Devona Stimpson: Co-Founder, Strive & Grind

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Devona Stimpson is an entrepreneur, artist, best-selling author, speaker, and branding expert. She is the Co-Founder of Strive & Grind, an international Branding and Creative boutique that helps entrepreneurs create memorable, disruptive, and badass brands that dominate. Amongst being the co-author of Passionistas: Tips Tales & Tweetables From Women Pursuing Their Passion, Devona is the Creator of gangSTAR* CREATIVE, and is on a mission to annihilate the status quo of the “starving artist.” You can find her being featured in the press, rocking stages, and creating dope exclusive paintings.

http://devonastimpson.com  & http://artbydevona.com

IG: @devonastimpson, FB: https://www.facebook.com/DevonaStimpson/

1. How did you get into the industry?

(EXAMPLE: Tell us about how or why you initially got involved with the industry relating to this business)

My whole life I was always a creative. My background was in graphic design. I created my first website when I was in the 4th grade. I taught myself how to code websites and learn graphic design software. I thought that’s what I wanted to do with my life all the way up into college. Then I took a painting class and realized I didn’t like graphic design. Actually, I hated it. I decided to pursue painting as my career. So that’s really how I got into being an artist and becoming a painter.

2. Any emerging industry trends?

(EXAMPLE: Tell us about any new or relevant industry trends that you are noticing: movements, developments, advancements, etc.)

A trend I see a lot in the Art Industry is that  a lot of solo creative entrepreneurs are really stepping up and taking ownership of their creative careers. Back in the day, many artists relied on galleries, having agents, and things like that. We live in a world with social media where creatives are able to build their own following. They’re able to create their own brand and online presence so that they can thrive and making a living on their own.

3. Any industry opportunities or challenges?

(EXAMPLE: Tell us about any new or relevant business opportunities or challenges that you are noticing in your industry) (e.g. , opportunities, such as a better way of doing something or a product/service that suddenly becomes more attractive,  could arise due to new trends, technological advancements, or increased customer demand; challenges, such as market barriers or decreasing sales, could arise due to changes in technology, low market demand, or prohibitive regulations)

I feel the biggest challenge is that being an artist is one of the hardest careers that anybody can choose. As creatives, we’re very passionate about what we do. Sometimes it’s hard to grasp the business side of things. I think it’s sometimes hard to have the discipline to work on your craft, but also focus on the marketing and branding side of things too. That’s also part of the reason why I created my movement, gangSTAR* CREATIVE, where I’m helping other creatives learn how to thrive in both business and life.

4. Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?

(EXAMPLE: Tell us about what originally inspired the business concept, and tell us what the desired future of the business is)

My inspiration for creating my movement gangSTAR* CREATIVE came from seeing too many creatives settle for the status quo of the starving artist. I went to an art show one time in LA featuring dope female artists coming together to show their work. My husband and I went in there and the majority of the creatives weren’t at their booths. The majority of them wouldn’t look at us or talk to us. Some were just sitting on the ground and some were on their phones. There was only one girl that actually spoke to us. And it really made me angry to see all these creatives -- so talented and with such potential not taking advantage of their opportunity. I realized that there are not enough leaders in the creative community teaching the business, social and people side of the art business. I feel like that’s where a lot of creatives struggle, especially with so many being introverts. So I really wanted to be a leader and share my experience as an entrepreneur, especially as a creative entrepreneur, and help other creatives thrive in both business and life.

5. What's next for the Business in the near future?

(EXAMPLE: Tell us about anything new and exciting that could be expected in the short term, such as in the next 18 months: new products or services, changes in direction, mergers/acquisitions, leadership changes, etc.)

I’m currently working on building my online art store using Shopify. So I’ll be selling prints, canvas prints and originals on my online store.

6. Your key initiatives for the success of the Business?

(EXAMPLE: Tell us about any successful or profitable activities or decisions that you have been involved with, such as marketing strategies or partnerships, that have contributed positively to the Business)

For the last three years I was building a branding company with my husband. This year I was able to transition out of that business to focus back on my personal brand and artwork. I would say the main initiative is just hustling right now.  I’m pretty much starting over. I had put my artwork on the back burner over the last three years. So now I’m focused on getting as much work as I possibly can, getting my name out there, showing people my artwork and becoming known for the artwork that I do.

