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Get To Know Our Team: 20 Questions with Ciara!

Interested in learning more about the people who make the magic happen at FoodtoEat?! Here’s your chance! We’re giving you a behind the scenes look into our team and their personalities with a brief Q&A where they spill everything from their biggest fear to the most unusual thing they’ve ever eaten.

First up, Ciara McKeown, whose been with the company for almost four years! Learn more about Ciara below!

What’s your role at FoodtoEat?

I’m the Marketing and Partnerships Manager.

What’s your favorite part of your job?

The tastings- I love trying different cuisines from local businesses throughout NYC that I couldn’t find myself.

What’s an accomplishment you’ve had at FoodtoEat that you’re really proud of?

Running the #IMadeYourFood campaign. I love speaking with the vendors one on one and really getting to know their stories: their background, how they got into food and what drives them to stay motivated in such a tough industry. Hearing about the sacrifices that some of them have made is truly moving and inspiring.

What’s something you worked on recently OR are working on right now that you’re excited about?

The #IMadeYourFood video series! Coming soon….

Where did you grow up and where do you live now?

I grew up in Floral Park, NY (a small town on Long Island). Now I live in Astoria.

What’s your favorite hobby?

Going out to dinner or working out

What’s something unique about you?

My name- it’s pronounced Kiera but spelled Ciara, which is the Gaelic spelling.

If you could live anywhere, where would it be?

Rome, Italy

What’s your biggest pet peeve?

Slow walkers

What’s the most daring thing you’ve ever done?

Skydiving

What’s one thing you’re determined to do in your lifetime?

Travel to Machu Picchu

What do you wish you knew more about?

Politics

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

“Never run after a man or a bus, there’s always another one coming” (thanks, Nana)

What are your top 3 favorite movies?

Good Will Hunting, 10 Things I Hate About You and Newsies

What’s your biggest fear?

Being buried alive

What’s one motto you try to live your life by?

“Pura Vida”

What’s your food kryptonite?

A massive chocolate chip cookie (or any cookie/dessert really)

What’s one food or food trend that you can never get behind?

Sushi

What’s your favorite restaurant?

Anything Italian or Mexican

What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever eaten?

Tobiko

0 comments on “It’s Time to Be More MNDFL”

It’s Time to Be More MNDFL

When you’re constantly on the go (as all New Yorkers are) it’s hard to make the time to take care of yourself- body and mind. But with more than 46 million Americans struggling with mental illness on a daily basis, it’s so important to start taking the steps to make sure that you’re mentally and emotionally healthy.

Meditation is a mind-body practice where an individual focuses their mind on a specific object, thought or activity to train attention and awareness. It’s a skill that takes consistent practice to be comfortable with and has been proven to reduce stress,  anxiety and depression. We’re so excited to be partnering with MNDFL, New York’s premier meditation studio, for their new “Lunch & Sit” program, which brings meditation straight to your office! With “Lunch & Sit”, you don’t have to worry about squeezing a meditation class into your crazy work week. You can have MNDFL come to you with a 60 minute session where you’ll eat a delicious, healthy meal catered by a FoodtoEat vendor and finish out your lunch with a 30 minute guided meditation session. Interested? Keep reading to learn more about MNDFL and how you can be more mindful when eating.

What is MNDFL? MNDFL exists to enable humans to feel good. Our studios are meant to feel like home, or at least the spacious home you’d love to have in New York. We feature expert meditation teachers from a variety of traditions offering simple techniques in an accessible manner. Even if you think you can’t meditate, we have teachers who will prove you delightfully wrong! Our classes are 30, 45, and 60 minutes, and start at $15. When classes are not in session, the studio is open for self-guided practice. Bonus: everyone is super friendly!

When was MNDFL founded? MNDFL first opened it’s doors in November of 2015 in Greenwich Village and has since expanded to two additional locations on the Upper East Side and in Williamsburg. It was founded by Ellie Burrows and Lodro Rinzler.

What is the mission behind MNDFL? MNDFL’s mission is to make meditation accessible to as many human beings as possible. We believe in the Three T’s: Traditions + Teachers + Techniques. We are taking techniques that are 2,500 years or older and empowering our expert teachers to lead you from their traditions in a secular manner.

What are the benefits of meditation? Meditation has many benefits that science is now proving but a few to note are:

  • Decreases Stress and Builds Resilience
  • Lower Blood Pressure
  • Boosts Creativity & Problem-Solving
  • Supports Normalized Sleep
  • Increases Focus and Productivity
  • Increase Creative Thinking
  • Benefit Interpersonal Relationships

Why has MNDFL had so much success in New York City? In just 3 short years, we have seen over 200,000 cushions booked and are still in shock at the new humans passing through our doors daily. Let’s face it, New Yorker’s are stressed, busy, and hungry for connection. MNDFL has created a space that feels like the comfort of your home yet at the same time provides space to breath.

Why was MNDFL @ Work created? MNDFL @ Work was created out of the need to educate corporations on both the professional and personal benefits of building and maintaining a meditation practice without having to leave the office. Increased productivity, better focus and stress management are key factors in the desire to launch an in-office program, but the epidemic of burnt out employees nationwide has sent companies searching for a cure. Meditation is here to help.

After creating MNDFL @ Work, why did you see the need to launch the MNDFL “Lunch & Sit” program? Here at MNDFL we are continually looking for ways to make meditation more and more accessible. What better way to start committing to a practice than attaching it to something you do everyday, like getting lunch!

What is the “Lunch & Sit” program and what you hope to accomplish with it? The MNDFL “Lunch & Sit” program is 60 minutes dedicated to nourishing your body with wholesome food and nourishing your mind with guided meditation. The format is to open with 30 minutes of a healthy catered lunch followed by a 30 minute guided MNDFL meditation. We are hoping this program will allow offices to easily incorporate mental health into their company culture by attaching it to something that we already do on a regular basis.

What do you see for the future of MNDFL? We hope to continue educating and supporting human beings on building and maintaining a meditation practice. Although our efforts are currently focused on growing our NYC communities, we’d love to eventually spread this beyond just the east coast. If you’re not able to sit with us at any of our three NYC studio locations, we do offer MNDFL Video which allows you to sit with our expert teachers in the comfort of your home. 

