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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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

Inspiring Troublemakers: Ariel and Andrea

Troublemakers: It’s been awhile, but I haven’t forgotten you! Here’s to getting back on track…

As you know, I am fortunate enough to work with individuals driven by their innate desire to make the world a better, more sustainable place. As a change agent myself, it’s constant inspiration for me to be surrounded by those who are taking action about issues they care so deeply about.

One of these individuals is Ariel Beery, who co-founded PresenTense. While not only indebted to him for allowing me to have a job that I find great meaning in (and keeps a small roof over my head), I look at Ariel, and co-founder Aharon, and realize the impact two individuals can make on the world. With an idea they were able to build out an organization that has directly improved and saved lives as well as fosters Jewish community in an age where that is not always easy. While just two examples of the (fortunately!) many individuals working on solving the world’s most pressing needs, Ariel and Aharon are individuals that I can relate to and have worked with the most, and have moved on after PresenTense to continue to do inspiring things.

Ariel, after moving on in a professional capacity from PresenTense, has co-founded a new company called MobileOCT, which allows for affordable mobile screening of cervical cancer in the developing world. This invention can save literally millions of lives. The technology is simple yet the implications are enormous. Shameless plug: help support MobileOCT’s work through their Indiegogo campaign.

My mother, Andrea, is a survivor of cervical cancer. She was fortunate that they found it when she was pregnant with my younger sister, and was able to treat it, but not without long term repercussions. 15 years after her diagnosis and treatment, my mother was diagnosed with Lymphedema, a chronic condition that prevents the lymph system from working, as a result of them removing lymph nodes during her surgery. While fortunate that her condition is somewhat under control, my mom has to live (potentially) the rest of her life with one leg that’s swollen to be about double (or more) the size of the other. It’s a dangerous condition because one bug bite or cut can lead to massive infection, which has happened to her twice.

Every year my mom walks in the Lymphatic Research Foundation’s walk against Lymphatic diseases, and is an advocate for the cause of research and awareness for the condition, which many doctor’s are not aware of. (Another shameless plug, support my mom’s walk! I swear this isn’t supposed to be a fundraising post)

I am humbled and inspired to have worked alongside Ariel, and to consider him a friend and mentor. The work he is doing is not only important for the world, but plays a very special place in my heart. And I am so fortunate to be the daughter of an incredibly strong and inspiring woman who, despite the crap the universe has dealt her, remains positive and aims to make a difference in the lives of others through raising awareness and funds for Lymphedema.

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General troublemaking, Healthy Living, Social Innovation

Sorry I’m Not Sorry

Lately I feel that I’m often on the defensive about my lifestyle choices. I am seen as extreme for making a conscious choice to eat real, clean foods that have no preservatives/additives, choosing to consume socially responsible goods, and being conscious about how I treat myself and the world.

My friends, family, colleagues think I am judging them for eating oreos (yum) and shopping at Forever 21. Well, friends, I am not judging you. I am not a judge-y person. Rather, I am judging the world we live in. I don’t blame people for eating foods packed with chemicals or buying clothes that are in no way a benefit to the world because that’s the norm, the status quo. It is really, really hard to avoid those things (and I spend a lot of time figuring out how to do that– more coming soon!). But it shouldn’t be that way. I will not accept that the world and the country I live in is flawed and nearly forcing us to consume products that aren’t acceptable, I will make trouble until I feel I am living in a world that I want to leave for my kids and grandkids and grand-grand-grand(x10) kids.

So I wanted to say:

Sorry I’m not sorry.

I am not going to apologize for being my “extreme” self. I’m not apologizing for thinking that consuming junk and things that are bad for my body and bad for the world is ridiculous or extreme. And I’m not sorry for pointing it out to you so you can make conscious decisions; not to make you feel bad, but to point out that we DON’T have to stand for the crap that is in the supermarket or the department store. And we won’t make change until enough people aren’t sorry either.

Even writing this, I sound extreme. I see it, I am reading it. But I don’t understand why it has to be that way. Why are we considered extreme if we just want basic, normal, sustainable things that won’t destroy our bodies or the planet? What a radical idea!

I keep thinking about this quote from Steve Jobs that we use in our visioning seminar at PresenTense. He says:

When you grow up you tend to get told the world is the way it is and your life is just to live your life inside the world. Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.

