Set boundaries. Everyone is going to want your time — to pitch their agency, to talk about a collaboration, to go over endless to-do lists. You only have so many hours in a day and days in a week. When you respect your time enough, you say no to ‘the fat’ on your calendar and it encourages others to come to meetings prepared and ready to make the most of them. Can you tell I’m still working on this one? Haha
The COVID19 pandemic has disrupted all of our lives. But sometimes disruptions can be times of opportunity. Many people’s livelihoods have been hurt by the pandemic. But some saw this as an opportune time to take their lives in a new direction.
As a part of this series called “How I Was Able To Pivot To A New Exciting Opportunity Because Of The Pandemic”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Martica Wakeman.
Martica brings 12+ years experience in social impact, sustainability and nonprofit partnership work. She’s passionate about shaping our future for a planet and world that works for everyone, not just a few.
When she’s not working to make the world a better place, you can find her growing her own vegetables or getting outside with her dog, Goose, for an adventure.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
Of course! Well, I grew up in Maine before moving to a small town on the water in Marion, Massachusetts. Some of my most cherished childhood memories are of being outdoors and being creative — building forts in the backyard, camping, sailing, plenty of sports and plenty of art of various sorts.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I’ve always been a sucker for Neil Gaiman’s, “Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.”
Perfectionism forces us to hide the parts of ourselves that don’t map to a perfect thing. In a culture that is obsessed with perfection, it inspires me to be okay with trying, failing, learning, etc. — hence why I love building early start ups.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
I love the How I Built This podcast and the IDEO Food podcasts. They both highlight entrepreneurship and it’s so fascinating to hear the way some of these incredibly successful brands started with one or two co-founders that believed in themselves and their idea — and then worked hard to make it happen.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before the Pandemic began?
Sure. I spent years in the social enterprise space and then recently completed two masters degrees — MSc Environment and Sustainable Development and the other an MBA. Upon graduation I was excited to be Director of Client Services for a startup working with purpose driven companies to achieve a higher ROI on their impact.
What did you do to pivot as a result of the Pandemic?
It was a shock to be jobless in the pandemic job economy, quite humbling and times completely demoralizing. I’m sending a ton of strength to anyone out there dealing with this right now (and please let me know if I can help you). I leaned into my network and kept talking about how I wanted to contribute — that’s when I was introduced to my co-founder, Miles. He’d come up with the idea and I knew I could help him better understand the market’s needs and build a great brand and community.
Can you tell us about the specific “Aha moment” that gave you the idea to start this new path?
The “Aha moment” definitely goes to my incredible co-founder, Miles. He’s a brilliant inventor (he invented FinalStraw in 2018) and now Sanikind. My personal “Aha moment” was probably after looking for a job and realizing that it was sucking the life out of me. I know I have a lot to offer, but I also know there are a ton of people with more expertise who are also out of a job. The opportunity to make a difference, learn how to build a successful company from scratch and do so with a great teammate — it was worth the risk of failure!
How are things going with this new initiative?
It’s been incredible. We had great feedback launching on Kickstarter and then truly bent over backwards to be ready for the holiday season and it’s paid off. Hearing how much people love our product is incredible and we’re now getting a ton of inbound corporate and wholesale opportunities. People want to be sustainable — so it’s a pleasure to provide a tool to do so in a convenient, uplifting way.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
You know, there’s sort of two buckets: the mental and emotional support that you need to endure the startup grind. And there’s the learning curve — the strategy and growth. I’m so thankful to my friends and family, across the globe, that bought our products without a second thought and have cheered me on and fanned my flames. I struggle with the whole, “buy my product!” thing and they just supported me from day one. There have been so many countless people across my network who have guided me through stages of our start up and introduced me to other helpful people. I appreciate every one of those conversations so much, I don’t think I could pick just one person. It takes a village.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
I still think it’s incredible that I was introduced to my co-founder over Zoom and we’re building this company together. Not only were we strangers, but we didn’t meet in person until over three months into the company and we’re eight years apart in age. I went from co-facilitating an offsite for a team at Pfizer before the pandemic to betting on our ability to build a company together. Life is strange and wonderful.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
In no particular order:
- Set boundaries. Everyone is going to want your time — to pitch their agency, to talk about a collaboration, to go over endless to-do lists. You only have so many hours in a day and days in a week. When you respect your time enough, you say no to ‘the fat’ on your calendar and it encourages others to come to meetings prepared and ready to make the most of them. Can you tell I’m still working on this one? Haha
- Share your journey. This is a lesson I’m currently learning. I have barely shared, beyond my close friends and family, what I’ve been up to for the past 8 months. The moments that I do I get such helpful feedback, I end up contributing to others or in the least — feel less lonely in what can feel like a lonely job when you’re working remotely in a tiny company.
- Your brand is an extension of yourself. You better make sure it aligns with your values and you walk the talk. We’re currently certifying ourselves as carbon neutral and joining 1% For The Planet and creating value-add social media posts and newsletters to help our community make an impact.
- The company will outgrow you. Miles and I are at a stage with Sanikind where we’re both stretching out of our comfort zones to be able to provide the company with what it needs right now. You are either the bottleneck or you level up and keep the bus moving. I love the challenge.
- Honestly, it’s all going to turn out okay. In fact, if you stop and look around — it’s probably more beautiful than you ever imagined.
So many of us have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. Can you share the strategies that you have used to optimize your mental wellness during this stressful period?
That’s a great question. When I was in my teens and early 20’s I struggled with episodes of pretty severe depression and, subsequently, have spent years nurturing habits to help my mind and body. It’s very important to me. This year I deepened my meditation practice, visited my acupuncturist regularly (shoutout to Haley at Tru Spine in SF), and I switched out coffee for my new favorite brand, MudWtr. I have a 14 year-old dog, Goose, so walking him is nothing new, but remains a pivotal part of my daily routine for re-centering myself amidst busy days. And positive people — you truly are the sum of the company you keep; choose wisely.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Thank you! In our society, which is literally designed to have us consume without thinking, it’s a radical act to question and truly find out where the products and food we buy come from, who grew or made them and what their experience was while doing so (are they treated fairly). I think we all know that we wouldn’t be able to look ourselves in the mirror if we knew the impact of our purchases.
The good news is that we’re seeing a revolution of women entrepreneurs. When women are in the driver’s seat, we make choices that aren’t just in our best interest, but are in the best interest of our communities and our planet. I would love nothing more than for women, especially women of color who are disproportionately left out, to have the tools, resources and agency they need to bring their ideas to fruition. I truly believe it’s intersectional women in purpose-driven businesses that will and are changing the world. Right now I’m motivated to learn all that I can, especially around fundraising and scaling a business, to then turn around and invest in other female founded small businesses.
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!
I think Sarah Kauss, the founder of S’well water bottles, is incredibly inspiring. The way she hustled, in what looked to be a red ocean market, while building and retaining 100% of her company is absolutely incredible and a beautiful example of women in the workplace. Of course I would love to pick her brain about business strategy, but I also find being a woman entrepreneur so fascinating. Have you seen fundraising stats for female entrepreneurs? The gender and race gap is outrageous.
How can our readers follow you online?
You can find Sanikind at www.sanikind.com and on Instagram at @sanikindofficial.
You can find me chatting about innovative eco-entrepreneurship and world sustainability topics on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/marticawakeman/
Thank you for this great chat and opportunity! It’s been a pleasure.