MNDFL Eating Tips:

Even if your mind is going 60 miles per hour, try to mindfully show up for at least the first and last bite of your meal. Pause before you dive in, acknowledge your food then slowly take the first bite, savoring the taste. Notice the texture, flavor, and temperature of your meal. Chew it at a slower pace than normal. If you drift off after that first bite, okay, but then at the end of your meal repeat this process with your last bite too. That way you open and close your meal with grace and dignity.

Pause between bites. Often we are already lowering our utensil, rooting around our plate or bowl while chewing, already strategizing what we’re going to eat next. Instead of living for the next bite, train to rest in the present moment. Let the food anchor you in the here and now. One of the simplest ways to do that is to put down your utensil and savor the food you’re currently eating. When you have enjoyed and swallowed what you’re currently enjoying, only then do you pick up your spoon or fork and proceed with your meal.

Part of a fun meal is enjoying the company of those you’re eating with. One way to maximize that enjoyment is through mindful listening. Notice when you are deeply listening to your companions over a meal, versus spacing out or mentally having another conversation in your head. You are simply there with them, as opposed to waiting for your turn to speak. You can lay down your utensil, look the person in the eye, and aim to hear what they are trying to say. To deeply listen enables someone to feel your full heart.

 

 

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Reimagining Hospitality with WiHU

Women in Hospitality United, or WiHU, is a female founded organization that’s revolutionizing the hospitality industry. Created by Elizabeth Meltz, Erin Fairbanks and Liz Murray, they strive to challenge industry norms and provide women throughout the country with solutions to combat harassment and sexism. They’ve built a community where women are empowered to talk about the issues that they’ve faced and learn from each another so that they can find ways to make sure future generations of women don’t fall victim to the same cycle of inequality that has plagued this industry.

We were lucky enough to chat with Erin Fairbanks about the mission behind WiHU and what their organization is doing to create change in an industry that’s largely male-dominated. Not only were we impressed by the growth of their organization in such a short period of time but also by Erin’s passion for the work that she does and her commitment to reinventing how both men and women see the workplace.

How did you and your co-founders get into the hospitality industry? Elizabeth, Liz and myself have all made our way through a variety of positions in the industry. Elizabeth and I started as line cooks, her at Aureole and then Del Posto, myself at Savoy and then Gramercy Tavern. I went on to launch Farm Camp at Flying Pigs Farm and then joined Heritage Radio Network as its first Executive Director. Elizabeth created a department of food safety and sustainability for B&B Hospitality and now leads that program for Dig Inn. Liz got her start bartending in Mexico and as an expeditor at Dover and then managed people operations for Gramercy Tavern. She is now the Director of HR and Communications for the Marlow Collective.

How did WiHU start? In the fall of 2017, frustrated and outraged by the rash of #MeToo allegations across the restaurant industry, Elizabeth sent out an email to 100+ women in hospitality.  She and I organized a meeting and committed to hosting this group of industry stakeholders who could advance women-lead solutions. WiHU is an opt-in organization. To really be a part of what we’re creating, individuals need to show up and put in the work.  We connected with our third co-founder, Liz Murray, at the second WiHU meeting. It was Liz’s strong encouragement that lead to the formalizing of WiHU as a stand-alone entity.

What is the mission behind WiHU? Our mission is multifaceted. We work to build community by creating safer spaces to gather. We look for opportunities to foster leadership and champion the equitable advancement of all people through connection, mentorship, and resource sharing.  We empower our members by providing tools, training, advocacy, and support. Collectively our goal is to develop solutions and provide policies that set new standards for equity, accountability, and transparency in the industry.

Why did you feel there was a need for change in the hospitality industry? The #MeToo movement succeeded in shining a light on a long-accepted culture of harassment in the hospitality industry. We learned at the Solution Sprint (our signature event) that the challenge for our industry moving forward would be recognizing that you cannot effectively solve for harassment issues in a vacuum. To achieve true cultural change, the conversations around solutions must include a substantive look at the system’s shortcoming as related to: race, income distribution, access to resources, and power dynamics. We truly feel harassment is a symptom of the greater power imbalances that exist. We are working to dismantle and rebuild a a safer and more equitable industry.

What actions does your organization currently take to create that change? As a new non-profit we are working toward a vision of the future where WiHU training and consulting modules will be recognized as “must haves” for enlightened operators. We see WiHubs operating across the country, in partnership with other local or national groups, providing mentorship resources, creating region-specific best practice solutions, and acting as checks and balances for local hospitality communities.

We see the Solution Sprint happening across geographies, industry verticals, and being used as a mechanism for businesses to advance change. We anticipate a multitude of cross-sector and cross-industry partnerships designed to advance women of all races and orientations as we work toward achieving equity across all aspects of the hospitality industry. We see WiHU as the rocket fuel accelerating this change.

Our aim is to be a fiscally sound, thriving organization operating at a national level to serve the hospitality industry by developing solutions and providing policies that set new standards for equity, accountability, and transparency in the industry.  

Our focus areas for 2019 include:

  • The launch of a dynamic membership model that provides our community with an online network of supporters and access to tools, trainings and events while growing our national footprint.
  • Bringing our signature offering, the Solution Sprint, to conferences across the country to drive community-led solutions.   
  • Building out our board of directors and advisors and working to lay the strategic and financial framework to ensure the long term success of our work.

Why did this desire for change speak to you personally? I have long been dedicated to equity building through convening and experiential education. My work with WiHU is a natural extension of these efforts and a reflection of my personal north star–a vision of a future where all individuals, regardless of race or gender are able to thrive and bring their whole selves to work. You can learn more about my personal work history here.

What is the most challenging part of your work with WiHU? It’s important to remember that the change we are building toward is something that will happen on a generational timeline.  We are in a marathon, not a sprint. And it’s tough because the work feels incredibly urgent. We want to move toward change as quickly as possible but ultimately, to build a truly inclusive organization, we need to focus on listening, moving slowly and trusting the wisdom and insights of our members.  I truly believe our industry has the the talent and desire to create the change that we envision.

