Kenné Johnson-Scianna remembers not knowing how to take care of her skin at an early age. It wasn’t until she was hired by Lush that she learned personalized self-care. After seeing the rise of small businesses during the pandemic, she wanted to share that knowledge with others.
“When you don’t know how to take care of yourself, it’s hard to look outside of yourself and take care of things,” said Johnson-Scianna.
These “things” she refers to are community, sustainability, and self care — all of which can be found at her new store, Terra & Self, on Pacific Avenue in downtown Santa Cruz.
The name of her shop captures how we can build a community of self love through self-care. ‘Terra’ means Earth in Latin, and ‘Self’ refers to being committed to personal wellness, ideas Johnson-Scianna feels strongly about connecting.
She believes that others should feel responsible to care for the Earth just as it cares for us. Self-care is not only a step towards bettering oneself, but also bettering the world. Johnson-Scianna takes care of the Earth by hand-making all of her products in the Santa Cruz mountains in small batches to prevent overconsumption. She also makes the products in small batches and packages them in glass jars to support sustainability.
Her main focus this year is people, and how to care for them. She does this in part by donating 10 percent of the store’s profits to organizations that help individuals in need. She was inspired by working at her mother’s nonprofit, Women of Noble Character in Victorville, which aids the houseless community.
So far, her donations have gone to the Santa Cruz County Disaster Fund, Homeless Garden Project, Community Bridges, as well as her mother’s non-profit. It’s important for Johnson-Scianna to give back, both here in Santa Cruz and in the community that raised her.
By being an all-women co-op, Terra & Self and its products foster community. Outside of Johnson-Scianna’s lip scrubs, body oils, and natural deodorants, there are a multitude of vendors that meet other needs, such as jewelry, baby toys, incense, and stickers.
With help from the Downtown Pops! program, Johnson-Scianna was able to secure a retail space until the end of May. After her lease ends, she will move to a permanent storefront on Soquel and Ocean.
Downtown Pops! is a city pilot program created to assist business owners, both new and established, who want a physical location on Pacific Avenue. Property owners sub-lease their spaces for a six-month term. Preference is given to women, people of color, and local business owners.
Open since Feb. 26, Terra & Self held its grand opening event on Sunday, March 5. This featured a ribbon cutting, wine, and attendance by the shop vendors. This was an opportunity to not only get the word out, but also to foster community.
People of all ages and backgrounds came into Terra & Self, enticed by the sweet smells and inviting environment.
Local high schooler Meena Belacroix was drawn in by the store’s atmosphere.
“It’s comforting knowing that there’s business in Santa Cruz that is led by women,” Belacroix said. “It’s inspiring.”
Council member and former Mayor Sonja Brunner attended the event and said that businesses like Johnson-Scianna’s are exactly why the Downtown Pops! program was created in the first place: to allow women and underrepresented people to have space to create communities in their own light. Brunner was very impressed with the event’s turnout and found that the bold, white lettering on the window, “Black Owned Women Owned,” was especially eye-catching.
“Historically, we don’t see too many Black-owned businesses,” she said. “It’s an important part of building equity and access.”
Downtown Santa Cruz is currently the permanent home of two other Black-owned businesses, both restaurants — Damani Thomas’ Oswald, on the corner of Soquel Avenue and Front Street, and Akindele Bankole’s Veg on the Edge, located in Abbott Square. Even though Johnson-Scianna won’t be on Pacific Avenue forever, she is grateful for her position and intends to do the most with the time she has.
Coming from a community where most people looked like her, the move to Santa Cruz was a drastic change for Johnson-Scianna. Instead of steering away, she saw an opportunity to create a space for those who may feel locked outside of the crowd of normality, and offer a chance to be included in one of the busiest areas of Santa Cruz.
Since opening, Johnson-Scianna has felt very welcomed by the community of store owners. She’s excited to meet everyone in Santa Cruz and take comfort in her space.
“I want to create a space that feels easy for people of color to feel included […]” Johnson- Scianna said, “[A space] that otherwise may not be accessible to them.”
Her husband, Joel Scianna, who watched her take the steps to create her business, is continually impressed by Terra & Self’s accomplishments. He recognizes how his wife opened the door to opportunity, not only for the store, but for others as well.
“[There are] a lot of these areas where representation doesn’t exist,” Scianna said. “Someone had to be the first one to push into that uncomfortable area.”
When Johnson-Scianna moves to her permanent location, she wants to continue sustainable practices by having a body oil and lip and body scrub refill station that customers can bring their empty jars to. She’d also like to hold women of color empowerment workshops modeling EmpowerHer in the coming future.
Terra & Self is not just a new Black-woman-owned store, but also a path for encouragement, growth, and learning — to a door where people have the chance to push boundaries, and push each other for the better.
Ultimately, it’s a place of community, sustainability, and self-care.