7. Your most difficult moment at the Business? (and what did you learn?)

(EXAMPLE: Tell us about the most significant challenge or obstacle that you have experienced as it relates to the Business, and tell us what this experience may have revealed to you)

When I was running the branding company with my husband, we invested a lot of money into a mastermind and business coach. In order to be on track with those payments, we had to make at least $3000 a month. There came a time where we were almost there but we weren’t making enough. It was Thanksgiving, and rent was right around the corner, and we overdrafted $3000. We had to learn to be really resourceful, work harder and know that we can’t just rely on online marketing and online presence to make us money. We actually had to go out there, really talk to people, be resourceful and reach out to our  warm market to get the business we needed to survive in that moment. So going into my art career, I know that I have to really hustle and be resourceful with my connections that I currently have so I can get the work I need to thrive monetarily.

8. Ideal experience for a customer/client?

(EXAMPLE: Tell us what you think a recipient of your services or products would most enjoy, appreciate, or benefit from)

I’m a strong believer in processes and systems, especially creating great experiences for clients. Being a Co-Founder of a branding agency, that’s something we really focused on. For me as an artist, I really love making sure the process is seamless for  the client. I have a process where I have an intake form and I get to know my client. It’s not just transaction based - I build relationships with my clients and customers. I like to pay attention to detail. If I’m sending something, I may add little pieces of my brand to the packaging. I send written cards. I like to send out gifts or items throughout the year to my collectors, just letting them know that I’m still thinking of them. My focus is on being remembered as an artist and building those client relationships.

9. How do you motivate others?

(EXAMPLE: Tell us about your most effective techniques or strategies for inspiring and encouraging those that you work with)

The best way to motivate others in my opinion is by being the example. A lot of creatives struggle with business side of things. I know I have to step up as the leader and do the things creatives need to take more action on. Also sharing stories of my career and my journey is the best way to motivate others.

10. Career advice to those in your industry?

(EXAMPLE: Tell us what you think is an important tip or piece of information that may help to advance someone’s career path:  something that you have learned through experience that others may not know)

I think the most important thing is to create a brand for yourself. There are a lot of creatives out there – painters, writers, graphic designers etc. So you have to think about how you can stand out in the crowd. Being in a digital age, we see a lot of overnight success on social media. I think it’s important to know that things don’t happen overnight and it’s a process. Trust the process of the journey.  Be patient and be consistent in what you’re doing. I know as creatives we have a lot of ideas that come up and we do a lot of different projects at different times. But the best thing you can do is to be consistent in your journey and do what you need to do to build your brand and get your work out there.

James S. Tonkin: President & Founder, HealthyBrandBuilders

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My NativeAdVice:

For more than 44 years, Jim has served the private sector as a brand and marketing development professional and Founder and President of HealthyBrandBuilders.  He directs the building and design of national infrastructures for food and beverage industry clients. Tonkin has successfully created and implemented business and financial strategies for domestic and international players focusing from production to branding, marketing through sales implementation and distribution, to include exit strategy. Tonkin has focused branding initiatives in soft drink, bottled water, functional foods and beverages, and non- carbonated “new age” beverage verticals. His extensive hands-on expertise has stretched across many sectors including domestic cheeses to natural potato chips; bottled waters for people and pets; and nutraceutical-functional- cosmeceutical enhanced beverages. Jim serves as a popular keynote speaker covering new beverage trends, successful branding insight and with his blunt and sometimes stinging humor, pushes the envelope!  He has many repeat performances and is truly a respected and admired entrepreneur in his own right!

Website: https://www.healthybrandbuilders.com/

Website: https://innovativebrands.solutions/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/innovative-brands-business-accelerator/  

1. How did you get into the industry?

(EXAMPLE: Tell us about how or why you initially got involved with the industry relating to this business)

I got into the industry kind of circuitously. I graduated from the University of Oregon in 1973 and immediately went into my father’s business, which was a manufacturing operation as well as a distributorship for 7UP, A&W Root Beer, the Crush line,  Welch’s… We had about 60 different brands in the Bay area and Sacramento and up to the Nevada border. I worked for my dad from ‘73 until ‘82. I went through a massive training program until I became Vice President, General Manager of the business.

