Entrepreneurship, General troublemaking, Professional Growth, Sustainable Living

2016 Resolutions

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As 2015 comes to a close, I recently took some time to reflect on one of the most momentous years of my life. I started 2015 by moving into my own apartment for the first time. Five months later I moved out, and in the process, started looking for a new job. I quickly realized I had the opportunity that I had always wanted: to start my own company. Since then, my life has been truly focused around IMBY, creating an accessible option for ethically-made fashion.

When I think of 2016, I think of possibility, and uncertainty. If there’s anything I know about being an entrepreneur, it’s that there’s no way to predict the next year, let alone the next month. But I do want to set my intentions for next year. Here are the things, first and foremost as an entrepreneur, I am resolving to in 2016.

  1. Take care of my mind and body. This was a big focus of my letter to myself when becoming an entrepreneur, and to be honest, I am not doing a great job of it. I will be focusing on making yoga a regular part of my daily routine, and I plan to start 2016 with a Whole30 challenge to recalibrate my deteriorating diet.
  2. Create a morning ritual. I have been craving stability and routine in my not so stable or routine life as an entrepreneur. One thing that I am confident will help is creating a morning ritual that focuses on starting my day mindfully (not on my phone!) with meditation, yoga, and a healthy meal.
  3. Practice gratitude. I get a lot of help and support from wonderful friends and colleagues, and without them, I couldn’t get IMBY off the ground. I want to practice gratitude towards the people who support me beyond just saying thank you. This includes a regular thank you note practice, as well as being grateful of the things that others might not realize are a big deal, but make a big difference to me.
  4. Go big. 2016 will be a big year for IMBY— the company will hopefully grow a lot. This will require the majority of my energy and time for 2016, and I am ready to focus on bringing ethical fashion to the masses. This will require sacrifice including less time with friends, challenging decisions, successes and failures. I plan to embrace it all (and I have my own set of goals for IMBY’s growth in 2016!).
  5. Build community. Being an entrepreneur is incredibly lonely. I knew this fact from my time at PresenTense helping entrepreneurs start up, but it feels so heavy building a company alone. I plan to focus 2016 in building my own community of individuals I can support and who can support me. I am starting entrepreneur brain slams so that my friends and I can support each other in brainstorming new ideas when there is not normally someone around to share those ideas with.

Speaking of community, I recently joined the Ethical Writers Coalition, a group of bloggers focused on living more sustainable lives and helping others do so as well (some of them have been my favorite blogs on the topic for a while now!). We have all committed to posting our resolutions today. You can check out the other truly inspirational posts below– and check out their blogs for some great resources! What do you resolve to focus on in 2016?

Hanna of Sotela’s Why Making Unresolutions Are Better
Alden of Ecocult’s Painfully Honest New Years Resolution
Leah of Stylewise Blog’s Year in Review and Ethical Resolutions
Hannah of Life + Style + Justice Blog’s Resolutions
Kasi of The Peahen Blog’s A Year of Wardrobe Resolutions
Elizabeth of The Notepasser Blog’s My One Big Resolution for 2016
Faye of Sustaining Life’s Shedding Layers for a Mindful 2016
Annie’s My 2016 New Year’s Resolution: Buy Only Ethically Made Fashion
Kamea of Kamea’s World’s 4 New Year’s Resolutions You Need for a Meaningful 2016
Holly of Leotie Lovely’s Gone Green 2016
Andrea of Ecologique Fashion’s Resolutions

 

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Entrepreneurship, Professional Growth

The rat that launched my business

I have been a little off the radar lately. Let me fill you in on why.

In May, a series of events and unwanted rodents led me to discover that my new and quaint Brooklyn apartment was no longer the humble abode I had anticipated it to be. I left the apartment, moved in with my parents, and didn’t look back.

At the same time, I was starting to explore where I wanted to move next in my career. After three wonderful, challenging, and rewarding years of growth and learning at PresenTense, I felt it was time for a new challenge.

Unrestricted by a lease or a job, I had the opportunity to push my boundaries and dream big. So I decided to pursue something I have always wanted to: starting my own company. I started working on it on nights and weekends and on September 15, I officially left my job at PresenTense to start IMBY, an ethical fashion company.

I have SO much to share about my entrepreneurial adventure so far, the ethical fashion industry, and IMBY. Too much for this one post, so there will be many posts to come.

For now, I will leave you with a letter I wrote myself right when I started IMBY about what I wanted to remind myself during the process. I welcome your insight and feedback into IMBY, and if you are interested in getting involved, don’t hesitate to reach out.