What is the most rewarding part of your work with WiHU? I love hearing directly from our members about how our work has impacted them. Notes like this one from Chef Meika Johnson in Houston, Texas really keep me going. “ You guys and the connections I’ve made through you guys have been such an inspiration to me. From the bottom of my heart thank you!!❤️”

*WiHU Founders Photo Courtesy of Bridget Shevlin

 

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Our Q&A with Georgene Huang, the Co-Founder and CEO of Fairygodboss

Ladies, if you haven’t already heard of Fairygodboss, we’re about to introduce you to your new favorite career community, designed for women by women. Fairygodboss was founded by Georgene Huang and Romy Newman, two women who recognize that it’s not always easy being a woman in the workplace and understand the value of deep career research. So they created a platform where women can post anonymous job reviews, find jobs at companies that have forward-thinking policies, discuss topics like salaries, work-life balance and motherhood and get advice from other women. Fairygodboss helps women answer the questions that are hard to ask and strives to create a world where women feel empowered to take control of their careers.

We were given the opportunity to talk with Fairygodboss co-founder and CEO, Georgene Huang, about her career, how she identified the need for a business like Fairygodboss and what she sees as the biggest challenge facing woman-owned businesses today. To say we were inspired by her outlook on work, life and motherhood would be an understatement. Check out our full conversation with this amazing female entrepreneur below!

Tell us about your background. How do you think your childhood shaped your career path? I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and I interned in Silicon Valley at startups. My father is an entrepreneur and I think because I was constantly surrounded by so much innovation, it made me excited at the idea of building something from the ground up. I moved to NYC when I finished law school and have spent most of my career in New York.

Walk us through your career pre-Fairygodboss. What was your first job and how did you transition into the jobs following? I studied Economics at Cornell University and after graduating from Stanford University, I started practicing law. In a few months, I realized that my passion didn’t lie in that area and I moved into investing roles on Wall Street at a few different firms. When the financial crisis hit in 2008, I started working at Bloomberg Ventures where I was in charge of helping to incubate and grow a few different businesses from the ground up. After that I ran the enterprise business at Dow Jones.

Where did you come up with the idea for Fairygodboss? The idea for Fairygodboss came to me after what I describe as a “very bad day” at work. On that day, I was suddenly fired from my executive role at a major company as part of a management shakeup. At the time, I was two months pregnant and hadn’t told anyone yet. So I was in this position of looking for a job and going on interviews — and feeling quite pressured to hide my pregnancy. While interviewing, I wanted to ask certain questions around benefits and policies like maternity leave and work-life balance — but feared being judged as less than fully committed to my career if I asked. I also wanted to hear directly from other women about their experiences and how they overcame similar challenges. So I turned to the internet for answers and was surprised by the lack of information I found, which is why we’ve formed the Fairygodboss Community. Today, FGB offers free resources as the only crowdsourced database of parental leave benefits and free, anonymous company reviews by women. Members can ask for or offer advice on a daily, interactive Fairygodboss feed.  

Why do you think Fairygodboss, as a platform, is necessary for women in today’s corporate landscape? When I was looking for a job while I was pregnant, I couldn’t ask important questions without feeling like I would face bias, assumptions and judgment. I also felt incredibly alone in my experience and wanted to talk to other women who’d become mothers and also had big careers, to get their advice. By creating more transparency about how women are treated in the workplace and connecting women with each other, I hope women can find more support and success.

Do you have a favorite Fairygodboss “success story”? This past March we closed on a $10 million Series A investment, co-led by GSV Accelerate and Signal Peak Ventures. While raising money isn’t the goal of our business, it is external validation of the strong product, business and team we have built.

How has Fairygodboss changed since it started in 2015 to now? When we first started it was literally me and my co-founder, Romy Newman, working by ourselves in our apartments (and a lot of cafes!). Now, we are a team of 50 and are continuing to grow. Today, millions of women turn to Fairygodboss for a sense of community and to connect with other women. We’re obsessed with improving the workplace and believe the No. 1 way to do that is through transparency and women collaborating with each other. Our product has evolved so much as well. Fairygodboss started with only free, anonymous reviews, but now we produce career-focused editorial content, publish data and research, and recently we’ve launched a daily feed which is the centerpiece of how our community interacts with each other. We’ve also launched virtual career fairs to help job-seekers connect directly with recruiters at employers who are trying to hire more women.

What’s an initiative that you’re working on now at Fairygodboss that you’re really passionate about? Why? The daily feed we’re building is really exciting. We see women chiming in about all kinds of things, ranging from how to manage career change to difficult situations at work, or the best tips and tricks when it comes to managing their family responsibilities and workloads. There’s so much variety and diversity of viewpoints and genuinely fascinating looks into the inner worlds of so many women. The supportive community we’re building is very unique and I am really passionate about nurturing it.

What’s the biggest challenge of being a woman-owned business? I think owning a business is hard, regardless of your gender, but I think one uphill battle that women face is around getting VC funding. Recent data has shown that female founders only received 2.2% of venture funding in 2018 so if you’re starting a company whose products or services cater to women, you have to spend more time thinking about how to convince a potential investor (who is typically an older, white male) that you are solving a real and important problem. Imagine if you were starting a lipstick company, for example. While men understand what lipstick is and that many women wear it, it’s not solving a problem that they have experienced firsthand. Therefore, the whole premise of your business is foreign to them.

What motivates you as a business owner and a female entrepreneur? Knowing that we’re building something bigger than any one of us!

As a founder, what are some things you think about as a leader/actions you take to motivate your team? I believe it’s important to make sure everyone’s voice is heard so I make sure to take time every week to have one-on-one meetings with my direct reports. Creating clear lines of communication and ensuring that everyone feels comfortable sharing their opinions has helped to create a more collaborative and engaging workplace culture at Fairygodboss. I also really believe in leading by example. I believe that I work very hard but I also do so flexibly when possible, and I realize the importance of modeling behavior.

There’s a lot of conversation today around “work life balance”. Do you believe there’s such a thing and if so, how do you maintain yours? While there’s no formula that works for everyone, for me the key is ruthless prioritization and being present in whatever I’m doing. To help make sure I’m giving my full attention to the tasks at hand, I really rely on my calendar and build in time for not just meetings, but things like deep thinking, working out, and of course, having my evening to spend with my family (then, it’s back to work before going to bed!).

What do you think is the toughest part of being a working mom that men and women without kids may not think about? I like to think about it in terms of being a “working parent” because it shouldn’t just be a mother’s responsibility to take care of the child and a lot of companies are coming to that realization as well. I don’t think people without kids always understand how raising children can be a full-time job. This is true even with help from family or a nanny, so having a flexible job can be really important. If a sitter has to cancel or a child gets sick, it will make the parents lives much easier if they have the ability to work from home or take a day off.

