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The Uncommon Life

Instagram Challenge: COMMUNITY

January 13, 2016

 

Instagram Challenge | Community | UncommonGoods

Photo courtesy of treasuresandtravelsblog.com

Our next Instagram Challenge theme is COMMUNITY. There’s no guidebook to show us what a community is supposed to look like. It’s a concept that holds a special meaning to everyone and, with modern technology, it can live virtually anywhere. Here at UncommonGoods, we know we wouldn’t be anywhere without our passionate and diverse community. When we think of our community, we picture our neighbors in Brooklyn, our inspiring artist family, our fellow B Corps partners, our team, and, most importantly, we think of you. Whether it’s breaking bread with your blood relatives, or watching Community with your closest companions, we want to see what this concept means to all of you! While sharing your photos, be sure to use the hashtag #UGInstaFun to be in the running for a $50 gift card. Visit here to see the creative entries we’ve received so far and scroll down to view inspiration from UncommonGoods’ community. (Check out #InsideUG to see more team photos!)

Instagram Challenge | Community | UncommonGoods

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The Uncommon Life

It’s Better to Give Because…

December 9, 2015

We’re proud to support our Better to Give partners and the positive impacts they’re making on the world all year long, but on December 1, 2015, we were able to step-up our giving game and donate more to help them do good.

The first day in December this year was Giving Tuesday, a “global day dedicated to giving back.” To celebrate, we asked our community to tell us why it’s better to give than to receive, and we received some pretty on-point answers.

Better to Give | UncommonGoodsFor every answer we received on  Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, we donated $1 to our Better to Give partners. We also chose one answer from each platform and donated $500 to a non-profit organization of the person who shared that answer’s choice.

  • Twitter winner @EtheRealGrrl said “It’s #BettertoGive than receive because nothing is more fulfilling than contributing to another person’s happiness.” She chose our Better to Give partner RAINN to receive our donation in her name.
  • Our Instagram winner @zlauzia picked  The Next Door–an organization that isn’t currently one of our partners, but is definitely a worthy cause. She said, “It is always #bettertogive. There is no better joy than that of giving – regardless of what it is – a smile, your time, a shoulder, your love, a hug, money; let’s make every day #givingtuesday.”
  • On Facebook, Clara Waldhari told us, “Giving — of yourself and/or through a material item — is the best way to know you are alive and in tune with this wondrous universe. Giving from the heart is healing for the giver and the receiver. #BettertoGive and #GivingTuesday” She selected the international children’s rights organization Save the Children to receive $500.

In addition to the extra donations made through our social media campaign, we also doubled the donation for every shopper who selected a Better to Give Partner at checkout when purchasing on our website. (Did you know that every time you shop at UncommonGoods you have the opportunity to select a non-profit partner from our line-up and we’ll donate $1 to that organization at no cost to you? Learn more here.)

Better to Give | UncommonGoods

It's Better to Give | Learn More

Thanks to our social media followers who participated in the campaign and the shoppers who selected non-profit partners to receive our special $2 donation, we donated a total of $5,799 on Giving Tuesday.

Of course, it truly is better to give than to receive all year round, so don’t forget to check out Better to Give next time you place an order with us and we’ll donate $1 to the non-profit partner of your choice.

 

Maker Stories

Inside the Artists’ Studio with David and Christopher Steinrueck

November 10, 2015

Christopher and David Steinrueck | UncommonGoods

 David and Christopher Steinrueck, Photos by Emily Hodges

Brother duo, David and Christopher Steinrueck, work out of their woodshop in the heart of San Francisco.  After spending just a few moments inside a space that invites noise from wood slicing tools and is spotted with patches of fallen saw dust, it’s not hard to see that sustainability, craftsmanship, and community are the values that build the very foundation of their business, Wood Thumb. David, Chris, and their team salvage reclaimed wood’s natural beauty when crafting it into everyday function and modern design. From their Wooden Beer Caddy to their Magnetic Bottle Opener – their beautiful craftsmanship is obvious and “there is no part that is unnecessary and everything is created with intention.” Read on to find out what community means to David and Chris and why you might want to pop in for one of the woodworking classes that they offer the next time you find yourself in San Francisco.

Wooden Beer Caddies by Christopher and David Steinrueck

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Design

Maker Mentors: Advice on How to Make It

May 1, 2015

Maker Mentors | Sponsored by UncommonGoods

 

Taking the leap from making for fun to making professionally is a big step. A few pieces of good advice, positive vibes, and knowledgeable role models can go along way. Even better is a lot of great advice, an atmosphere alive with positivity and encouragement, and an active community of mentors–but it can be tricky to step away from the workbench to seek out educational opportunities, especially when starting a new business. That’s why we’re so proud to sponsor an innovative new conference that takes place entirely online!

Maker Mentors is online and everywhere May 14-16, 2015, so you can attend without buying a plane ticket, dealing with hotel reservations, or even getting out of your PJs. You can even get a $50 of discount off registration by entering the code UNCOMMONGOODS at checkout when you sign up! And, at the risk of sounding a bit like an infomercial, we’ll go ahead and say, “but that’s not all!” Because we’re really, really excited about this next part…

As part of our work with Maker Mentors we’re presenting a series of free webinars featuring our artists throughout May and June! First up is the ever entertaining and informative jewelry designer Emilie Shapiro on May 4th at 5 p.m. PST. (8 EST.)