Once I got there I realized In 1982 that I did not want to produce carbonated soft drinks anymore and continue to be a participant in this horrible lack of nutritious oriented kind of business. And so I had no idea what I was going to do but I left the business and was in Hawaii on vacation trying to figure out what I was going to do with myself. I started eating these Maui style potato chips, which are Russet potatoes with the skin left on. Eventually I called the guy on the back of the bag of potato chips and I ended up going to his house and spent three days with him learning how to manufacture the product. I came back to the mainland in the Bay Area and I built a plant to be able to produce in mass the type of products he was producing in the basement of his house. So my first entrepreneurial business and experience was in developing Maui chips. I was in that business for about a year and a half, then I sold it to a company called Laura Scudder's, which was the largest potato chip company in the Western US next to Frito Lay. Then I did the same thing in a Cheese manufacturing business after that and I sold that company. Then I went into the Banking business. A friend of mine started a bank in Northern California and wanted me to help him get deposits and I knew a lot of people in business and so I thought that would be fun and I could learn the banking business at the same time. So we built the bank from one branch to 19 and sold out to Wells Fargo. Then in 1987, I didn’t want to go to work for Wells Fargo so I hung out a Consulting shingle. It took me about two years before I could make enough money to support my family. And the rest is history as I’ve been doing this for almost 33 years.

2. Any emerging industry trends?

(EXAMPLE: Tell us about any new or relevant industry trends that you are noticing: movements, developments, advancements, etc.)

I think they’re coming in multiple quadrants. One would be packaging - the world of sustainability is forcing a lot of big corporate and even small business to think about the over-packaging of their products. the light-weighting of products, the size and capabilities relative to shipping because of the logistics and cost. Those things are all relevant issues that put pressure on business today. In addition, on the product development side, things like new types of proteins, plant proteins and other forms, are very hot today. Probiotic health, the ability to keep your lower gut, big and small intestines in good health, which is called your microbiome, is a focus of many doctors today and therefore it’s becoming a focus of consumers. Getting rid of things like Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Colon cancer and all those kinds of things has a lot to do with what you’re eating. So Probiotic and Prebiotic health is an important focus. Certain diet structures are also of import today and are gaining popularity like the Keto Diet and the Paleo Diet. Those things are trends that seem to be sticking around and you can probably throw on top of that the banter about Non-GMO, Vegan and Organic. Those are all things that are very important to consumers today.

3. Any industry opportunities or challenges?

(EXAMPLE: Tell us about any new or relevant business opportunities or challenges that you are noticing in your industry) (e.g. , opportunities, such as a better way of doing something or a product/service that suddenly becomes more attractive,  could arise due to new trends, technological advancements, or increased customer demand; challenges, such as market barriers or decreasing sales, could arise due to changes in technology, low market demand, or prohibitive regulations)

The industry is in a really good place right now because there is a ton of entrepreneurial energy, which is bringing a lot of new product innovation to the market and is satisfying a need that big corporate has both in America and abroad. Their innovation pipelines are not really that solid so they look to these small and medium companies to bring the innovation to them and then they write the big checks to buy these companies out and assimilate them into their operation.

I think on the negative side of that, there’s a tremendous amount of consolidation that’s still taking place in the industry and as consolidation happens it causes a shrinkage -- not capital because there’s plenty of capital in the market -- but the players that are available to end up being exit partners are shrinking. And so some of the private equity firms out there are buying companies and holding them for a period of time and operating them doing what is called Mezzanine financing and then they’ll flip the company when the time is right or when the market might be more receptive.

As it relates to Food and Beverage particularly, which is my area of influence, being mindful of the ecological and environmental impacts of bringing new products and services to market. With our population growing as fast as it is, both food and water sources are becoming less plentiful and therefore being mindful about what you’re bringing to market and how you’re bringing it to market is something that will be really important on a go forward basis.

4. Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?

(EXAMPLE: Tell us about what originally inspired the business concept, and tell us what the desired future of the business is)

The inspiration for me was to be more helpful and more involved in the forefront of innovation around functionality and functional food and beverage. I’m morphing from my strategic consultancy at HealthyBrandBuilders to Innovative Brands Accelerator. I’m doing this at this later stage in my life to give back to the entrepreneur community, the businesses that are 1-10 million in sales, where we can bring this C level group of Executives to the plate and cradle and grow these companies in a more structured fashion giving them the ability to scale, the understanding of how to scale, how to use capital and how to report their monthly operations more effectively, all aimed at helping them get to a logical exit for their company.

5. What's next for the Business in the near future?

(EXAMPLE: Tell us about anything new and exciting that could be expected in the short term, such as in the next 18 months: new products or services, changes in direction, mergers/acquisitions, leadership changes, etc.)

