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The Uncommon Life

The Uncommon Life

Uncommon Personalities: Meet Valerie Baloga

October 8, 2013

UncommonGoods Customer Service Team Lead Valerie BalogaValerie Baloga, UncommonGoods Customer Service Team Lead

My hometown is…
Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania

The best customer interaction I’ve had at UncommonGoods was…
It’s always really fun when a customer calls expecting a fight and hangs up completely blown away by how easily their situation is resolved. One of the great things about working here is having enough freedom to really listen to what each customer needs and then being able to offer a solution that is really specific to the situation.

I’m inspired by…
Right now I find I am most inspired by people who take life into their own hands and live their dreams. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

My guilty pleasure is…
’90s pop music.

An uncommon fact about me…
Before moving to New York in 2010, I spent one summer in Upstate New York, three summers in Maine, and an entire year in Richmond, VA working in theatre. I built and painted scenery and worked on props.

My favorite place to hang out in New York City is…
Prospect Park in good weather – and at the risk of looking like a huge nerd, the library. I frequent the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts and the Brooklyn Public Library.

My style is…
Casual. Comfortable. Colorful.

Working at UncommonGoods, I’ve learned…
I’ve learned so much, and I have acquired so many new skills – spreadsheets – they’re amazing! What I also learned, perhaps most importantly, is that some companies actually care about their customers and their employees. I’m so lucky to work for a B Corporation.

Would you rather… Tap dance OR ride your bike, in place of all of your walking?
I was all set to say bike, definitely. But then I thought, I might want to take the train sometimes, and how will I get up and down all those stairs on a bike? So I’m going to say tap dance.

The Uncommon Life

4 Ways to Build a Better Business

October 8, 2013

UncommonGoods is proud to be B Corp certified as it allows us to be a part of their amazing movement and community. B Corps are certified by the nonprofit B Lab to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. Grasping the Ghandi quote of “Be the change you’d like to see in the world,” B Lab began the campaign B the Change, a customer-facing global movement of B Corps who are redefining success in business.

Two weeks ago, I attended the B Corp Champions Retreat in Boulder, Colorado along with team members from hundreds of fellow B Corps from around the world to celebrate our community and strengthen our global initiatives. Among the many things I took away with me from the retreat, there were four initiatives in particular that stuck in mind.


Boulder, CO

1. Build a better community. 

Building community is ingrained in what it means to truly be a B Corp. This was evident on the first day when B Lab decided to host volunteering events in order to help the Boulder community after unprecedented flooding destroyed hundreds homes and schools in the area. Understanding that it is our duty as businesses to do our part to help the community is something that B Labs expects from each and every one of their B Corps. As a business, be sure to reach out and give a hand to your local neighborhoods, schools, and venues in some shape or form whether it is through mentor programs, employee volunteering, donations, or partnerships. A well rounded business understands the importance of connecting with not only their customers, but with the outside community.

1175388_10151643037027546_643598889_nB Corp helping to clear debris for the Boulder Valley School District.


2. Become a leader in sustainability. 

I was greatly inspired by the recent work done by many of the fellow B Corps that I was able to meet on the retreat. On the first day, we were lucky enough to take a tour at the New Belgium Brewing Company. In addition to being able to taste their amazing selection of beers, we learned about many of their sustainability initiatives including their investments in renewable energy, waste diversion, and their annual state-wide Tour de Fat bike ride that advocates for the biking lifestyle. I met plenty of other B Corps leaders who were passionate about being leaders in sustainability by constantly finding innovative ways to improve their businesses’ social and environmental impact. Learn more about their work at B Corp Best for the World.

New Belgium Brewery 1

New Belgium Brewery2


3. Seek mindful collaboration.

Throughout the three days of the retreat, we broke into groups and discussed several ideas and initiatives that revolved around strengthening the credibility and exposure of the B the Change Campaign. Throughout those discussions, I met an incredible group of leaders and change makers who offered inspiration and ideas that I can take forward as we look to improve our social and environmental impact at UncommonGoods. Among the many projects that I have planned for our sustainability initiatives, I am most eager to help build community and look forward to this challenge as we continue to grow with the B the Change movement.

We’ve all heard of the saying, two heads are better than one. And this is very much true in the business world. As you build your community and speak to the locals, make sure to reach out to like-minded businesses (big or small) that would be interested to collaborate.

NY B Corps Left to right: Anne Sherman |Sustainability Manager of STAACH, Liz Brenna |CEO of Socially Good Business, Ariel Hauptman |Business Development Manager of Greyston Bakery, and me!

Making commitments to B the Change


4. Be consistent and have patience. 

When making changes in your business, it’s natural to want to see immediate results. Yet sometimes, those results don’t happen overnight. It’s easy throw in the towel after a month of hard work of community outreach or trying to implement a sustainable business. Keeping your sense of motivation is just as important as seeing the end result, so remember, patience is a virtue!

Consistency and patience is something the B Corps community practices, and now there are over 830 B Corps in 27 countries from 60 industries around the world. There was quite a lot to celebrate as our community has grown significantly in just this past year. As of late July, laws have been passed in 20 U.S. states for Benefit Corporation. This is exciting for us; however, we also understand that there is still a long way to go. This is apparent in the idea that B Lab grasps of climbing mountains. This analogy was comprehensive, taking on the idea of building momentum at base camp, choosing paths, and climbing the mountain together. We understand that as the B Corp community continues to gain recognition and credibility, we must constantly learn and grow as individual businesses within the B the Change movement.