As a mother, what impact do you hope that being a CEO of a company has on your kids as they grow? I hope they see that work can be meaningful, consuming and fulfilling. I don’t expect them to be exactly like me and I respect the fact that they may have very strong non-career interests. I love my work so I hope from my example that they know they shouldn’t settle for a job they don’t love.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten from another woman? The best advice I have ever gotten from a woman, happens to be from my co-founder, Romy Newman. She says “Seek out rejection. Seek out failure.” I love that because it’s so contrarian and what I take from it is the fact that growth requires putting yourself out there and there is nothing better than growth.

What’s been the most surprising part of running your own business? I’ve learned that my job changes every year or so (if not more than that). What I had to do in order to be successful in year 1 is not the same thing I should do to be successful in year 3, and so forth. That’s what makes startup life so challenging. In order to succeed over the long run, you really have to adapt very rapidly to the new situation and new role you play.

 

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Taking Care of Your Mental Health at Work

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and whether you’re one of the millions of Americans living with a mental illness or not, it’s important to keep your mind healthy, especially at work. Not only does the average American spend more than 90,000 hours at work over their lifetime, the office can often be a stressful and sometimes overwhelming environment that impacts us emotionally, physically and mentally. When stress is left unchecked it can lead to strained relationships, lower productivity and lack of concentration as well as bigger issues such as anxiety and depression.

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults every year. Depression, although considered less common, affects about 7% of the population every year, but nearly half of the people diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. Anxiety and depression are treatable diseases yet many of those suffering do not receive treatment. Although self-care is something that women and men usually do during their free time, it’s important to practice self-care in the workplace as the line between work and personal life continues to blur. The office is where the majority of our days are spent and it’s important to make sure that your mental and physical health are your main priorities. Below we’ve some compiled a few simple practices that you can add into your routine to take care of yourself at the office. It’s important that this month especially, we take the time to check in with ourselves, listen to our bodies and begin to take steps toward improving our mental health with actions that we can continue all year long. 

Meditate. Meditation has been proven to reduce stress, control anxiety, lengthen your attention span and promote emotional health. Because it’s a habitual process of training your mind to focus and redirect your thoughts, it allows you to ignore things that are out of your control and concentrate on things that you can control, like your breathing and your senses. Meditating doesn’t have to be something that you’re doing to reach a level of enlightenment and it doesn’t have to be an hour of your day. It can be as quick as 3-5 minutes and there are plenty of free guided meditation apps that you can download that walk you through exactly what you need to do. And the best part about meditation is that you can do it anywhere: at your desk, in a conference room, on the subway, even in the bathroom! Meditation is one of the best ways to increase your mental strength and stay in touch with your body.

Exercise. Although most offices don’t come with a gym, more companies are recognizing the importance of physically and mentally healthy employees and are adding gym memberships and discounts for workout classes to their benefits package. If you’re not sure if this is something your company offers, inquire with HR, and if they don’t offer it, start the conversation as to why that is and how that can be changed. Not only does regular exercise allow your body to release endorphins, which improves your mood and reduces anxiety, it also boosts energy and brainpower, which helps you think more clearly. If exercising is something that you need as part of your daily routine, speak to your boss about moving around your hours to attend a class in the morning or extending your lunch break to go during the day. Or organize a weekly group workout (yoga, running, hiking) right at the end of the day so that you can exercise as a team. You’d be surprised how receptive most offices are to incorporating exercise as long as your work is still getting done.

Brighten up your space. A small but easy way to create a positive environment at work is to make your space your own by surrounding yourself with things that bring you joy. Decorate with pictures of friends and family or signs with quotes that you love or inspirational phrases that you want to live by. Plug in an essential oil diffuser or light a candle if fragrances keep you calm or buy a plant to add some beauty to your desk and improve your air quality. Whatever it is that you need to personalize your cubicle or office, go ahead and do it. The more comfortable you are at work, the more relaxed and receptive you’ll be to handle anything that comes your way.

Take some time to yourself. It’s difficult to step away from your desk when your work isn’t finished and tasks are continuing to pile up. But it’s actually more beneficial for you and your productivity to take some time to yourself away from your work space. Schedule a 30 minute lunch break for the same time each day so that you know that time is dedicated to you. Or if your schedule is constantly changing, make time to take breaks throughout the day. If you feel yourself getting overwhelmed, get up and go for a walk or grab a cup of coffee and sit by yourself while you drink it. Even if you’re only getting away from your desk for 5-10 minutes, doing something for yourself that allows you to take a deep breath and re-focus will give your mind a much needed rest. And allowing yourself to take these breaks will keep you feeling in control during chaotic days.

Talk to someone. If you’re constantly feeling anxious, tired, overwhelmed or depressed, don’t be embarrassed to voice your concerns to someone you trust (a friend, an HR professional or a mentor) and ask for help. Not only will it help to talk about how you’re feeling, they can assist you in finding a mental health professional that can provide you with tools to cope with your feelings or prescribe the appropriate medication, if needed.

 

Resources:
https://www.businessinsider.com/disturbing-facts-about-your-job-2011-2
https://www.bustle.com/p/how-to-take-care-of-your-mental-health-at-work-according-to-experts-9108794
https://www.learnhowtobecome.org/career-resource-center/mental-health-at-work/
https://adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics
https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/12-benefits-of-meditation#section1
http://www.ulifeline.org/articles/433-benefits-of-exercise

 

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Healing Our Local Food System: Our Q&A with Wen-Jay Ying, the CEO and Founder of Local Roots

This month we got the chance to speak with Wen-Jay Ying, the CEO and founder of Local Roots, a business that she started at the age of 26. Local Roots is a modernized CSA/customized farmers market that uses a subscription service to bring farm-fresh veggies, eggs, fruit and meat directly to your door. The service also allow customers to host a Local Roots market at their business or office where one of the reps from Local Roots will deliver the items, manage the market and clean up at the end. The mission behind the business is to create a community of informed consumers, increase sustainability in the food industry and make a positive impact on the world. Check out our full conversation with Wen-Jay below!