Sign up for Emilie’s free webinar here and register for the Maker Mentors newsletter  to stay in the know as we add additional artists to this series.

 

 

 

The Uncommon Life

2014: A Last Look at a First-Class Year!

December 31, 2014

In 1999, UncommonGoods was founded as an alternative retailer driven by an emerging market for unique, handmade and environmentally friendly designs, as well as a conviction that business could be a force for good in the world. And over the past fifteen years, the people behind our efforts—our Brooklyn team, not-for-profit partners, and an array of independent artists and independently minded customers—have been the inspiration and can-do catalysts of our growing business. So, as we look back at 2014, we thought the best way to characterize the year is by profiling a few of the people and partners that made it one to celebrate.

Reach Out and Read: a Better to Give Success Story

Through our Better to Give program, UncommonGoods has donated over $1 million to our partner non-profits.

Reach Out and Read

As an independently owned business, we have the freedom to support causes we believe in, helping them to impact the world in a positive way. Through our Better to Give program, we make it easy for you to join us in supporting these great causes—with every purchase you make, we’re proud to donate $1 to your choice of one of our non-profit partners. Over the week of Thanksgiving, we increased the Better to Give donation to $5 for those visiting our site through a special email campaign, taking us past the $1 million donation mark on Black Friday!

Our newest Better to Give partner, Reach Out and Read, joined us in 2014, and was immediately a popular choice, gaining over 35 thousand customer backers, for a total of more than $35,000 in donations. Reach Out and Read serves more than 4 million children annually, sharing the transformative power of reading with families in need nationwide. As recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the program incorporates early literacy into pediatric practice, equipping parents with tools and knowledge to ensure that their children are prepared to learn when they start school.

With obvious passion for his organization’s work, Reach Out and Read’s Executive Director Brian Gallagher shared some of the ways that Better to Give has benefited their efforts over the past year:

Reach Out and Read’s Executive Director Brian Gallagher

“The support has allowed us to purchase brand-new books (our favorites include Goodnight Moon and Clifford the Big Red Dog) and to deliver critical literacy guidance to families in need. With the support of UncommonGoods and others, we have been able to grow our program in 2014, adding our unique early literacy intervention in 287 additional health centers, hospitals, and pediatric clinics nationwide, serving 230,000 more children. UncommonGoods has provided essential funding to keep our program expanding—truly helping us to change pediatrics, change families, and most importantly, change futures.”

Brian also commented on some of the benefits of our collaboration beyond the bottom line:

“In addition to the amazing financial support, the Better to Give partnership has helped educate an entirely new audience about Reach Out and Read—and the importance of early literacy and early intervention. We have seen our social media base steadily increase over the year, and feel certain that many of those fans and followers are UncommonGoods customers. We have also been able to reach shoppers who have a social conscience, and may have chosen to support Reach Out and Read additionally outside of the Better to Give partnership. We are so grateful to have had the chance to align ourselves with such a great brand, and use this platform to help us raise funds and overall awareness of our organization and our mission.”

Finally, he sees some important affinities between UncommonGoods and Reach Out and Read that make this partnership a great fit:

“We love that UncommonGoods is more than just a company—you give back to those in need and you strive to better the world, as we do through our literacy intervention. And based on the amount of support we’ve received this year, your customers are clearly people who also care about literacy and value the early interactions between a parent and a child. We are beyond thrilled with this relationship and look forward to all that is to come as our two organizations continue to work together to effect positive change.”

 

Nancy and Walter Warner: a Bigger Jam Session

UncommonGoods promotes the work of more than 600 small, independent makers; 80% of these have 10 people or fewer on their team.

Walter and Nancy Warner | UncommonGoodsNancy and Walter Warner, Beer Jelly Set

 Part of UncommonGoods’ long-standing mission is to support the work of innovative, independent makers—artists, designers, craftspeople, and…jelly makers. Each of the 600 makers that we represent has a unique story, and Nancy and Walter Warner are no exception. The two former archaeologists moved to Vermont to pursue new ventures: Walt pursuing a career as a cultural resource lawyer, and Nancy launching a business making distinctive, artisanal preserves. Their collaboration with UncommonGoods has allowed them to take their craft from cottage industry to a full-steam operation.

Nancy Warner put her spoon down long enough to reflect on the effect of their partnership with UncommonGoods over the past year:

“Working with UG has allowed us to grow our business with confidence in 2014. The partnership and the audience UG reaches has helped us more than double our gross sales from the previous year. We thought we were full time before our partnership with UncommonGoods, but teaming up has helped us become job creators: we’ve hired four employees, invested in new equipment, and have quickly outgrown our tiny spot on the town green and are on the hunt for our next home in Vermont.”

