Girls With Gumption | Lindsay Byers-Hirth
"She decided years ago she was going to launch a website that would help others, and exactly what she did. I've seen her light up a room countless times. I walk next to her and try to soak up some of the sunshine that she radiates. In her spare time, she's a full time career woman, a mother of two, a wife to a professor and always my friend. Lindsay is indeed a girl with gumption. Oh, and her laugh—it's infectious." - Excerpt from Lindsay's GWG nomination from friend, Delaina Lee
I'm so honored to introduce you to Lindsay. We've been emailing back and forth for a few months now, putting the pieces together for her feature between both major life events and the day-to-day details, and I can tell you that Delaina wasn't lying. Lindsay is one of the sweetest, most encouraging women that I've had the pleasure of meeting through All the Delights—or anywhere, for that matter.
Lindsay and her sister founded Society B, the first online marketplace that connects people with goods that give back and also donates 10 percent of its sales to charities. I chatted with Lindsay about the struggles of starting a business with a full-time job, being a mother to two beautiful children, and got some kick-ass advice for all the girls ready to take the leap on a dream.
Read on to meet Lindsay...and soak up some sunshine while you're at it.
Day job to dream job...almost.
Tell us a little bit about the path from inspiration to the creation of Society B.
The long version of this story goes back to when I was working for a non-profit and traveled to Ethiopia. I met a girl named Poppi, and she was the most tenacious and vibrant person I’d ever met. She was living in poverty under very difficult circumstances, and yet she radiated joy. She broke my heart and rocked my world. And I remember telling my husband that I was going to do something someday to make a difference for people like Poppi.
Fast forward to the short version of this story…I was no longer working for non-profits, and my corporate job was starting to feel unfulfilling. I loved my job, but I wanted a much greater sense of purpose. I had always dreamt of starting a social business, only I didn’t know what that would be. I started researching social businesses, and I realized how difficult it was to find them. As the idea was starting to form, I happened to be home visiting family for the holidays in 2014. And my sister and I went to two different stores and found four or five social brands that we hadn’t heard of before. It truly was an “a ha” moment when I said, “Wouldn’t it be great if all these do-good brands were in one place?” And my sister, who has a background in e-commerce, said, “And people could shop from all these brands and just pay one shipping charge!” But we wanted to keep giving and helping people at the center of our business. So we connected the charitable element, where we donate 10% of all sales to charity, to literally connect causes and commerce.
And I remember telling my husband that I was going to do something someday to make a difference for people like Poppi.
What were your biggest hurdles when you decided to start Society B and how did you overcome them?
I was entering a completely new industry. My background was in grant writing and non-profits—not e-commerce. The last retail job I had was in college when I worked for Bath & Body Works during the holidays! I didn’t know anything about the e-commerce industry, let alone many of the key aspects one should know when starting an online business, such as graphic design, photography, HTML, and accounting. But I quickly decided that I was willing to learn about all of these things, partly because I couldn’t afford to hire someone else to do them for me. And I’m still learning, making marginal improvements as I go along. But I truly believe that people can learn anything if they put enough effort and time into it. And if not, that’s what Google is for.
What is the most misunderstood notion about starting your own business?
That it’s easy to get noticed! I honestly thought we would get a lot of search engine traffic or that Society B would get enough people talking on social media that the customers would come rather naturally. But almost every channel is a pay-to-play space, and they’re incredibly crowded.
The result is that I will have my day-job a lot longer than I ever expected when we launched. But I’m learning to forgive myself over that miscalculation. Most entrepreneurs have their day-jobs for years after they launch something, and many business pros advise not to expect a salary for the first three years! Elizabeth Gilbert discusses the importance of keeping one’s day-job in Big Magic, and her perspective on the topic really helped me change my expectations. I’m trying to show myself a little bit of grace for not being an overnight success. And now I’m proud that we’re building our business one customer at a time.
You launched Society B with your sister, Kelli. How has your relationship changed since starting a business together?