Tell us about your background. I grew up on Long Island, went to school at Boston University for psychology and then moved back to NYC after college. Ever since I was a kid, I always knew I would end up in NYC and for the first couple years, I was in a lot of different bands and active in the underground music scene. Food was never too important to me growing up. Like most kids, I was a picky eater. I hated vegetables except for cucumbers and carrots. I would pretend to eat bok choy but then hide it in a napkin and throw it out.  I definitely thought tomatoes were gross. Little did I know, it’s because the tomatoes I ate growing up were flavorless and unripe. Now I find that food is the best way to learn about my parents’ childhood in Taiwan. They’ll talk about walking to school with siblings and stopping at a food cart to get little treats or what their parents packed them for lunch. I love connecting with my family and heritage through food.

How did you get into the food industry? A friend sent me an article about the decline of supermarkets in NYC, therefore pushing New Yorkers to buy food from bodegas which were full of preservatives and unhealthy. It really bothered me that there weren’t enough alternative options for grocery shopping and that we were forced into a vicious cycle of bad food and bad health. The article inspired me to enroll in AmeriCorps at a food justice nonprofit in NYC. It was there that I learned about local farms and Community Supported Agriculture. I fell in love with the way these grassroots markets brought people together and created personable and special ways to access groceries. Working at AmeriCorps in 2008, I visited my first farm, just to check in, but being there was a very special experience for me. Being on the farm and having an authentic, home-cooked meal as well as seeing how passionate the woman who owned the farm was about what she did was the first time that I thought about food differently. Most people don’t know the source of the products that they use but with food you can literally see where the food comes from and whose growing it, which is so unique. It felt really important to me to have that connection with my food.

How did Local Roots begin/how did you come up with the idea for the business? Local Roots started in 2011 when I was crying on the phone with my mom on Court Street. I had been working as a liaison in NYC for a farm called Red Jacket Orchards that I had been introduced to via AmeriCorps. It had decided to go corporate and wanted to change the entire staff. I was without work and my dream job did not exist anywhere in the world. I wanted to manage produce markets that were more convenient for the eater and the grower. These one stop shop markets would be fun, approachable, and educational. Because this job didn’t exist anywhere in the world, my mom suggested I start my own business. 2 weeks later, Local Roots NYC was founded. 3 months later, we had our first markets and about 150 weekly members.

What was the first farm that agreed to work with you for Local Roots? What was the process like going from concept to that first “yes”? One of the first farms that we worked with was a vegetable farm based in Warwick, NY. I had spent a few months volunteering at other CSAs, working at farmers markets and a food justice non-profit before Local Roots so I had some credibility when I approached this farmer. I told her that I wanted to try a new business model and she was game.Within our first season, the hurricane had devastated a majority of her farm and she worked with partnering farms to provide us with produce while I hosted fundraisers to help rebuild her farm. But before I got my first “yes” from her, I got about 4 “no”s mostly due to logistical reasons, like not being able to deliver to NYC on the days we needed or not being able to deliver the quantities that we wanted. It’s still hard to find farms to work with because we want the best quality from innovative farms that are good at communicating with us but we always run into delivery issues. Some farms can only come into the city on the weekends or don’t have enough staff to deliver on specific days that we need. A lot of other companies compensate for this issue by storing the meat, produce and eggs in a warehouse but fresh items is what makes Local Roots unique. Currently we work with about 10 different farms to source our products.

What made you interested in agriculture and sustainability specifically? Food is everything; it connects us to ourselves, our land, our farmers and our culture. It’s a beautiful virtuous cycle. Growing up on Long Island I didn’t spend too much time in nature but for some reason, I felt pure joy and beauty the first time I visited that farm in 2008. It was the perfect balance to an urban lifestyle and it felt very spiritual. Listening to farmers talk about their craft, I’m moved by their passion and it’s what keeps me fighting for local, sustainable growers each and every day. Local agriculture and sustainability makes me feel empowered. The decisions and changes that we make on a local level are tangible ways to help the Earth on a macro level.

Local Roots Bag

What’s an initiative that you’re working on now (either with Local Roots or personally) that you’re really passionate about? Why? I’m working towards empowering other New Yorkers to start their own Local Roots market. This is super important because in NYC, convenience is one of the most important factors to a consumer. We need to have markets in every neighborhood to make local, sustainably grown produce accessible to all New Yorkers, but our team is too small to manage this type of growth. Therefore, if we can empower other New Yorkers or businesses to start a Local Roots market, we can grow our movement to support local farms and bring high quality produce to New Yorkers. With Local Roots and also my personal life, I’m always looking to find more outlets to speak about the importance of local food. I’d like to be our generation’s spokeswoman for local agriculture, food transparency, and cooking at home. The conversation feels one dimensional to me and I want to elevate how we speak about these topics and offer people real, tangible reasons why good, local food is beneficial to their life.

What impact do you hope Local Roots will have on the local food community as well as how consumers interact with their food? I hope to make local agriculture, cooking at home, and transparency around food fun, easy, and sexy AF. I want people to feel empowered in their food choices and to be curious: What vegetable is this? How does it look in the field? How do I cook it? Why does it matter if it’s local? What do all these food labels at the store mean? Local Roots is a successful company if more New Yorkers are cooking at home with fresh, local ingredients and if more regenerative farmers in our region have financial security in their profession.

What’s the biggest challenge of being a woman-owned business? It’s only a challenge if you think it’s a challenge. Being a woman is powerful; you just need to acknowledge that and view obstacles as motivators.

What’s been the most surprising part of running your own business? It never gets easier. It’s about finding success and happiness in the small and big wins as well as the everyday tasks. An everyday task like being at the markets is inspiring to me because people have genuine happiness for the food that we’re providing. There aren’t that many products where the customer is telling you “this changed my life” so seeing that response is really moving.

What motivates you as a business owner and a female entrepreneur? I want to build something beautiful and authentic that supports our local farmers and helps my fellow New Yorkers. As farming becomes modified through pesticides, the health of our land and the health of our bodies are at risk. We must heal our local food system.

As a founder, what are some things that you think about as a leader/actions you take to motivate your team? I think about how important it is to bring people fresh, nutrient dense produce and that good work is a form of personal growth and empowerment. I find that my team cares as much about these issues as I do, so making an impact on the local food community is a big motivation to all of us to continue our hard work. However, I do like to give customer feedback to my staff when I get it to remind them of the influence their work has. There’s so much going on behind the scenes that people don’t see, it’s nice to remind them that their hustle is changing the lives of hundreds of people.

