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What it Means to Be Sustainable with Maisa Mumtaz-Cassidy, Founder and CEO of Consciously

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Do you know where the shirt you’re wearing came from? Not the brand, the actual fabric. Do you know who constructed the shirt? If you’re a brand owner, do you truly know the conditions of the workers who you are sourcing goods from? Are they being paid fair wages? Do they have a safe environment to work in? For far too long, these questions were left not just unanswered, they weren’t even being asked. But in today’s world, the consumer is more aware of and cares about all aspects of their products, and they are voting with their dollars to support the brands that are doing things the right way. The problem is, though, that it’s often hard to know for sure which brands are true to their word when they say things like they are “ethically-sourced,” “fair trade,” “vegan,” or any of the other buzzwords that they have identified. That’s where Maisa Mumtaz-Cassidy comes into the picture. Maisa is the Founder and CEO of Consciously, a curated marketplace made for sustainable fashion. On this episode of Up Next in Commerce, I talked to Maisa about how she built her marketplace, what she looks for when she invites a brand onto the platform, and she gave some tips to sustainably-minded consumers on what questions they should be asking of the brands they want to support. Enjoy this episode!

Main Takeaways:

  • The Big Disconnect: The Western buyer is, unfortunately, not often clued into the working conditions of garment workers around the world. Many third-world countries are the source of the garments we wear every day, and the conditions there are too often unsustainable and unsafe. When consumers dig into where their brands source their goods, there is more of an opportunity to improve the conditions and therefore the lives of the people who do the work. 
  • Don’t Trust, Verify: As a brand or as a consumer, you should not simply take someone at their word. If the suppliers you work with say that they pay fair wages, make them prove it. Ask for pay stubs and go visit the factories or talk to the workers one-on-one to ensure they are being treated fairly. As a consumer, if a brand says they are ethically sourced, research what that means and ask them for proof. Request information about the products they offer and do your homework before you hand over money to a brand that is not operating in good conscience. And, by asking questions, you may bring to light issues that the brand didn’t even consider and thus contribute to finding solutions.
  • Built to Serve: If you state that you are built to serve the customer, you have to actually follow through. Stay engaged as much as possible. Have human-to-human interactions. Run polls and ask questions across platforms, and respond when customers reach out. These are simple but often-forgotten steps many brands should be paying more attention to in order to ensure customer satisfaction remains high. 

For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.

Key Quotes:

 

“What happens is Western brands come into countries like Bangladesh to take advantage of cheap labor. And it was my experience in that industry in manufacturing that really gave me a clear understanding of just how little the lives of like garment workers are valued. And so I was, I had experiences with buyers of block and large, fast fashion companies where they just blatantly exhibited their indifference in contributing to the wellbeing of garment workers. And there was this misalignment in who should contribute to paying these workers a living wage. Ultimately, my belief is that it’s everyone’s responsibility.”

“I started contemplating on how I could show up in this industry in a way that creates a positive impact. So that’s really a catalyst for where I’m at today, but there was definitely a moment where I was like, ‘Why have I chosen this path to be part of such an exploitive industry?’ And I almost had this existential crisis, and I just had to take a step back and ask myself, how do I want to show up? And I began to explore sustainable fashion and I started learning more about it. And then I discovered that there’s this community of really amazing brands that are doing impactful work while creating beautiful, timeless, high quality products. And on the consumer side, there are people who want to shop ethically made products, but have a really challenging time navigating and understanding that space because it’s overwhelming for the average consumer. It’s so multifaceted, there’s so many layers to it. There’s an overwhelming amount of information that people aren’t able to consume. But they are increasingly inspired to shop from environmentally and socially conscious brands. So building a marketplace that makes it easy for people to shop with all the brands already vetted, made a lot of sense. And so I built Consciously.” 

