Interview by Kennedy Williams
Photos by Issey Kobori
Sometimes the Universe aligns and places the right people in your life at the right moment, even if it’s to just have a brief interview. The common threads kept uncovering themselves as I spoke with Trinity Mouzon Wofford, founder of GOLDE Turmeric, a wellness collective with blends that focus on the healing properties of turmeric, a yellow hued spice from the ginger family.
I knew Trinity and I were on the same frequency from the moment I found GOLDE’s beautifully curated Instagram page. There’s something so warm and inviting about Wofford’s spirit and GOLDE is just the same. Lean in close as we discuss finding comfort and clarity during moments of transition, the infinite magic of black mothers, and navigating the evolving landscape of the holistic wellness and beauty industries.
Kennedy: When did the idea of starting GOLDE and becoming an entrepreneur first cross your mind?
Trinity: I’ve always had an interest in wellness and also entrepreneurship. I was raised in Upstate New York by a quasi-coven of women of color: my mother, my aunt, and my grandmother.
Kennedy: I love that!
Trinity: They were all so ahead of their time in being passionate about a holistic lifestyle and understanding of what plants can do for you. My mom and aunt actually owned a store together in town that had all sorts of different organic goods. As a toddler, I’d be running around the store and showing customers around. So, I’m not sure if entrepreneurship was something that was innate or something that was taught to me at such a young age. From there, I kind of kept up the interest in wellness and beauty and the connection between the two.
Kennedy: I’m someone who was also raised in this really safe space of black womanhood and resilient black womanhood. I was raised by a single mother. My grandmother is also really active in my life. I’m wondering if you could speak to sisterhood and black womanhood and your experience with that.
Trinity: That’s so important to me! I think on so many different levels, too. I was raised by a single mother as well, and for me that’s the most important bond in my life. There’s just nothing else that can touch that. My mom inspires pretty much everything that I do. From her shop being the inspiration for GOLDE to just the amount she was willing to sacrifice.
Upstate New York, as you can imagine, is not a really diverse place. So a lot of times it was kinda me and my mom, these two brown, creative women in a very white, buttoned up world. And I felt like she was my biggest mentor and role model. I think that in a lot of ways that went both ways, too. When I went off to NYU, she wouldn’t let me take out any loans and she spent pretty much every penny that she had. She sold her house to send me to college. I live with that decision she made every single day. I think that those decisions she made have been what propelled me to be an entrepreneur and start a business at 23. I don’t think that I would’ve had the guts to do it! That sisterhood and the relationship that I see between her and her sister, who passed away when I was younger, seeing the interactions between those relationships, to me, that is the closest thing to magic.
Kennedy: For sure! Thank you for sharing that. It’s a little scary how similar our stories are. Same as you, I didn’t take out any loans for NYU. My mom has paid for every dime of it. And, as you grow older, you realize that your parents are human and they’re not these perfect figures. They have these brilliant moments of being superheroes and exuding black girl magic that make you realize what love is and how far you should go for that.
Trinity: That just gave me chills. It’s something else. One of my biggest dreams is to be a mom just so I can hopefully be like half as good as she was.
Trinity: I can’t wrap my head around it.
Kennedy: Earlier you spoke a little bit about NYU. Why NYU?
Trinity: It’s funny. I actually was totally dead-set on moving to Southern California. I had everything planned out. I applied to like ten different schools on the West Coast. And I ended up applying to NYU because of my dad who lives in New Jersey. He was very upset about the concept of me moving across the country! [laughs]
Kennedy: Yeah, I can imagine. [laughs]
Trinity: We didn’t get to see each other that much as it was, so I applied to NYU to kind of throw him a bone. It’s hard to put yourself back into those situations and figure out exactly what the pieces were, because you don’t really even know what’s exactly going on in your own head at eighteen years old. I kind of fell into NYU. It wasn’t something that I totally thought out. It did, however, end up being the best decision that I personally could have made. I came from a really white environment with not a lot of diversity – as far as creativity or anything like that. It was always like ‘okay, you can go off to the CUNY state schools and then become a teacher or a lawyer or doctor if you’re really smart.’ There weren’t a lot of paths for someone like me who was raised in a more of a creative environment. Coming to NYU was my first opportunity to meet people from so many different countries, hear all these different languages. To see not only black people, but also people from so many different countries.
Kennedy: Absolutely! So you start GOLDE. What are some of the first steps you take?
Trinity: Once I knew that I was going to start this business, I knew that my boyfriend Issey was going to be my partner. He was indispensable in figuring out what the recipe was going to be and figuring out what our design was going to be. We were really lucky in that Issey’s parents run a candle company based in Upstate New York. They were an incredible resource! There are so many little steps that are really frustrating and scary when you’re starting a business. Do you want to be an LLC or do you want to incorporate? What are the tax differences for all of those things?
Kennedy: My head is spinning.
