Black Woman Owned is a limited series highlighting black woman business owners who are change-makers and risk-takers in their respective realms. As founders, these women dare to be bold, have courage in being the change they wish to see in the world, and are unapologetic when it comes to their vision. These black women aren't waiting for a seat, they are owning the table.
In order to understand what YOWIE is, you must note that this multi-hyphenate space is just as its motto implies: it's "a lot of things." The part-retail shop, part-design studio, and whole-adult playground were birthed out of what Shannon imagined her perfect workplace to be. What started out as a Pinterest mood board and side project, has since grown into something much greater with a community-centric purpose that ripples throughout its Philly home base.
Much like her brainchild, Shannon has never been the type to limit her creativity when it begs to expand. For more than a decade, Shannon worked within the corporate fashion sector for legacy brands like Tommy Hilfiger, American Eagle, and Ralph Lauren. Each work experience imparted valuable lessons that she would then apply to her own business, sharing that it's "really important before you start your own thing: to see how others do it." But like any great student of their craft understands, there's just as much to learn from others' mistakes as there is from their wins.
That's why Shannon was determined "to do the opposite" of what she saw in these spaces once she got her wings to launch YOWIE in 2016.
Courtesy of Shannon Maldonado
Photo by: Caro Ramirez
Shannon's pivot from the corporate world was marked by a need for more, a call that would push her into something greater, "I had social anxiety, financial anxiety [in New York]. There was just so much bubbling under the surface that once I hit that wall, it became way easier to leave. I was ready for a change." She was looking to pursue something that would challenge her both professionally and personally, and YOWIE did just that.
In the five years since YOWIE's inception, the shop has experienced a great deal of local support, but nothing would match that influx of visibility that would come in 2020. Wedged between the onslaught of small business support brought on by COVID-19, along with the hypervisibility of Black-owned businesses that followed the aftermath of the Black Lives Matter uprisings, Shannon's once intimate neighborhood corner store, began to grow in brand recognition. "It made me feel more comfortable about speaking out on injustices. That's who I am. I want to be a good neighbor and a civically-minded human being, and that should be a part of our brand as well."
YOWIE is an extension of Shannon and the community that raised her. It's a noun, an adjective, and even a verb. Home-grown and community-centric. It speaks to her genius to never be boxed in by one product, space, or idea. But most of all, YOWIE is yours and belongs to the community of South Philadelphia.
YOWIE is the future.
What prompted the transition from your corporate job to taking the leap into entrepreneurship? Were there any challenges you had to face in this transition?
One of the challenges was how for the entire time I'd been in corporate, I've been an anonymous designer. So unless I told you that these were jeans that I designed, you would have no idea who made them. To stand in front of a group of people [when I launched YOWIE] and say these are all of the things that I love, these are artists that I think you should believe in, that was very scary. I felt very naked because YOWIE is such a personal brand and such an extension of me.
In the beginning, you're really just trying to find your voice and your audience. I think there's this misconception that the world is just waiting for you to finish your website and then they're all just going to run and buy everything, but that's not true; it's actually very anticlimactic. But every step of the way, I would get a small affirmation, whether it was a purchase, press, or someone saying, "This is really special." I would hold on to those things. It's never lost on me when someone compliments the brand or I see someone wearing our tote on the street. I'm very proud that people resonate with the brand, it definitely helps me out on the harder days when I'm like, 'What the hell am I doing?!'
You left New York and headed home to Philly to start what is now YOWIE. Sometimes there can be resistance or even pride in returning home, how were you able to adjust to this move?
For many reasons, I didn't want to do the brand in New York. It felt like it would just be one of many in New York, and it would be very financially challenging to do YOWIE there. I wanted it to be the opposite of what I was used to, I wanted YOWIE to be based on emotion, feelings, the love of design, and not worry about money. I felt like I should open it in a lower-cost city like Philly that I know, but it also is unfamiliar to me because I had been gone for so long.
