Sometimes you need to pivot from your original direction and use your creative energy to stay the course or find another path. We're partnering with Office Depot to spotlight emerging entrepreneurs from our Selfmade virtual business course. Maisa Mumtaz-Cassidy, founder of sustainable fashion marketplace Wear Consciously, shares how she learned to adapt to change while staying true to her mission.
B + C: What inspired you to start Consciously?
I'm from Bangladesh, which is the world's second-largest garment exporter, where most fast-fashion brands manufacture. Several, if not majority, of my friends and family own garment businesses and my whole life I've heard of the challenges factory owners face to meet the ever-growing demands on Western brands that come into the country to leverage cheap labor and lax policies. I've also worked in the manufacturing industry back in Bangladesh and that experience really showed me how apathetic businesses are towards garment workers. I would be in meetings with buyers telling them we strive to pay our workers a living wage, which is 4 times more than what they actually get paid, only to be dismissed with, "That's not our responsibility. If you won't make this product for us for $1/unit, we'll just go to the factory next door."
It was my frustrating experience in manufacturing that sparked my interest in ethical fashion, and the more I learned, the more committed I became to bringing about real, positive change within the fashion industry. I always knew I wanted to start my own business — entrepreneurship runs in my family and my mom was always very encouraging of it. I landed on the idea for Consciously around the end of 2018. By this point, I saw that there were sustainable fashion brands doing truly incredible work while creating beautiful products. I also realized that people who do want to shop ethically-made fashion have a difficult time navigating the space because it can be overwhelming to research and understand. People don't want to just buy things, they want to feel like they're contributing to a positive cause through the purchasing choices they make. Consumers are paying attention, and 70% of them want to know what the brands they support are doing to address social and environmental issues. And because sustainable fashion is so multi-faceted, I built a marketplace where consumers can shop already-vetted brands by the values most important to them!
B + C: Have you always been passionate about fashion?
I've been fascinated with fashion ever since I can remember, and I really believe fashion is a tool to express one's values. In high school, my best friend and I were planning on launching our own line and had formulated a business plan, sketched designs, and pitched our parents for funding. It's sort of funny to think back on now, but at the time, we were teenagers serious about taking the South-Asian fashion scene by storm but being the kids of over-achieving South-Asian parents, education ultimately took priority and our dreams of co-founding a fashion business eventually withered away. I did go on to study Fashion Marketing at one of the top fashion universities in the country and still will occasionally design my own clothes when I'm back home.
B + C: What startup challenges have you faced along the way?
This is a tough one because every single day entrepreneurs are faced with unique challenges. I would say one of the biggest ones has been launching a business in the midst of a global pandemic. We faced multiple delays in launching Consciously because many vendors' supply chains were shut down or operating unpredictably. And retail has been one of the most devastated industries by the coronavirus outbreak, so when we did launch, sales were trickling in quite slowly for the first couple of months which is something that we had anticipated to some degree but nonetheless, it was still a really hard and stressful time especially since we're a bootstrapped company and we had invested so much capital into inventory. As the founder of a startup with limited resources, I really have to get my hands dirty in all aspects of the business and constantly learn new skills which is always a humbling experience but compels one to intimately get to know the ins and outs of their business and I believe that's ultimately an advantage.
B + C: What strategies helped you overcome those challenges?
Leading with humanity is incredibly important to me and it's how I try to approach solving challenges in both my personal and professional life. Being resilient and adaptable has definitely helped push me through situations that once felt impossible to overcome. I think those are qualities every entrepreneur needs to adopt because running a business can take you on a hell of a psychological rollercoaster ride. When our vendors' supply chains were being impacted, I let them know we were committed to their success and would be there for them when they were ready. Empathy and clear communication played a significant role in ensuring that we launched in a way that best supported our brand partners, and even today I work closely with them on matters of all sorts.
Now that things have started reopening in the US, we're seeing our sales increase and hitting our monthly goals. I think that's primarily because we've stayed consistent throughout the past few months with our newsletter, social media, and blog to remain top of mind for our target audience. We've also made changes internally in order to be able to bring on new brands and products faster with little to no upfront costs which is huge for Consciously and really exciting for our consumers.
B + C: What are some of your successes so far?
I would say creating a really engaged community that we call our "Consciously Fam." Also building a platform that's already received such positive response and one in which people find real value in.
B + C: How have you approached marketing your brand and raising awareness?
Mostly, our focus has been on organic marketing meaning social media, email, blog, and SEO. We've recently started investing in paid social ads so we'll see how that goes. Besides that, we've done some influencer marketing in the past which we're doubling down on now.
B + C: What was your most valuable takeaway from Selfmade?
The most valuable takeaway was bringing Brit + Co co-founder, Anjelika Temple, to our Board of Advisors! I feel really grateful to have connected with and gotten support from her, Brit Morin, and my coach, Emily Merrell during Selfmade.