Dear Sara,

You are starting to embark on an exhilarating, terrifying, challenging, and rewarding journey. Starting your first (or any!) company is not an easy feat. It will inevitably be one of the most fun and challenging things you take on. It will push you to your limits. Your passion will be tested. There will be long nights. And your creativity will soar. 
Sara, you will be a rock star. I believe in you. Sitting on the subway writing this letter I’m so excited for you and what’s coming. You have been preparing for this for years. You are completely and totally prepared and equally unprepared. 
I want you to remember some important things as you push forward. 
You will fail. And that’s ok. Failure it’s one or the most important aspects of the entrepreneurial journey. This is where you will learn more than ever before. 
Take in every day. Entrepreneurship is not solely about the final product but also the journey. Be curious and always be learning. Lean into discomfort. Live in possibility. 
The product will never be final or perfect. It will grow and evolve and pivot and change just like you will during this process. 
Remain humble and embrace support. You simply cannot do this alone. Ask for help. Admit when things are hard. Be vulnerable. You will do the best you can but others will be able to do things better. Accept their help, support, and guidance professionally and emotionally. 
Live the entrepreneurial experience you have always desired. Truly embody it. This is your first chance to test the waters, learn where you will sink and swim. You will sometimes need to fake it until you make it. Lean into that. 
The health of your business is directly correlated with your health and wellbeing. Don’t sacrifice taking care of yourself. Go to yoga, meditate, eat healthy, whole foods, and nourish yourself with what you need physically, emotionally, and socially. While it will be essential for you to push through discomfort at times, you will also need to draw the line and be kind to yourself. 
Be appreciative. You have an opportunity to do something amazing. Don’t forget that you are lucky to have the stars align in the right way to enable you to take this journey. 
Turn worry and fear into opportunities. You will, quite often, experience fear. There will be many unknowns. Recognize those moments and shift them into moments of power and action. For every negative thought, create a positive one. 
Create your own luck. Entrepreneurship is really hard, and it’s a matter of the effort you put in and the attitude you have. Allow yourself to believe you will succeed. Many people will doubt you along the way, understand that’s part of the process. Humbly accept their opinion then prove them wrong. 
When you make it big, don’t forget the little guys. 
You do you. You are different, you’re unique. You’re a troublemaker. No one is as dedicated to your mission as you are. Never forget that. 
Have fun. Don’t forget to laugh. Live in the moment. Don’t take anything too seriously. 
Make it rain. 
In possibility,
Sara
July 17, 2015 
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Social Innovation

In the box

While we are on the topic of change, let’s unpack that a bit.

Change is uncomfortable for many because of the fear of the unknown. If things work, why change? And if things are working well enough, can’t we just patch the holes and make it work perfectly again?

In the box is a comfortable place to be. It’s our realm of known. While life, and work, in the box may not be just right, may be leaving some of our significant goals by the waste side, it feels better, safer than engaging with all the possibilities, including failure, that live outside the box.

Many people come to me looking to use innovative techniques and creative methodologies to verify that their in the box work is the best place to be. The problem is, with that mindset, out of the box is out of mind, is besides the goal. Out of the box is ignored, or worse, actively rejected in favor of trying to cram all new innovation into the box.

I can’t stand for that. If you want to grow, if you want to make change, if you want to leave a mark on the world, you can’t be seeking the validation that the old, the small, the typical is right.

How do you crawl out of the box when it feels comfortable and the big bad world outside of the box seems too much to consider?

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Social Innovation, Sustainable Living, Tech, Troublemakers

Meet Troublemaker Morgan Berman, Founder and CEO of MilkCrate

morgan-woodI met Morgan Berman when she participated in the Tribe12 Fellowship, a PresenTense Accelerator, this past spring. I was immediately excited by her Idea for MilkCrate, an app for sustainable living (think: yelp for socially responsible/sustainably focused businesses). Dedicated to living a sustainable lifestyle as much as possible myself, I was excited to learn more about this necessary troublemaker and support her in building a lasting impact through her app. I interviewed Morgan, read on to learn a bit about what inspires her and more about MilkCrate, as well as her tips for living a sustainable lifestyle.