I was looking for a challenge and space where I would make mistakes; a mistake in Philly is not the same cost as a mistake in New York, so it felt a lot more comfortable to me. After that much time [in New York], I didn't hate my job, but I wasn't learning anymore. I'm a life-long student, I love to learn, I like being uncomfortable. I wanted to do something that was going to challenge me professionally and personally and boy, did it!
"To stand in front of a group of people and say, these are all of the things that I love, these are artists that I think you should believe in, that was very scary. I felt very naked because YOWIE is such a personal brand and such an extension of me."
Courtesy of Shannon Maldonado
Photo by: Caro Ramirez
Have you seen the benefits of sticking to your gut in building YOWIE in your hometown of Philly?
I think the biggest thing with your gut is that it's like a muscle you have to work at and grow over time and get comfortable listening to. In the beginning, when you start a business, a lot of the people who you love and care about will come out of the woodwork to give you advice. They want to tell you, "One time my friend started a business and this is what they did wrong." All of a sudden, everyone's an expert in small business. So you're going to hear a lot of noise, and I was, in the first six months or so, susceptible to that noise. I've always been someone who trusts my gut and instincts, so I was like, "Wait, I can't get sucked into this now, this is not who I am."
Over time, I built up this group of friends who I call my "frientors sounding board" and those are the people who I take the things that I'm truly unsure about with YOWIE to. But it's not an open forum for every random person to come in and tell me what I should do with the brand.
That door closed a very long time ago because I think at the end of the day, people can look at your brand from the outside and dissect it and think they know what's what, but only you know your goals and intentions and you have to feel comfortable with that. I don't think that's something that comes overnight, but once I locked into what I wanted YOWIE to be, there's no person who can steer me from that direction.
YOWIE experienced a great deal of growth through the hypervisibility of last summer’s events with COVID and the BLM movement. How has life and business changed since then?
That whole time was interesting. It was affirming because I had been working on YOWIE for so long and had very humble goals for it. I wasn't chasing rapid growth, just slow and steady strategy, so I was like, "Wow, this is exciting that we're finally getting all this attention!" But then, it's wrapped in: we're getting all this attention because someone has died. Or because finally, people are deciding that they should support Black businesses after an obscene amount of time of us being here. It was really complicated. I didn't know what else to do but galvanize that attention into raising funds and sharing resources because it just didn't feel right to just take it all for ourselves.
I have a younger brother who's had run-ins with the police, and it struck a nerve with me to see how many times we heard these stories and something broke in me. For a long time as a Black founder, I was unsure if I could weave some of the experience that I've had about race into our brand and narrative. I wasn't sure how that would be received. But after that time in June , I didn't care anymore. This is something that's important to me and if this alienates some of our customers, then they weren't our people anyway.
It was very empowering in that way, but it was also very strange. In the aftermath, I feared that it would all be taken away, I thought this is all just fleeting, a moment, and it would fizzle out. I'm very proud to say that hasn't been the case for us. We've grown exponentially, but there was definitely this fear of they're only here for a moment.
"Once I locked into what I wanted YOWIE to be, there's no person who can steer me from that direction."
Courtesy of Shannon Maldonado
Photo by: Caro Ramirez
How have you been able to align yourself with opportunities that speak to you and your brand and not fall into the “once in a lifetime opportunities” myth?
It's been a lot of trial and error on my end. In June, we got a lot more inquiries about collaborations than we ever had in the five years that we've been in business. Some were so obviously copy-and-pasted, no recognition of who we are, it was just like they called an all-hands meeting and said, "Find a Black person! Find a Black business!" I was once such a people-pleaser, but that was the first time in my life where I started saying "no" to things. Professionally and politely.
Now, my first thing is: I need to feel something. When I get an email, it's like the same process as when I order products: I want to feel excited. I wanted to feel an immediate visceral reaction. For me now, nothing is an immediate "yes" anymore. I have to ask questions.
You have to do your due diligence now because so many people are trying to tokenize us and to look like they're not crazy or doing terrible things and I will not be that person. Money is not the only success of YOWIE, what we've built, the community we have is better than that.