“Our sustainability criteria is made up of eight values… It’s pretty simple, but it’s enough to make sure that the brands we’re bringing on are actually doing what they say they’re doing,”

“Ask questions like, ‘Hey, where are you sourcing your fabrics from? And how can you ensure that these are truly dead stock? Or how can you ensure that your workers are being paid what you say they’re being paid?” And then when you’re asking questions, if they’re not able to really give you an answer, or it’s kind of like a vague answer, you can sniff that out. And then also if you have doubts or uncertainties, ask for documentation.”

“With any new business, getting the word out is really challenging and you’re constantly trying all sorts of things to see what will work for your business, because it could work for all these other businesses — it could even work for a competitor — but it might not be right for your audience. So testing copy, testing marketing copy, testing emails and AB testing flows, seeing what works on social, what are we posting organically that is getting a lot of engagement or what are people excited about or what types of products do people want to see on the marketplace? And as a bootstrapped business, we are also limited in resources. So it’s like, where are we spending our money? And are we spending it in a way that is actually going to impact our business? Are we going to see results from this? And you don’t really know that until you’ve tested a lot, and sometimes it can result in money wasted, but it’s still a learning experience.”

Bio

Maisa Mumtaz-Cassidy is the founder of Consciously, a curated e-commerce platform for sustainable fashion. Consciously was built to make discovering socially and environmentally responsible fashion brands a seamless experience – essentially to make it easy to look good while doing good. Brands are sourced and assessed in accordance with Consciously’s sustainability values which are fair trade, vegan, hand created, transparent, female-founded, POC-founded, small-batch produced, and eco-friendly.


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Transcript:

Stephanie:

Hello and welcome back. Hello and welcome back to Up Next in Commerce. This is your host, Stephanie Postles, CEO of mission.org. Today on the show, we have Maisa Mumtaz-Cassidy, who’s a founder and CEO of Consciously. Maisa, welcome to the show.

Maisa:

Thanks for having me. I’m excited to chat.

Stephanie:

Yeah. This is a topic that I want to talk about for a while all around sustainability. We’ve kind of touched on it throughout interviews here and there, but I want to hear all about what is your company and how did you get involved in it?

Maisa:

Sure. Consciously is a curated sustainable fashion marketplace, that people are able to shop by their values on. We had our soft launch in October of last year. In the thick of the pandemic, and then we did our official launch in June 2021. How we work is we source that and curate brands based on their social and environmental impact. We also place a lot of priority on the quality and style of products. We take a highly curated approach to bringing on products and vendors. As of right now, we’re only catering to women, but hoping to expand into menswear soon.

Stephanie:

Nice, amazing. I mean, what even drew you into this world? Because I mean, there’s a lot of marketplaces out there, but I haven’t seen them focusing on the things that you are and kind of bringing the brands that also have that same kind of love, of making sure that things are not only as sustainable, but people are being paid well. Where is it coming from? What kind of created this interest for you?

Maisa:

Yeah. I’m originally from Bangladesh, which is the world’s second largest garment manufacturer, second to China. It wasn’t until I entered the garment manufacturing myself in Bangladesh, that industry, that I fully understood the magnitude of the systemic issues that exist within fashion. The textile industry in Bangladesh remains the strongest root of our economy and the leading source of export earnings. About 80% of the industry is made up of women and which accounts for the highest female labor participation in the country. That’s how significant the textile industry is in Bangladesh and many other countries in Asia. Just majority of my friends and family have their own garment businesses, and I’ve also worked in the manufacturing industry. Very familiar with the space and the challenges that come with that territory.

Maisa:

What happens is Western brands come into countries like Bangladesh to take advantage of cheap labor. It was my experience in that industry in manufacturing that really gave me a clear understanding of just how little the lives of garment workers are valued. I had experiences with buyers of large fast fashion companies where they just blatantly exhibited their indifference in contributing to the wellbeing of garment workers. There was this misalignment in who should contribute to paying these workers a living wage. Ultimately, my belief is that it’s everyone’s responsibility, right? If you are offshoring your manufacturing, you have a responsibility to take care of the workers that are making your products. But these brands and their buyers and people I was talking to, no one felt that it was their responsibility to pay these workers a living wage. What a living wage is in Bangladesh, it’s four times more than what these women take home.

