I've never really told the story of Sustainable Industries from my own unique perspective before. At least not in full, and at least not in a public forum. At our 10-year anniversary, it seems an appropriate time to do so.
It's a pretty good story too: A small business that has had a significant and immeasurable yet often low-profile impact on the growth of the sustainable business movement – for 10 years inspiring ideas, business innovations and new connections. An entrepreneurial American enterprise that has produced 125 issues of an award-winning magazine, 25 impactful live events, and dozens of webinars, newsletters and case studies. A company that like many of its peers struggled with cashflow through the Great Recession but overcame extraordinary odds to come back on its 10th anniversary with a plan to double down on its mission.
Part of the reason this story hasn't been told in full is because of the ways it always felt like an unfinished plot, or the courage I lacked in telling it in an authentic voice. Every business owner understands the delicacy of their status in the world, and the manner in which factors outside of their control can overwhelm even the best-made plans.
Sustainable Industries is based in the Bay Area, which is surrounded by amazing entrepreneurial success stories. Go to any networking event and ask a young, dapper business leader how their new venture is fairing, even in the midst of the worst economic climate since the Great Depression, or even when their eventual demise would seem obvious, and you'll inevitably get the answer: "Great. Outstanding. Blowing up." More spin than a post-presidential debate press hall. To be an entrepreneur you have to possess unbridled and often irrational optimism.
I’m an optimist and a risk-taker, and I admit falling into the trap of over-glorification from time to time. But even if you don’t always get to see under the hood, most everyday entrepreneurs can’t lie with the deftness of, say, politicians. I think you can often see the real truth in their eyes.