I learned a lot about myself this year and a lot about business. I’ll try to document this as chronologically as possible. In addition to my love for fashion and accessories I’ve been deeply interested in all things related to internet marketing, ecommerce, and where the majority of people are spending their time digitally. When I did my homework, I found that there are an overwhelming number of tactics to be successful but that following the principles of relationship building and storytelling still proved to be invaluable for us.
I made big decisions this year and have had a lot to be thankful for. I’ve worked really hard and have stayed positive throughout the entire year. It’s interesting that positivity can be so hard to actually achieve compared to the alternative. Starting a company is so easy to think and dream about especially from the outside looking in. It’s a whole different story when you are making the decisions and you have to live with the decisions. It may sound simple but that alone should help you become a better decision maker.
I have been proactive in my career but not like this year. I sent a lot of emails and I spent a lot of time on my phone communicating. I think a lot about communication these days and see things a lot differently. I feel like I’m in control more than ever and the best thing about this is that it is a good thing. Sometimes we are led to believe that we can’t make decisions or that we don’t have what it takes. We do have what it takes and more. I hope this piece brings value to anyone that is struggling with career choices, business decisions, or even facing self-awareness challenges.
1. Recycled Plastic Bottles. Talk about an ah ha moment. Where do I start? I knew I wanted to start something that mattered. When I did the research, I felt that plastic was such a big problem that was not getting the attention it deserved. Pollution in general seemed like it needed a little “TLC”. After all, for an average consumer, recycling is hard. You throw away items into what seems to be a black hole, meaning you don’t get a chance to see the actual results. Wouldn’t it be great to see and be constantly reminded of the progress we are making through design and consumer goods. I learned that plastic is going to help a lot of people see the effects of recycling.
2. Recycled Billboards. This would have to be ah ha moment number 2. Finding another significant product that would go into a landfill seemed inevitable. The billboard industry is still growing year over year as documented by many sources. If there could be a supporting organization that could help with repurposing the inventory then this would reinforce the message while bringing value along the way. Why couldn’t that organization be us? I learned that billboards are one of the most innovative textiles to be used in a fashion accessory. The billboards make the product unique and engaging in a way that I could never have imagined until I saw the finished product in person.
3. Certified B Corporation. One highlight for our company this year was earning the prestigious B Corp status. We scored a 118 on the Impact Assessment. Companies must score a minimum of an 80 to become certified. We met third party review standards and became transparent about our business practices and how they affect the environment and people. This came very early in our company’s life and gave us a huge upside to improve on things that we were already doing and to learn from a community of other passionate companies using business as a force for good. B Lab is the non-profit that certified us and they have an expertise around helping for-profit companies increase and measure their impact. It has been amazing, engaging in the community and continuing to make a difference. I learned that business really can be used to solve problems.
4. Huffington Post. The truth is I never knew I would be so interested in documenting my company’s growth and experience. The Huff Post opportunity came with a major responsibility. There couldn’t have been a better introduction to the platform than the day that I received an email response from Arianna Huffington. I knew that Arianna was one of the top 100 most influential people in the world but it really meant a lot to me that she actually responded to my email. It says so much about her as an individual and it made me better because now no matter how busy I am I reply to all my social media comments and emails. I learned that personal touch is priceless.
5. New Job. My time had been split for several years as I put effort into building the brand while holding down a full time job. I had been working full time when I came up with the idea but I knew my window to focus on my venture was shortening the longer I stayed in my job. I had been set up really well coming off an MBA at William and Mary and a few internships and job rotations in banking and private wealth management. I learned that I wanted to get the most out of my experience and that I wanted to learn at the fastest pace as I possibly could. It would only be as a founder of an emerging social enterprise that I could do that. The rest is history. I learned that following your passion is still the right thing to do.
6. Kickstarter. I learned that the best part about the internet is the ability to build community and bring people together. One idea brought people together from all over the world. We had one idea and concept, we wanted to turn plastic bottles into bags. We did this successfully and were able to exceed our goal while doing so. Kickstarter gave us a credential “Project We Love”. I learned again more about the actual project and what it really stood for. I learned that Kickstarter is a great place to tell a story and that if you work hard you can make magic.
7. Virginia Velocity Tour. The Virginia Velocity Tour was a huge highlight for us this year. 30 finalists in the state of Virginia were given the opportunity to pitch a business plan to compete and win a grand prize of $25,000. The day itself went by so fast, it was intense. We met a lot of smart people and got to learn from each other. The pitch came last. The Governor McAuliffe gave his remarks before we took the stage. I felt calm before my pitch. I remember talking with a senior partner of a well-known venture capital firm before I hit the stage. I remember addressing questions from the judges but not much after that. All I remember was the moment the question was asked, “Is Hamilton Perkins still around?”. That got my attention real fast. I went up to the stage to shake the judges hands. This was a huge moment for our company. I learned that passion is a real thing.
8. Bloomingdale’s. Everything about working with Bloomingdale’s has been a dream. I walked the floors of the 59th Street store in the fall prior to our recent trunk show. I was humbled and honored to be having a conversation about offering our Earth Bags to the Bloomingdale’s customer. Our show went really well. It was a total success. The set up looked great and invited many customers to come and see what was behind the Earth Bag’s we make and how they are making a difference. This story is still being written! I learned anything is possible.
9. Showroom. Another proud moment this year was the opening of our first showroom right inside of the ODU Innovation Center. The achievement meant a lot to me and taught me a lot about brand. While we are still largely an ecommerce business, it is not until a customer comes to the showroom that they have full experienced our brand. It takes seeing the process and the why behind what we are building. I learned that the internet is still a big part of what happens offline even if it is a mobile first world.
10. Press. Collaboration is something that has been fascinating to me ever since I was younger. Finding new ways to work with other companies and brands has been a big learning experience for me. It has also been rewarding. I learned how to work in a business-to-business environment on features and interviews. I had to teach myself a lot of this work and feel that I am now more well rounded as a result of it. I have made relationships and learned that like anything else in life you get out what you put in.
In conclusion this has been a big year. I invested in my passion and it paid off. If this wasn’t enough I got married this year also. I’m glad to have the support from everyone and to know that 2017 is right around the corner. I don’t usually do a lot of new years resolutions. I feel like everyday is the best time to put your dreams and passions into motion. My knowledge around social media has grown leaps and bounds. I will have to save that evolution for a separate post. If you enjoyed this article hit the like button it helps more people get to see it. You can follow our journey here.