Jennifer Young experienced a number of life changing events before deciding to start her business. The loss of loved ones, jobs and children moving out of the home began to put things in perspective and she knew she wanted to do something with purpose. Thus her business What’s Good was born. What’s Good is an online marketplace that sells eco-friendly and socially responsible products for the home and office that consumers can feel good about buying; from organic cleaning products, to toys, candles, re-usable water bottles and bags – and even face masks. Today the Pittsford, New York entrepreneur is focused on growing sales and the range of products her site offers.
Young’s story, as told to The Story Exchange 1,000+ Stories Project:
What’s Good is an online marketplace offering eco and socially responsible products for home and office from small businesses that not only make good products but that care for the greater good. All shades of green are welcome.
What’s Good was started after experiencing some dramatic life changes; the loss of my mother, grandparents, and father-in-law. The loss of my job and sending my youngest off to college. The business was created partially from my selfish need to find all of my favorite green products in one place (without high prices and subscriptions but with a human touch), and one part wanting to do more than sell. I wanted to do something with purpose, something that would feed my family and my soul. And if we do it right, do more good for the businesses we support, the customers that choose us, and of course, for the planet and her many people.
My definition of success is fluid, it could be just getting through the day’s tasks or it could be earning enough to be of service to others and my family, or it could be working with passion in a job that expands who I am and helps others to do the same.
Aside from raising my family, the day I launched What’s Good feels like my biggest success. The difference between dreaming it and doing it was the click of button. Of course it took 6 months to get there, but the action of going live was scary and beautiful all at once. Plus, I dedicated the business to my late mother, on her birthday. There will be more success down the road, but just getting to that point was the biggest hurdle and the sweetest reward.
One of the challenges for me is being ten team members in one. I’m the web guy, the shipping department, the copy writer, the buyer, the strategist, the CFO and so on. It’s fun because I know just enough to have brought the business to life… BUT more brains is better than one. Teamwork, collaboration, solidarity are tough to find alone. Fortunately, I belong to an incubator where I work with advisors and have access to smart people across many disciplines…even masters level interns. They are helping me to grow smart and to prioritize and implement my next steps.
There are so many personal situations that have affected me as a business woman, from my mother’s gutsy decision to start her own business as a divorced, single mom in the early 70’s to my own experience being mistreated as an employee, to being misunderstood for using my brain and asking questions to passive and not so passive gender inequalities and #metoo moments… So how does this affect my business decisions? I’d say I always consider the human, and start with respect. The rest follows. Pay your people well, communicate often, be understanding, be direct not passive, encourage questions, create thinkers, make it safe to make mistakes, teach, celebrate, be kind.
My goal for my business is to grow awareness and sales overall, however, there is so much more along the way that I want for What’s Good. For example, it’s not enough to sell products, I want What’s Good to become a trusted resource for eco and socially responsible products and to do what I need to continue to curate a wider selection, but also to create a myriad of resources: an at-a-glance graphics for customers to assess a product’s footprint, glossaries and articles to dig deeper into understanding the complexities of our need for products and their impact on our health and planet. I’d like to create more Give Back and Send Back opportunities and create a fundraising page. In the next month or so, I’m rolling out What’s Good Business, a program focused on helping small businesses buy better office supplies. What’s Good is already Green America Certified, however, I’d like to become a BCorp as well. In 3 to 5 years, I’d like to be able to step away to work on other projects, so building a strong team along the way is critical.
Any woman who has followed her guts, despite the naysayers, to achieve her vision is my role model. Any woman out there juggling work and family but doesn’t earn enough to… have the childcare she wants, the household help she deserves, the vacation she dreams of, or the ability to give herself the self-care she needs to recharge and thrive.