couldn’t think of a better place to call home for The Guarden.
Nichelle has been working in DEI consulting spaces for over 10 years; however, she formally established this work under The Guarden about 4 years ago.
Questions & Answers
What motivated you to start your own business? How did you develop the skills to start your own business?
Honestly, The Guarden is considered a business but it’s really my heart’s orientation toward this work (or perhaps a brand). I formalized this approach as a business because I realized that people needed an opportunity to learn while given the grace to be imperfect. I remember as a child, my report cards always read “Talks too much but pleasure to have in class.” My skills for facilitating meaningful conversations has been something I’ve known about since I was a young child, but I had to work through imposter syndrome as a young adult in order to catapult into running a consulting group.
What inspires your work and what sets you apart from everyone else?
I am inspired by the people that I get to serve, especially when I see them apply education to reality to transform workplaces and community spaces. I’ve never thought about what sets me apart from everyone else, so this is a fun question to answer. I will say that I am really good at bringing therapeutic interventions to my sessions. I’m skilled at helping people feel the learning deeply which implores them to think about their role dismantling systems that harm people. Our clients feel they can trust us in the process, and that’s really important to me.
What has been your biggest success to date?
My biggest success was working with a client that went from stagnant to a leading membership organization in higher education. I’ve worked with this group for 3 years now, and they have completely changed the landscape for institutions prioritize anti-racist work.
What has been your biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge is scaling up my work. In the next phase with The Guarden, I want to leverage relationships and skills that will help me produce more products for clients.
What are your plans for the future of your business?
I want to just do what I’m supposed to do when I’m supposed to do it. If that means serving 5 people a year or 5,000 people a year, I simply want to be doing good work where it needs to be done.
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