The Accelerator is at right place at the right time. My partner Joe Jacober is great at operating businesses. I’m really good at scouting businesses so it’s my job to go find the entrepreneurial ventures that are going to come into our business. Then it’s up to Joe and the rest of the team to cradle them and develop this 18 month relationship where we can help build better executives and potentially better product, tighten up their supply chains, make sure that their financial reporting is top notch and then that they’re ready for fundraising. That’s the immediate future for me.

6. Your key initiatives for the success of the Business?

(EXAMPLE: Tell us about any successful or profitable activities or decisions that you have been involved with, such as marketing strategies or partnerships, that have contributed positively to the Business)

Staying very focused.  Not wanting to grow too fast. Not taking too many clients on at one time. We don’t know how many clients we can take on concentrically, which means if we bring on a new client every quarter then after one year we’ll have four clients in the pipeline and they’ll all be exiting at different times as well. We think that’s very easy to do. So if we bring on one or two new clients every three months, we can probably have a very nice confluence and a very nice outflow.

7. Your most difficult moment at the Business? (and what did you learn?)

(EXAMPLE: Tell us about the most significant challenge or obstacle that you have experienced as it relates to the Business, and tell us what this experience may have revealed to you)

In my HealthyBrandBuilders business, I think the most difficult thing was trying to be patient at the beginning of the process, when I was trying to build the business in the late 80s. I had to reinvent myself and I really had no outward face to the market outside of the Bay Area of California. So being really patient. At the same time, the patience gave me the impetus to be able to grow a very successful strategic consultancy that’s lasted 32 years. I’m very mindful of the success and very humbled by it.

8. Ideal experience for a customer/client?

(EXAMPLE: Tell us what you think a recipient of your services or products would most enjoy, appreciate, or benefit from)

An ideal experience for one of our clients would be signing up and coming on board at the beginning of month one and us being able to perform the tasks that we set forth and agree to do for them and for them to come out the other end after 18 months ready for financing, watching them get financed and then continue to grow their company to the logical conclusion where they can have an exit. That’s a fairly simplistic view but that’s really all my interest is.

9. How do you motivate others?

(EXAMPLE: Tell us about your most effective techniques or strategies for inspiring and encouraging those that you work with)

My personal motivation structure is to do what I do, not what I say. So I believe I would never ask anybody to do something I haven’t done before or am currently doing. I like to lead by example. I also am a big believer in sharing, so one of the things that’s really important to me is share the experience but also share the upside. So in our business all of our employees are sharing in the upside of our business.

10. Career advice to those in your industry?

(EXAMPLE: Tell us what you think is an important tip or piece of information that may help to advance someone’s career path:  something that you have learned through experience that others may not know)

It’s always going to take longer to get to the end zone than you think. It will cost more money and it will take twists and turns that you will not see coming. You can only prepare for certain things in life. But the fun thing about being in the world of entrepreneurship is that nothing is written in sand. It’s not the same kind of business every day. Being flexible. Not giving up when adversity strikes. Being creative and seeking help. Those are pieces of advice I would give.

Joe Jacober: CEO, Innovative Brands Accelerator

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My NativeAdVice:

Joe Jacober has more than 25 years of experience as an entrepreneur and brand revitalization authority. Joe is CEO of Innovative Brands Accelerator and most recently, Innovation Ranch, a brand revitalization and consulting company focused on emerging consumer products and brands and led a successful exit for an RTD 100% fruit juice company where he was interim CEO. He was also President of China Mist Tea Company where he was responsible for restructuring this iconic global tea company that led to more than 20% growth and resulted in its highest revenue and operating income in company history. Joe was also the founder and CEO of Innovative Brands (Pert Plus & Sure) and responsible for building the company from acquisition and infrastructure to a $100 million business with a 22%+ EBITDA margin leading to the successful sale of the brands. Joe was also a member of the senior management team of UTI, Inc. during its successful IPO and led other successful startups including Belae Brands, a $90 million consumer company. At The Dial Corporation, Joe launched Liquid Dial hand soap, the category’s first antibacterial liquid hand soap and became the #1 brand that generated over $250 million in annual revenue and ushered in a wave of new consumer products with antibacterial properties.

