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Without question, staying flexible and focusing on opportunity amidst this time of uncertainty can be hard. Natural products industry leaders share how they are staying resilient during the COVID-19 pandemic.
We asked natural products industry leaders what they are doing to maintain positivity, reconnect with their roots, and demonstrate resilience both personally and professionally. Here's what they said.
Using video apps, calls, text messages and digital happy hours to lessen the feelings of disconnect and isolation. Living in the epicenter (New York), having siblings who work in health care or essential professionals, along with many people in my community being affected comes with its own set of anxieties. Through digital connection, I get to express all my emotions with people who are going through similar situations and there is a sense of validation and hope that on the other side of all this chaos is serenity.
—Yoli Ouiya, founder, Yoli's Green Living
Supporting local and small businesses by ordering to-go burritos and margaritas from my favorite taco joint and taking a friend's online yoga classes to support them while their studio is closed.
Taking a pause in personal and work life to turn back to some of the longest standing items on my to-do lists, whether that’s Marie Kondo-ing a closet, preparing taxes or reorganizing desktop files.
Broadening our line of sight and focus at work to include larger macro trends in the CPG industry by engaging with helpful articles, podcasts and webinars from other firms and businesses within the space.
Taking extra time to cultivate creativity both in personal and professional life. For example, trying out new recipes, picking up musical instruments again, building out professional networks via LinkedIn, setting up phone meetings and coming up with more inventive ways to contribute to my work.
Taking advantage of virtual conferences, product launches and expos moving online (virtually attending events that otherwise couldn’t be attended in person).
Taking the time to check in and reconnect with people across social and professional circles to share thoughts, inspiration and a virtual hand wherever possible.
—Dayton Miller, managing partner, Boulder Food Group
Lifting others. It's incredible how much the world has changed. And despite the fear and the panic, I feel that there will be some silver linings and lessons that we are learning. COVID-19 is teaching us that we need to respect farmers, farm workers, processors, truck drivers, packers, waitstaff, cooks and chefs and so many others on the frontlines of making sure we get healthy, safe, nutrient-dense food. We can no longer ignore the health of the people who produce our food.
—Danielle Nierenberg, president, Food Tank
Homing in on our core value of educating consumers. Protecting our customer's health is nothing new to Natural Grocers. We built our business model to only sell healthy products and to provide meaningful lifetime nutrition and health education. It's who we are and what we do. For 65 years we have opened the doors every day to serve our communities, especially the sick, recovering, the young and the old.
The coronavirus emergency has shown how important health awareness is. While our crew is diligently stocking all the food, household and supplement necessities, they continue to uphold our core value that resilient heath begins with clean, nutritious food and a toxin-free environment. Not surprisingly, requests for nutrition counseling are through the roof. We are having thoughtful conversations about diet, supplements and health safety. Somewhat surprisingly, many customers ask us what we think about the course of the pandemic, hoping we have some special insight and can cut through the conflicting information in the media.
The conversations in the aisles are shifting away from food shipments back to the role of nutrition in helping people survive known and novel pathogens. Vitamin D. Vitamin C. Gut health for immune response. Last but not least, we all need vitamin O: optimism. Each of us can do our best to stay safe, help others, and make sure nutritious food is available for all.
—Alan Lewis, government affairs, food and agriculture policy, Natural Grocers
We stay positive by staying present and focusing on our purpose. The world will always change around us, and how we respond to it in the present will define what we become in the future. We started Lumen to create products that increase the health and well-being of people and the planet through hemp. It’s easier to keep spirits high when we let go of our fears and focus on our purpose!
—Yasir Hashim, co-founder, Lumen
Staying in control of what we can: our mentality. One thing I've realized as an entrepreneur is that things will never be stable. In fact, if things are stable, you probably aren't pushing your limits enough. While COVID-19 is completely outside of any one person's control, our mentality is within our control.
I know that this is just another unstable period, and that we will remain persistent. I've found hiking (while keeping a 6-foot distance from others I may encounter on the trail) to be helpful in keeping my mind clear, which also helps me maintain this perspective.
—Kris Taylor, co-founder, Lumen
Doing the best we can with what we’ve got! Our category management team is full of people that love to connect, so we have been doing lots of Zoom video conferencing. We even did a Zoom happy hour after work and nobody had to drive home, so it was much safer!
Connecting with one another more often. With so much uncertainty, an abundance of internal and external communication to and from our supplier and customer partners has made this chaos manageable. They say some of the best leaders are the best communicators and I think the same goes for companies.
—Alex Marx, director, category management, KeHE Distributors
Finding positivity in the new normal. Like most, we're doing all right and adjusting to working from home. Changing the routine has been refreshing in many ways.
Focusing on making ourselves better, doubling down and thinking deeply about our work. In particular, the Mad Farmer poem reigns true. Focusing on what's actually important is something bubbling up for us in this moment of mania. We've started a Mad Ag book club to build the community up, especially during this time, and the first book is the "Wizard and the Prophet", which is informative and inspiring.
—Brandon Welch, director of radical capital, Mad Agriculture
Community and Conference Content Manager, New Hope Network
As Community and Conference Content Manager, Denver is passionate about educating and supporting the growth of early stage natural products brands, strengthening understanding of the investment landscape and providing a platform for storytelling, with a focus on mission-driven business.
Community & Conference Content Director, New Hope Network
Jenna is the Community and Conference Content Director at New Hope Network. In this role she is passionate about using education and relationship building to connect and empower stakeholders in the natural and organic products industry. Prior to serving in this role at New Hope, Jenna led digital content production for the NEXT Accelerator, an educational platform for entrepreneurs, as well as supported exhibitors and attendees as customer and exhibitor service representative for shows such as NBJ Summit and Natural Products Expos East and West.
An avid outdoorsperson, environmentalist and conscious leadership aficionado, Jenna committed her time before New Hope to working with organizations such as the Outdoor Industry Association, Restorative Leadership Institute, CU Leeds Professional Mentorship Program and the Lake Champlain Committee. She earned an MBA from the University of Colorado at Boulder, Leeds School of Business, as well as an undergraduate degree in Environmental Studies with a certificate from the Program in Community Action and Public Policy from Connecticut College.
When not obsessing about climate change, sustainable packaging, politics, or regenerative agriculture, you’ll likely find her hiking in Colorado with Oscar the Black Lab, playing beach volleyball or laughing out loud to Wait Wait…Don’t Tell me!
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