Beer Jelly | UncommonGoods

She also commented on the esprit de corps between her venture and the UncommonGoods team:

“I believe we are a great fit with UncommonGoods because the staff there is as excited about our work as we are. True believers in the creative and uncommon process, UncommonGoods has worked with us to develop new flavors like Cabernet & Cracked Pepper wine jelly, conferenced with us regularly to be sure we’re on the same page, and supported our use of environmentally-friendly packaging (even though it may cost just a bit more). Most importantly, the UG crew reaches out to us regularly to be sure they understand our process and our limits as small producers of handcrafted items. In some ways, UG feels like an extension of our own team.”

Kenesha Phillip on the People Who Drive the Success of UncommonGoods

UncommonGoods is committed to paying a living wage, with hourly team members paid 70% higher than the Federal minimum.

Kenesha Phillip | UncommonGoods

 Kenesha Phillip, UncommonGoods Area Operations Manager

UncommonGoods maintains a team of 120 year-round—and 685 seasonal team members in the fourth quarter (2014)—all under one roof in the historic Brooklyn Army Terminal in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Keeping all operations in New York and in a common space has been a priority since the company’s founding. And maintaining a great team by paying a living wage, providing opportunities to grow with the company, and valuing the potential of each individual have been essential elements in UncommonGoods’ success over the past 15 years.

Despite the frenetic pace of our warehouse in December, Area Operations Manager Kenesha Phillip—who herself started as a seasonal Team Lead in 2012—took some time to reflect on the character of UncommonGoods’ team:

“I think that the recognition of humanity is a really important thing. In the world that we live in now…it’s important that people know that you see them, and that they know they’re valuable, and that’s the most important thing that UncommonGoods does. Tom or Dave [company founders] will walk into the warehouse and say that the people closest to the customer are the most important people to the business, and that’s very nice to hear and very comforting and makes people feel appreciated. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from being on the warehouse floor, it’s that people give their best effort when they feel like you see them and you value them…they feel like they’re here to help the team accomplish a bigger goal.”

Brooklyn Army Terminal

Brooklyn Army Terminal

She also commented on the challenges and opportunities that come with the company’s seasonal activity which calls for a high quality team:

“The human element here is really important, and something that we fight for all the time. And it’s not an easy thing to do—the bar is raised year after year, and we need better and better people to work for us. But it’s definitely an attraction when you know you can start as a seasonal worker and move into a management role. It helps us hire a strong team and keep a strong team here. I’d worked in retail before, so I know how people are typically paid in retail and what kind of environments they are…[here] it’s just different…we pay people a living wage, and we try to treat people with respect. If you walk over to the warehouse right now, you can’t tell who’s year-round and who’s seasonal. We try to make sure that everyone has a great experience, regardless of whether they’ve been here for a few months or for years. We work together as a team.”

Regarding UncommonGoods’ commitment to keeping the entire company under one roof in Brooklyn, she observed:

 

UncommonGoods Warehouse

“For us to be successful as a company, Operations has to go well, but everything else in the company has to go well too. We partner with so many departments every year to make sure that the customer has a good experience in the holiday season. We work with the Merchants…with Customer Service…with Human Resources…to make sure that those things all come down to the customer. So it’s a nice thing having the corporate offices in the same building as the warehouse.”

And she discussed the importance of paying a living wage for a company—and team—that calls New York home:

“It’s very expensive to live here, so people need the wages that we pay…and people always ask about it when they return because we do pay such a good wage compared to the Federal level. I know that it impacts the lives of the people that work for us in a significant way, even if it’s for a short time. It’s a significant thing, and it means someone being able to pay their rent. It makes all the difference in people’s living conditions. I know that some people that work for us have a difficult time financially, so it’s important that we continue to do this, and it’s something to be proud of.”

 

Always Becoming a Better Business

As a founding B Corp, we’re committed to sustainability. This year we made strides with our highest B Lab score yet.

B the Change | B Corp

 

We’ve always been passionate about sustainability, and back in 2007 we joined our fellow founding B Corporations in starting a global movement to redefine success in business. As the official B Corp website explains, by earning our certification we’re “voluntarily meeting higher standards of transparency, accountability, and performance, Certified B Corps are distinguishing themselves in a cluttered marketplace by offering a positive vision of a better way to do business.”

In 2014 we showed that we’re still going strong when it comes to sustainability. In fact, we proudly announced that our Impact Assessment came back with our best score so far: 111.4 points. (That’s 12% higher than our previous score.)

Many of the improvements we made in 2014 helped us earn our recertification and earn a higher score than we’d had in the past. We formed a sustainability committee to give employees opportunities to personally impact our sustainability decisions, we implemented composting and better recycling programs, and we improved our vendor relationships.UncommonGoods B Lab Scorecard

While we are definitely happy with the changes we’ve made and our improved score, we know that working to be a better business is an ongoing process. After our recertification was complete, we sent a representative from our sustainability committee to join other representatives from businesses in the B Corp community at the B Corp Champions Retreat to bring back advice on how we can continue to grow as a socially responsible company and make a positive impact on the world.

We’re excited to continue to make positive changes in 2015, to grow and nurture our talented team, and to keep building strong relationships with our Better to Give partners, makers and artists, and customer community. Happy New Year!