Website: https://innovativebrands.solutions/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/innovative-brands-business-accelerator/ 

Joe Jacober: https://www.linkedin.com/in/joejacober/

1. How did you get into the industry?
I started my career working for an ad agency and wanted to be more engaged in the total marketing process, not just one element. So I was hired by The Dial Corporation to launch Liquid Dial, the first antibacterial hand soap in the market. They wanted someone with advertising experience since they were going to roll out a significant advertising investment, so I fit the bill. Working on this iconic brand really immersed me into the business of consumer products. We served a new consumer need and ultimately changed a category. That’s where I developed my passion for growing and scaling products that bring meaningful value to consumers.

2. Any emerging industry trends?

The biggest trend is how much small companies are now impacting new product development in the CPG industry.  It used to be that large companies were doing all the innovating and then it seemed like that morphed into simply launching a series of line extensions, which helped to save on costs but didn’t keep up with the changing preferences of consumers. So small companies have stepped in and now represent more of the innovation than ever before. Consumers want meaningful value from their products. They want to purchase from brands that share their values and enhance their personal lifestyle. Digital marketing has opened up tremendous opportunities for small CPG companies with great ideas to reach consumers and build a following before they invest in growing and scaling their company. Where historically, large CPG companies dominated the retail channel making competition for brand awareness and shelf space indomitable for small players. The digital transformation of retail has changed all that. Ecommerce enables innovative entrants to reach consumers and test their concept - it has broken down traditional barriers to entry.

The second development has been the development of omnichannel distribution via large companies. Grocery stores, for example, used to all be local.  Now, most groceries are sold through large chains. In the same way, new channels have emerged, and you see Walmart, Target and even Walgreens and CVS trying to get a share of the market alongside clubs and the newest comer … online merchants like Amazon.

Both trends create challenges and opportunities for entrepreneurs as they look to how they can build a business and decisions on the best way to engage consumers with these new to market brands.

3. Any industry opportunities or challenges?
To reach the growth stage of a product’s lifecycle requires experience across all business disciplines. Most small companies just don’t have a full-fledged management team to get to the next level. They need to streamline and evolve their financial systems, marketing and selling strategies, distribution strategies, supply chain production, and manufacturing environments. Most also struggled with raising capital. Since private equity has become a bigger part of the investment marketplace versus what used to be called venture capital firms, it has also become harder to source start-up capital. From the PE’s viewpoint, it is just as complicated to research a $50 million transaction as it is a $5 million deal. So why would they spend the time and money for something that may be a higher risk?

Innovative Brands Accelerator bridges these two issues. We bring discipline and rigor to the entrepreneur and share with them information that “they don’t even know to ask for” as well as the structure and reporting and financial data. That makes the process simplified for potential PE partners.

4. Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?

The start of Innovative Brands Accelerator came about specifically by recognizing how many new CPG entrants there were who just didn’t know how to scale and grow their companies. These entrepreneurs have new ideas and products that serve new and changing consumer needs but the brands struggle to successfully move from the introduction to the growth stage of their product lifecycle. We saw that they just didn’t have the infrastructure and experience to make it grow - but we do. Combined, we have over 100 years in the CPG industry, so we decided to start a company where we could give back by sharing our experience and passion to help good brands be more successful.

5. What's next for the Business in the near future?

With the launch of Innovative Brands Accelerator, we are focused on establishing a portfolio of concept-proven clients that bring meaningful value to their consumer base and distribution channels and looking forward to their success as they level-up to scale and attract major equity infusion.

6. Your key initiatives for the success of the Business?
We focus on attracting brands that are enthusiastic and committed to evolve and grow and want to avoid the missteps from trial-and-error that occur…Founders, CEO’s and investors, seek us out for our ability to embed our team in the company and then drive change from within - as a part of the team.

7. Your most difficult moment at the Business? (and what did you learn?)

A few years back I was asked by The Dial Corporation to turnaround the Dial Soap brand. I had no interest, but was called up to the CEO’s office and explained that they needed a more entrepreneurial take on a brand that revenue and market share were starting to decline. After taking it on, I learned that the discipline and rigor of building a business and making it successful has nothing to do with size. Before taking on this huge business I had only built smaller businesses. By going back and focusing on the fundamentals of what makes and good CPG business strong, I was able to have success with a much bigger business. Often times there was a lot of risk-taking in business and the key was doing it based on very grounded experience, using fact-based decision making and using a creative approach to problem-solving… meaning that there is always more than one way to get things done.