Trinity: Right! [laughs] Those are some of the scariest things and some of the reasons why it’s so hard to start. For anyone that is starting a business, the best piece of advice that I can think of is to talk to someone who has a business that you admire. Just get that baseline down of not even the fun stuff, because you can figure that out later. How do you set up payroll? When do you set up payroll? What sort of things you have to have legally written on your packaging. It’s not written down in a book somewhere. You just have to talk to other entrepreneurs.
Kennedy: I think that’s really important. Especially now because businesses are popping up all over the place! Instagram really helped with that! You can’t scroll down your feed without seeing some really random business!
Kennedy: You have to applaud people’s creativity and efforts to get their work out there but you also have to think about all of the behind the scenes work that people don’t talk about! It’s scary to kinda jump into something and not know.
Trinity: You have to be in the Excel spreadsheet constantly. And, if you don’t want to be, you have to have someone else on your team that wants to be. There’s so many different questions. Are you going to be selling to stores or entirely direct to the consumer? That’s a whole other thing that maybe I’ll write a book on one day! [laughs]
Kennedy: You definitely should! You’ve sold one copy already. [laughs]
Kennedy: What are some hurdles or struggles you’ve had to overcome?
Trinity: One of the things that I’ve found most challenging is taking the business from being something that you do on the side to being full time. I think there are some people out there that are lucky enough to be in the workforce for longer and have some savings to fall back on or have family to support [them] during that time. But it’s a really big jump from spending 10-15 hours a week on it and letting your day job pay the bills to it being your baby and you’re trying to pull money out of it. That’s a scary moment that I’m still in the process of adjusting to.
Kennedy: And you’re still really young! That always adds another layer of worry and ‘Should I be doing this? Is this the right thing? Do I know enough at the moment?’
Trinity: Yes! There’s so much self-doubt. I’ll just spiral. I’ll go from ‘I don’t like the color of this’ to ‘this whole thing is wrong. The whole company is wrong. My whole life is wrong.’ It’s really easy to do that. You have to have enough self-awareness to know when you’re doing it and not let yourself ride that wave of self-pity. It can be destructive.
Kennedy Why turmeric for GOLDE?
Trinity: Like all things, it comes back to my mom.
Kennedy: Of course!
Trinity: My mom has actually been suffering from a condition called Rheumatoid Arthritis–
Kennedy: Trinity! I’m so sorry to interrupt you but I have Rheumatoid Arthritis!
Trinity: What! Oh my goodness!
Kennedy: I was diagnosed when I was 11. I’m sorry! I just had to let you know.
Trinity: No, no, no. More similarities! So you know what that looks like! My mom doesn’t have it in the way that it popped up when she was really young. For her, it didn’t start until her sister passed away. It’s just such a great example of that connection between body and mind.
Trinity: She’s been dealing with it for all of my life that I can really remember. She’s been placed on every drug. She’s had to get really intense surgeries. All of those drugs that they put in your body are so damaging! They had her on the steroids and they have so many nasty side effects. She started taking turmeric and noticed a really big difference. That’s when I woke up to it. I have memories of being in the school musical and you know any mom, but especially a single mom, would be front row in the audience!
Kennedy: Absolutely! They wouldn’t miss it.
Trinity: And she couldn’t go. She had to stay in bed and take care of herself. To hear her say ‘I’m feeling a lot better!’ I was like ‘I need to look into this, this is powerful!’ So, from there, I started doing a bit more research on it and learning how anti-inflammatory turmeric is and how it has health benefits across the board. For me, I find that it’s really great for my immune system. It’s great for your skin. It’s great for your bones. It’s good for your digestive tract. It can help with allergies. It re-balances anything in your body that’s inflamed.
It’s funny though, when we first started thinking about turmeric it wasn’t trendy like it is right now. It was really interesting to see the wave surge over the past year as we were building. It’s such a powerful plant and it’s used by so many different people. It’s most popular in Ayurvedic medicine, which is an ancient Indian tradition, but it’s really all over Asia and it’s spread so far at this point. My partner, Issey, is from Japan and he knows of turmeric as something people take not to get hangovers.
Kennedy: Who knew?
Trinity: It’s crazy! [laughs] But it’s cool to engage with something that has such a long history and has so many benefits across cultures.
Kennedy: Right! And there is a personal history for you. Just to go back a little bit, I actually found GOLDE when I was researching turmeric!
Kennedy: Yeah! I picked some turmeric up from Whole Foods one day started putting it in tea or smoothies every morning and I was like ‘there has to be an indie brand that I can buy from!’ and GOLDE popped up. It’s definitely helped me. I can relate to your mom’s story in that I have flare ups when I’m stressed, so navigating school and trying to stay healthy is always a challenge. Arthritis really puts a wrench in all of your plans. It really has an effect on your emotional health, also, when you can’t do the things that you used to do and live your life in the best way.
Kennedy: I’m wondering about the ethos of GOLDE. How would you define it?
