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At birth, Katara McCarty was placed in foster care after her biological mother abandoned her at the hospital. At one year old, she was adopted by a Black, gay woman in 1972, and raised by her and her grandmother. Then at 19, she became a single mom. By 20, she was an entrepreneur.
McCarty is biologically biracial, and growing up in the 1970s and 80s, she didn’t see very many little girls that looked like her. So, she reflected on her childhood and used her entrepreneurial spirit to write a children’s book about her experience called Pretty Girl.
“I felt really different,” she says. “I wanted to write a book specifically to little girls that felt the same way, like they didn’t fit in or felt different. I wanted to let them know that being pretty is about what’s on the inside of you, not necessarily outside, and also how to love yourself fully.”
In addition to writing a children’s book, McCarty is the founder of Exhale App, which is an emotional well-being app designed specifically for Black, indigenous, and women of color to navigate and reduce the impact and effects of systemic racism. A true entrepreneur at heart, she’s also the founder and CEO of Katecha Corp, “a technology corporation cultivating well-being resources for Black, indigenous, people of color.”
We snagged some time with McCarty and learned what it means to have a brave space, how she stayed positive during tough times, and what three items she can’t leave home without.
Maven superpower: Something that people say about me is that I carry a wealth of wisdom and I give really good advice.
You became an entrepreneur at 20. Did you always want to go down that career path?
When I was in my early 20s, I tried working in a company and it just wasn’t a good fit. So, I became an entrepreneur as a single mom. I just knew that I didn’t want to work for anybody. I wanted to work for myself. So, I became a nail technician and went into the beauty industry, and did that for about 12 years, and then went into the nonprofit world. Two years ago I was able to find my biological father and found out that on my dad’s side of the family are all entrepreneurs. I think it’s in my DNA.
What inspired you to share your story with the world?
I started being asked about my journey and story, so that’s why I started sharing. The more I shared, the more I realized how many people my story resonated with. I used to feel nervous but not anymore. I realized that when I’m vulnerable it gives other people permission to be vulnerable. It’s empowering for people to see others being vulnerable.
Tell us about your app, Exhale.
Exhale App is an emotional well-being app designed specifically for Black, indigenous, and women of color (BIWOC) to navigate and reduce the impact and effects of systemic racism.
I was inspired to create Exhale App out of the trauma my community was facing last spring and summer. COVID-19 and the killings of Ahmaud, Breonna, George, and others brought a level of stress, anxiety, and trauma to my community that was overwhelming, and seeing these deaths play out in our news feeds was extremely traumatic. As I was reaching for mindfulness apps that I use to manage my stress and anxiety, I realized that they were out of step and out of touch with where I was as a Black woman and where my community was during that time.
These apps were not addressing the uniqueness of our anxiety and trauma brought on by systemic racism. So, I began my research and quickly realized that while there are 20,000 mental health apps in the market, there weren’t any that were specifically designed to support BIWOC in navigating and reducing the impact and effects that systemic racism has.
You launched Exhale as a brave space. What do brave spaces look like—and how are you cultivating these spaces?
So, last year when the Black community was being impacted disproportionately, I felt a lot of grief. I was asking myself, “How can I show up for my community in a way that was helpful?” So, I got the idea to create an emotional wellbeing app. The idea is that all of the resources in the app partner with Black women and women of color, and help them reduce the effects and the systemic racism, and systems of oppression have on our mental health, and our emotional well being. So, that is specifically how I’m creating brave spaces.
It’s an emotional wellbeing app where we can go to and trust that we’re going to be fully seen in the space that it is a brave space for us to heal, that our oppression is acknowledged and not ignored. And that’s been my focus. This last year is just pouring my energy and efforts into Exhale, my app to create those brave spaces.
Where do you draw a lot of inspiration and strength from?
I draw my inspiration and strength from my grandmother and mother who raised me. These women opened up their home to me as a baby who had no family and no home. They are both amazing women who taught me so much about how to show up for my community.
What would you tell your 19-year-old self?
That you are enough and you’ve always been enough.
What would you like to be known for?
Uplifting and serving my community, the Black community, and inspiring my daughters to be who they are unapologetically.
What’s your go-to cocktail?
Oh my gosh, margarita. A good margarita.
Name three items you can’t leave home without.
I need my glasses. Definitely my phone. I like to have my phone just in case my mom needs me or my daughters need to get a hold of me. And the other thing is a fanny pack. I fasten it around my waist and don’t have to worry about anything in my hands.