8. Ideal experience for a customer/client?

Our accelerator program is tried and true. We developed it based on our experiences launching and growing CPG brands. What our clients most enjoy is confidence. We often hear from founders that they worry about what they don’t know. Because we’ve been there done that, we can show our clients the path to success without the entrepreneurial stumbling and trial and error. We also don’t take over. Our clients remain in control of their companies.

The accelerator is an 18-month program. The ability to level-up your leadership team and infrastructure in that short of a timeframe is an important benefit that can excite and energize the whole company.

9. How do you motivate others?
I’ve found that people, by and large, want to do meaningful work. They want to know that what they do matters. When you take the time to draw the line between what someone does and how that makes a difference, people are motivated to do their best work. That’s one of the main reason we work with companies that are bringing meaningful value to their consumers. It is very fulfilling to help companies like that succeed.

People also like to succeed. So providing the tools to be successful, is critical for motivation. Oftentimes success or failure is placed on an individual or individuals. But that’s not usually correct. More often, it’s the systems and processes that enable a company or an initiative to be successful or not. When the right infrastructure is in place, the talents of people can really be utilized and leveraged and that is when you see a company transform.

10. Career advice to those in your industry?
Communication and ownership. No matter what your title or role, good communication skills, and an ownership spirit will serve you well.

When you truly understand the needs and priorities of the company and are accountable for your part, you will be rewarded with positive results.

Success is always a group effort. You need to be able to effectively listen to and understand the needs and expectations of the people you work with.  

Shannon Kenny: Founder, Mama Eco

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My NativeAdVice:

Shannon Kenny is the founder of Mama Eco, and online website dedicated to helping people find simple solutions to sustainability. Growing up on the Caribbean island of Trinidad instilled a deep sense of environmental responsibility within her, and in 2017, she turned that conviction into her career with the launch of Mama Eco. Prior to that, Shannon worked in the travel industry as a luxury travel advisor, and in the art world as an artist and curator. She has spoken at sustainable events such as the Osmunda Earth Day Fair, and moderated panels, such as a Sustainable Travel Panel, hosted by the Impact Travel Alliance. Her blog has been featured in several publications, like redbook, Woman’s Day and The M List. Shannon’s goal is to empower people to make conscious decisions about the way that they buy and consume, and to help them see that their actions have impact.

1. How did you get into the industry?

Even as a kid, I was collecting trash on the beach and encouraging my family to conserve water. And after spending years at a day job that completely sucked the life out of me, I knew I had to find a career that was more fulfilling and had purpose. I spent two years trying out business ideas that would allow me to fuse my passion into something I could support myself on. And after several iterations, and a few learning experiences along the way, I shifted towards what I now call: Mama Eco 2.0. An online resource for people who want to live sustainably but don’t know where to start.

2. Any emerging industry trends?

The idea of social entrepreneurship has been exploding over the past few years, and a growing number of companies are building their core values on the idea of social, ethical and environmental impact. Companies like Everlane, Patagonia, United By Blue, Conscious Step, Ecosia, and so many others are using capitalism as a vessel to create change. And they are living proof that you can create a successful and profitable business with minimal environmental or social effects. And as consumers shift their buying power towards supporting companies with these types of motives, more businesses will follow suit since that’s what the market dictates.

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3. Any industry opportunities or challenges?

There’s a big shift that’s happening in restaurants and cafes, specifically as it pertains to ‘takeaway’ items. Businesses are moving away from single-use plastics and moving towards compostable products. Now in theory, this is great because compostable products are made from renewable resources and don’t leech the kinds of chemicals that plastics do. But with a huge gap in consumer education about proper disposal, a lack of designated receptacles at those restaurants, and the fact that most people don’t have access to commercial compost facilities, we find ourselves in just as dire a predicament as we were before. You see, compostable products don’t break down naturally, and are just as harmful to the environment and to wildlife as plastic if they are not disposed of in a commercial compost. Compostable products are in a “chicken and an egg” situation right now. We need global, national, and local composting facilities to break down the compostable products, but we also need enough product on the market to create demand for those facilities.

4. Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?

When I started moving towards sustainable living, I would spend hours and hours researching products that had minimal impact on the planet, often not finding what I needed. You see, at the time, there was no one place that you could go to find sustainable products, at least not anything that was good or user-friendly. So I decided that I would create my own solution. A resource where people could easily find sustainable products, and either buy direct from the company that made them, or buy from websites they were already shopping on, like Amazon or Etsy. I’ve created sustainable product listings, that look and feel just like an ecommerce website, but then send them along to where they can buy it, making a commission for each product purchased.