What’s one piece of advice that you would give your younger self when you were first starting out in the food industry? Find a great team to support you early on and price accordingly for the quality of your products and service while still being approachable.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten from another woman? You’re already doing the work, just keep doing it.

What advice would you give to other women looking to get into the food industry? Be passionate and provide something authentic to the world. The food industry is really hard and profit margins are small, so you need to find happiness in the work. Luckily, the people in local agriculture are amazing, kind and inspirational!

 

 

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What Is CBD and Why Is It In My Food?

No matter what field you’re in, no one can ignore the topic of CBD as it continues to make it’s way into mainstream culture. Every day a new product is being created that incorporates it’s pain-relieving chemicals to alleviate muscle pain or it’s soothing properties to combat insomnia; there’s even CBD oil for animals now.  CBD is a growing industry that only promises to get bigger since the signing of the Farm Bill in December 2018. This bill makes it legal to produce hemp, which contains levels of CBD. And although there’s still concerns as to how it will be regulated, CBD is already on the market. In order to educate ourselves about CBD, we decided to do some research into what this substance actually is and why it’s become so popular in the NY food scene.

What is CBD?

CBD (or cannabidiol) is a naturally occurring chemical compound found in the resinous flower of cannabis. It’s a safe, non-addictive substance that’s known for it’s therapeutic properties and unlike THC, which is also found in cannabis, it doesn’t make an individual feel intoxicated or “high”. THC is psychoactive while CBD’s properties create a feeling of relaxation and calm because it affects the receptors in the body and brain in a different way. CBD oil is created by extracting CBD from cannabis and then diluting it with a “carrier oil” such as coconut, or more commonly, hemp seed oil. 

What are the Benefits?

Although scientific research is still being done to determine if CBD can provide a natural alternative to pharmaceuticals, it has been shown to provide relief for a myriad of conditions but most notably for chronic pain, anxiety, depression and inflammation. Some studies even show that it can help reduce symptoms related to cancer and cancer treatments. But aside from the medical benefits, CBD and CBD oil have started to be sold at  health food markets and gas stations or incorporated into products at spas, cosmetic companies and even coffee shops and restaurants. So why add it to food? It’s a careful way to administer CBD and it allows the consumer to avoid inhaling through a vapor pen and irritating the lungs. When CBD is combined with food, it allows the substance to be released slowly, over long periods of time, while the food is digesting, allowing for a longer period of relaxation. Also, because most food has a specific serving size, there is a specific dose of CBD being added to food that you can measure. As opposed to inhaling CBD, which makes it difficult to measure how much CBD you’re getting each time, having it added to your food or drink makes it clear how much you’re putting into your body and allows you to understand how much you need to consume to achieve your desired result of calm or pain management.

The Jury’s Still Out.

Despite all of the noteworthy, positives effects of CBD oil, the consensus on whether or not it truly impacts the body is still unclear. Last year the FDA approved a CBD medication called Epidiolex for the treatment of certain types of pediatric epilepsy. And according to the drug exclusion rule, this means that “once a substance is the active ingredient of an approved drug, food containing that substance cannot be shipped in interstate commerce”.  So technically CBD cannot be added to any food or beverage. However, since CBD has never been proven to cause harm to an individual, the ban on CBD has never been enforced. The FDA has made minimal efforts to stop the commerce of CBD, which means that it now lives in a gray area where CBD products are created and sold but technically contain a Schedule 1 drug (listed as illegal because they have high abuse potential, no medical use, and severe safety concerns). But because studies are still being done on CBD, there’s no evidence that points to if it’s a severe safety concern or a therapeutic remedy. Many healthcare professionals, and even advocates for CBD, advise caution when taking the substance because, as of right now, there’s no way to concretely measure dosage, how it should be administered or how it will interact with other drugs. But due to what we know about the chemical nature of CBD, advocates hope that soon it will be re-classified and proven to provide only clear benefits, both medically and commercially.

 

Resources:
Picture courtesy of Blank Slate Coffee and Kitchen
https://www.projectcbd.org/cbd-101/what-is-cbd
https://www.health.com/pain/what-is-cbd 
https://objectiveintent.blog/2018/09/19/cannabis-and-the-often-overlooked-drug-exclusion-rule/#more-1124
https://www.philly.com/business/weed/cbd-legal-cannabis-weavers-way-fda-lietzan-health-food-fuel-kombucha-ice-cream-20190326.html
https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/cbd-oil-benefits
https://www.green-flower.com/articles/550/cbd-edibles
https://www.cnn.com/2019/03/26/success/cbd-entrepreneurs/index.html
0 comments on “Feeding Your Team with Purpose Attracts Talent and Improves Office Culture”

Feeding Your Team with Purpose Attracts Talent and Improves Office Culture

In January 2019, Managed by Q, a workplace management platform, released their 2019 Workplace Trends Report, which focuses on the belief that a human-centered office is the new trend on the rise in the corporate world. According to their research and their experience working with companies across the U.S., the growth of responsive, interactive technology and the ascension of the “millennial” generation into the workforce and subsequently into leadership roles, has created a corporate landscape where employees are demanding more from their employers than ever before. 

Millennials have been cited for creating a more interactive approach to work and their personal lives, coining the term “work-life balance” to explain the integration of the two. This new approach has caused millennials (as well as employees of every generation) to place a high value on community and purpose-driven work, which they’re actively seeking from the companies that they work for. Due to this shift in motivation within the workplace, in their report Managed by Q identified five trends that they believe companies must adopt “to effectively attract and retain top talent”. They are: the technological evolution of human-centered workplace design; the rise of co-working and the focus on workplace hospitality; flexible workplace policies; culture is essential for employee recruitment and retention; and diversity and inclusion are fundamental business practices. However, we believe that most important of these trends is the cultivation of office culture, which is where Managed by Q specifically referenced our company. Because at FoodtoEat, our concierge catering service helps to improve office culture in three specific ways.

