Toni Jones wants women to start being good allies. But instead of standing up for others, she wants them to practice being a better ally to themselves.
Jones describes herself as a psychology wellness entrepreneur, and is the woman behind the affirmation brand W.I.F.E. Comma
. She helps women develop healthier lifestyle plans and with over 15,000 followers on her Instagram account alone, it’s work that is clearly resonating with her clients.
Jones’ work comes from her own personal experience. The businesswoman was raised in Southfield in a strict Christian household, and says life handed her some rude awakenings.
“It wasn't until I got married until life got real,” says Jones. “My bubble was burst. You grow up with it being all about getting married and having kids.”
Jones wanted to work in fashion and moved to New York City to pursue the dream, living in her car for months while she saved for an apartment, but she didn't feel fulfilled and had what she describes as an identity crisis.
“I was very naive and very green and that's not the safest space to also be in a toxic relationship,” she says.
After a divorce and a series of poor relationship decisions, Jones says she was ready to change her mindset and mental patterns. She moved back to Detroit and pursued a psychology degree, as a way of better understanding her choices.
“I really wanted to hack how I was wired,” Jones says. “I took an academic approach and started learning about the psychology.”
“I became obsessed.”
It wasn’t enough to unpack her own thought patterns though; Jones wanted to share her knowledge with others. So she started a blog, called W.I.F.E. Comma, an acronym for “womanhood in full empowerment” and discovered a calling.
“I wanted to help women understand how their mind works,” she says.
Her blog started as a side project while she was also doing youth advocacy work, but it led her to social entrepreneurship. Jones set out to inspire and coach women to “wife their life,” taking steps toward self-care and well-being while avoiding work and lifestyle burnout.
She expanded into coaching services and events, and she noticed her audience increasing quickly. Her blog grew from under 100 people following her to a network of thousands through social media and emails.
It was during this growth that she connected with Detroit’s Build Institute and learned about the term “triple bottom line” of planet, people, and profit. Becoming a businesswoman who could still follow her heart was important to Jones, and the accounting framework that incorporates social, environmental, and financial needs resonated with her.
“It helped me understand that I can have a company that profits, but still a heart that gives back,” Jones says. “That was a beautiful dance to have.”
That dance came to a rather abrupt stop when COVID-19 hit Michigan in March this year. Events were canceled and Jones’ in-person consultations were curtailed.
“It really put a halt to a lot of things,” Jones says.
Looking for an alternative way to connect with her clients, Jones developed the idea of releasing an album — titled "Affirmations for the Grownass Woman
". But she couldn’t do it without capital.
Jones’ contacts at Build pointed her towards a Kiva loan, a crowdfunding program with zero-interest loans for entrepreneurs, and she was able to raise a $10,000 loan to put the album together.
“I was able to create a music video, get studio time, and production time,” Jones says. “It costs a lot, music production and editing, mastering and engineering.”
After releasing the EP album of three 13-minute tracks, honoring the 313 telephone area code of Detroit, Jones realized she was onto something. She received responses from women not just here in Detroit, but all over the world.
“A lady in Barbados sent me a video of a ‘Wife Your Life’ oasis she created in her backyard,” Jones says. “It’s two tubs surrounded by greenery and she invites her friends to come and listen to my albums.”
“That right there is why I do this.”
The pandemic has, for Jones, highlighted the importance of her work supporting women’s confidence in themselves.
“Last year women were wearing it as another self-care accessory, but now it’s how women are surviving.”
Now, Jones wants to launch an official membership program for her clients, starting in January, and is working on a rebranding of her YouTube site at the moment. She sees a need and wants to fill it.
“We don't get a manual on how to be a human being," she says. "It’s a philosophy about committing to yourself.”
This is part of a series supported by LISC Detroit that chronicles Detroit small businesses’ journey in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.