It was June 2020 in New York City. In the months prior, perched on my balcony in western Queens, I spent sunsets clapping a chorus of thanks to essential workers, and nights awake listening to the blare of siren after siren, wailing deep into the dawn.
My partner had lost his job working for a WeWork subsidiary. Weeks later I lost my job (on my birthday!) as a marketing director in tech. Our neighborhood, city, and country had lost much more. We were the lucky ones.
I had not considered opening a business. Before my big and emotional job loss, I had a neat and tidy 9-to-5, benefits and security, thank you very much. My career trajectory grew from intern to associate, manager to director over the years. I saw no onus to take a leap until everything fell apart.
I saw no onus to take a leap until everything fell apart.
Suddenly I faced a moment of huge reckoning — with morality, with justice, with sickness, and with my place in a world at its moment of transformation. I listed the things I cared about in my Notes app, and the idea sprung to life. Sustainability, social justice, self-sufficiency, handmade, natural, ethical, local: Earth & Me was born.
I had the idea to open up a small retail store that sold sustainable, small-batch items made by mainly women-owned makers. We would have a refill station so people could fill up on essentials like dish soap, shampoo, and laundry detergent with their own containers. We’d reduce waste and become a staple of sustainable activism in our community.
It’s just about one year since I released my idea into a world that has changed so much, and so has mine. I’ve hired four team members, reached tens of thousands of people, built a sustainability community in NYC and beyond, and made plans to open even more stores. But beginning a biz in a pandemic means everything is in hyperdrive. The challenges are more pronounced, the successes more rewarding. Here are some of the many lessons I’ve learned.