Stephanie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Maisa:

Right? I just left all those interactions, feeling really frustrated and angry and upset. I started contemplating on how I could show up in this industry in a way that creates a positive impact. That’s really a catalyst for where I’m at today. But there was definitely a moment where I was like, “Why am I in such an exploitative… Why have I chosen this path to be part of such an exploitative industry?” I almost had this existential crisis. I kind of just had to take a step back and ask myself how do I want to show up, and I began to explore sustainable fashion. I started learning more about it. I discovered that there’s this community of really amazing brands that are doing impactful work while creating beautiful, timeless, high quality products.

Stephanie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Maisa:

On the consumer side, there are people who want to shop ethically-made products, but have a really challenging time navigating and understanding that space because it’s overwhelming for the average consumer. It’s so multifaceted. There’s so many layers where there’s an overwhelming amount of information that people aren’t able to consume. But they are increasingly inspired to shop from environmentally and socially conscious brands. Building a marketplace that makes it easy for people to shop with all the brands already vetted, just made a lot of sense. And so I built Consciously.

Stephanie:

I love that. I mean, you can definitely see that trend now where a lot of consumers, especially over the past two years, you can see consumers and brands starting to take a big interest in this. I’m starting to think around what caused this interest? Maybe people being at home, seeing kind of the stories that were happening, because it feels like there was this disconnect back in the day where you would hear about things happening in other countries really far away and it didn’t really maybe hit home as much because you couldn’t actually experience it or see videos. I mean, just to kind of highlight what you’re talking about. What does it look like in these factories? How should people be viewing whether if a brand is thinking about trying to find a good one versus an out, what is it actually like behind the scenes? Because I don’t know if everyone fully knows the severity of it.

Maisa:

Yeah. I mean, I would recommend everyone watch the True Cost on Netflix. It’s such a good documentary that goes into these factories and talks to workers and really takes a look at the state of the garment industry in Bangladesh. But also, this doesn’t apply to just Bangladesh. This applies to a lot of emerging markets and third world countries. In 2013, there was a catastrophic event. The Rana Plaza collapsed, which was a building that hosted garment manufacturing business. It was prior to it collapsing, there were many moments where the workers had expressed their concerns over the safety of the business, because there were cracks in the wall and there weren’t safe ways to exit the building. It was just horrible, horrible working conditions, like poor ventilation, all of that. But the higher ups kind of just totally ignored them and were like, “Go back into work.”

Maisa:

In this building, there were fat, big, fast fashion businesses, manufacturing. The day after that these workers had voiced their concerns, it collapsed. Over 1,100 workers died. That is really what grasped international attention on the state of manufacturing and the state of fashion to the Western buyer, because there’s such a big disconnect and like the Western… Unless you’ve been to Asia or unless you actually visited these factories, you don’t know how the conditions that these women and the people are in. So often there can be a lot of abuse. There can be sexual abuse, physical abuse. A lot of the times, it’s like… Yeah, I mean, the garment… The people actually making the garments are women, but management are men. If someone expresses concern or some kind of unhappiness there, they can be abused and there’s no oversight.

Stephanie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Maisa:

A lot of the times, they won’t have proper ventilation. They won’t have exit doors that are anywhere to be seen in case of a fire so they get trapped, and there won’t be proper lighting, or there won’t be proper masks or safety equipment to protect these women from the machines or the chemicals they might be inhaling, any of that. Yeah. They’re all of crammed in this room with no fans, no AC, they’re sweating and creating thousands and thousands of units a day.

