In this final episode, Paul checks in with his first four guests to see how their businesses are doing, and how they are showing up for their communities amid yet another global crisis.
Episode 10 - How Do We Show Up?
Paul: Hey there friend, I’m Paul Jarvis, and you’re listening to Call Paul, business as unusual, where we’ve explored how business owners are working their way through their first pandemic. This is the final episode of season one. We started with one global crisis, the pandemic, and now we have another, ignited by the murder of George Floyd. The pandemic still isn’t over, there’s no vaccine. And still, people are taking to the streets, rightly so, to protest systemic inequality and police brutality. All while some are trying to run their small businesses. To end this season we wanted to check in on our first four guests -- Matt, Dave, Dan and Archel -- to see how they were doing, what was new for them since April, and how they were dealing with all that is going on in the world right now.
Dan: The world being on fire is not making anything easier.
Archel: It’s like each month, it’s like wait, there’s more.
Dave: This time when people are learning spanish at home and working on their gardens, we’ve been at work the whole time.
Matt: It’s just like three or four weeks go by and it’s a different world. We are changing, adapting.
Paul: Our first guest was Matt, who with his wife Elaine, operates a micro chocolate factory in Atlanta called Xocolatl. When we first spoke, he was figuring out how to move the business online. He’s still working on that. But he’s also thinking about the protests and how his already-active social justice initiatives can address what’s happening currently.
Matt: There's so many issues that it can be overwhelming on where to start and we focused, with our business, we focused a lot of that towards the people in the countries where we're sourcing our cacao and the farmers that we work with. There are economic and social justice issues around that. Those are different. They're not unrelated from the issues here, especially related to Black Lives Matter. We've been contributing and doing things through the company on an ad hoc basis. We've contributed to different groups that are doing work in Peru or other places, but it hasn't been planned out and what we want to do now is have a strategy for the company in how we're going to be involved in making financial contributions, but then also determining other projects or organizations that the company can engage with and actually have it as a thoughtful plan. There are things internally, as a company, that we've always talked about and we've not lived fully up to. That's in terms of our hiring practices and, I mean, we have a very diverse staff in terms of , both race, gender, sexual orientation, but I think there is more that we can do. When we have open positions, to target specific groups to make sure that we are essentially recruiting. I rode my bike home from work on Tuesday I went through downtown by the CNN Center, where we just had a lot of protests started and just hung out there for 30 or 40 minutes before the curfew. Just being out there was really re-energizing and instead of feeling like another thing that I didn't have time for, it actually felt like this is really good use of my time
Paul: Our second guest was Dave, who transformed his honey-based spirits company, Wayward Distillery, on Vancouver Island into a hand sanitizer factory. In the beginning, Wayward made hand sanitizer for first responders and gave it away for free because it was the right thing to do. Since we talked, their sanitizer has been picked up by a major grocery store chain in Canada. And in the last three months he's worked nearly every single day.
Dave: And it's been pretty good. We make way less money making hand sanitizer, but I can make a lot of it. That helped. And at the height of it, we had 2100 square feet of tentage outside of Wayward. I had 12 people here working, full time. Last year I made 25,000 liters of alcohol, Honey Bay spirit in 2019, I guess. So in April of 2020, I did 36,000 liters of sanitizer. So I did 50% more than my annual production in one line. Everything about that is crazy. I'm moving the fluid, the bottling, packaging, the logistics, the staging containers, staging pallets. I ended up renting an old dairy building, which is really close to us. So now we've moved most of our sanitizer production into other building just to keep the heart of everything we do pure. Wayward is a honey based distillery. We are fundamentally against the grain we use. We only use honey in our spirits. So we wanted to keep that pure and making hand sanitizer for grocery stores wasn't what was needed. It really wasn't what we do.
Paul: Our third guest was Dan from Kinship Goods. With his cofounder and wife Hillary, they’ve been screen-printing graphic tee’s for causes in West Virginia like a local teacher strike that made national news, the last women’s health centre in the state, and one that simply says VOTE DAMMIT. Last time we spoke he was working on a design for a new shirt to help financially support other local businesses.
Dan: So, we launched that and we've raised like seven grand so far, which is pretty great for businesses in our city. And starting tomorrow, we're raising money for Black Lives Matter here in West Virginia and some bail project funds happening in Louisville, Kentucky, where there's a lot of protesting going on, which is where we're originally from. So, we're just kind of pivoting into this community support thing, which we know how to do and we feel kind of helpless. So, it gives us kind of an outlet for that and try to fight the fight in our own way.