Managed by Q’s research shows that today “individuals seek to cultivate a greater connection to one another”, which is why we advocate for team meals in every office. Whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner, team meals help to foster a sense of community within the office. They bring together individuals from every department and allow them to discuss common interests, examine operations for areas of improvement and interact with and learn from individuals with differing opinions and beliefs. This exchange of ideas improves team work and invites creative solutions to issues that the company may be facing. Rather than being a “perk” that looms overhead, hinting that it could be taken away at any moment, building team meals into the fabric of office life encourages a collaborative environment where co-workers rely on one another for help and reinforces the idea that perfection isn’t realistic. Mistakes help employees learn and grow and allow them to think outside the box when problem-solving or finding ways to prevent future mistakes. 

Being that employees are the most valuable asset in a company, corporate catering is also a way to recognize and reward them. Celebrating holidays, birthdays and personal and professional milestones is a way for companies to show that they understand an individual’s value and are appreciative of it. Showing appreciation for someone’s work or personal achievement is a simple yet effective way to demonstrate that, as an employer, you are invested in their happiness and honor these moments as well. Whether it’s ordering their favorite dessert or sitting down for lunch together, creating that time during the day to make an employee feel seen and respected is key to showing your commitment to them as a part of your team. That recognition increases productivity because it incentivizes employees to continue to invest their time, energy and passion into the work that they do. As Managed by Q found, “employees want to feel like work gives them a personal purpose” and purpose can only continue to be a motivating factor when it is identified and applauded.

More than the connection created through team meals or the recognition of individuals in the workplace, our mission to work with immigrant, women and minority-run food businesses throughout NYC is what sets us apart from other catering services. Employees in the corporate environment want “an opportunity to be part of something larger than themselves” and by working with our service, they’re able to directly impact their local food community. Employees are looking for companies that not only appreciate them but also have a set of values as a company that guide their decision-making and positively impact the larger public. Because of the union of work and life that employees have become accustomed to, they want to be a part of a company that connects with their personal ethics and lifestyle choices. More and more, employers are being asked about how they’re creating a cycle of social good in their communities and being held to a higher standard by their employees. Working with our company, not only does an employer reward their own employees, they also send a clear message on what they value as a brand, which attracts individuals that agree with that message and creates a strong culture of like-minded people working towards a common purpose.

 

0 comments on “Flavoring the Resistance: Our Q&A with Amy Larson of Overseasoned”

Flavoring the Resistance: Our Q&A with Amy Larson of Overseasoned

Being a woman-owned business, it’s important to us that our blog highlights not only the work that we do, but also the work of other women that inspire us. In honor of Women’s History Month, we decided to start featuring other female entrepreneurs that are using their passion and tenacity to empower others. 

We were lucky enough to chat with Amy Larson, the founder of Overseasoned, about how she started her website and how she pivoted her business into the retail space after coining the awesome phrase “smash the garlic and the patriarchy”. Amy is using her platform to create exposure for other women in the food industry and to promote a balance between men and women where cooking is celebrated regardless of gender. In our conversation with her we discussed how she got into the food industry, where the inspiration for her famous slogan came from and her advice to other women just starting their careers in food. Check it out below!

Tell us about your background. I grew up in Portsmouth, Rhode Island and went to UMass Amherst for my undergraduate degree, where I majored in hospitality and business management. During my time at UMass, I studied abroad in Perugia, Italy and got to study sustainable food and food business (along with Italian). After college, I worked at a few restaurants in Warwick and Newport before deciding to switch my career focus to marketing. I moved to Boston, which is where I live now, and started working in marketing in the tech industry.

How did you learn how to cook? I grew up around food. I was always cooking with my mom, grandma, sister, aunts- that’s the way it was in our family, so I was interested in food and cooking from an early age. I worked in bakeries and restaurants throughout high school and college but never had any formal training. I did take a few food classes in pastry and pizza making as well as knife skills but most of the cooking abilities that I have come from what I learned growing up or what I taught myself.

How did you get into the food industry/how did Overseasoned begin? Although I love my job in marketing (I still work there full-time), I realized that I had a lot to share with the food world. Colleagues, friends and family would constantly ask me for recipes or had questions on dishes that they were making and I wanted a creative outlet to share my recipes with them and the world! So in May 2016 I started producing a monthly cookbook called Overseasoned with 10-12 recipes that I would create and test out and choose which ones should make the cut. I would write out the recipes by hand, take photos of the finished product, create watercolor illustrations on the pages and then mail them out myself. I absolutely loved the whole process of coming up with recipes for others to make at home and creating the cookbook itself. So for two years I continued creating a monthly publication with recipes that I developed but also featured guest recipes if someone had a seasonal dish that I really loved or something unique that I hadn’t featured yet. I created over 20 issues and over 200 recipes. But as much as I loved it, creating the cookbook each month while working full-time became very time-consuming and difficult. So I decided to shift from a handmade publication to sharing my recipes on my website. However, once I had cultivated this space online, I realized that recipes weren’t the only way that I could interact with my community. I recently launched a photo series on my website where I profile women in food from different parts of the country so that my audience can get a better understanding of what it means to be a female entrepreneur. I ask them about how they stay motivated and find success, what community means to them, what milestones they’re most proud of…. I believe that profiling these women is creating more representation in the food industry and hopefully, change.

How did you come up with the phrase “smash the garlic and the patriarchy”? What was the motivation behind this? I came up with the phrase and design after the first Women’s March in 2017. I believe that the patriarchy is holding back progress across the board, but especially within the food industry. You see a lot of celebration around male chefs but not female chefs and I wanted a way to create female empowerment through food. To me, this phrase celebrated women and feminism at the same time. I was seeing all these cool posters and clever slogans that were creating mini-movements among women and I felt inspire to share mine with others.

Tea Towel from Overseasoned

What does “smash the garlic and the patriarchy” represent to you? And what do you think it represents to your customers? For my customers, I believe it brings power to cooking because it gives them control over their selves and their kitchen. And for others, I think it’s just a fun way for them to send a message. Customers will tell me “I LOVE garlic and I HATE the patriarchy”, so it’s the perfect crossover. For me the meaning is two-fold: I want more female chefs to be recognized and celebrated through food. I don’t want the success of men to be the only thing the food industry honors. But I also want it to represent creating a more balanced home kitchen where men feel empowered to support women and get into the kitchen as well. Since I started my website, I’ve had a lot of men reach out to me and say that they used my recipes as an introduction to cooking and are excited about cooking now. I believe that cooking shouldn’t be gender specific, it’s a creative process that should be celebrated regardless of your sex and there’s a way for us to create that balance together.