B + C: What's your best organizational tip? Do you use any apps that help you manage your business?
Google Calendar is my best friend. I timeblock literally everything. In regards to apps, I use Later to manage my social media accounts, Canva and Figma for designing, and Monday for project management.
B + C: How do you stay motivated? Who inspires you?
My team, mentors, and customers help me stay motivated. When people interact with Consciously and respond with, "I love this!" It's just the best feeling. Entrepreneurship can be really lonely and exhausting; when I'm feeling really overwhelmed or down, I listen to podcast interviews of female founders I admire like Deepica Mutyala, Payal Kadakia, and Jaime Schmidt for example, who are all just really authentic about their journeys and it really does uplift and inspire me. My mom also keeps me motivated because she's my number one cheerleader!
B + C: What's one piece of advice you would give to female entrepreneurs on the brink of starting?
If you're truly passionate about solving a problem and think you're the right person to take it on, just start. Things will never be perfect, you'll fail and learn and evolve; it's all part of the journey. But be ready to work really hard and get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Learning to adapt to change is so important to getting ahead and not giving up. Along the way, Office Depot OfficeMax can help you stay organized & save time with a suite of business services to help you accomplish more - from signs, posters & banners to get your business noticed to marketing materials to help bring your brand vision to life.Head to Office Depot's Selfmade page to check out even more amazing business resources (and discounts!) to help you accomplish more on your entrepreneurial journey. These offers are available for a limited time only, so be sure to take advantage of all this goodness while supplies last. Want to join the next Selfmade cohort? Check out all of the scholarship details right here.
A nursery can say a lot about a momma's style. It's where you can play around with childlike imagination, show off your design sensibilities, and put all your love, hopes, and dreams for baby on display. Plus, all your maternal energy has to go *somewhere* before baby arrives. To help you get things started, we've scrolled through the 'Gram to find the most inspiring baby's rooms— from whimsical and charming to modern and edgy—you're bound to go gaga for at least one. Find your favorite below, and get nesting!
Fresh white walls let you go to town on accessorizing with colorful details and really make plants pop.
Balance an overall minimalist design aesthetic with a wallpaper that's eyecatching, not overwhelming.
Storybook-like wallpaper gives this safari-themed nursery a whimsical feel.
Black paint might feel taboo for a baby's room, but when done right, it can seriously pay off as a cool design choice.
Forgo trends, and go for a classic design with preppy patterns and lots of southern charm.
A baby with an edgy name deserves an equally edgy nursery...right Wolfe?
Add magic to any nursery with starry embellishments and quirky accents.
Something tells us this shiplap nursery is Joanna Gaines-approved (and does it get any more design points than that?).
Go full-on high design with a gorgeous artsy wallpaper and luxe furnuture.
You know you designed a cozy nursery when it becomes the pup's new napping spot.
If Joshua Tree National Park were a nursery...why not take inspo from your favorite vacation spot?
Alexa, turn on nature sounds. It's the only thing this forest-inspired nursery is missing.
A table and chairs serve as a great place for tea parties, crafting, and sneaking in some work while the little one sleeps.
Our love for all things rattan is alive and well, and the best part? It goes with everything, so you really can't make a bad design move with it.
Juggling a lot these day? If there's little time to cook a healthy dinner, we got you. Just set aside an hour max and you can have a balanced meal on the table or for leftover lunches all week. Here are low-carb dinner recipes so good, you just might toss those delivery menus for good.