In conjunction with the website, I’ve also created a blog and instagram to inspire people to live more sustainably and lower the amount of trash they create. The overarching theme of what I post is that you don’t have to completely change your life to be sustainable. Instead, you can simply tweak your approach, which over time, creates big impact. My goal is to empower people to make their own sustainable changes, in a way that is palatable for them and in a way that has REAL impact.

5. What's next for the Business in the near future?

I’m working on several digital products that will be available for purchase directly through my website. These will include several resources that people can download to help them live more sustainably and lower their carbon footprint. In addition, I’m starting to do sustainability consulting where I help businesses, like hotels and restaurants, lower their carbon footprint and reduce their company’s waste, which also saves them money long-term. I will also be doing this for individual clients who wish to make sustainable changes in their personal lives.

6. Your key initiatives for the success of the Business?

Even though it is completely unintended, 90% of what I actually do is marketing. I thought I was just spreading a positive message about sustainability, but it all comes down to how I communicate that information. And that’s all marketing.

From a business perspective, brand partnerships have been the most successful part of the business thus far. Coming together with businesses whose values truly align with my own, and finding creative ways to promote their mission has been both rewarding and has allowed me to introduce my community to sustainable solutions that they would’ve otherwise been unaware of.

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7. Your most difficult moment at the Business? (and what did you learn?)

My initial business model was solely based on affiliate marketing. But once I started running the numbers on how much website traffic I’d have to generate, I realized that affiliate marketing could not be my primary source of income, and I’d have to diversity my income streams. That’s why I branched out into brand partnerships with companies that focus on and promote sustainability, and am now transitioning intro creating my own digital products along with some sustainability consulting. I see all of these as individual pieces that make the business work as a whole, which creates a much more stable and profitable business.

8. Ideal experience for a customer/client?

When someone discovers my website or instagram, they feel relieved that they’ve found a resource that can help them be more environmentally conscious. They no longer feel overwhelmed by the looming thoughts of climate change and plastic pollution, and finally feel like they can take control of their carbon footprint. They start swapping out the products they they current use for sustainable alternatives and they follow my blog for new ideas on how to live sustainably. They start to realize that the changes they make really do have a positive impact on the planet, and as that confidence builds, they share their ideas with their family and friends, creating ripple effect of awareness and action around sustainability.

9. How do you motivate others?

People want to be inspired to take action. They don’t want to be told what to do. So I keep my message positive and try to make it as easy and attainable as possible. I offer suggestions and encouragement, and help people to see that the journey to sustainability is just as important as the end goal.

10. Career advice to those in your industry?

Embrace naiveté and follow your gut. A lot of people look down on naiveté, but I see it as an advantage. If I knew how hard it would be to start my own business, I probably wouldn’t have quit my stable job to start Mama Eco. And if I had believed all of the people who said it was a bad idea and a very risky move, I wouldn’t be where I’m standing today. But I believed in what I was doing, even though it sounded crazy to the people around me. I trusted my intuition, and put everything into Mama Eco, and let me tell you, it’s been worth every single second. I know I’m fighting an uphill environmental and bureaucratic battle and that there’s so much to be done to get this planet on a sustainable path, but I believe in that vision, and I won’t stop until it becomes a reality.

https://www.instagram.com/mama.eco

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Austin Netzley: Bestselling author, Investor & Entrepreneur

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Austin Netzley is a bestselling author, investor and entrepreneur. He is the Founder and CEO of 2X, a company specializing in helping busy entrepreneurs implement the systems and strategies necessary to get their time back, systemize their operations, and double their business in 90 days.

Kelly Bleach: Former Chief Business Officer, American Foundation for the Blind

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Former Chief Business Officer at American Foundation for the Blind, current part-time Project Manager and Doctoral Student Kelly Bleach has focused her career on applying forward-thinking management practices to the nonprofit sector, including 25 years at the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB),

Rebecca Hall: President & CEO, Idea Hall

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Rebecca Hall is a thought leader and celebrated entrepreneur in the PR, branding and marketing industry. She graduated from Chapman University, where she has served on the Board of Trustees and as Alumni President and is currently a member of Chapman’s Board of Governors and Chapman 50