For Black people, the last year has wreaked havoc on our holistic wellbeing. The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected Black communities, with Black people nearly three times more at risk for COVID-19 hospitalization. The realities of the global health crisis have induced widespread anxiety and concern in the Black community. And the perpetual acts of racial violence throughout 2020—including the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery—have only intensified feelings of trauma and stress. After reaching a breaking point emotionally and witnessing the collective grief of the Black community, coach and author Katara McCarty felt called to do something.
"I remember reaching for my phone to meditate in April, asking myself, 'What can I do for my community?' We're hurting. I felt hopeless," McCarty says. The entrepreneur regularly turned to meditation apps to manage stress and anxiety. But last April, she recognized a glaring issue with the platforms she frequented—they glossed over the issues affecting their Black users.
"They were so out of touch with where I was as a Black woman in April in terms of the things they were saying and the notifications I was getting," McCarty shares. "The Black community is hemorrhaging, and you're telling me to think positive thoughts." Understanding that she wasn't alone in her search to find an app that understood her everyday stressors and anxiety as a Black woman, McCarty decided to create the platform herself.
Why Exhale Was Created
At the end of April, McCarty began working with her daughters (who are also certified coaches) to develop what is today known as the Exhale app. "We worked all spring and summer writing meditations, breath-work techniques, coaching talks, and pulling together content," she says. By August 2020, the program was available on the App Store and Google Play.
The Black community is hemorrhaging, and you're telling me to think positive thoughts.
In addition to the meditations and guided visualization exercises, McCarty says the app's daily and real-time notifications have resonated with users. When officers were not charged with Breonna Taylor's killing, McCarty connected directly with Exhale users and let them know they weren't alone in feeling like the system let them down. "A lot of the responses we are getting from [users] is the Exhale app is something that they didn't know they needed, but now they realize that they do."
The App's Growth
Having laid the foundation for the Exhale app, McCarty is now working on major plans for growth over the next few months. Releasing a 2.0 paid version of the platform is one of the projects on tap. "There will always be resources in the app that are free because I want to make it accessible," she tells us. "But, we are going to create a subscription-based model. I'm hoping that includes a community component, where women can engage with each other, support each other, encourage each other, and I can speak to women in real-time." With the updated version of the app, McCarty also hopes to add a Spanish version to ensure all women of color can properly experience Exhale's benefits.
McCarty also has her sights set on releasing two customized versions of the Exhale app—one for children and one for HBCU students. "We've also talked about in the future doing a children's app for Brown and Black children to help them manage their anxiety because their stress is just as real as ours," she says. "We'd also like to partner with HBCUs and do a co-branded app for HBCU students to help them manage their well-being."
The Bottom Line
As Exhale continues to grow, McCarty says that the tech company's underlying mission will always be to create and curate emotional well-being resources for BIWOC. "I created this to be a space for us on purpose, so we can have a safe place to reach to and partner with for our emotional well-being," she explains. "Here, we don't have to worry about the microaggressions, anti-blackness, and systemic racism that comes from predominantly white spaces."