Stephanie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Maisa:

Yeah. It’s really, really sad. The True Cost was created as a result of the Rana Plaza collapsing and that is really what got the world to kind of like wake up to these issues. But I still think that there’s a long way to go in building empathy between the Western buyer and the women in a third world country who’s making the products of the Western buyer in [inaudible] on a everyday basis.

Stephanie:

Yeah. When you were building up Consciously, I know you have the sustainability criteria. How did you think about picking out ones that really mattered, but not making it so harsh where it’s like, it’d be too hard to meet? Because I’m sure if you wanted it your way, it’s like, “Here’s 100 things that you need to do to make sure it’s perfect.” And then no brands would maybe even be able to meet that. How did you start thinking about the ones that were needed to be able to even enter your marketplace?

Maisa:

Yeah. I mean, I just having been involved in the sustainable fashion community and learning and talking to people, I developed a general understanding of what it is that really people view as sustainable. Of course, it’s super hard for anyone, any brand or any person to be 100% sustainable. Right?

Stephanie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Maisa:

But there are certain criterias that brands strive to meet. Basic things like paying their workers a living wage.

Stephanie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Maisa:

Or the fabrics that they’re using. Right? Kind of like breaking that up a little. Our sustainability criteria is made up of eight values. Again, we don’t want to have 20 values in there that overwhelms both the brands and the customers. It’s pretty simple, but it’s enough to make sure that the brands we’re bringing on are actually doing what they say they’re doing.

Stephanie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Maisa:

How it works is, our brand partners have to be matched with at least two of our values. Of course, on top of that, we focus on beautiful elevated designs. The values are fair trade, vegan, transparent, hand work, BIPOC-owned, woman-owned, small batch, and eco-friendly.

Stephanie:

Okay. Let’s unravel each one of this. Make sure I understand all of those fully.

Maisa:

Sure. Fair trade is basically like the fair… Fair trade is a certification that’s provided by the Fair Trade Organization. Basically, they go in and they inspect factories and they make sure that there’s a priority on worker wellbeing.

Stephanie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Maisa:

That’s kind of like what fair trade is, making sure the workers are getting peered up, paid a living wage, all of that. And then there’s vegan. All of our vegan products, if a brand identifies as vegan, we make sure that there’s no animal or animal byproducts in their items. Transparent is these brands have given us and their customers an extended understanding of their supply chain and they share that information frequently and it’s all on their website. If you ask for documentation, they have all of that to back it up, even if it’s the customer asking for it.

Maisa:

There’s handwork. There’s any or all part of the product, the whole product, could have been made by hand. There’s female-owned, which is at least 51% of the companies owned by a woman or someone who identifies as a woman. BIPOC-owned is someone who identifies as black, indigenous, or a person of color. There’s small batch. These brands manufacturing, small quantities. Often in times, their items, their products tend to be limited edition.

Stephanie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Maisa:

Eco-friendly is the products that they’ve used are either organic and recycled, upcycled, are dead stock, so they’re really prioritizing the raw materials in production.

Stephanie:

Got it. Okay. Thanks for going through those. I was like, “I think I know almost all of them but I want to make sure.” If I’m a new brand starting out today, how should I audit my supply chain? The manufacturers I’m working with? What kind of questions should I be asking? Because I don’t know if everyone knows like, “What can I ask for?” Can I ask for the rates that my workers are getting paid, or what things are on the table to ask and which ones might be harder to uncover?

Maisa:

I mean, yeah, totally ask. You should be asking what are the workers getting paid and prove that to me, show me pay ups, talk to the workers if you’re able to go visit the factories. Talk to the workers one by one.

Stephanie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Maisa:

It’s really awesome because most of the brands unConsciously are small businesses, but every single one of them knows the people who are creating the products.

