This is precisely why Naj Austin decided to create Ethel's Club, a forthcoming Brooklyn-based private membership club and workspace for people of color. The Club already boasts high-profile investors such as Roxane Gay and, since getting started in January 2019, has a waitlist of over 4,000 people. Last week, when Austin opened up membership applications, demand flooded the site and crashed it within seven minutes—proof of how necessary a space like this is. Her response? Announce an in-person gathering to apply for membership in real life. The next day.
In an ever-gentrifying Brooklyn, carving out spaces for people of color—who represent a majority of the New York City—is not only necessary, it's overdue. Austin brought us along to work to give us a look at what a typical day for a young solo founder launching a social club in New York City can look like.
7:30 AM — Late July in Brooklyn is nice because the sun usually wakes me up before my alarm does. I wake up and brush my teeth while checking my emails. I’ve tried to not look at my phone first thing in the morning, but it’s a hard habit to break. After I shower, I do my cursory twitter scroll and get my news intake for the morning.
8:15 AM — I throw on joggers, an LCD Soundsystem tee and Nikes—my corporate outfit. I walk to our local coffee store with my boyfriend Patrick, and grab an iced coffee and walk to the train.
8:45 AM — The first location of Ethel's Club is only two stops from my apartment in East Williamsburg, but it’s hot, so onwards to the subway. As a quintessential millennial multi-tasker, I start answering emails on my walk over.
9:00 AM — I’m meeting our interior designer, Shannon, in the space and we’re finalizing some of the key items. Shannon arrives and we go over outstanding design choices, color palettes, fabric swatches, and re-measure a few areas. Our problem du jour is figuring out the best way to optimize outlets for our members and ways we can build delight throughout the customer experience. We came up with some pretty fun answers, so she gets to work on that, and I take a phone call with a potential hire.
11:00 AM — Our constructor arrives and we discuss a few custom pieces we are building for the space. After we chat, I leave them to measuring and go to grab lunch (Mediterranean wrap) before heading into my meetings in Manhattan.
12:00 PM — After lunch, I answer a few emails, help my web designer make some choices about iconography, and take a phone call with a photographer we’re working with to take photos for our new website. I confirm all information and details with our models and work on other production punch items like props and styling.
1:00 PM — I have a call with my real estate attorney and my broker—we’re signing our lease in a week! We finalize our asks for the landlord and talk about other permits and licenses we need to open this Fall.
1:30 PM — I head into Soho to meet with one of my angel investors to update them on our progress and to touch base mentally. As a solo founder, it’s been incredibly helpful to have investors who invest more than capital. Mine have been immensely helpful since day one and collaborating with them as we bring Ethel's Club to life has been exciting.
2:00 PM — I have two partnership calls, one for coffee and the other with a curator for the art that will be inside of the club. I usually take my calls while walking to my next meeting, but this one I’m able to take in a cafe.
3:30 PM — I head to another meeting with a potential investor and stop for my second latte of the day. This meeting takes about an hour and it goes really well! We leave on a positive note and I update my investor list with any notes from the meeting.
4:30 PM — I head back to Brooklyn and while waiting for the train, answering the emails I’ve missed from the past three hours.
5:00 PM — I prepare dinner (ricotta lemon pasta with a side salad) and update our investor presentation. The product and brand are always evolving, so I make sure to always incorporate and write down any new learnings.
6:00 PM — Patrick comes home, I put on a record (Stevie Wonder) and we sit down for dinner.
7:00 — Music and “light” working; we’re mostly in conversation. Patrick’s a strategist so I enjoy picking his brain about what we’re trying to accomplish at Ethel's Club, that day/week/month. He usually has great insight and he helps me refine some of the content for our new website.
9:30 PM — Netflix time. We’re on season seven of 'No Reservations.’ We usually watch an episode, add the city to our growing list of places we want to visit, and head to bed.
10:00 PM — Tonight I put on a face mask and read two articles I’ve had bookmarked for a few weeks. Then, bed!
What was it like keeping track of your day?
The past couple of days have been kind of nuts. It’s funny because I think I often forget how much I do in a day. At the end of the day I’m just tired and eat dinner and go to bed.
It’s interesting because when I opened my notes this morning I had to scroll like three times and was like, “oh, I did a lot.” Sometimes, it doesn’t feel like that. So that’s been really interesting to me. I’m curious to see if this is something I keep doing for a personal kind of thing.
How did this day compare to a normal or ideal day?
We were wrapping up a photo shoot so it was a little bit more involved in terms of being outside of my norm. Normally it’s more meetings, phone calls, or working on something product-wise. But this day we were on set with models while also doing everything else.
If you’re reading it, it looks a lot more all over the place: we’re at the shoot, then I had to go to the city for a meeting, come back, finish the shoot, talk to the photographers, pay the models, and all that. So it’s a bit of an outlier, but more or less par for the course.