What inspired you to create MilkCrate?
I wanted to learn how to live a more sustainable lifestyle. I began by reading and researching sustainability and the local economy here in Philadelphia. I joined a community garden and eventually started a new one, composted on my deck, ditched my car for a bike, and shopped the local green community here in Philadelphia. Over time my lifestyle choices became immersed in all things green. As a requirement for my Sustainable Design Masters Program at Philadelphia University I developed a thesis that would become the very first version of MilkCrate. I wanted to design something from beginning to end. However my M.Sc. program was focused on the built environment. Most of my peers were architects or engineers. I am neither. So I had to find something I could design that if it ‘broke’, no one would die. An app felt like a good, skill-based place to start. I figured, “I worked at Apple part-time for a year teaching people how to use an iPhone, that’s a good enough qualification to design an app, right?”

How does MilkCrate enable individuals to support their local communities?
Right now MilkCrate is a basic tool allowing you to find businesses and resources connected to sustainability and the local economy right in your neighborhood and throughout the city. Future versions will have a community calendar, social media integration, and many other ways for people to personalize their experience, while connecting with others in the sustainability community, including business owners and our partner organizations.

Why is sustainable living important to you?
It was just a part of growing up. My parents kept a vegetable garden, fruit trees, and composted. My mom and I shopped at thrift stores, first, the mall last. We even dumpster dived, and made some great (but embarrassing) curb-side finds. She eventually started a business called Thrift Shop Maniac Enterprises from her developing skill set and consciousness, and I was there, helping out and learning by osmosis. We re-purposed, reused, rethought, consigned and donated; we rarely if ever considered throwing anything out. But I guess it all came together for me when I started to understand the impact of climate change and environmental degradation, and the uneven distribution of natural resources on people’s lives all over the world. Locally, I care about the lack of access to affordable fresh healthy food here in Philadelphia. And don’t get me started on what treacherous circumstances cyclist like myself face biking around the city in car congested, polluted streets.

How do you live your life in a sustainable way?bannerphonenew
I filter every decision I make through the same process that surrounded me growing up: I buy most of my food locally, whether from farmers markets or restaurants. I compost on my deck and grow a small garden. I bike everywhere. I don’t own a car. I purchase a lot of my clothes secondhand, at thrift or consignment stores. I always have a water bottle and generally cut down packaging in as many ways as possible. I get my energy from Green Mountain Energy. I make sure things like batteries or lightbulbs get disposed of properly. Even my cat Chester is recycled from the SPCA. Once you start living, deciding, shopping this way, the easier it gets.

What are three things Necessary Troublemakers can do today to start living a more sustainable life?
You only need one now: Use MilkCrate! Or if you aren’t in the Philly area, help us grow to your city by contributing to our Indiegogo Campaign before it ends on September 23rd.

What piece of advice can you give to individuals who want to take action on issues that are important to them?
Find other people who care about the same things you do. They have sustained me. They will sustain you.

What’s your favorite item or service you’ve received/purchased from a MilkCrate partner?
I could never pick an all time favorite, there are just too many moments of finding the next great company or product. For me, my favorite ‘moment’ now is giving others the opportunity to find their newest, favorite MilkCrate company. Now that our app is available to download, anyone can find a new MilkCrate favorite in the Philadelphia area, and soon anywhere.

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General troublemaking, Social Innovation

How Starting a Startup is Like Starting A New Relationship

I like to be in control of things. I am the type of person who pursues what she wants and am reluctant to let other’s thoughts or expectations stop me. Oh yeah, did I mention that I am a trouble maker? I believe that if an employer or potential relationship does not appreciate that, then it probably isn’t the best fit for me. This attitude has enabled me to accomplish a lot in my life such as landing two of my dream jobs, a handful of meaningful relationships, and some life-changing trips across the glove. But sometimes it’s important to realize that not everything can be controlled not all dreams can be pursued and accomplished as easily, or with as much certainty, as others.

The lack of control is particularly true about entrepreneurial ventures and romantic relationships. In fact, there is a lot of overlap between starting a startup and starting a romantic relationship. Let’s examine.