Stephanie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Maisa:

They’re either frequently visiting or they do FaceTimes, or they visit… Pre-pandemic, they were visiting like once or twice a year going and really seeing how their products were being made and exactly who was making them and how they were being made. They’re like, there’s all these checks and balances they have in place to really make sure that the workers in their supply chain are treated with respect. I would say that’s definitely a common thing with all the brands we have on our platform, is each and every one of them really prioritize worker wellbeing. Yeah, to definitely ask questions like, “Hey, where are you sourcing your fabrics from? How can you ensure that these are truly dead stock? Or how can you ensure that your workers are being paid what you say they’re being paid?” You’re kind of like when you’re asking questions and if they’re not able to really give you an answer, or it’s kind of like a vague answer, you can sniff that out.

Stephanie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Maisa:

Also, if you have doubts or uncertainties, ask for documentation.

Stephanie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative) What are some of the things that are maybe harder to get access to where you’re like, “I know this is an important thing, but it’s hard to really uncover that”? I mean, even thinking about like, “Where’s your fabric sourced from?” It seems like it could be from so many different areas.

Maisa:

Yeah.

Stephanie:

I know there’s definitely a lot of tools right now and technology’s being created to be able to kind of have these digital identities on every part of supply chain. You’ll be able to see where it’s coming from. You’ll be able to see where it ended up, which I love.

Maisa:

Yeah.

Stephanie:

But in the meantime, what are maybe some things that are hard to get access to?

Maisa:

I think it really depends on who your suppliers are, how much visibility they’re willing to give and how transparent they’re willing to be. But again, I think if a supplier isn’t really true in their claims, that’s when you know that there’ll be more like, “Okay, can’t really provide this to you. Or we don’t really have that information.”

Stephanie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Maisa:

But then that’s also someone you don’t really want to work with because you don’t know if what they’re saying is true. Right? But if you’re asking like, “Where your fabric’s coming from?” You should be able to give the name of that supplier and then you can look up that supplier on the internet or call them.

Stephanie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Maisa:

Right? I guess it just really depends on how much information your suppliers are willing to share. If they’re not willing to share those, that’s a red flag.

Stephanie:

Yeah. Do you see brands kind of being hesitant to start kind of diving into this warm hole? Especially right now, all these brands are having so many issues around supply chain issues, can’t get their product. Thinking about switching manufacturers, especially right now, seems like something that’d be really hard for a lot of companies to do. Are you kind of feeling any pushback on brands wanting to kind of go deep here and really start asking the hard questions?

Maisa:

I think when you have supply chain issues and it’s kind of abrupt and it’s disruptive to your business, I think that there are certain decisions you might need to make in that point, especially if you’ve made commitments to your customers because you don’t want to let your customers down. But I think that if… Usually, you’re not just working with once supplier, right? You have a roll decks of suppliers.

Stephanie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Maisa:

If you’re looking to deep dive into the world of sustainability or try to adopt more sustainable practices, it’s a very collaborative community. If you have other founder friends or know people in supply chains, usually people will be open to sharing their supply chain information and also providing help on how to build a more ethical, sustainable supply chain. I think always reaching out and asking people, “Can you connect me to this?” Or, “Can you help me with that?” Or, “I don’t really have this figured out.” Or, “I don’t know anything about this.”

Stephanie:

Yeah.

Maisa:

Because again, you don’t know everything about everything, right?

Stephanie:

Yeah.

Maisa:

People will surprise you at like… Especially this community, everyone is in it together.

Stephanie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Maisa:

Everyone’s in the fight together. But I think if it’s kind of like a last minute supply chain issue, on top of that finding a supplier who is sustainable and can meet your timelines, is an added challenge.

Stephanie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative) Have you seen the suppliers in other countries also kind of becoming interested in this idea of like, “How do we make sure that our people are paid well?”? Because it seems easy to be the supplier who’s like, “Well, I’ll just be the cheapest one and then everyone will come to me.” And then it’s like, keeps the circle going. Instead of being like, “No, I actually want to do better. Even if it means I lose some business.” What kind of trends do you see overseas around this?

