What It Means To Win A SBC Award
Posted on April 20 2017
Yesterday Bead & Reel had the immense honor of winning a Sustainable Business Council's Small Business Award. I was up against 20 other local sustainable companies in the same revenue bracket but a variety of different sectors, and, as a relatively new business competing with so many larger and more established businesses, I was very excited for the nomination but felt very certain that there was no way I would actually win. I was just going to go to the awards for fun, to see some friends, to eat some vegan appetizers, and to wear something pretty.
When it was announced early in the evening that... drum roll please... Bead & Reel was the winner, I was truly shocked. I hadn't planned a speech, and suddenly put on the spot, I couldn't think of anything to say, leaving me stumbling out some brief words of gratitude. While I do give regular public talks, as a very shy person it requires a huge amount of practice and pep talks for each one, and having done neither, all I wanted to do was get off that stage as quickly as possible. Afterwards I felt incredibly ashamed, having missed an opportunity to use this unexpected platform to talk about my business, and why this win matters.
So here is what I wish I had said:
Thank you to my customers, vendors, and supporters: Launching and sustaining Bead & Reel has been a difficult journey, requiring a lot of work and even more sacrifice. But it's also been the most wonderful, most fulfilling experience of my life. I wouldn't have the opportunity - the joy - to spend my days building this company that I love so much if it weren't for the people who choose to shop with me every day, for the sustainable designers who create such beautiful pieces, and for the friends and family who cheer me on, both near and far. Thank you thank you thank you. Thank you, one more time for emphasis.
Fashion is a serious business: While it is often diminished as a frivolity, in reality fashion is a 3 trillion dollar global industry which employs an estimated one-sixth of the world’s population. And it is also the second most polluting industry, after oil and gas. So this industry not only has large economic and personal affects, but it also has huge environmental consequences. For a fashion business to win against sectors such as energy, food, and health is a positive omen for the shift towards recognizing what a serious issue fashion is, and the very real solution that it can be.
With past winner and current presenter Moby!
Female leadership matters: There are fewer large companies run by women than by men named John. As I've written about before, women especially face challenges in starting and being supported in leadership roles. Even last night at the SBC Awards, standing next to my long-term romantic partner, there were misunderstandings or assumptions that he was - must be, obviously - somehow involved in the business. He's tall, handsome, and white, after all (though, not named John, so he does have that working against him). While he is my biggest fan and supporter, Bead & Reel is an entirely woman-founded, women-owned, woman-run business, and it is only in acknowledging more women's accomplishments that we can start to shift towards a reality where there are as many large companies run by men as by women named Jessica (just kidding - I'd settle for equality).
Size doesn't matter: It was very intimidating to enter this competition as a one-person, $100,000 business competing in the same category as $1 million companies with teams of employees. There is a vast difference in resources and capabilities, and I am well aware of that. But for a small sole proprietorship to win means that any individual has the power to build their own business and to start creating their own unique impacts. Don't wait until you're "big enough" to change the world - you, yourself, are capable of it right now.
The importance of trees: One of my friends asked how much money came with this award, and I had to laugh. This award offers only recognition, and a tree. A beautiful "Giving Tree" - a Ming Aralia, and it was probably the most meaningful award I could have received. My father used to give away thousands of trees every year to my hometown community - little Douglas Fir seedlings, free to anyone who would love them. His friends and clients and strangers would plant their Jace Trees - named in his honor - on their properties, and some people had decades worth of Jace Trees growing at their homes. He died 5 years ago, so he never got to see Bead & Reel or the tree that I won this week. However, his Jace Trees live on, a beautiful and constant reminder that our impact on the world doesn't end when we leave this earth. So give trees, and plant trees, and live the kind of life that continues to grow, even after you are gone.