Meet Andrea Fenise, a driven and humble creative powerhouse making her mark in the lifestyle and wellness industry. With a passion for storytelling and a commitment to rediscovering traditional rituals, Andrea is the visionary behind “In Search of Our Garden,” an apothecary and resource hub catering to women of color seeking to enrich their lives through ancient practices. In this exclusive interview, Andrea shares her inspiring journey, insights into raising a talented teen daughter and an autistic son, the transformative power of running, and her unstoppable commitment to personal and professional growth.
What sparked your journey into launching In Search of Our Garden?
In Search of Our Garden was birthed during a very self-reflective growth journey to hastily discover the woman I have always dreamed of becoming and who I found myself being guided towards. I had several dreams where my great-grandmother was preparing herbs, or I was entering impeccable homes of black women that I admired growing up.
My intuition led me to In Search of Our Garden where I used knowledge from a past career alongside a new career as a social entrepreneur. I knew there was a need to redefine modern living but also root myself in the traditions of the women before me and their ways. Those ways gave life and a new meaning to what it means to live creatively and well. Inspired by Alice Walker’s In Search of Our Mother’s Garden and honing in on the dire need for us to work with creative reclamation and restoration as black women- In Search of Our Garden bloomed.
Could you give us a glimpse into your life raising a talented teen daughter and a bilingual autistic son? What unique insights have you gained on this journey?
Each day is unique. Some days are challenging. Some days, I think about how blessed I am to know that I was chosen to be their mother and guide them. I learn so much from my children, especially with them at different stages of life.
Amira is very talented and creative. She’s a teenager, so she’s vocal, which is great. I raise her to express herself and to be confident in her decisions. That makes a very brave woman. I also know it is very important that she learns basic skillsets and just overall life lessons so she can do life well on her own. So with her at this stage, it is all about exposing her to as much as possible to see where she lands.
Jasiel is such a blessing. Autism is a superpower. I feel grateful to witness just how unique autism is. My life has totally changed. I prioritize helping him be the best he can be in the normal world. I also get a front seat into a little brilliant creative mind. There is so much I’ve watched him do and emulate into my own creative practice. His attention to detail at 4 is unmatched.
The biggest lesson I have learned raising a talented teen and bilingual autistic child is that we don’t own our children. Our children are gifts to us. They come here with their unique magic. I have learned that as their mother, it is my responsibility to help them tap into their magic and purpose.
Running seems like an integral part of your dynamic lifestyle. How does it help you find balance, and what are some fantastic jogging spots in Memphis?
It really is. I’ve been a runner since my freshman year of college, a long time ago. Running is therapy for me. It is the only pocket of time where I get to be alone and present. I get an uninterrupted 1:30 or so to pause and take care of my physical and mental health. I’m obligated to two little humans every day. That’s a lot. Running gives me time to see that I am still taking up space for myself.
Oh, favorite places in Memphis to run?? I am for sure a roadrunner. I love running Downtown. I go different routes to explore and take in the view. The Mississippi River is the backdrop to downtown. So, you get this beautiful view of the water, downtown architecture, unique people, and the smell of barbecue. I also love running at Shelby Farms too. It is a beautiful nature trail with gorgeous views as well as animals, which is why I love it so much!
If you could lace up and run anywhere in the world, where would your dream location be, and why?
My dream location would be Kenya. I feel it would be so magical to run along with Kenyan runners without any music, just the rhythm of feet hitting the pavement like drums. Oh my God, that would be amazing.
When it comes to pounding the pavement, which shoe is your go-to choice?
Now, good running shoes have been so hard to find. I have had the hardest time finding the right shoe. Right now, I’m running in HOKAs. They are popular and have been great so far. I still haven’t found the perfect shoe for my stride and gait. That’s still a work in progress.
Share with us how you fuel your body before and after a run.
Listen, before every single run, I’m always mentally marking what mile I will take a quick breather, lol. Then, I’ll finish a run, and honey didn’t take one break. I always feel tired at the beginning because I run in the evenings. But, after that run, I feel like Tasha the Tiger. Accomplished.
Your running playlist must be quite the jam! What tracks get you moving?
Depends on who I am on that run. Sometimes, I’m feeling spicy, and I’ll listen to Cuban Salsa or City Girls playlist. I may be feeling real Memphis and listen to a Yo Gotti playlist. Other times, I may need to slow down and zen out during a run, so I listen to a mindful running playlist on Spotify. It just depends on the pace and tempo I want to run.
Staying motivated in a rapidly changing world can be a challenge. How do you manage to find joy and keep pushing forward?
It seemed like at the beginning of my 30s, life got in a corner with all the obstacles possible and was like “Fire them at her. Let’s see if she folds.” Every time I looked up, I was grieving something– a past life, my father, unborn children, promise of a happily ever after-something. I wasn’t always happy but I had joy. Come on somebody!
I find joy in knowing that I am being guided. Joy is always there because I have gotten through the last test even better than how I came in it. I got through it. So I can get through another. Small things to a giant babe!
I keep pushing forward because when you go through as much as I have, you know you are being used to show other women that when life gets hard, you gotta get stronger.
Your support network is invaluable. How have they influenced your personal and professional growth?
My network is amazing. Sometimes, I take a step back in glean with so much appreciation for the people and relationships that I have nurtured and cultivated. My network is so diverse. I love that for me, for us. I live so much of my work that personal and professional growth is a reflection of the people I have supporting me and lifting me up. They help me to be grounded, creative, kind, cultured, bilingual, and focused. And honestly, accomplish so many of my goals.
The words “PRETTY GIRLS SWEAT” hold significance for us. What do they mean to you?
For me, besides being a pretty girl of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. (Skee Wee), it holds great significance. It means that women are committed to honoring their temple. We aren’t afraid to do the necessary work to stay healthy.
What’s on the horizon for you? And how can fellow sweat sisters stay connected to your journey?
I am 1000% committed to seeing every detail of the vision for In Search of Our Garden as a community lifestyle brand. From relaunching the crowdfunding campaign to rebuild my Big Mama’s house as a community house, opening the herbal farm to the community, continuing our youth programming, and creating more content. I am also working on a book, a resource for Black women to reconnect with the ways of the women before us. Of course, motherhood, homeschooling Jasiel, and running the St. Jude Marathon.
Andrea Fenise’s story is a testament to the strength of embracing one’s roots and carving a unique path toward growth and empowerment. From launching “In Search of Our Garden” to restoring community homes and nurturing a vibrant support network, Andrea’s dedication shines through. As she continues to create, inspire, and uplift, you can stay connected to her journey through her website, Instagram accounts (@insearchofourgarden and @andreafenise), and upcoming projects that reflect her unwavering commitment to wellness, creativity, and community.