Women In Wellness: Penelope McCown Of Cocoa Baby Love On The Five Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Help Support People’s Journey Towards Better Wellbeing
An Interview With Candice Georgiadis
Self-Care — There has been a much greater focus on self-care. Women in particular focus so much on other people that we forget ourselves! Those days have passed. We must put ourselves first. Every day we must find the time to take care of ourselves, no matter how small. It is critically important.
As a part of my series about women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Penelope McCown.
Penelope McCown, a board-certified family nurse practitioner, originally from The Bronx, NY, relocated to Augusta, Ga at 4 years old. A dedicated wife, and mother to her miracle daughter Priya, and noted to be Penelope’s main brand inspiration for Cocoa Baby Love. Cocoa Baby Love LLC is a high-end, luxury brand of infant and toddler products and apparel dedicated to the celebration of children.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
I am a mother, a wife, and an Infertility Advocate. I was inspired to have a large family as I grew up like an only child. My husband and I got married in 2013 with the intention of conceiving the following year without question. However, we were continually given negative pregnancy tests. We were devastated. I ended up completing multiple rounds of fertility medications, along with trying multiple fertility teas, supplements, herbal medications, other therapies, and farfetched modalities that I had heard worked for one person or another. However, we were still unsuccessful. We eventually decided to seek treatment after a lot of convincing by my gynecologists. After discussing treatment options with our doctor, it was decided that in vitro fertilization, also known as IVF, would be the best treatment for me. With endless tests of poking and prodding, I was eventually diagnosed with unexplained infertility, which simply means there’s no explanation as to why I can’t conceive. From there my journey was filled with countless ups and downs. After 3 rounds of IVF, including a failed round and a devastating 2nd-trimester miscarriage, we were blessed in the most wonderful way with our daughter. My fight against infertility and my journey to motherhood eventually inspired my brand, Cocoa Baby Love, and inspired me to become an infertility advocate.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?
The most interesting thing that has happened to me since the beginning of my career as a CEO and entrepreneur is that I was contacted by a producer of a show that I was a fan of. Although my product line was still new, I was honored and excited that it caught the eye of someone who showcases entrepreneurs. They felt that my brand had star power. It was an amazing feeling. That’s when I realized you never know who you influenced or inspired.
Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
The biggest mistake I made, in the beginning, was working with a manufacturer of products that I didn’t feel right about in the first place. Ultimately, the product was not satisfactory to me. I eventually lost money because I refused to sell or associate with a product that is not of the best quality, especially since I have a luxury brand. My lesson is that you must always rely on your intuition. It never leads you astray. In addition, don’t ever try to force anything, particularly business relationships. If it doesn’t seem right, let it go. Even that means a clean slate. In the end, I carried on.
Let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?
One in eight couples suffer from infertility. Which means it’s very common. However, within the African American community, there are stigmas and misconceptions surrounding infertility. Infertility is regarded as taboo and seldom openly discussed in the community, resulting in many African American women to suffer in silence. African American women tend to be shamed for infertility or even to seek treatment for it. Many feel isolated, deepening feelings of despair, leading to depression and mental health issues. It impacts not only the person who is suffering, but their partner, their family, and ultimately their community. Infertility is a major problem, to put it mildly.
I strive to raise awareness of infertility and to educate as many people as possible. The more people are aware of it, the less taboo it will be. Women will not be humiliated; they will feel free to seek treatment, they will feel dignified, and their mental health will be improved.
I have an online series called “Pieces of Penelope” where I not only share my infertility journey, but I bring on guests with varying experiences involving infertility to share their stories. I also go to other platforms to speak and share my story, all to bring awareness. This is how is am making a bigger impact on the world.
Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.
- Healthy Eating — We should all make healthy food choices, but obesity is a factor in infertility. The healthier we eat, the less likely we are to be obese. Therefore, improving our chances of infertility and being healthier overall.
- Exercise — As stated, obesity is a factor in infertility. Exercising at least 30 minutes a day 4–5 days a week will help in weight management. Also, exercise serves as an excellent form of stress relief and self-care. Both of which are imperative in getting through the infertility process and daily life.
- Smoking cessation — Smoking is also a risk factor for infertility. But smoking cessation for all is important.
- Self-Care — There has been a much greater focus on self-care. Women in particular focus so much on other people that we forget ourselves! Those days have passed. We must put ourselves first. Every day we must find the time to take care of ourselves, no matter how small. It is critically important.
- Mental Health — I believe that mental health is every bit as important as physical health. Not only does it affect our physical health, but it also affects every aspect of our lives. I even believe in regular mental health counseling, even when things are going well!
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?
That would be exactly what I am doing now: to create a movement to educate and bring awareness to various aspects of infertility. Infertility has implications not only for physical health but also for mental, spiritual, and financial health.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
- Plan for success to take longer than expected — While it may appear that some people reach the top instantly, for the most part, it takes time.
- Expect to spend more than anticipated — As a new player, you are not aware of all unexpected expenses that may occur along the way.
- Find a mentor at the beginning — When you’re just getting started, you need advice. I thought I could get through this on my own, but everyone needs that person to call for that priceless little advice.
- Expect to work harder and longer than you intended. I expected to work extremely hard to be successful, but then you must multiply that by 10. Get ready to give everything and give more!
- Prepare for others not to fully understand — while family and friends love and support you, they might not always understand your vision. If you believe in it and trust that you can achieve it, that’s all that matters.
Sustainability, veganism, mental health, and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?
Mental health is most certainly dearest to me. I am relieved that mental health is a major topic right now. For generations, mental health has been ignored, which has caused the demise of many. Mental health IS health. Depression and anxiety are real issues. The current mental state of people will have a strong impact on our society, especially with all the tragedies that occur so frequently. Emphasizing mental health will really help our society.
What is the best way for our readers to further follow your work online?
You can follow me on Facebook and Instagram at IamPenelopeMcCown. For my product line, Cocoa Baby Love, please visit www.CocoaBabyLove.com
Thank you for these fantastic insights! We wish you continued success and good health.
Women In Wellness: Penelope McCown Of Cocoa Baby Love On The Five Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Help… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.