  1. You’re never really initially sure if he’s into you. Your first few dates inevitably lead to questions: does he like me? Are our values aligned? Is he thinking about me like I am thinking about him? Similarly, it’s hard to feel confident about your progress in the early stages of a startup. For every win, there are often three or four setbacks. Things move more slowly than you want them to. It requires steady effort to build confidence.
  2. You want to dive in full force, but sometimes it’s important to use restraint. When starting a relationship, no one wants to be the overly eager party. You “play it cool” and wait a few hours between texts, and don’t invest all your energy at once. You don’t want to be too vulnerable too early on. In the startup world, it’s easy to want to dive in head first into your idea. But it’s important to evaluate the market, do your research and homework, and tread carefully before you receive market validation and pour your heart, soul, and wallet into this new idea.
  3. It is what you put into it. Both relationships and startups thrive the more you invest your time and energy into them. People generally approach both with a hearty dose of uncertainty, but the more you are scared to give it your everything, the less likely it is to survive and thrive.
  4. Fitting something else into your busy schedule. Especially as New Yorkers, we are always overbooked with work, networking, friends. Starting a new business, or relationship, means figuring out how to adjust your day-to-day to allow for the other in your life. If you are trying to do both at once (like me!), scheduling is even more fun! It’s important to try to find some time for you, whether that’s a ten minute walk during the day or one night off per week. Or else there’s the reality of burnout.
  5. It could be meant to be, but the timing may be off. Sometimes you hit it off with a guy/gal, but extenuating circumstances prevent you from making it work (work schedule, getting out of a relationship too recently, etc.). Same thing with startups. You could have the perfect idea at a not-so-perfect time which may cause it to fail. Recognizing that, and not letting it discourage you, is highly important in moving on.
  6. When it’s good, it’s really good. A majority of first dates and first startups don’t work out, but keeping your eye on the prize is paramount. Because when they do, it’s worth the roller coaster of emotions, the sleepless nights, the fights and the uncertainty are all worth it. You end up with something that you are proud of, that you can’t wait to tell your friends about and post about on Facebook.

But to be honest, if all this was guaranteed, what fun would that be? The tumultuous journey is half of the adventure.

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Healthy Living, Professional Growth, Social Innovation

More Than Just the View

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I recently returned from a ten-day trip to Peru. It was an amazing experience, one that challenged me in new ways and exposed me to a new part of the world I had yet to explore, South America, with two close friends.

As you can probably imagine, one of the highlights of our trip was the hiking. Pressed for time (we are all working gals with limited vacation days!) we hiked the one-day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu (8 miles) and the following day hiked Wanyapicchu, a steep mountain right next to Machu Picchu. While I do enjoy hiking, I certainly cannot call myself a pro, and didn’t quite know what to expect from these two hikes. I was nervous and unsure, but excited to see where the trails would take us.

Despite the hikes being difficult in some sections, I was told by many people that the hikes were

Totally worth the view.

It’s easy to think that the summit of a hike, or a mountain, is the moment that makes it all worth it. As you stand triumphantly over the ground you have just conquered, taking in an exceptional view of the world below, there is an incredible rush of satisfaction and accomplishment. I certainly felt that at the top. But in Peru, I realized that the journey up the mountain was more transformative than simply being at the top. It’s navigating the unsteady rocks, pushing through mental and physical exhaustion, and encouraging your comrades during the hike that define you and push you past your limits. It’s about the shaky feeling in your legs you get as you descend and the people you meet along the way who you exchange stories with. Those are the moments that define you, that guide you moving forward.

There are many things that may stop you along your way. For us, the altitude made it hard for us to breathe, it was raining and the rocks were slippery. There is often a fear of getting hurt, or a fear of failure. I realized that appreciating the challenges made the successes even more rewarding. The easy way is never quite as fun.

Hiking the Inca Trail and Wanyapicchu gave me perspective on my work both as an entrepreneur and with entrepreneurs. Individuals (myself included) may see the rocky, slippery, and sometimes flat-out dangerous path up as simply obstacles to overcome in order to accomplish their goal of seeing the view. But aren’t the challenges the fun part? Entrepreneurship not just about building a product or service that allows you to sit back, drink a pisco sour, and enjoy the view; it’s about the climb. It’s about the times when you feel like you just can’t continue, you need to stop and catch your breath, or when you feel stronger than ever and are able to encourage your team members to power through. It’s about the moments when your legs are shaky and you aren’t sure that your next step will be a successful one. And of course it’s about those moments when you ultimately summit, when you get to look down below at the world beneath you and see all that you have accomplished. It’s the culmination of the hike and the summit that make life interesting, and work as an entrepreneur exciting. If you aren’t interested in the climb as an entrepreneur, you’re in the wrong field.

I don’t want to live in a world where I am always on top of the mountains. I want to push myself to be constantly climbing, catching my breath, and figuring out which rock to step on next. As I settle back into my NYC life, I strive to keep these lessons learned in mind, reminding myself that the challenges are often the most rewarding part of an endeavor.

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