Helping Others Leads to Growing Business for Alumna
By Eric Breier
Mental health has always been important to Antoinette Chanel, but it has taken on a deeper meaning for her over the past 18 months.
“Getting a handle on my anxiety and my depression is something that has been big for me,” said Chanel, who graduated from Cal State San Marcos in 2006 with a bachelor’s in literature and writing studies. “And during the pandemic, I found myself sort of coaching people through how to prevent panic attacks and how to find motivation when you've lost it.”
Little did Chanel know at the time that helping her friends would lead to a burgeoning business.
Chanel is the author of two children’s books, with a third anticipated for 2022. But her penchant for helping others struggling with their mental health led to another outlet for her writing as the advice she was giving her friends evolved into shorter affirmations to inspire others.
“I just sort of played with the idea of putting these affirmations on canvases and seeing if people want to put them in places,” Chanel said. “And, oh my gosh, did that take off.”
The idea for the affirmations grew organically from text conversations she was having with close friends. When a friend who is a nurse practitioner expressed a desire also to try something else, Chanel asked what was keeping her from doing it. The friend responded that she felt like she couldn’t switch lanes.
“I said, ‘Why not? Don’t you use the whole road when you drive?’ ” Chanel said.
That was the genesis for what has become Chanel’s most popular affirmation: “Don’t stay in your lane. Use the whole road.”
Chanel had been posting the affirmations on her Instagram account (msantoinettechanel), but in April she decided to try putting them on something more tangible. Within six weeks, she had canvases with the affirmations for sale on her website.
The affirmations are just another form of writing for Chanel, who continues to work on self-publishing books. She anticipates releasing her next children’s book, “Selfless,” in 2022. She also has an affirmation book, “Connecting the Dots,” that she expects to be available on Amazon soon. She describes it as a coloring book hybrid for adults.
“The idea behind that book is that if you are stressed out, if you're overwhelmed, if you are just tired or anxious, you can pick it up and there's plenty for you to do in there,” she said. “You can read something if you want to. You can color something if you want to. And there’s also going to be space for people to draw if they want to.”
While Chanel continues to work on her books, she is simultaneously aiming to grow her affirmation merchandise business. And, while she is grateful for the quick success of the business, she is even happier to be making a positive impact.
“Mental health is so important for everyone,” she said. “But specifically in communities of color, this work still needs to get done as far as spreading the message that it's OK to reach out to a therapist. It's OK if you're having a bad day. It's OK to be overwhelmed and to feel sad.”
Eric Breier, Public Affairs Specialist
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