Every Friday, we send out a weekly roundup of what’s new on Blood & Milk along with articles you may have missed from the archives. We also include an interview with an inspiring woman, and this week we’re excited to feature Chloe Drimal. To get the newsletter, sign up here.
Chloe Drimal is the CEO of Yoni Circle, a free social wellness app that connects womxn through virtual storytelling. Chloe founded the app after experiencing the healing powers of storytelling when she suffered from gender inequality in the workplace. After confiding in other women about her struggles and connecting through shared experiences, she received the strength to overcome this hard chapter in her life. In Yoni Circle, Chloe has worked to create a safe, inclusive online community that heals and connects womxn in more than 1,000 cities and 84 countries.
I love how you describe Yoni Circle as “slumber party meets mindfulness class,” which sounds like just the kind of connection and community. So many of us are craving, especially as we approach one full year of pandemic living. How have these circles changed since COVID’s impact?
What started as an in-person storytelling community in 2018 expanded to the digital space in 2020. We launched our app in beta mode in April, right at the beginning of the pandemic, where the need for social interactions played a vital role in driving demand for Yoni Circle. Today, we are now officially in our public launch, which comes at a time when it’s never been more crucial to connect deeply with others around the world.
Storytelling Circles are the core of Yoni Circle. They are hour-long live, moderated video chat experiences, capped at six women, that leave members feeling lighter and more connected to themselves and the world around them.
Despite the societal changes happening worldwide due to COVID-19, the Yoni Circle experience has remained consistent. We’ve created an incredibly unique experience that will be desired even after the pandemic has passed. While Circles will continue to evolve alongside the app experience, everything we build focuses on our mission of healing and connecting through storytelling and allowing our community to grow together.
We know that studies have shown the benefits of storytelling in dealing with anxiety, depression, and loneliness, but what does that look like in practice? Have you found that there’s a frequency or duration for telling one’s story that has a more positive or lasting impact on mental health?
Connecting through storytelling and shared experiences with other women, especially with strangers, was essential to my healing process when I was going through a difficult time in my life. I knew it could also help others, which is why I felt empowered to create a safe and inclusive online community that felt deeper than existing apps and pioneered a more holistic healing approach to social media.
Yoni Circle has proven to make members’ lives better, with many attributing the app to improving their overall happiness. As a result, many have made Yoni Circle an essential component of their regular self-care rituals, with more than 60% of Circle participants attending two or more a month. Others attend Circles weekly or even daily. After each Circle, 84% say that they can’t wait to come back.
Though Yoni Circle isn’t directly focused on addressing psychological issues, it can uplift and empower women while serving as a potential entry point for those who may be hesitant or nervous about seeking mental health assistance. We also have many new features planned for the coming months as we continue to make storytelling a mainstream practice in the social wellness space.
Do you find that there’s a specific story you tell in Yoni Circles, or is it always changing? If it’s consistent, do you mind sharing it here? And if it’s not, are there certain themes or topics that pop up for you regularly?
The number of stories to be told is infinite. When participating in a Circle, the stories shared are always different. We want members to speak from the heart, which may seem overwhelming or scary at first. That’s why Salonnieres—who are trained to lead storytelling Circles—are integral to the storytelling process and help the group easily find their story and feel comfortable in the Circle experience.
During the in-app Circle experience, the Salonniere guides the group through introductions, a breathing exercise, and a storytelling prompt based on a specific theme, like “Stories on Gratitude” or “Stories on Bravery.” They then help unravel the prompt, giving participants five to ten examples of what a story within that prompt might look like. This makes it easier for a member to find their story to share. Participants then take turns sharing from the heart and listening to each other’s stories. During each Circle, you may laugh, or cry or find new best friends from across the world. Afterward, members feel lighter, empowered, and more at peace with the world around them.
When you sign up to join a Circle in the app, you won’t know the storytelling prompt in advance to help avoid any performative gestures. We want to provide a safe space to be vulnerable and authentic, so we make member safety and comfortability our number one priority. We take confidentiality very seriously and remind members ahead of each Circle to take the stories with them and leave the names behind.
Yoni Circle has users in 84 countries—have you observed any striking similarities or differences across so many lived experiences and various cultures and backgrounds?
We’re so incredibly proud of our global community, representing a diverse background of women worldwide across 1,000 cities and 84 countries. Our differences are our magic. When you sign up for a Circle, you may connect and share stories with individuals from all across the world, like New York, London, Rome, Sydney, Accra, Capetown, and so much more.
While we may come from different cultures or have different life experiences, Yoni Circle helps us realize that we’re all more similar than we are different. Sharing stories helps us understand that we aren’t alone in the ups and downs of life.
I really like the pillar “there are no gurus,” and that no one person is in the Circle to give advice. What kind of feedback can someone expect to receive during a Yoni Circle?
Stories lend a helping hand without telling us what to do or how to think. At the end of the day, we are all on different journeys. At Yoni Circle, we work together to tell our stories and hold space for others to do the same. In doing so, we grow together.
Listening and reflecting on other stories is also essential to one’s healing process, which is key to the storytelling experience. One aspect of every Circle is the Witness Round, which allows members to discuss patterns within the stories shared and what resonated with them most. This provides validation and clarifies that we’re not alone in our narrative and that the human experience is shared.
What would you tell someone who is craving community but doesn’t necessarily feel they have a story to tell?
Everyone has a story to tell, and there is no such thing as a bad story. And the more power we have to tell our stories, the more empowered we will be as a community. Every story is essential to how we see the world today.
But we know that opening up can be difficult, which is why creating a safe space is so important to us. We want women to feel free to explore themselves in a real and raw way without judgment. If you are not ready to share a story, that’s OK. You can always pass the talking piece, which will be offered back to you during the Witness Round, and be an active listener and help hold space for others.
Yoni Radio, the passive part of Yoni Circle, has also been instrumental in giving members the power to listen to stories without needing to share their own. Since it provides an excellent way for new members to understand the type of stories told within a live storytelling Circle, it has dramatically dropped the average time it takes for new members to join their first Circle from 18 days to four days.
Thank you, Chloe!