I get asked this question often, but usually by people who went to high school with us. Kelli and I were involved in the same activities in high school and worked at the same pizza place in our tiny town in Iowa. Kelli was integral in co-founding Society B, and she taught me so much about e-commerce. After the launch, she took a different job, but she still provides great council.
The business of giving.
Social awareness is becoming so popular these days that big businesses without some sort of “give back” arm are almost taboo. What do you see for the future of conscious consumerism?
My hope—and part of my goal in promoting social businesses through Society B—is that conscious commerce will become more mainstream. TOMS and Warby Parker are household names now, but so many other social businesses are worthy of attention. I am thrilled at how conscious commerce is growing, because there are many brands now that are doing truly impactful work, and I hope eventually it becomes an expectation, rather than a novelty.
How does Society B seek to stand out and make a difference alongside other brands and shops?
So far, we haven’t stood out, but we’re definitely trying to do business quite differently than the way traditional corporations do it. We are completely focused on making a difference, rather than making money. Our goal is to see how much good we can do by combining commerce and causes. We are the first marketplace of ethical goods that also donates 10% of all sales to charity. That’s a considerable amount of our revenue for the sake of impact. But that’s also the point of Society B.
We also want to connect with our customers and bring them into the conversation of doing good. So we’re trying to add more quality content—like articles about doing good and articles about conscious commerce written by our customers—on social media.
We also leave hand-written notes in every order. Before the holidays, we upgraded almost every order to priority shipping at no extra charge to the customer, because we wanted to make sure every Christmas present arrived on time. And I believe they did!
We are the first marketplace of ethical goods that also donates 10% of all sales to charity. That’s a considerable amount of our revenue for the sake of impact. But that’s also the point of Society B.
How do you decide what to sell on Society B?
We were very methodical in how we curated the highest quality social goods we could find. We began with a giant Pinterest board, full of every socially good business. Then we narrowed it down to our favorite brands based on what they made, their impact, their style, their quality, and the price points.
Price and quality were big factors for us, because we wanted to make conscious commerce very approachable. For most people, we’re asking them to change their shopping habits by replacing a few things here and there with more ethical goods. We wanted to make this process easy and practical—not by expecting someone to pay $300 for a basket when they would typically buy a different basket for $20 at Target.
We are also very careful to sell only goods that truly make a difference. We are trying to make it easier for people to make a difference through shopping, so we do a lot of homework on our brands to take the guesswork out of ethical commerce for our customers. We ask a lot of tough questions to our partner brands to make sure that their impact matches their claims.
Do you have a current favorite item in the shop?
I’m honestly attached to everything we have in our shop! I personally select and inspect every item we carry, and I continue to be awed at the quality of our goods. But I especially love our bath products from Hand in Hand Soap. Hand in Hand was the first company that said to us when we were pitching partnerships to the brands we wanted to work with, so I’m incredibly grateful to that company. Their products smell amazing, they are very transparent about their giving, and Courtney and Zofia from Hand in Hand are among the kindest people in business.
I also love the Smith bag from STATE. I recently bought the black one and took it with me to a conference in LA, and I fell in love with it. It’s unique with this vintage, urban vibe. I got a ton of compliments on it. I am tempted to make it my new handbag, because it’s ridiculously functional. And each purchase of a STATE bag provides a backpack—full of school supplies—to a child in need.
Take it up a notch, girl.
What advice would you give to the girl who’s ready to take her dream or idea to the next level?
1. Do it! You can do it. And you must try. Life is far too precious and unpredictable to accept the status quo. That gut feeling that won’t go away? That idea that you cannot get out of your head? It’s there for a reason. It’s a gift. Use it while you can. And consider the alternative—if you don’t chase your dream, then what? Would you rather spend 40 hours a week doing something you don’t like or 80 hours a week doing something you love?
2. Do your homework. Know the marketplace, and make a realistic plan for how you can succeed in that marketplace.
3. Ask for help. Ask for mentorship, advice, honest feedback, flexible terms, etc…you will not get what you need if you do not ask for it.
4. You will feel like you don’t belong in whatever space you’re trying to break into. Everyone feels this way when they start a new adventure. Tell yourself that you do belong there, and you don’t need permission to learn something new.