Paul: Was there a conversation between you and Hillary as far as you all... Because you have been involved in activism and community before, was there a conversation about how to approach that for this?
Dan: Yeah, a little bit. I mean, mostly the conversation was just like, we should do anything. So, yesterday we painted a Maya Angelou quote on our window and it's like, that's not changing the tide by any means, but it's like the least we can do as business owners. Yeah, once we do something, like when we paint in the window, other businesses will reach out and say something along the lines of like, good on you or thanks for talking out. And then the followup from us is always, you could do the same thing. You could paint your window, you could do whatever. It's not that hard. Once we do something, like when we paint in the window, other businesses will reach out and say something along the lines of like, good on you or thanks for talking out. And then the followup from us is always, you could do the same thing. You could paint your window, you could do whatever. It's not that hard. So, we always try to push back. When we paint something in the window, like it was in the news last night, we were on the news and the comments as you can imagine are not all great, which is fine. And a lot of people secret weapon is just, I'll never spend another dollar there. Our answer to that is always like, well, I don't want your dollar. I want to be able to sleep at night. I would rather go out of business on the right side of history than stay in business on the wrong side. So yeah, anytime we can talk to a business about it and we've passed it along that like, Hey, this isn't a hard thing to do to show support. It doesn't even need to be optic. You don't even need to share that you're doing it, just solidarity in any way, I think, goes a long way. And that's really sad. It's really sad that us painting our window is such a huge thing to do. I mean, honestly, the bare minimum, very least thing we could do is be like, Hey, we also care about you,
Paul: Our fourth guest was Archel, the owner of Bombchel, an African clothing company with a factory in Monrovia, Liberia. Last time we checked in, they had begun making masks out of their colourful fabrics. Archel was quarantining in Atlanta until it was safe to return to Monrovia, which obviously still has not happened. So now, on top of running a business remotely, she’s trying to process the horrific events of the last two weeks.
Archel: It's been interesting also because my birthday was on Friday. I did a Instagram Live, and I had mailed out a bunch of packages to some friends with tie-dye shirts and things so that we could all celebrate in our various places, and my mom wore her I-can't-breathe Eric Garner shirt when she went on Live with me, and she was like, "I've had this shirt for so long," and my mom is always the first person to wear any Bombchel for everything any time she's going to do anything. So she was like, "Well, I wore my bombshell head wrap, but I had to wear my Eric Garner shirt, because I didn't think I would need it so specifically again so soon." Then my sisters did not join the family Zoom because they were out protesting, and they were like, "It's just something that needs to happen," I'm okay with it, because it was very interesting for me to be on the Zoom celebrating but then I'm in Atlanta and everybody is protesting. I get it. It's hard to celebrate, so my moods all weekend were up, very grateful for the people around me, and then down because I get to celebrate my birthdays and some people do not.
Paul: It's hard because there's so much happening in life and there's so many important things happening.
Archel: A lot of friends have taken the opportunity obviously to reach out, and not everybody knows what to say, and I get it. I found that a lot of people are sharing our business as businesses of color to support. I've gotten more white followers on Instagram in the past two days than I probably had in total, just in people placing orders, showing support, being interested in finding voices of color, people of color who do things that they're interested in, but realizing, "Maybe I only follow white people who do things that I'm interested in." I tie-dye a lot of things. There are white people who tie-dye things, but maybe we have something in common, and maybe it would be interesting to see what my voice can add to the makers community. So things like that have been really interesting too. We have a lot of new orders and a small spike in business, which I'm very grateful for, but then also it's like, "Okay. So how long are y’all going to do this for?"
Paul: This doesn't end when you post something on social media, it ends when there's actual race equality.
Archel: Right, So part of me, even as we're getting all these new orders, I'm like this is my opportunity as a black business to show other people that there are things that black businesses have to offer, because I do think that, maybe white people don't go out of their way to buy from black businesses or maybe we just not going around enough and cross paths with them, with potential white customers, but for me, I'm trying to specifically make sure that we offer a service that people can then refer, because I can see this as an opportunity to grow our following, potentially really become a main stream business right? Not just a niche item, but as people say, I want to celebrate diversity, this is one way they can do it.
Paul: Yeah, it's interesting, because I think a lot of times if it's a white business it's just a business and if it's a black business it's a black business.