In what ways have you learned to be gentle with yourself in the process of entrepreneurship?
That's something that's still a work-in-progress for me. One of the biggest things I've done in the last two years is not comparing myself and what I'm doing with YOWIE to what other entrepreneurs are doing with their brands. I think that was a big unlock for me because you can lose so much time feeling insecure or jealous about what someone else is doing that you could use creating or trying new things.
When you're starting out, it's hard to not do that, but once I got in the mindset of "I know where I want YOWIE to go," it cleared a lot of space for me to be creative again. I think a lot of that is because I'm a lot older than the people I interact with. I know who I am, I'm sure of myself, I'm not trying to find myself anymore as a person. Coming into my late 30s, I know where I want to be, what kind of leader I want to become, and what kind of brand that I want to create.
"I know who I am, I'm sure of myself, I'm not trying to find myself anymore as a person. Coming into my late 30s, I know where I want to be, what kind of leader I want to become, and what kind of brand that I want to create."
Courtesy of Shannon Maldonado
Photo by: Caro Ramirez
What does a “safe space” mean to you?
Safe space, in our regard, means a place where you can not only be yourself but a place where you feel a sense of ownership. There's something about feeling like something is yours or that it's a part of your community that makes it feel safe. One of the things that I love and gets me choked up is when people talk about YOWIE and how proud they are that it's in Philly and that it's their space. That makes me feel really proud that they feel like they own part of the space.
Having this pride and ownership over a space. Not in a way that's exclusive, but in a way that you really love it, and you want to bring all your friends into it and you can't wait to tell everyone about it.
To learn more about YOWIE and Shannon Maldonado's community-centric endeavors, follow her here.
Featured image courtesy by Caro Ramirez
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Aley Arion is a writer and digital storyteller from the South, currently living in sunny Los Angeles. Her site, yagirlaley.com, serves as a digital diary to document personal essays, cultural commentary, and her insights into the Black Millennial experience. Follow her at @yagirlaley on all platforms!
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Sex is a big deal. In fact, the clients I have who try to convince me otherwise, I essentially tell them that all they are doing is showing me that the state of their own sex life is not up to par because, if it was, they would agree that…again…sex is a big deal. No, it’s not everything. And no, it shouldn’t be solely relied on to keep a relationship together (check out “Make-Up Sex Might Be Doing Your Relationship More Harm Than Good”). However, when you stop to really let it sink in that sex is one of the main things that makes, say, a marriage different from all other relationships husbands and wives may have — say it with me, folks: SEX IS A BIG DEAL.
That’s why, whenever I read articles that state things like (currently) only 23 percent of (American) people would rate their sex life as being “excellent” (what in the world?!), I feel that it is basically my duty and mission to do all that I can to significantly increase those numbers. One way to do that is to offer some not-so-obvious tips that can make climaxing faster and easier for you.
So, if you fall into the “other than 23 percent category,” just know that I totally penned this with you in mind. Here are 12 things (plus a couple of bonus points) that could very well change and put some of your own sex odds in your favor…quite possibly, as soon as tonight.
1. Have a Sex DateGiphy
Okay, so “When's The Last Time You And Your Man Had A 'Sex Date'?” If you’re wondering what that is, it’s a date that has nothing but a sex theme in mind. It can be a dinner that features nothing but aphrodisiacs. A sleepover at a local hotel that you’ve always wanted to try. A sexcation that literally consists of nothing (much) more than sex, food, and sleep. Aside from the fact that planning a sexcation can help to build sexual anticipation for both you and your partner, it can also remind you that quality time together should, at least sometimes, evoke feelings of eroticism, lust, and profound sexual longing too. Yeah, something that can definitely help to put you in the mood is a well-thought-out sex date (if you need a bit of help financing one, do you own a sex jar…yet?).