Your blog is mainly focused around content creation, so how did you make the switch to creating material goods (tote bags, tea towels, t-shirts, sweatshirts) with this message? I never planned on being a retailer but once I came up with the slogan and design, I found that it was a way for people to connect with the message even if they’re not cooking regularly. It was a way for me to reach a new audience of people who may not love cooking but love what it stands for. But creating the products themselves was all trial and error. I started with the tea towel and customers loved it so I expanded the merchandise line further. I’m looking to come up with more product ideas down the line.

What’s the biggest challenge of being a woman-owned business? A lot of the businesses that I work with are woman-owned so I haven’t faced many challenges. I’m surrounded by other strong women!

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten from another woman? Go with what you’re good at. And it’s true! I believe that whatever you’re doing that’s different from other people is what you should go all in on. I worked in different areas of the food industry before receiving this advice and once I heard it, I decided to focus on growing Overseasoned and, down the road, the “smash the garlic and the patriarchy” campaign.

What advice would you give to other women trying to get into the food industry? Don’t expect anything of it, just start doing it. If you’re a food blogger, just start writing, or if you’re a chef, start practicing your cooking skills. You can’t wait on things to be perfect to get started because they never will be. Just start going and see where it leads. I feel like I’ve been making it up as I go and it’s really helped me to discover my niche.

What do you see for the future of Overseasoned? I still do some recipe creation on the website when I have a new dish that I’ve been working on and that’s something that I’ll always keep doing for my own enjoyment. I’ve been working on Overseasoned for three years but it’s still my side hustle so I’m being very intentional in the steps that I take. This week, I released a publication called “How to Smash the Garlic and the Patriarchy” in collaboration with GRLSQUASH, which is really exciting! GRLSQUASH releases two publications a year so this was a special edition that I worked on with the founder, Madison Trapkin. It focuses on women in the food and beverage space in Boston and discusses food or food adjacent topics in order to create more exposure for women. We made it a point to use only female photographers, artists and even found a female printer to work with. This is a project that I never thought I’d be involved in when I first started Overseasoned but it’s amazing to see how things have evolved and eventually I hope to be in the food industry full-time. I’m not sure how I’ll get there yet but it’s these projects that keep me working towards that goal.

What impact do you hope your business and campaign have on other women? I hope the slogan/campaign personally inspires people more than anything. In regards to the business itself (recipes, the photo series and the new publication (How to Smash the Garlic and the Patriarchy)), I want the impact to be larger. I want it to help other women find connections within their community. In our field guide, How to Smash the Garlic and the Patriarchy, we included a map that shows where woman-owned businesses are within Boston (and a little outside of it) so that other women can identify and support these local, woman-owned businesses. Even if someone outside of the Boston area was to see this map, I want it to make them realize that it’s something they can do in their own community to create awareness and to support female entrepreneurs.

 

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Building Companies with Purpose

Millennials need to feel passion in their work. According to Deloitte, two-thirds of Millennials believe that businesses have no ambition beyond wanting to make money, and less than half believe that corporations behave ethically. There’s a disconnect in the workplace, with the newer generation of workers increasingly in favor of prioritizing people before mere financial performance. Milliennials want to build companies with an ethical ethos from Day 1.

Incorporating this sense of purpose into your organization starts with a couple of simple questions: why did you (or do you want to) start your business in the first place? Which stakeholders’ (employees, customers, investors, your community) circumstances are you trying to improve?

How it all started

FoodtoEat is the culmination of many years of work in the community.

For me, my sense of purpose and involvement started waaaaaay back in middle school. I was fortunate that my school incorporated community service as part of our curriculum. Once a week, I had the chance to go into a classroom with disabled preschoolers and learn more about their world. It was a startling reminder of my own privilege, of how I wouldn’t face a fraction of the challenges that kids less than half my age had already faced.

From then on, thinking about ways to better the lives of those around me – especially those in underrepresented communities – became a critical part of my DNA. I needed to instill a sense of purpose in every action and strive towards that headline goal of improving my community.

My college years were defined by working on political campaigns at the local and federal level. By getting directly involved in working for candidates who shared my sense of purpose, I hoped to play a larger role in creating social change and shaping the world in accordance with my principles.

Post-college, I decided to play an even more active role in impacting my community and started FoodtoEat. I just didn’t see enough companies out there aimed at people who looked like me – minorities and immigrants. And an overwhelming number of these people were in the food business, hustling 18 hours a day to feed droves of hungry people.

And while technology was being used to help hungry diners find more convenient ways to get their food (Seamless or Grubhub), there was a distinct lack of technology to help food operators grow and scale their businesses. More importantly, many of the food operators I met with in my early days were minorities and immigrants, and I felt strongly that they too should share in the benefits that technology has to offer.

This has been our ethos from Day 1 – empowering local food operators by amplifying their voices (most recently through our I Made Your Food campaign) and growing their business via access to catering opportunities at large corporations with a local presence. This community-minded message has been a key part of our growth for close to the last decade – it gives both our vendors and corporate customers a firm handle on what we stand for, why they do business with us, and what we can deliver to each of these external stakeholders.

Including internal stakeholders

As I mentioned at the top of the post though, we also need to embody a unified purpose and vision for our internal stakeholders, like our employees and shareholders. As an example, when I became pregnant with my first child, I was shocked to learn how my community lacked a support system for expectant mothers. Adequate corporate family leave policies were essentially nonexistent (a friend of mine only got one paid week off!), and the Federal Medical Leave Act (FMLA) only offers 12 weeks off, unpaid. How many people do you know that can afford take a few weeks – let alone 12 – without pay?

That’s why I’ve recently started drafting a family leave policy at FoodtoEat that provides expectant parents ample time off with pay. Having lived through it, I know how important it is for both parents to have ample time to bond with their newborn and adequately prepare for life as a parent. And as their employer, I have a duty to ensure their physical and mental well-being, not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because I know that it’s right for my business as well.

As founders, it’s essential for us to think about purpose in our organizations. We have an obligation to build companies that stand for something for all our stakeholders. Not just because the future generations we hope to recruit increasingly demand it, but also because aligning our goals and incentives with their own is just a sound business practice. Every company brags that their people are their greatest asset. As the founder of a purpose-driven businesses though, I’m able to back up these words with actions that help the my team, my organization, and my community thrive.