Maisa:

I think that mainly, especially in developing countries, the priority is probably more on the environmental impact of the industry than the human impact. There are of course smaller factories, family-run factories, that inherently support those practices that’s paying a fair living wage and all of that.

Stephanie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Maisa:

But I don’t think that larger factories who already have contracts with large, fast fashion businesses, I don’t see that changing as quickly as we’d like.

Stephanie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Maisa:

But I do see more conversations happening around green energy and all of that.

Stephanie:

Yeah. Okay. Got it. When thinking about… I mean, you guys are semi-new, but I feel like you’ve had a lot of press coverage. I mean, how have you gained this attention and had brands coming your way and getting excited to be on your marketplace? How has that kind of worked?

Maisa:

We’ve been fortunate enough to work with a really great PR agency over the last few months.

Stephanie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Maisa:

Working with them has obviously helped us reach press and media outlets and build brand awareness. Before that, it was literally me just reaching out to people.

Stephanie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Maisa:

We also work with influencers. When we do, we ask that they share our mission with their audience and clearly tag us in all their posts and mention our brands and the products they’re wearing as well from the site. Influencer marketing has worked really well for us in terms of building brand awareness. In terms of the brand partners that we bring on, some of it is me reaching out, some of it is them emailing us and we’ll kind of like get on a call if I feel like there’s a fit or… Yeah, we kind of just take it from there.

Stephanie:

Got it. How do you encourage people to tag you guys? Because I’m thinking about, okay, I buy something from Amazon and maybe it’s a Nike shirt or something, I might tag Nike, probably not, but then I’m definitely not going to tag Amazon.

Maisa:

Yeah.

Stephanie:

How do you encourage people to kind of make sure that you’re also part of the conversation?

Maisa:

I think when it’s a smaller business, it tends to happen pretty organically.

Stephanie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Maisa:

I would never tag.

Stephanie:

Yeah.

Maisa:

Yeah, I just wouldn’t do that. But if it’s a small business and I’m like… I love supporting small businesses. As a consumer, I’m constantly tagging them in my social media, in my IG stories, and how I’m telling my friends about them, because I’m genuinely stoked to support, especially women-owned small businesses. I think a lot of other people feel that too.

Stephanie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Maisa:

It kind of happens organically. But then if we’re reaching out to influencers, we do say, “Hey, if you like the product and feel comfortable, please tag us.”

Stephanie:

I wanted to touch a bit on, in June, I know you launched V2 of Consciously. I wanted to hear what’s different about this version? What are you testing? Iterating on? What’s happening behind the scenes there?

Maisa:

The June launch was actually our official launch. We brought on 10 new vendors with the prioritization. I can’t speak. On size inclusive brands. We’re now offering up to a size 3X on the platform. Previously, we were offering up to an extra large.

Stephanie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Maisa:

Our website has completely revamped because our branding has changed. The current website is a reflection of that. We also need some shifts internally to be able to bring on brands and products much quicker and with no upfront costs. When we launched in October of last year, all the products that were on the site were actually carried in house and packaged and shipped by me. Whereas now we-

Stephanie:

Oh, wow.

Maisa:

Yeah. Whereas now, we primarily drop ship.

Stephanie:

Okay.

Maisa:

That was a very quick and expensive lesson I learned. I was like, “Do not carry inventory.”

Stephanie:

Yeah. Yep.

Maisa:

It’s risky. It’s pricey and it’s unnecessary.

Stephanie:

Yeah.

Maisa:

In regards to iterating, I talk to our customers a lot and basically anyone that will talk to me, I’ll talk to them. Whether it’s founders or people that follow us on social media.

Stephanie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Maisa:

I’m constantly looking for feedback to make sure we’re continuing to build in a way that actually serves people. I personally respond to every customer inquiry and email and that we also frequently do polls on IG.

