If you’ve been around Young Gentry for awhile, you’ve probably heard my name invoked. If you’re new around here, I doubt you’ve seen or heard of me. And that’s how I like it. Typically I’m hiding in the background or finding an excuse to be somewhere else when the camera comes out. I’m an introvert who hates attention. I usually do everything I can to avoid strangers… and also sometimes my friends and family. (I still love you, though, Mom.)
So a year ago I quit my job, moved to Atlanta with half a plan, and then accidentally found myself as an entrepreneur with Y/G. I won’t go into all the dirty details, because I don’t know you and that would be weird. But apparently when you become an owner in a company, you have to put yourself out there a little. Blargh.
We had our company strategic planning retreat in January, and one of the outcomes was that I needed to have a slightly more public persona. I had to join Instagram, to the hysterical laughter of my closest friends. My IG bio literally says: “My business partners made me join this.” I did, however, volunteer to write blog posts. Words give me a false but cozy sense of control, what can I say?
The thing is that I’m willing to do all of this – with boundaries, of course – because I believe in our company, and I take my role in it seriously. But it might not be for the obvious reasons.
For the first time in my life, I have a position where I get to bring my whole self to work every day. The good and the bad, the aggressively analytical and the sarcastic, the straight-talker and the planner, even the introvert who needs five minutes of private whining (and sometimes bourbon) before every workshop to get the stranger-danger impulses out of my system.
I got really freaking lucky and found partners who value all the things I bring to the table and don’t try to wish away the less-than-helpful aspects of my personality… or at least not to my face. They don’t pretend like all three of us need to be the same – we are often wildly different. And we’re certainly not perfect.
They expect me to bring my best and to work hard, but they don’t try to push me into any preconceived mold of what I “should be.” I have a position where my self – my soul, if you will – can be spacious. That may sound squishy or hokey, but whatever. This is my blog post, and these are my thoughts. You can keep your feelings to yourself. (Just kidding… sort of.)
All of this matters because that’s the kind of company I want to build for other people. It’s the whole reason I’m here. Young Gentry is named after the next generation – it’s an ethos we carry into all our decision-making. But what resonates most for me is building a company that I want to work for and, more importantly, that I’d be grateful for my friends and nieces and nephews to work for.
We want to create a community of people who are expected to excel but not just to grow our profits. We want them to know that they’re valued and respected and that their efforts are helping Y/G do good in the world. Even better if we can inspire a few other companies along the way.
I don’t pretend like this will be easy. It will require personal compromises and corporate risks. It’s going to be hella uncomfortable sometimes (this being one of those times). It’s going to mean being pushy salespeople (ugh) and working long weekends (but naps?!) and asking for you to invest in us so that we can invest in our people and our community.
And we’re aren’t always going to get it right. We will make mistakes. We’ll make decisions that don’t pan out. We’ll have to ask for your forgiveness – as customers, employees, and even as friends and family.
So while we aren’t curing cancer or creating sustainable plastics, we are trying really hard to put more good in the world in a way that’s accessible to almost anyone.
We’re doing it through high quality candles and silly Instagram hashtags. We’re doing it by trying to source as locally and sustainably as possible. We’re doing it by being thoughtful about hiring and benefits from the beginning. We’re doing it with kick-ass internal spreadsheets and our one purchase = one meal philosophy.
And we’re hoping you’ll be part of helping Young Gentry put some of that good in the world. We hope you’ll find that the Y/G community has space for you – all the parts of you, even the things you’re still working on or the things that other people haven’t always welcomed.
And in return I promise that I’ll be a lot less wordy and earnest in most of our future blogs. Honestly, this whole thing was a lot for me. Why did I agree to this? Can I take a nap now?