1. Whole30 In-N-Out Burger: You can indeed transform an In-N-Out Animal-Style burger into a Whole30 masterpiece, down to the low-sugar special sauce and crunchy lettuce wrap. Make the caramelized onions ahead of time to cut down on the total cook time. (via Brit + Co)
Keto Ricotta Chicken Meatballs
3. Keto Ricotta Chicken Meatballs: Rich dark-meat chicken forms stellar meatballs with almond flour, heavy cream, and parmesan and ricotta cheeses. Serve them with roasted vegetables or your favorite low-carb pasta substitute. (via Brit + Co)
4. Keto Steak Cheese-Shell Tacos: The best part of this recipe (second to the crispy cheddar taco shells, of course) is the leftover taco-seasoned steak, which you can use for salads, wraps, and other lunches. (via Brit + Co)
5. Sheet-Pan Shrimp Fajitas: Garlicky marinated shrimp need just 8 minutes in the oven to form a hearty accompaniment to roasted peppers and onions, riced cauliflower, and any low-carb ingredient under the sun. (via Brit + Co)
6. Blackened Chicken and Avocado Salad: This Pinterest-popular salad gained fame for many reasons, but the tender 20-minute chicken on top might be the most compelling. (recipe via North South Blonde; photo via Brit + Co)
8. Crispy Chicken Thighs With Honey-Lemon Pan Sauce: No part of flavorful chicken thighs goes to waste in this single-skillet dish, which makes a pan sauce from leftover chicken juices, butter, garlic, honey, and lemon juice. (via Brit + Co)
9. Paleo Instant-Pot Orange Chicken: You can make this healthy orange chicken faster than you could grab it from Panda Express. The diet-friendly version employs coconut sugar and orange zest to replicate the classic's citrusy sweetness, while arrowroot powder maintains the signature crispy crust. (via Brit + Co)
10. Cheesy Garlic Roasted Asparagus: When you're craving garlic bread, whip up this insanely cheesy side instead. It gives you both a dose of greens and a ton of garlicky flavor. (via Cafe Delites; photo via Brit + Co)
12. Pan-Seared Dover Sole With Buttery Caper Sauce: Use this pan-searing technique for your favorite lean fish, such as tilapia or striped bass. When a quick pan sauce of butter, capers, lemon juice, garlic, and fresh herbs is involved, you can't go wrong. (via Brit + Co)
13. Paleo Shepherd's Pie: Don't let the cauliflower-mash topping make you skeptical. This healthier take on a classic pie remains just as comforting with hearty ground beef and tender veggies, flavored with onion, cumin, coriander, and red pepper. (via Brit + Co)
14. Keto Cauliflower Rice Bowl: Make these customizable “rice" bowls when you need to clear your fridge of odds and ends like leftover meat, vegetables, and condiments. (via Brit + Co)
15. Instant-Pot Chicken Cacciatore With Zucchini Noodles: Drift away to the Italian countryside with this vibrant dish of mushrooms, tomatoes, and herbs. (via The Whole30 Slow Cooker; photo via Ghazalle Badiozamani)
16. Keto Ramen Zoodles: Swapping traditional noodles for zucchini noodles allows you to enjoy richly flavored ramen, crispy pork belly, jammy egg, and all, without the bloat. (via Brit + Co)
17. Mini Cloud-Bread Pepperoni Pizzas: Cloud bread, a miracle mixture of baked eggs, cheese, and cream of tartar, satisfies the carby cravings of keto dieters everywhere. We like it best topped with pizza sauce, more cheese, and plenty of pepperoni. (via Brit + Co)
19. Halibut en Papillote With Lemon, Mushrooms, and Toasted Sesame Oil: This healthy fish dish fills your kitchen with the aromas of ginger and toasted sesame oil — and it even makes halibut taste glamorous. (via The Clean Plate: Eat, Reset, Heal; photo via Ditte Isager)
21. Instant-Pot Chinese Sesame Chicken: Eat this versatile chicken with a side of veggies for dinner, and simply reheat the next day for a salad or lettuce wrap. (via The Whole30 Slow Cooker; photo via Ghazalle Badiozamani)
22. Healthy Breakfast Egg Muffins: Easy egg breakfast for dinner? We say, yass please. (via Brit + Co)
23. Keto Cheese-Stuffed Meatballs: It's amazing how far a little almond meal and zucchini can go in place of bread and… well, more bread. This recipe is quick, low-carb, and oh-so-filling for the weeknight dinner win.
24. Smashed Brussels Sprouts: Get your share of delicious veggies smothered mozzarella and parmesan and achieve ketosis without the lingering hunger. (via Brit + Co)
25. Lemon Miso Spring Green Soup: For a very healthy reset opt for a veggie-packed soup. This spring medley is as delicious as it is nutritious, quick, and low in carbs. (via Brit + Co)
26. Keto Cheese Ball: Eating for one? This recipe is the perfect answer to a light dinner that's as good (or better) as a baked potato. (via Brit + Co)
27. Brown-Butter Salmon with Capers and Tomatoes: Simple, clean, and SO tasty! Opt for quick sautéed wild salmon with just a few basic ingredients and enjoy BIG time flavor. (via Brit + Co)
28. Bang Bang Cauliflower: Who needs potatoes when cauli will do the trick instead! This straightforward dish works great for dinner or as a side dish — you choose. (via Brit + Co)
29. Whole30 Instant Pot "Baked" Potato Soup Recipe: Creamy comfort soup at it's finest, this Whole30-approved recipe is actually made with cashews and nutritional yeast instead of dairy! That's a double diet win! (via Brit + Co)
30. Winter Greens & Citrus Salad: A crunchy salad is an ideal dinner when you just need a light meal. This colorful recipe features a tahini-ginger dressing that's totally bomb dot com. (via Brit + Co)
We hope these recipe ideas have you feeling inspired that being healthy doesn't mean skimping on flavor or variety. Find more amazing low carb dinner recipes and more by checking out Brit + Co's Food page.
This article has been updated from a previous post published in June 2019.