Stephanie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative) Okay. Got it. Cool. I want to hear more about some lessons then when… To me, building a marketplace is one of the hardest businesses to build. I mean, the drop shipping example there is a perfect lesson of like, “Okay, don’t hold inventory. You don’t have to these days.” What are some other lessons maybe from building the company that you could teach others as they’re going through the same journey?

Maisa:

It’s really hard. There’s not as many people to talk to in the marketplace space, as there are to, for example, in D2C, right?

Stephanie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Maisa:

The D2C community is so tight.

Stephanie:

Yeah.

Maisa:

Whereas in marketplaces are a little bit more unique. Of course, running a marketplace has its own unique challenges. Right? On top of that, when you are a mission driven company, that is another layer.

Stephanie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Maisa:

Yeah. The our figuring out our tech stack and making sure that everything is synced and is syncing correctly all the time, making sure we’re not selling products… We’ve sold products that are sold out because our inventory with our vendors didn’t sync. Constantly checking to make sure our tech is working and it’s a lot of back and forth with our vendors too, who are like, I love my vendors and they’re just so awesome. I truly value my relationship with them. We have a very close relationship, but where it’s like, anytime there’s something on their end, anytime there’s something on my end, we just get on a call and we’re like, “How do we fix this?”

Stephanie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Maisa:

Right? I really value that and I think that’s really special because it’s like, we’re both businesses that are kind of so trying to fight the same fight.

Stephanie:

Yep.

Maisa:

We’re both rooting each other on constantly. Rooting for each other constantly. It’s awesome. I think that’s pretty unique because it doesn’t feel as much like competition as it does. There’s a lot of collaboration.

Stephanie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Maisa:

But I would say the hardest thing is… Yeah, the most expensive lesson I learned was inventory and the most challenges we face are definitely our tech.

Stephanie:

Yeah. What are your favorite tools right now or what have been the most game changing updates you’ve made that are like, “Ah, if only I knew this when I started”?

Maisa:

That everything is hard. That everything requires time.

Stephanie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Maisa:

You have to be really patient. But I mean, I love PlayView for email.

Stephanie:

Yup.

Maisa:

I think PlayView just makes it so easy to launch flows and campaigns. And then I’m trying to think. Let me…

Stephanie:

Yeah, you can look around and be like, “What am I doing [crosstalk]?”

Maisa:

And then popups. We use Wisepops for our popup app and we’re using Judge.me for reviews.

Stephanie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Maisa:

Then we have some SEO apps. Shippo is awesome for discounted shipping rates. We’ve got a live chat app, which is also great. It’s called TDO. I don’t know if I said that right but-

Stephanie:

Okay.

Maisa:

… et’s just go with it.

Stephanie:

When thinking about… I mean, as you keep saying, “It’s hard, it’s hard.” I mean, marketplace is very hard. Was there ever a point where you’re trying to figure out, “I’m checking every [inaudible]. Where do I find my customers from? How do I get the brands on?”? Was there ever a side that you kind of struggled with more to kind of onboard?

Maisa:

With brands, with the supply side, I haven’t had as many issues. We know we’ve been fortunate enough to have brands that are really stoked to work with. I’ve not heard many no’s. The no’s that I have heard is because the brands don’t have the capacity to take on a drop shipper. They just don’t have the inventory or the tech capacity to take on a drop shipper and that’s fine. But yeah, I mean, I think for any new business, getting the word out is really challenging and you’re constantly trying all sorts of things to see what will work for your business. Because it could work for all these other businesses. It could even work for a competitor, but it might not be right for your audience.

Stephanie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Maisa:

Testing copy, testing marketing copy, or testing emails and AB testing flows, or seeing what works on social. What are we posting organically that is getting a lot of engagement? Or what are people excited about? Or what types of products do people want to see on the marketplace?

Stephanie:

Yep.

Maisa:

Those are things that… Also as a bootstrapped business, we are also limited in resources. It’s like, “Where are we spending our money? And are we spending in a way that is actually going to impact our business?” Right?