2. Drink Lots of WaterGiphy
It doesn’t matter what the (physical) issue may be, it seems like water is always going to be one of the remedies for it. That makes sense, being that our bodies are made up of somewhere around 60 percent of it. When it comes to having an orgasm, consuming lots of water can help when it comes to getting you to produce more natural lubrication (the wetter you are, the less friction you’ll feel, and that can make climaxing so much easier to do). As a bonus, it can also reduce your chances of experiencing a Charley horse (you know, a random muscle spasm) that can sometimes pop up when you’re in sex positions that can help you to achieve an orgasm, yet you’re so dehydrated that a “horse” gets in the way.
3. Give Each Other a Scalp MassageGiphy
If you’ve got a lot on your mind, you’re totally stressed out, or you’re so focused on having an orgasm that you can’t seem to calm your mind or body down — how about getting a scalp massage (or giving yourself one)? Since scalp massages are able to produce feel-good hormones in your body and put you into a better mood, it’s the kind of unsung foreplay that should be factored in a helluva lot more than it tends to be. Also, since scalp massages can bring relief to headaches and migraines — well, if that’s been your reason (or is it a low-key excuse?) for not having sex, you might want to keep your partner from reading this. #Elmoshrug
4. Listen to Binaural BeatsGiphy
If you’ve never heard of binaural beat therapy, probably the best way to explain it is, it’s a type of sound wave therapy that is designed to reduce anxiety and stress, improve focus and concentration, and even improve your level of confidence. Since it’s also characterized as a form of self-help, all you need is some headphones and some beats that are on a specific kind of frequency to make this effective.
And what does this have to do with having an orgasm? Some people are huge fans of binaural beats because they say that the vibrations that come from them are quite sexually stimulating. I actually put a few friends to the test by sharing a link to a popular orgasmic-themed binaural beat (here). Guess what? They went in cynical and came out saying that, although they couldn’t quite put their finger on it, they did end up feeling a lil’ sumthin’ sumthin’. Just sayin’.
5. Focus on a Great (Sexual) MemoryGiphy
This is one of those times when I’m simply gonna say, “Hey, don’t shoot the messenger” and leave it at that (LOL). That’s my intro for sharing that, although I think most people reading this would scream at the top of their lungs that their partner saying someone else’s name during sex is the ultimate no-no, I once read an article where a neuroscience professor stated that it shouldn’t automatically be triggering. According to him, it could be nothing more than a cognitive euphoric reaction to a past experience that was equally as pleasurable; it’s usually not a sign that your partner is longing for someone else.
Whatever the case may be, my biggest takeaway is, focusing on satisfying sexual memories can get your mind ready for what your body is about to do. It does this by reducing anxiety and cortisol (stress hormone) levels. Plus, the nostalgia can make you feel closer to your partner as well. So, while you might want to go with the present instead of your past, taking a sexual stroll down memory lane could end up totally working in your favor.
6. Introduce Him to the “Egg Yolk Method”Giphy
I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if you already knew that yoni eggs and egg vibrators can help you out with your orgasm mission. Okay, but what you might not be aware of is the fact that eating eggs can give you more energy and activate a neurotransmitter in your brain that can help you to have longer and more intensified orgasms (spinach and mushroom omelet, anyone?).
Also, keeping in with the theme of all-things-eggs-related, if you didn’t catch the viral TikTok from last summer that some media simply called “the egg yolk” method, you can watch it for yourself here. The gist is a woman decided that caressing an egg yolk is the best way to teach men how to stimulate your vulva. Thoughts?
7. Try the Kivin MethodGiphy
It’s no secret that it’s easier for many women to cum from cunnilingus than intercourse. Well, something that you can try that may help to intensify oral sex orgasms is something known as the Kivin Method. The mindset here is, if your partner orally pleases you horizontally instead of vertically, they will “cover more ground” that way. To make it happen, you need to be on your back while holding one of your knees to your chest. Then he comes in on his side and starts to orally stimulate you that way. That will cause him to stimulate more than just your clitoris. Pretty interesting, right?
