Sana Akhand wants New Yorkers to connect with their city and each other. She founded Jet Black Social Club, which beta launched in August 2020, to provide the localized content, events and community she felt missing. With 1,700 clubhouse members to date, she’s preparing the transition to safe in-person events all while being open about her journey. She talked with us about the trail she’s blazing and how certain milestones — leaving corporate America, traveling the world, choosing to be child-free — led her to where and who she is today.
OwnTrail: Prior to founding Jet Black Social Club, you spent a year traveling the world. How did this experience impact your perspective as a community builder and founder?
SA: The reason I quit my job to travel was because corporate America was making me miserable. So traveling was my escape from the real world. A purge of that old life & a time to reflect on my future. So I constantly kept my mind open to all the ideas that came to me to start my business. I used Facebook groups to meet ex-pats and locals in new cities I visited, I loved hearing people’s stories and seeing how similar we all are. That’s when I knew I wanted to be a community builder. It started with organizing local meetups in random cities that I was in via Facebook groups!
OwnTrail: In leaving your role in corporate America, you mentioned missing being an entrepreneur. What about being a founder kept calling you back?
SA: It’s the creativity for me. I love thinking about all aspects of a business. The way it gets its customers to a sale and execution and the full funnel. When I had a corporate job, it was really hard for me to just do one part of something and not be part of all the parts. I thought going into a tech startup at a young company was going to change that. I pitched so many ideas to the C-level teams but I was only told to “stay in my lane”. That’s when I knew corporate America just wasn’t for me.
“I pitched so many ideas to the C-level teams but I was only told to ‘stay in my lane’.”
OwnTrail: What did you feel was missing in the social and community scene in New York that compelled you to start Jet Black Social Club?
Sana Akhand: Community as a whole was missing from NYC. There’s a ton of mini groups and clubs on meetup and Facebook for niche groups, but there’s never been a collective of New Yorkers from all socioeconomic backgrounds to mingle. New York has always been a city of two tales because of the lack of access to the poor and wealthy. That’s why I created Jet Black Social Club. To bridge the gap between all socioeconomic backgrounds in NYC and to give everyone an equal seat at the table.
OwnTrail: So much attention is given to graduating from college, and yet deciding to leave an educational program that isn’t serving you is a really powerful milestone. What did you learn in choosing to move away from the MBA path?
SA: It was an extremely hard decision for me, but I made a list of pros and cons of having an MBA degree vs real-life entrepreneur experience. It was clear that I was going to learn more & advance further by having real-life experience vs sitting in a classroom. It was the best decision I ever made. But, it was definitely a tough conversation to have with my parents. That was the start of me really realizing that I have to build a life that I want, not what is expected of me.
“That was the start of me really realizing that I have to build a life that I want, not what is expected of me.”
OwnTrail: In being told to stay in your lane and the stress to have kids, you’ve experienced external pressure around your personal and professional life. How did you push through this to stay true to your authentic self and own your decisions despite these voices?
SA: It reminded me of the days that I made a decision to leave my MBA. I refuse to live a single day that doesn’t feel right. So the second I feel like I’m not living my life to its full potential, I made an active change. My biggest fear is being in an unhappy situation and time just flying by and then you wake up 10 years later just to realize how miserable you are. That fear keeps me away from a victim mindset and into the mindset of control of my life, regardless of who it upsets, because it is my life to live.
“My biggest passion in life is to encourage others to be unapologetically themselves.”
OwnTrail: There’s so much buzz around self-care, and a milestone in your personal growth has been healing inner trauma. In sharing this part of your journey, how do you hope to help others?
SA: My biggest passion in life is to encourage others to be unapologetically themselves. That starts with knowing who you are. Self-care really takes you on that journey and I highly recommend starting there. Once you start the self-care journey, you’ll feel so much more confident in knowing who you are and what you want. That will help people create healthy boundaries and heal past trauma. And confidence is the secret to having a happy life!