Archel: We're seeing a lot more interest in black people, in people trying to extend equality or some sorts of feelings of unity but at the same time, all these companies that are speaking out, what do your boardrooms look like. All the people that think things are crazy, are you having uncomfortable conversations or are you just posting something on Instagram for solidarity. We don't really know right now, you know what I mean?
Paul: Have you been hearing from customers about what they're going through? What they need? What they're thinking about
Archel: I've sent out an email to our list today just to be like, "thank you for showing us so much love and support" and then I just listed all the things that we truly need people to share that this is a business that they love. We want people to follow some of our friends who are great at talking about how to be anti-racist and then we also want patience, because to be honest we weren't fulfilling masks on Monday or Tuesday this week. We just won't working. We were not working. I wasn't working, my brother wasn't working, nobody was working and we didn't even have a conversation about it, just no work that day. You know what I'm saying? For our customers, they've just been trying to sing more praises, refer more people and help us grow. Also, not because anybody attacked me personally, but there is a perceived attack right? So my customers want to make sure that I feel like I'm part of a community that cares.
Paul: Yeah I think a lot of small businesses, that's why you get into business, you want to be part of something. You want to be part of a community, you want to support a community.
Archel: As we continue to share our stories, we can talk about how things are different because we're of color right? Or how there's a perceived ceiling for how big your business can go, because it's a business run by a person of color. If you're not sure, don't have black friends. This could be the way for you to get to know more people of color. Really being part of the community. This might be the exchange that somebody needs in order to really feel solid in buying black. And more consciously buying black.
Paul: How are your employees feeling over in Liberia right now?
Archel: Yeah they're okay because I don't think Liberia took as big a hit, we'll say. Or has as many victims. So things are normalizing over there. When we say [inaudible 00:16:01], yes people are still wearing masks, but that seems to be the only big difference, whereas here I know there will be huge differences in restaurant capacity and nightclub capacity and all these things but over there it just seems to be like people wear masks.
Paul: Yeah and I mean it makes sense that masks need to be worn those are going to be a statement piece.
Archel: I think we are definitely moving toward a space in making these things, making everything more fashionable because we need to make the decision to do this for the long haul, so we might as well have something that we're happy with. And for sure, with Corona, I think that there was a solid two weeks where I was in the bed, out of the bed, in the bed, ordering delivery food, trying to figure out what is going to come next, but it wasn't that I felt there was an attack on being me. You know what I'm saying?
Paul: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Archel: So the difference is big. It’s your value being threatened you know? So there's not quite been time to process that.
Paul: Yeah that makes sense.
Archel: I'm so used to all the little things right? The little micro-aggressions. My family came to America to flee the war and we grew up in a very white neighborhood where we had kids that my siblings were friends with that my sisters could go to their house but their parents would never let their kids come to our house. Or I remember the first time that my mom taught me how to wash my hair I was in sixth grade or something like that and I was so proud that I washed my hair on my own and I got on the bus and I told my friend that I finally washed my hair and she called me dirty. Because I had never washed my hair before, how could I possibly been bathing this whole time. You know? You think about those things and they're big but it happens all the time so my world isn't going to stop for them.
I was at a bar with a guy and his friend came over, I don't know what his friend did but I said that I was from Africa and the man started clicking at me. And this was November, In 2019. A man thought it was appropriate to click at me you know? And he didn't do it just like a few, he kept going and we're sitting there. But it didn't end my night. It didn't end my night because I'm used to it a little bit right? But I also didn't die because of it. I mean, I don't know. What do you say?
Paul: Yeah I mean. That's awful. There's no other way around that, that's just awful. But I think a lot of people right now are starting to, I guess, or at least hope, understand the difference and the danger between thinking but "I'm not racist", because nothing changes.
Archel: The biggest thing for me is this feels like everybody's doing it right now. It's kind of like the ice bucket challenge. Everybody's doing that right now. So how do we make sure that people keep doing it and how do we make sure that they know that in two years it's not going to be done? You know what I mean? They can't be like, "in 2020 we really had a push and that changed everything". This is something that will be ongoing. And I don't know how to best communicate that and I don't know that I need to.
Paul: Yeah no, you don't. It's on everybody to fight, to remove oppression from anybody.
