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why we're here

The following are select questions answered for a blog post for Masami and Isle de Nature's website. To read the full interview, click here and here.

Why did you decide to launch be.? And why now?

be. started as (and still is) a newsletter sharing women and non-binary people’s stories on new topics weekly. When I originally launched the platform, I knew I wanted to pivot it into some sort of product, I just didn’t know what! 

When we launched in June 2020, the world, specifically the United States, was in a state of disaster (to put it lightly ;) Not only were we living through the first few months of a global pandemic, but also a resurge in the Black Lives Matter movement following the murder of George Floyd. During this time, I was working as the Marketing Manager of a startup, which involved managing their social media. It was both exciting and infuriating to watch different brands try to respond to this crisis. Some brands showed up, giving time and money towards BLM, and even pausing their own posting schedule for over a week to make space for Black voices. (These were the exciting responses.) Some however, continued to post as normal, and even had former employees come forward to call their CEO’s racist. (These were the infuriating responses.) These brands that I loved (I’m looking at you Reformation and Bando) were run by racists?! I felt completely tricked. 

During this time, I also noticed that people seemed desperate for a resource to shop brands that were doing the right thing. That’s when I realized: why is it so hard to shop your values?

Why now? Well, it’s taken me over a year to get this right. I wanted to ensure that I did my research: that the brands on our site were ones that both I could trust and that my community could trust. Like Desmond Tutu said, “if you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” It isn’t enough anymore to just have quality products and services. We need brands that act on their values.

That’s what we’re here to do: make it easy (and fun) to shop your values. 

What's the best part about being an entrepreneur?

A few weeks ago, my therapist and I did an exercise to help me get clearer on my core values. I found humor in the fact that one of mine ended up being control. After some reflection, I realized that control is really important to me,

 I think being an entrepreneur allows me a certain level of autonomy and freedom (ahem, control.) Granted, this desire for control in my work may also be a response to having jobs in the past where I felt micromanaged or controlled; it’s been hard for me in the past to not be able to act in a way that feels right. 

I believe in putting people before profits, and it’s important to me that my community reflects that by remaining authentic, honest and trustworthy. Acting on this belief also means being able to act at a moment's notice, because the world is always bringing us new challenges! I’m grateful to be an entrepreneur, because it allows the freedom to make choices that align with my values; it’s hard for me to have to remain silent or not act when I feel it’s important.  

What inspires you?

I’m inspired by empathy, and by people that choose love regardless of what the world tells them to do. If all businesses and CEOs led with love and empathy first, I think the world would be a much better place!

Do you believe small brands can go up against Amazon?

With the right support! People forget that Amazon started several decades ago in a garage as an online bookstore. What Jeff Bezos had was good timing and a great idea. These two things can still lead to success in 2021. Nowadays, Amazon is convenient and affordable, plus, they have everything! Part of my goal in building this marketplace is to create a similar model. People are comfortable with using Amazon, but I doubt most people feel great, or even good about it. I’m aiming to build a platform that functions the same way: lots of options, convenient and affordable, yet every purchase makes the world a better place. 

Together, I believe we can go up against Amazon. The more brands we add the better our chances.

Strength in numbers.  

What values are you personally shopping these days?

Something that bothers me about other values-forward marketplaces is having to choose. Why do I have to decide to be sustainable, or support a woman-owned brand? I want both! The values that matter to me are the ones that I put as our required and preferred criteria for our marketplace. In order for a brand to be included, they have to meet all our required criteria, so you don’t have to choose between your values! You deserve to have it all. 

Personally, I really value animal rights. I volunteer weekly at my local animal shelter, eat a vegetarian diet, and work to ensure that the products I am using are vegan and not tested on animals. 

What's your advice to anyone shopping for gifts this holiday season?

Anything you want can be found from a values-forward, woman and non-binary founded small business! Believe me, I have researched over 1000. That being said, I challenge shoppers this year to try to find everything on their list from these businesses. I highly recommend our marketplace (obviously) as well as the platform Thingtesting for brand discovery. I believe in you!

What are some of your best tips for practicing a more sustainable lifestyle?

Eat less meat! And even better, stop eating meat entirely. Pay more attention to your waste. Try to reuse when you can, and recycle when you can’t. But overall, just value the environment above your own convenience. Something I have noticed in myself is wanting to choose what feels easiest. I don’t want to bring a reusable cup because then I’ll have to carry it. I don’t want to wash all the jars in order to recycle them. But honestly, my comfort means nothing in the grand scheme of things. The world is literally dying, we need to make hard, uncomfortable choices to help. Even if that means we’re doing it imperfectly.  

What are some of your favorite indie brands?

What a hard question! The brands I get most excited about are the ones that are so unique, I can’t even believe they exist. For example, Lauren from Ujjo. Ujjo is the first hot sauce made for coffee. Like what! 

Some other unique brands I love:

  1. Recess Pickleball: I have never been interested in pickleball, yet they make me want to buy everything on their site.
  2. We Drifters: They make bug-repellent clothing for outdoor wear. 
  3. HarperSage: They design clothes for the duality within all of us. Harper is the feminine side, Sage is the tomboy side. 
  4. Ru: Healthy drinks inspired by asian cultures.
  5. Toodaloo: Trail mix with adaptogenic ingredients. 

I wish I could tell you 1,000 more. Shop our marketplace to see more of my favorites!

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