Maisa Mumtaz-Cassidy of Consciously: “Don’t get distracted by what others are doing”

Don’t get distracted by what others are doing — it’s easy to get distracted by what other entrepreneurs and/or competitors are doing and to start to compare. If you focus on this too much or let it influence you, you’re doing yourself and your business a disservice. This is toxic for your sanity and non-productive for your […]

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Don’t get distracted by what others are doing — it’s easy to get distracted by what other entrepreneurs and/or competitors are doing and to start to compare. If you focus on this too much or let it influence you, you’re doing yourself and your business a disservice. This is toxic for your sanity and non-productive for your business. Trust your own vision and always remember your “Why”.

As part of our interview series called “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became A Founder”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Maisa Mumtaz-Cassidy.

Maisa Mumtaz-Cassidy is the founder of Consciously, a San Francisco-based curated marketplace for sustainable fashion. She launched Consciously in 2020 to make discovering sustainable and ethical fashion brands a seamless experience — essentially to make it easy to look good while doing good. Consciously celebrates and supports brands that are fair trade, vegan, hand created, transparent, womxn-owned, BIPOC-owned, small batch, and made with eco-friendly materials.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I’m from Bangladesh, which is the world’s second largest garment exporter, where most fast-fashion brands manufacture. Majority of my friends and family own garment businesses and I’ve also worked in the manufacturing industry back in Bangladesh, so I’m very familiar with the space and the challenges that come with the territory. Western brands come into countries like Bangladesh to take advantage of cheap labor, and it was my experience in manufacturing that really gave me a clearer understanding of how little the lives of garment workers are valued. I would be in meetings with buyers trying to convince them to contribute in paying our workers a living wage, which is 4 times more than what they actually get paid in Bangladesh, and every single time the response was, “It’s not our responsibility.”

These responses would make me really upset and frustrated, and then a feeling of guilt was settling in as I was learning more and more about the environmental and human impact of an industry I had chosen to be a part of. This is really what sparked my interest in sustainable fashion, and the more I learned, the more passionate I became about creating a positive impact in the industry through my work.

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?

I launched Consciously in October 2020, so at the height of the pandemic which was of course incredibly difficult. I had to delay the launch of Consciously multiple times because our vendor’s supply chains were running very unpredictably or they were indefinitely shut down, which of course wasn’t anyone’s fault but it made launching and managing inventory from multiple vendors significantly more challenging.

Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

When you’re running a company, you’re constantly faced with things that are hard — it’s not supposed to be easy. You have to be really passionate about what you’re doing and the problem you’re solving, otherwise your chances for success are low. I always go back to my “Why” for building Consciously; I strongly believe that it’s our responsibility to leave the world a better place than how we found it. Fast-fashion is a massively exploitative and environmentally-damaging industry, and with Consciously, we’re educating people on what that means and providing them with options for sustainable fashion brands that are doing good in the world.

So, how are things going today? How did grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?

Things are going well! Every day kind of looks different and I’m constantly learning which is both exciting and nerve wracking. I think resilience is crucial for entrepreneurs and for the growth of their business(es). We’ve really had to be patient since retail has been one of the hardest hit industries from Covid-19, and our sales were coming in quite slowly when we launched last year. I talked to anybody and everybody that would talk to me, from other entrepreneurs to our IG community to learn what was working and what could be better to make sure I was actually building something valuable to others. There are over 50 really incredible brands on the platform who I work closely with, and as the US population continues to get vaccinated and things start opening back up, I’m definitely seeing a promising future for Consciously.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

The concept of marketplaces isn’t new, but Consciously is truly unique because our brands and values are core to what we do. We have a Sustainability Criteria that’s made up of 8 values that our brand partners have to be matched with in at least 2 ways, and on top of that, we focus on beautiful designs and high-quality products. Consumers can conveniently shop by their values from innovative brands all in one platform, and we take a highly-curated approach meaning we don’t just sell anything and everything. We also have our own content arm in which we educate consumers on sustainability since it’s an important part of our mission, as well as interview our brand founders, conscious creators, and women of impact.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Make time for things outside of work that bring you joy and energize you. For some, that can look like exercise while for others, it can look like creating music. Whatever your thing may be, set aside time for it and honor those moments. I carve out time daily to listen to a podcast while I cook or go for a walk and of course, cuddles and play time with my pup. I also block out 30 mins in the afternoon to nap.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I’m so fortunate to have the support system that I do, and I’m grateful for many people. If I had to pick one, I’d say my Mom. She’s the reason it’s been financially possible to build and grow my business.

She believes in me and my vision enough to have provided me with a sizable amount of capital to bring Consciously to life, which means everything to me and a privilege I don’t take for granted.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

We partner with non-profits frequently to donate a portion of our sales to their respective causes, ranging from women empowerment to disaster relief.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

Don’t try to do it all — while it’s important to minimize spend and try to do as much as you can as a bootstrapped startup, you also have to be realistic on what and how much you can take on. I began to get really overwhelmed with trying to do it all, from marketing to UX to vendor management to customer service and so on, and then eventually realized it would actually be beneficial for the business, and my mental health, if I hire contractors so I could focus on areas of the business where I can personally have the most impact.

Learn to prioritize — you have to be really hyper-focused and disciplined as a founder. At first, from the fear of sounding impolite or obnoxious, I’d say yes to things I didn’t actually have the time or energy for. I had to actively learn that I had nothing to feel guilty for when saying no to someone, whether that be a quick chat request from someone to “pick my brain” or dinner plans with friends, because it’s more important to me that I’m strategic with my time and responsible about my priorities.

It’s all-consuming — running a business is stressful and you have to give it your all if you want your company to even stand a real chance. You can experience the highest of highs and the lowest of lows all in one day. It can sometimes feel like being on a rollercoaster ride all by yourself, but if your vision and passion are strong enough, it’s so worth getting on the ride.

It’s okay to fail — Failure is an opportunity for us to learn something new. It’s inevitable and you really can’t be expected to have all the answers all of the time. When you shift your thinking around failure, it makes taking risks possible and you’re able to embrace that it’s part of the journey. I’ve learned that failing helps one discover the path that’s right for them.

Don’t get distracted by what others are doing — it’s easy to get distracted by what other entrepreneurs and/or competitors are doing and to start to compare. If you focus on this too much or let it influence you, you’re doing yourself and your business a disservice. This is toxic for your sanity and non-productive for your business. Trust your own vision and always remember your “Why”.

Can you share a few ideas or stories from your experience about how to successfully ride the emotional highs & lows of being a founder”?

Give yourself a moment to take in the highs and lows, and remember that it’s how you respond to these moments that will shape what happens moving forward. Celebrate your highs and try not to get drowned by your lows.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

It would be to amplify and support the work we’re doing at Consciously around conscious consumerism and sustainability, to ensure future generations are able to inherit a healthier planet from us and that everyone is treated with respect and dignity.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Visit and follow us on Instagram @wearconsciously

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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