Stephanie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Maisa:

Are we going to see results from this? You don’t really know that unless you’ve tested a lot and sometimes that can result in money wasted, but it’s still like…

Stephanie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Maisa:

It’s a learning experience. Right?

Stephanie:

Yeah.

Maisa:

Which is invaluable. For us, we found that Facebook ads don’t work as well as we had anticipated, but influencer does.

Stephanie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Maisa:

That’s where we are investing more of our resources into now.

Stephanie:

Cool. That’s great. Yeah, definitely the thing around the most painful and expensive experiences that maybe don’t work out are the ones that you remember for the longest period of time and you definitely won’t make that mistake again.

Maisa:

Totally. Yeah.

Stephanie:

I feel that. What are you most excited about for the next couple years? Where do you want to be in 2024?

Maisa:

I feel like there’s so much I want to do. There’s so many things I’m excited about and it’s like just taking it a day at a time.

Stephanie:

Yeah.

Maisa:

But what we really want to… We are going to launch men’s wear next year.

Stephanie:

Nice.

Maisa:

The goal is to really be a one stop shop for all things sustainable. Eventually, in a few years, we will expand into home goods and beauty and other categories that might fit our marketplace and what our customers are looking for.

Stephanie:

Cool. That’s exciting. Yeah. It’d be fun to watch your guys’ growth and I’ll be definitely shopping on the platform. Very, very cool.

Maisa:

Thanks.

Stephanie:

All right. Well, let’s shift over to the lightning round. The lightning round is brought to you by Salesforce commerce cloud. This is where I ask you a question and you have one minute or less to answer. Are you ready?

Maisa:

Oh my gosh. Okay. Yes.

Stephanie:

Okay. What’s the nicest thing anyone’s ever done for you?

Maisa:

The nicest thing ever anyone’s ever done for me is, my mom is actually, has invested in my business.

Stephanie:

Wow.

Maisa:

She’s provided the capital for me to get to where I am. Definitely super nice.

Stephanie:

That’s very nice. Go mom. Wow.

Maisa:

Yeah. She’s definitely my number one cheerleader.

Stephanie:

Yeah. Oh, I love that. What’s one thing you don’t understand today, but you wish you did?

Maisa:

So many things. Where do I begin? I wish I had more of an engineer, software engineering background.

Stephanie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Maisa:

Is that an answer?

Stephanie:

Oh, yeah. That’s an answer.

Maisa:

I wish I knew how to code.

Stephanie:

Yeah. Me too. Maybe one day we’ll get there together.

Maisa:

Maybe one day.

Stephanie:

What’s up next on your reading list?

Maisa:

Up next on my reading list, The Body Keeps Count.

Stephanie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative) Yep. That’s a good one.

Maisa:

Yeah.

Stephanie:

Tell me what you think. The last one, what is the best piece of business advice you’ve ever received?

Maisa:

Don’t try to do it all yourself.

Stephanie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Maisa:

You will get burnt out. You’ll be overwhelmed and no one can ever have all the answers. Get comfortable delegating and bringing on people who can support you in scaling your business.

Stephanie:

Awesome. Epic. Well, Maisa, thanks for coming on the show, getting us to think of it differently about how to build businesses and thinking about supply chain. I think this is super helpful conversation. Thank you very much and until next time. Where can people find out more about you and Consciously?

Maisa:

You can find us on Instagram. It’s wearconsciously, W-E-A-R-C-O-N-S-C-I-O-U-S-L-Y.co. I spelled it out because people always spell it wrong. [crosstalk].

Stephanie:

It’s a hard word to spell. Yeah [inaudible]

Maisa:

It’s a .co, not dot… Wait. That was our Instagram. Yes. Our URL is that plus .co. That’s where you can find us.

Stephanie:

Amazing. Yeah. Thanks so much for coming on and we’ll see you next time.

Maisa:

Thank you so much for having me.

Episode 159