Difficulties during postpartum led LaDonna Welch to her calling.
The Louisiana educator is now the creator of a mental health app designed to affirm the Black community. Welch understands the importance of being connected with resources and seeking professional help, all while dismantling the stigmas associated with reaching out for assistance.
When she was young, speaking with a licensed therapist was not normalized in her household. After Welch had her second child in 2012, she learned she had postpartum and seasonal depression. However, in the midst of those difficult times, it was not ingrained in her to seek outside help.
“I went through postpartum depression. I went to my doctor to describe how I was feeling, and they told me I was going through seasonal depression, something I had never heard of,” Welch shared in an interview with AFROTECH. “They suggested that I speak to someone, and I was in my 30s. At this point I had never even considered talking to anyone.”
She added, “That made me think back to just my upbringing. My mom never talked about therapy or going to a therapist. The adults around me never talked about it. So, I started talking to other people, and I feel like we had a common experience.”
Another puzzle piece that would connect for Welch happened when she moved to Colorado with her military husband in 2015. She was looking to find a Black therapist, however she could not locate any in the area. She eventually broadened her search and found a female therapist. From there, she created new avenues that were helpful to her mental health. This included using affirmation apps, creating T-shirts, and journaling.
Welch soon recognized the app and stationary products she was using were not reflective of her culture or background. This realization led her to want to create a solution for her community.
“Within a six-year period, I had done the journaling and the affirmations and everything, and I saw a gap in the market. I did not see any affirmations out there that were speaking to the Black community,” she explained.
“Since I didn’t see anything else like that, I saw how powerful it is for that positive self talk, and how this can be a stepping stone to do something that was a low barrier point to help get people in the door to start that conversation and maybe start seeking help,” she added.
This realization led to Welch building Ebony Notes in April 2022, which she formed with an investment of less than $6,000 using her savings.
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“I teach coding and robotics to kids. I taught high school, middle school, and elementary,” she explained. “Me having a tech background— it’s not a strong tech background when it comes to development and everything — I learned that the first thing that I created was my minimal viable product.”
Welch would then participate in the Access Mode MVP Lab Accelerator program in Denver, CO, held April-July 2023, to advance her app. This led to her receiving a $20,000 grant through the city of Denver in partnership with Access Mode. As a result, she was able to assemble a development team that enhanced the app’s design, incorporated pop-up images and audio, and added a directory to help users discover reliable service providers.
Users of Ebony Notes can expect the app’s landing page to welcome them with affirmations. From there, they can then choose different categories that help them target which types of affirmations they wish to receive.
Additionally, they can tap into mini podcasts, which are described as “extended affirmations” that offer sessions on financial wellness and self love, among others.
Looking ahead, Welch plans to build on the app’s directory by reaching out daily to culturally responsive service providers.
“Not only in this directory will they be able to find therapist and counselors, they’ll also be able to find fitness studios, yoga classes, or candle pouring classes,” she told AFROTECH. “Different things that cater to a holistic outlook on your personal wellness and mental health.”
She added, “When you use Ebony Notes, we are going to see things that speak to us the way that we speak to one another, and the other portion of it is being able to to find support from someone who understands us.”
While Ebony Notes remains a current focus for Welch, she wants to expand its footprint to target the youth. She is currently in the process of raising $150,000 to finalize Ebony Notes.
“I am moving into a direction where I would love to be able to work with Ebony Notes full time,” Welch said. “We all know that Black women businesses are the least funded. This raise is so important to me because no one else cares enough to support what we’re doing, even though businesses are being created by us, successful businesses are being created by us at an accelerated rate. So, I am raising $150,000 so that I can finish Ebony Notes and start on the kids app.”