By Ryan Velez
By all accounts, communications professional Natalie Dean is successful. She has over 10 years of experience in corporate crisis, multicultural, and educational public relations working with national and global entities. In her current role, she promotes national programs and trains local affiliates within the teachers’ union. However, she also has the flexibility to pursue her passion of helping women deal with the daily stresses of the professional world. Black Enterprise interviewed Dean about her successful nonprofit, Whine and Cheese, and how it came to be.
Dean’s inspiration for Whine and Cheese came in February of 2011, at a successful but busy time in her life. “I was under a lot of self-imposed and external stress. I was in a new position at a top PR agency, trying to make my mark in a new city. I was also in the process of purchasing my first home, all while pursuing an advanced degree. I was overwhelmed. In public, I was on, but at home, I was a total mess,” she shares. Confiding in her close friends, who were scattered around the country, helped her learn that she was not alone, but that in-person presence was something that she was missing. This idea would lead to Whine and Cheese.
Whine and Cheese offers several different programs to facilitate women coming together and sharing their issues and supporting each other, but Dean believes the greatest return on investment comes from Branch Membership Program. She describes this as a program where “women come together, at least every other month, to support one another as they whine about life’s challenges and cheese—or smile—about the blessings that life offers.”
Other options include the Relax Relate Retreat, a two-day retreat where women can take the time to refresh themselves both bodily and mentally. A new option started in February is the “Uncorked Speaker” series, where a featured speaker shares advice on topics of interest in a 30-minute discussion. It hasn’t always been easy to convince high-powered women that self-care is an important thing to keep on top of, Dean says.
“I stress the importance of self-care, a concept many of us associate with a pamper day at the spa, which is a luxury activity that takes both time and money away from other urgencies. But, as we constantly give our time and energy to other people and projects, we empty our tank at a faster rate than we can fill it.” There are 25 branches of Whine and Cheese currently across the country.