Trinity: We thought a lot about this! When we launched GOLDE we were looking at the wellness landscape and there was a transition in the last 15 years or so from wellness as a health food store and granola thing to a luxury item. All of a sudden it’s about joining the gym that costs $200 a month or having the $12 smoothie every morning. In that world, wellness had become an extension of having a great purse. I like luxury. I think it’s fun and it’s indulgent. But there’s something that feels a little weird about health, especially when it’s about something as simple as plants that are growing out of the ground, being out of reach for most people. When we built GOLDE, we knew that we were building an organic premium product so we couldn’t give it away, but I wanted it to be something people could build into their routine. The idea for it was to be acceptable, creative, and fun. We put that into the pricing, the voice, and definitely the design. We created a product that can be used for about $20 a month.
At the same time, from a design perspective, wellness had gone in that luxury direction [and] we were seeing a lot of hyper-minimalist design. It was actually really fun to create the packaging! It is directly inspired by the turmeric plant. The plant is beautiful and most people haven’t seen it. It’s in the ginger family. You have the orange root growing under the earth but the plant itself, which is native to tropical regions, is this beautiful plant with these dark green, waxy leaves and bright pink flowers. We wanted to make something that was fun and that people wanted to try. Nothing that was hyper-luxe.
Kennedy: I think you’re really successful in that. I think your values are communicated clearly and in an attractive way. You touched on this while talking about your mom and growing up in Upstate New York, but what does self care look like for you?
Trinity: It’s so different for every person. Ultimately, the goal of self care is really just anything you can do that makes you breathe a little bit easier throughout the day. For me, that’s definitely moving my body. I’m not a gym rat. But I do know that if I don’t make a point to stretch in the morning and do some cardio a few times a week I feel anxious, I’m irritable, and I don’t feel good. I don’t create as well. Even things as simple as creating wellness rituals. Stretching in the morning is a big one. I’m a morning person!
Trinity: Are you one too?
Kennedy: No, not at all! I wish I was. I really admire y’all. [laughs] I think it’s beautiful that you can get up in the morning and be ready for the day but it’s just not me.
Trinity: [laughs] It’s kind of about the time frame. I know that in the late afternoon or evening I’m not going to get anything done. I make sure that I’m up and working as soon as I wake up because that’s when everything is fresh for me.
Kennedy: That’s just another way of knowing yourself.
Trinity: Having those things you come back to every day is grounding.
Kennedy: What are your thoughts on the natural and holistic landscape – especially as it relates to black women?
Trinity: I think that we have a long way to go. I’m really excited to see that wellness is being embraced by communities of color more. However, one thing that is always challenging is that a lot of these beauty and wellness spaces don’t have any women of color at the forefront. That means that in industries like natural beauty, if you’re not looking at a line that’s designed specifically for women of color, women of color are usually at best an afterthought. I think there’s still a really long way to come as far as integrating black women into the conversation around health and wellness. Ultimately, the solution to that – which come around time and time again – is that you have to build it yourself.
Kennedy: We always have! We’ve always been doing things on our own. People haven’t always noticed but that’s our thing.
Trinity: Yeah! Unfortunately, no one can tell your story and include you the way you want to be included. That’s a piece I’m most excited about with building GOLDE: inspiring more women of color to participate in health and wellness.
Kennedy: For many people, something that goes along with health and wellness is spirituality, whether that’s finding clarity and balance with crystals or practicing ancient forms of healing. How do you interact with that?
Trinity: I remember growing up people would always say that my house was the one that smelled like incense and sage. I’m really familiar with that. It’s funny now to see those things coming back as mainstream, because it was always some funky stuff my mom was doing in the house that I thought kinda smelled bad when I was little. But now, seeing it from the perspective from someone who’s in the health and wellness industry, I’m definitely into it. I keep some crystals in my house. I have some rose quartz. I’m always reading up on astrology and getting into how a full moon might affect you and if it’s a good time to be creative. I’m still definitely an amateur in that space, but I’m really open to it and excited about it because it all comes back to that body and mind connection. It’s about finding that peace with yourself and letting that radiate through you.
Kennedy: What are some of your cultural references? What does your cultural diet look like?
Trinity: I am a huge consumer of content, especially in wellness and beauty and fashion blogs. I follow along with the big, mainstream names. But still, the issue that I see with a lot of these editorial teams with these magazines is that generally they’re 100% white. It comes through in the voice and the content. I think some progress is being made and I see a lot of these big names getting guest features. They’ll do an article on natural hair or something, but it’s really just a little blip. As a person of color, I’m still looking for content that resonates across the board.
Kennedy: Absolutely! We need more reflections of ourselves. What are you reading at the moment?
Trinity: I read a lot of work from female authors. One of my favorites is Joan Didion. One of my favorite books is The Year of Magical Thinking from her. She tells the story of the year after her husband passes away. The level of reflection that she’s able to receive is awe inspiring. You can’t stop reading it. One book that I keep recommending is Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. Have you read it?
Trinity: Okay, so now I’ll recommend it to you. It’s a book that starts with two sisters in Africa as the slave trade is just beginning. The story is that one of the sister's family line stays in Africa and the other sister ends up in America going through slavery. So, it shows you scenes from each generation and tells the story from the very start of the slave trade to modern day. I’ve never learned so much in one book about my own history. It’s remarkable. That’s a really beautiful one.