Archel: I don't want to make it seem like I'm just such this victim because while there may be things that happened, I am so focused on pushing past them and making the things that will happen come to life, that I really don't fit in that space that much. But I will say if I felt more comfortable, there are certain boutiques that I just know I can sell in. There's a particular boutique in Ponce Market, but they kept pushing back the meeting with me. They were like, oh Corona, or oh this or oh that. So now we're not bringing on anybody new, but randomly we have a dress, one dress hanging on a mannequin there. It's a weird situation. Our dress is on the mannequin, there are some bag makers and the bag makers hang their bags on the look right? So our dress is not for sale at the store but it's just dressing the mannequin but because their bag makers they're not selling any clothes but they didn't want a naked mannequin. And people always ask, who made that dress? And I don't know what else we could do to look appealing to the management of the store. Like give us a shot because some of your customers have asked and I think we could do well here.
Paul: Yeah. I appreciate you Archel. I'm so glad that we've had a chance to chat a few times about the business that you're running. I'm stoked for what you're doing.
Archel: Thank you. I'm excited too and I also just feel pressure to be able to rise to the occasion because I know that a lot of times, especially when it comes to small businesses and small black businesses, even especially when it comes to investment or customer service or whatever, the black entrepreneur gets one shot and they're doing it for the whole race it feels. Whereas white entrepreneurs can go try and get funding. Oh this company didn't work. Maybe they can pivot. It won't stop the investor giving money to the next white entrepreneur. So I feel an immense amount of pressure to try to say the right things, even though I don't really have the words, but to also to just really prove through my business that I'm doing well or that I can offer a good product or something that's worth having or worth buying or purchasing because if somebody comes to my business, tries to buy from my business and has a bad experience they may not shop at other black businesses again. And it's crazy to think that, that would be part of it but I believe that to be true. So it's important that I do well so that it opens up the field of possibility for others.
Paul: A lot of us started our own small businesses because we want to put our money where our hearts are. We want to affect positive change through commerce. Whether that’s helping those economically affected by a pandemic or working to digest how we can show up for and support the Black, Indigenous and People of Colour Movement. If we believe ourselves to be “good” people and run “good” businesses and then do nothing to change the arc of injustice, then it’s hard to square away that perceived goodness as being true. Businesses, even small ones, have audiences, reach, and commerce. The work here is as intertwined with our businesses as our businesses are with our personal lives. Economics, as I’ve said in earlier episodes, is just people connecting with other people. And that means creating equal opportunities for all businesses to make those connections. In a comedy special from years ago, Hasan Minhaj, a Indian American said he had the “audacity of equality”, growing up in America, in a family of immigrants. As he should, because the West purports that everyone has free and equal rights to achieve what they want. The only way to achieve this is to get uncomfortable as to why that’s not the case, and bring into the light where oppressive structures and antiquated racist systems exist, so they can then be thoroughly dismantled. What I liked most about this season was all the guests were doing their part to show up, while acknowledging just how much work still needs to happen. We have do our part, as individuals and businesses, to reshape a world that’s better than it was before. Let’s show up for each other, and show up together.
Thank you, dear listeners, for tuning into season one of Call Paul. Call Paul is produced by Ruth Eddy and is a Mailchimp Original Podcast. To hear more from all the guests we reconnected with, check out their full episodes. To learn more about my thoughts on business and living online, you can hop on my newsletter by visiting www.sundaydispatches.com. If you like what we’ve been doing leave a review for the show on iTunes. We love to hear from your small business too, you can always send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Things are returning to normal – but that doesn’t mean we should go back to the way things were. Paul Jarvis is back, interviewing entrepreneurs who prioritize passion over profit and renegotiated the status quo.
Things are returning to normal – but that doesn’t mean we should go back to the way things were. Paul Jarvis is back, interviewing entrepreneurs who prioritize passion over profit and renegotiated the status quo.
Matt, owner of Xocolatl Chocolate, discusses business during the pandemic.
Dave, owner of Wayward Distillery, discusses pandemic-driven tough decisions.
Dan and Hillary, owners of Kin Ship Goods, discuss community support.
Archel, owner of Bombchel, discusses working long distance.
Martin, co-founder of Cosmic Kids Yoga, talks viewership during the pandemic.
Peter, CEO of online grocer, SPUD, talks about changes during the pandemic.
Sarah, owner of small agency 816 New York, discusses marketing with integrity.
Tina, a creative force with many successful endeavors, discusses letting go.
Michelle, a race director, explains what it takes to plan and cancel a marathon.
Paul checks in with his first four guests to see how they’re doing.