This quote has, in fact, changed my viewpoint on the world. It’s so true. The things that frustrate me are completely man-made, and not any more real than anything else, than my opinions or the things I want to make or consume. Right? So if man had the right to add chemicals to my food, to employ kids in sweatshops to make my clothes, to damage the environment by the amount of pollution and waste we produce, and more, I have the right to disagree with that. So I am. Sue me.

Sorry I am not sorry for caring. And I am not sorry for causing trouble on issues I care about. And you shouldn’t be either.

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General troublemaking, Professional Growth, Social Innovation

How a $55 Job Changed My Life

Two years ago I was in a job I was really unsatisfied in– I felt like the passionate person I was was being underutilized. Looking for a little extra cash and the ability to be exposed to new things, I signed up to be a TaskRabbit, a service where people can request others to do jobs for them— everything from grocery shopping to data entry to installing light fixtures. I did a few research jobs, and then came across some postings from General Assembly, a hub for entrepreneurs in NY, looking for people to help with events. Interested in the work they did, I put a few offers on their events and eventually got one to help set up and ensure there was enough beer out at a “tech night” event. It paid $55 for the three hour event— and a lot more in the long run.

In a weird, unbeknownst to me, foreshadowing, the event was a workshop from IDEO for Columbia MBA students on design thinking for startups (design thinking is the backbone of PresenTense’s curriculum). I thought it was incredibly interesting, and started to do some research on GA’s website about classes they offered to the public. I came across a series on Building High Impact Nonprofits and Social Enterprises and signed up immediately, as someone who has always considered starting my own non-profit. I didn’t even know what a social enterprise was. This was April 2012.

I took the class and learned a lot (also was exposed to many things I never even heard of before that excited me). When the organizer of the class, Shana Dressler, invited students to help her on a project she was working on to write a book about how to start social impact business, I jumped on the chance. A few weeks after I started the class at GA, I saw the job posting for PresenTense and decided that this was a direction I was excited and passionate about. I applied and cited my newly-gained “experience” including the class at the GA and my work on Shana’s team.

I accepted my position at PresenTense, an accelerator for social impact businesses, in June 2012. I continued to work with Shana and an amazing group of ladies on what became the Social Good Guides for almost a year, gaining tons of exposure in the social enterprise field. Two years after taking the class at GA, I am now heavily engrained in the social entrepreneurship space, and am passionate about the field. I couldn’t imagine a better field to me, nor one I would relate to more. Heck, I even think one day (maybe not so far away) I will be a founder myself.

(cue infomercial voice) But wait, there’s more! Because of my job at PresenTense I have been exposed to many different people, organizations, and projects, and made some pretty great friends as well. One of them is my dear friend Meredith, who, upon our meeting under PT auspices we realized we were quite similar (and even were wearing the same outfit when we met!), graciously introduced me to many of her friends, and invited me to join her book club. My friendship with Meredith, and participation in the Book Club, have opened me to a ton of new people, experiences, and like-minded individuals who are eager to take the world (and cause trouble!) like I am. Thanks, Meredith!

If you are trying to keep track, my $55 TaskRabbit job led me to: take classes in a new field, work on a project to empower social entrepreneurs, my job at PresenTense, lots of new friends and business connections, my book club, and I am sure more to come. Oh and did I mention I am ridiculously happy in this field working with some of the most inspiring people I’ve ever encountered? I think all that proves a pretty decent return on investment.

Okay cool, Sara, you are thinking. What’s your point? How do I strike gold with an odd job? Here’s what I want for you to take away, troublemakers:

  1. Everything in life is an opportunity, but only IF you choose to see it that way. My job from TaskRabbit was just to ensure a bar was stocked and to set up chairs, but I leveraged it beyond face value.
  2. You never know where opportunities will lead. Keep an open mind. Did I think signing up for TaskRabbit would lead me to a new career direction and a brand new awesome group of friends? No way!
  3. Take risks. I knew nothing about anyone in the Social Good Guides group, or much about the topic at hand, but it seemed like an opportunity to work with interesting people on an interesting subject.
  4. Put yourself in situations where you will be exposed to things that excite you, and where you will meet likeminded people. This is where the magic happens, even if you aren’t “qualified” in that field.
  5. Everything happens for a reason. I truly, deeply believe that. But sometimes you have to be a week, a year, or ten years removed to see what the reason was.
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