We have all read so much already about the trials and tribulations of 2020 and the fallout related to COVID-19, so why am I writing another post about it all? Well, I look at this as a cathartic writing exercise and also to let entrepreneurs know that it is OK to feel the way you are feeling during these difficult times. I also hope that others may find some optimism in it for themselves.
I started the year off with a bang, my team and I had just completed a successful launch of PlantBased Solutions Master Class, our new online learning platform. We were just beginning to analyze the first program and create new learning modules for the year. This early pivot to online learning was timely, even more than we knew.
I officially acquired the PlantBased Solutions business, which I had been running for the past two years from my business partner. I had begun plans to continue to grow our online platform and branch out into new areas of supporting the plant-based business community, of which I am so proud to be a part. After two business trips to the west coast in January I was back for the Specialty Foods Association’s Winter Fancy Food Show where I was pleased to see an even larger focus of plant-based companies. While in San Francisco after some great meetings with retailers, current clients, and some potential new clients looking to bring their brands to the US market I began hearing about COVID-19 and the potential of a pandemic.
Back home in New York City, I was happy to attend the WeWork Food Labs official opening party, where Quest Love DJ’d for two hours and it seemed like another great moment for the start of 2020! The rest of February was geared towards the annual industry pilgrimage to the Natural Products Expo West. In addition to moderating a panel or table discussion, I had been focused on the planning of our annual PlantBased Investor Summit with Glass Wall Syndicate in Anaheim. There were over one hundred investors and over one hundred brand founders to vet and match up for potential mission-driven investor opportunities. Like every year, I arrived a week early to visit a lifelong friend who lives in Los Angeles and have some personal recharge time in the sun, meet with clients and tour the local west-coast retail and plant-based restaurant scene. Every entrepreneur knows that although we are supposed to burn the candle at both ends and hustle to “make it happen”, if we don’t take time for real self-care, we end up burnt out and unable to reach our goals. There were rumblings at this point related to the possibility of canceling Expo West due to COVID. It all seemed too much to comprehend with so many thousands having already traveled, shipped product and booths and spent tens of thousands of dollars. Then on Monday, March 2nd, while working on the back deck of my friends home,
I got the email from Expo West letting me know that the most important industry event of the year, on to which I had tied so much of my business’s success, was officially postponed (cancelled).
I knew this was a devastating blow not only to my business, but also to my dear friends and colleagues who had also bet heavily on the importance of all of the meetings, contacts, deals and potential business that was to come out of Expo West. The next day the Sheraton hotel ballroom, which was booked for our PlantBased Investor Summit, understood the situation when I called to cancel. I now we had about 72 hours to turn our in-person summit into an online virtual summit and with great assistance from Glass Wall Syndicate we created a few Zoom meeting rooms and communicated to investors and brand founders alike that they could still participate virtually in presenting their capital raise pitches directly to investors, almost as planned. The summit was a success and we were not only able to meet our goals of executing an event we believe to be very important to the industry, but because of the nature of an online event, we found that more investors who may have changed plans due to COVID and were not planning on attending in person in Anaheim, ended up joining us online. The more the merrier.
So far so good, as my recap goes for the beginning of 2020.
After a brief three day stop in Idaho to meet with a large food manufacturer for a client on my way back home to NYC, and then everything changed for the worse. New York City was on quarantine and I, like so many others, spent the next two and a half months in my apartment, not seeing anyone, barely going outside, cooking every meal and wondering what the hell was going on with the world. All the new clients and potential international clients had either cancelled their projects or postponed their work for after COVID, whenever that will be. I had always been an optimistic person, but the world as I knew it had changed so much that I lost my balance and focus and honestly, I fell into a deep depression. I questioned whether it made sense to send out email blasts, comment on the industry or worse yet, give advice when no one knew what was to come of all of this chaos and closure. Clearly we are a social animals and I can tell you personally that isolation is good for no one.
As they say, time heals all wounds and the darkness of the situation over time seemed to fade towards the end of the summer. Upon hearing that people were coming back to the city after staying away for so long, businesses opening and schools ready to open, the idea of autumn and change began to motivate me and wake me from my stupor.
Again, being optimistic and having a “can do” attitude are hallmarks of entrepreneurs, so even after some difficult times, it is important to dig down deep, remember what our guiding “why” or reason is for what we do and then to map out an action plan.
I am, once again, feeling gratitude for my passionate community of plant-based businesses who looks to make a positive impact on the planet and for all who dwell on it. Success in life and in this industry can be measured in many ways. For me it is not the amount of clients I have at any one time or even financial success, rather it is the work of helping others who are working so hard to help us all in this soon to be plant-based economy.