Breathe. Being in the moment is important but so is projecting potential future paths, even if they never arise. There’s a preparedness that’s helpful in decision making especially when things can get tight.
Sharon Rowe is the founder and CEO of Eco-Bags Products, started in 1989. She is considered a pioneer of the reusable bag movement and has been featured in Time Magazine, Glamour, The Wall Street Journal and on National Public Radio.ECOBAGS products are sold internationally and have been featured on the Oprah Show.
Sharon speaks regularly on social entrepreneurship; how to integrate your “why” into the “how” of building a profitable, aligned impact business that fits your life. Her new book, “The Magic Of Tiny Business,” will be released in May 2018 by Berrett Koehler and is available for pre-order on Amazon. Seth Godin, Author of Linchpin has endorsed the book. “This is a powerful book–Tiny is mighty. Sharon Rowe’s simple shift in thinking is a profound idea, precisely what we need to hear.”
Sharon is the recipient of awards such as Enterprising Woman Award, Westchester Business Council Entrepreneur of the Year and the Woman’s Economic Development Center – Lilian Vernon Award. Her business, Eco-Bags Products has received recognition as “Best for the World Overall” by B Corporation for the past four years for meeting and exceeding stringent social and environmental criteria. She’s active in the Social Venture Network, BCorporation, Women President’s Organization and serves on the governing board of the Westchester Collaborative Theatre.
Where did the idea for Eco-Bags Products come from?I was walking home one day, after shopping, and my plastic shopping bag broke and the contents spilled out. I had a baby in a carriage, stuff all over the street and a useless bag (not even good for home wastebasket). I had an “aha” as I looked around and saw other plastic bags floating by on the street. One was stuck in the tree. I thought, “this is dumb and wasteful…I need to bring reusable bags when I shop.”
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?A typical work day (M-F) starts around 7am with wake up, meditate for 15 minutes, write for 15 minutes, exercise with weights for 15 minutes, have breakfast, walk to my office (about twenty minutes away) with my dog and then work at my desk from 9:30-5:30 or so. As much as possible I leave mid-day for a half mile swim.
How do you bring ideas to life?Operational ideas for the business get brought into meetings, hashed out and assigned to be executed. Innovative ideas (new processes, designs) take longer to incubate , get dissected in team member meetings and coordinated for execution if they are on mission and profitable only.
What’s one trend that excites you?I love the idea that more businesses are about more than just making money but that they understand that money is the fuel in their tank. I prefer socially inclined businesses. I love that more companies are thinking about having a clean supply chain.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?My habit is I’m disciplined and if I say I’ll do something, I do it on deadline. Is that a habit? It’s a practice and “practice takes practice.” I believe I’m rooted in that because of my acting training.
What advice would you give your younger self?Breathe. Being in the moment is important but so is projecting potential future paths, even if they never arise. There’s a preparedness that’s helpful in decision making especially when things can get tight.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.Improvisation is the name of the game. It doesn’t mean don’t plan, it means be available to listen and participate in every moment versus being stuck in what you think should or should not happen. Too often “set” ideas are limiting and if you have an idea of how something has to happen then you are setting yourself up for disappointment.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?I’m super curious. I follow links on people’s signatures to see who they are. I am always signing up for newsletters and other marketing ploys to see how things get done. I’m looking at strategies and trying things on. It helps to stimulate what I want to do.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?I like to say business is about relationships and transactions. I use and encourage a high touch and high tech approach. I believe we have to reach out to folks on the phone and talk…not just about business… and go to events and meet to build strong relationships. It almost always results in community building because we’re all so connected and know each other.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?I didn’t really understand the importance of forecasting and balance sheets. I figured it out after I had to hire a CEO to get me out of a hole and it cost a lot.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?Non-profits struggle to raise funds. College students and lower income folks think they don’t have enough to give but they want to. What if all the spare change, the cents rounded up on purchases online, could be put in a bucket, collected and distributed, managed from an app on your phone. Figure ten million students with .25 to round up = 250K.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?A massage and it was more than that. Massage is always worth it because I unplug and regenerate which allows me to put more energy into my business.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?We use Oracle – Netsuite as our cloud platform since 2007. It’s fully integrated. It’s like having a couple of extra staff.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?“Tribes” by Seth Godin. Next is my book, due in May, “The Magic of Tiny Business”. It’s on Amazon now for pre-sale.
What is your favorite quote?“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead
Key learnings:• Practice Takes Practice
• Business is about relationships and transactions. We use a high touch – high tech balanced approach.
• Improvisation is key. Be available to listen.
Sharon Rowe on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sharonrowe/