B Corp 1


B Corp



Click here to learn more about the B Corp Community and how you can be a part of it. Also, watch some of their inspiring YouTube videos, including the one below.

The Uncommon Life

Uncommon Personalities: Meet Sha’Ron Burden

October 4, 2013
UncommonGoods Outbound Warehouse Team Lead Sha'ron Burden
Sha’Ron Burden, UncommonGoods Operations Supervisor

My hometown is…
Staten Island, New York

My Favorite Process in the UncommonGoods Warehouse is..
The Exporting process. As an exporter you are pretty much running the floor from a perspective of how much work you bring out and the type of work you bring out. I love the feeling that I can control the floor from my exporting room.

I am inspired by…
Knowing I have the ability to improve myself every second I am living life, and how a positive mind can bring about positive results.

My favorite interaction with a UG team member has been…
There are too many to pick out one, but all interactions have been pleasant.

An uncommon fact about me…
I have two. I am the only person in my family to go to and graduate college and I only wear MLB official game baseball hats–my hat collection is pretty large.

When I’m not working, I’m probably…
With my 6-year-old son Sha’Ron Jr letting him eat macaroni and cheese while watching Phineas and Ferb, playing basketball, watching Law & Order SVU, or dining at a restaurant somewhere in my beautiful city.

The word that best describes me…

Since working at UncommonGoods I’ve learned…
The ability to be great within a corporate structure, while starting from the bottom, still exists.

Would you rather… Spend a week camping in the forest with no contact with anyone OR a week hosting a 10 visitors you’d never met before in your apartment?
I’d host 10 strangers for a week, and we’d have a Law & Order party that would consist of us playing a sort of games relevant to the show.

The Uncommon Life

Uncommon Personalities: Meet Carolyn Topp

September 30, 2013
UncommonGoods Director of New Business and Product Development Carolyn Topp
Carolyn Topp, UncommonGoods Director of New Business and Product Development
My hometown is…
I grew up in Ardsley, NY, also home of the late great ice cream magnate Tom Carvel.

My favorite product we’ve developed at UncommonGoods is…
Always something new that will soon be in our assortment; this month it is “My Life Story – So Far.”

I’m inspired by…

My guilty pleasure is…
I don’t believe in guilt.

An uncommon fact about me…
I was a cellist in Harry Alshin’s junior string orchestra (Westchester County, NY). We performed a concert at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC (in the early 1970s) and each member of the orchestra was listed in the Congressional Record.

My favorite place to eat in New York City is (was)…
Florent– it represents a time and a place in NYC that no longer exists.

My style is…
My personal style is urban practical and classic.
My decorating style is eclectic – a mix of old and new, colorful, and comfortable for people and pets.

Working at UncommonGoods, I’ve learned…
Something new each day.

Would you rather… Spend a day on the set of Mad Men OR get front row seats and backstage passes at a Bruce Springsteen concert?
“You cannot be serious” (to quote John McEnroe) with this question. Bruce.

The Uncommon Life

Uncommon Personalities: Meet Kara Fillion

September 27, 2013
UncommonGoods Marketing Associate Kara Fillion
Kara Fillion, UncommonGoods Marketing Associate

My hometown is…
Clinton, CT

My favorite project I’ve worked on at UncommonGoods so far is…
Working on our new responsive design email template. It has been a journey collaborating with the tech and creative team to put the template together, but I’m really happy with the way it turned out.

I’m inspired by…
Resourcefulness and innovation that spurs ideas for sustainable, green design. Urban design has been especially inspirational to me since I’ve moved to the city and am able to see it on a daily basis. The Highline, Brooklyn Greenway Initiative, Citi bike system, and commercial roof top gardens are a few things that really inspire me!

I’m passionate about…
Environmental sustainability. Growing up, I used to basically live outdoors and would constantly be hiking and building forts in the woods. My parents taught me to love and respect nature and because of that I’ve become an advocate for protecting it.

An uncommon fact about me…
I was a named First Team All-State four times, twice in volleyball and twice in basketball. Sports used to be my whole life!

My favorite place to hang out in New York City is…
The Liz Christy Community Garden which was the first community garden built in New York City. It’s tucked away on a busy street section between Bowery and Second Avenue. They have seating so you can hang out with friends there and enjoy the garden throughout the week.

My style is…
Colorful and eclectic. I’m a big thrift shopper so my style is kind of all over the place. When I come home with clothes though, I find myself taking the shoulder pads out of shirts pretty frequently. So I guess I can say a big chunk of my wardrobe probably came from the ’80s.

Working at UncommonGoods, I’ve learned…
A great deal about digital marketing, especially SEO and email marketing. Coming right out of college with a Marketing degree, I assumed that I knew the ins and outs of my field. Boy was I wrong! I’ve learned an incredible amount since I’ve started working here.

Would you rather… Bike across the country (getting to stop and see the sights at your leisure along the way, of course) OR play a game of one-on-one basketball with your favorite player?
If you asked me this three years ago, I would definitely say play one-on-one basketball with Maya Moore (even though I’d get my a– kicked). Today, I would definitely pick a bike ride across the country. There are too many places that I haven’t been to yet, so I would absolutely love to experience those places on a cross country bike ride!