5. Ask to collaborate with people who have a little more experience and more network power than you do. “Collaborate” is key; “favors” are so pre-Instagram.
6. Don’t quit your day job…yet. But be patient with yourself about that. Being smart and realistic about paying bills and funding your passion is not failing. It’s adulting. (That’s a made-up word.)
7. Find a few things that inspire you and will keep you going when you need a morale boost. Check out The Lively Show podcast, and read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. And always have Beyonce on your playlist.
Family and life.
How do you manage your time between job, family, and passion?
I’m still figuring this out! I don’t mean to be predictable, but it really comes down to priorities. During the day, I need to stay focused on my day-job. It pays the bills, and that honestly lowers the stress and expectations I put on Society B. (What an inspired way to look at my day-job, right? I stole it from Big Magic.)
When my kids are home, though, I try to focus on them and put away my laptop. And even on nights when I spend more time putting away laundry than I do playing dolls, I make sure that I spend quality time—listening, playing, laughing, asking, dancing, reading, whatever—with both of my kids.
Most of my Society B work gets done between 8pm and 1am and on the weekends. I’ve found little ways to carve out time here and there, and I’ve learned to make the most of the time I have. And I try to “batch” my duties—creating a bunch of social media content at once, writing all the charity content at once, etc. This process helps me to be more organized and more efficient.
Also, my husband wakes up with the kids on the weekends, so I get to sleep in. That’s huge.
But let’s be real. I’m no Joanna Gaines. I don’t make time to work out (but, um, I never have). I’ve learned to accept that my house is spotless only on Saturdays for a few hours after I finish cleaning. I don’t cook as many big, fancy dinners as I used to. And I read marketing books at my daughter’s ballet class each week. But I’m doing the best I can.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I get my kids ready for school, and I walk my son to school while my husband drives our daughter to preschool. After everyone gets to where they need to be for the day, I have 30 minutes before I start my job, so I usually schedule my social media posts for the day during this time. Then I do my writing job during the day, working from home. I wish I could tell you it’s cushy or that I spend most of my day bouncing back and forth between Society B and my job, but it’s hardly the case. My job is very deadline-driven, so I don’t have much down time with it.
I walk my son home from school every afternoon, and he does his homework while I finish my work for the day. Then we pick up Graysen from preschool at 5pm. When we get home, it’s the typical nightly routine of dinner, clean up, play, baths, and bedtime. And we take dinner very seriously in our house—no TV, no games—just eating and talking about our days. I usually work on Society B from 8pm until midnight. But every week, I find time to watch Fixer Upper and Scandal.
What is the best thing about living in Greensboro?
We moved to Greensboro just a year and a half ago, so I’m still exploring it. But the area is beautiful. Greensboro is full of wooded areas with enormously tall trees, but I do miss the cornfields of the Midwest.
On a personal note.
What do you want to be known for?
I want to be known as the gal who started the go-to place for high-quality social goods!
What does gumption mean to you?
To me, gumption means having the courage to make something happen. It’s about acknowledging a gut feeling or a fire in your belly and following your intuition to do something that is beyond your comfort zone. Gumption is about being brave enough to take the path you haven’t chosen before—the path that might not be easy. It’s about pushing things forward for yourself because you know no one else will make it happen.
Finally, what is the most delightful thing about Delaina, your GWG nominator?
I met Delaina Lee when we were both pregnant with our first kids. And within 10 minutes of meeting her, I knew I adored her. She radiates energy, joy, and gumption. She is the ultimate go-getter. She doesn’t wait for things to happen in her life. She makes them happen. And she does it by lifting others and being the best person she can be. And that’s gumption with grace.
Being around Delaina makes you motivated to do stuff. There’s no sitting around being a couch potato when you’re friends with D. She’s made a great career for herself in marketing, and she’s been a wonderful resource for me. But she also tells it like it is. She gives me pep talks that are also laced with tough love. And I love her for it.
Meet all the gals and nominate your own GWG here.