8. Learn About the Coital Alignment TechniqueGiphy
Ah yes. The thing that actually inspired me to write this article in the first place. For the past few years, when it comes to the topic of achieving peak sexual pleasure, something that has been receiving quite a bit of attention is the coital alignment technique (also known as the CAT, although some call it “grinding the corn”). It’s a sex position that’s a variation of the missionary position that hones in on the clitoris.
It does this by having your partner move his body slightly above your clitoris so that it can be rather easily stimulated during penetration. For many, it’s a cool “workaround” if they are unable to achieve a vaginal orgasm. Try it (if you haven’t already) and report back.
9. Engage in Nipple Play During IntercourseGiphy
The reason why I once wrote, “So, What If 'Typical Erogenous Zones' Annoy TF Outta You?” is because I know what it’s like to have a partner assume that a part of your body is easy to get turned on…when it actually isn’t. If, for you, that happens to be your breasts (and, more specifically, your nipples), at least consider letting your partner stimulate them during intercourse.
Believe it or not, according to science, your brain responds to nipple stimulation in the same way it does whenever your genitals get sexually excited. This means that, even if you don’t “see the mountaintop” from penetration alone, sometimes the tag-teaming of intercourse and nipple play can get you the orgasm that you’re after.
10. Get into the Fetal PositionGiphy
As far as sex positions go, while the spoon and fetal position are quite similar, the fetal wins when it comes to being able to give you an orgasm quicker, mostly because the closer your knees are to your chest, the easier it is for your partner’s penis to be able to stimulate both your clitoris as well as your vagina. When that is the case, you increase the chances of experiencing a full-blown vaginal orgasm, something that continues to be an exclusive club because less than one in five are able to pull that off.
11. Have Him Press Down on Your TummyGiphy
If you’ve ever wondered if your G-spot can be stimulated from the outside in (or if you’ve been patiently waiting for your partner to figure out just where your G-spot actually is), how about pressing down on your stomach to see if that works?
From what I’ve read and researched, although this approach gained popularity due to a now-deleted TikTok post, there are medical professionals who cosign on the fact that putting a bit of external pressure in the abdominal region during sexual activity has a great chance of intensifying orgasms, for sure. Word on the street is, you increase your chances of climaxing quicker when this happens, too.
I mean, at least ask for a tummy massage before the action begins. Seems to me like this is an easy enough hack to try at least once.
12. Breathe Deeply Through Sexual StimulationGiphy
Something that your body needs a lot of during sex is oxygen. One of the reasons why is that it helps to keep the blood flowing throughout your system — and that includes your genitalia. And the more blood that rushes down that way, the more pleasurable your orgasms will be. That’s why it’s critically important to remember to breathe deeply during the sexual experience. Although it can be tempting (and even understandable) to want to hold your breath or have shortness of breath at times, those are the very moments when taking air in and breathing it out slowly can make all the difference in the world when it comes to having some of your best orgasms — EVER.
BONUS for Postmenopausal Women: Topical TestosteroneGiphy
For better or for worse, something that none of us are going to be able to escape is menopause. It’s a fact of life that will impact everything — including our sex lives. And just like our estrogen levels will drop, so will the testosterone that runs throughout our system. This is relevant because testosterone plays a significant role in your sex drive and how fulfilling sex can be for you. One solution to having lower testosterone is testosterone therapy in the form of applying topical testosterone.
As far as who can use it, where and when you should apply it, and the dosage amount that is beneficial, those things are pretty particular; that’s why you should definitely consult with your healthcare provider before adding it to your sexual self-care regimen. As far as this article goes, I’m just letting you know that there are some options available.
BONUS to Get HIM There: Make a FistGiphy
Finally, if you’re down with giving head yet you just can’t seem to work around the involuntary gagging that sometimes happens, here’s the hack for all hacks: did you know that, by forming a fist with your left hand and then squeezing your thumb inside of it, it can relax you and open up your throat? No, really. Although supposedly this discovery was birthed out of making dental visits easier, I’m pretty sure you can see how this can translate (quite well, I might add) over to the oral sex department ,too. Here’s hoping, sis. #wink
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Featured image by Giphy