My company Iron Oxide is a sustainable jewelry brand utilizing ethically sourced stones, diamond alternatives, and even lab grown gemstones. I take a holistic approach to the sustainability of my small business, but lately I have been thinking about an area of sustainability that I have not contributed to and that is community responsibility.
We live in a time of information overload. As a sensitive person, it can be paralyzing to know about so many injustices, care about everything and still feel powerless. Even before 2020, it has always been difficult for me to focus my attention on how I can help. So, historically, I have not helped.
My inability to focus is some mixture of undiagnosed ADHD, perfectionist tendencies, and a deep, lifelong relationship with anxiety. I also know that there is a lot wrong with the world, and it is overwhelming. When I feel overwhelmed I freeze and the anxiety about what to do turns into inaction.
In my desire to remain comfortable, I haven't spoken up enough and I haven't done enough.
I've begun to understand that my inaction is only possible because of my immense privilege as cis hetero white woman that insulates me from a lot of problems other people experience. I also recognize that while my mental health is a valid condition that affects my life, I can't let it stop me from doing what I need to. The very nature of this kind of work is not comfortable.
So in the spirit of trying to do better I have created some giving goals for my small business. Iron Oxide is pledging to donate 25% of profit on a monthly basis to racial, environmental and social justice non profits. Most are based in Portland, OR because that's where my community is.
Here is my donation calendar for the rest of the year:
So I guess my advice for indecision is to just not decide! If you are thinking about donating, spread out your contributions and pick a number of organizations to help. It doesn't have to be perfect, you can change it up next year.
The other big part of this was the unsexy task of creating a system in my books that allows me to even have a profit to donate.I know much of my audience are also makers and small businesses so I'd like to share the boring stuff that has worked for me even during a pandemic.
Here I break down the steps of how you can create the socially conscious business you dream of having
1. Get a separate bank account from your personal one and be really strict about keeping your expenses separate.
2. Try the Profit First model of bookkeeping - it has seriously changed my business and helped me get a handle on my spending so that I am always able to pay myself each month and put away $ for taxes and profit.
3. Use a budgeting app and, again, be really strict about it. I like You Need a Budget because I am able to have multiple budgets, one for personal and one for my business.
4. Quickbooks and a smarty bookkeeper who can help you, are awesome and worth the $$.
My donations for 2020 will 25% of my monthly profit. If I have a great month, I can give more. If it is a slow time, my donation reflects that and I don't overextend myself. Imagine living in a culture where whenever any company did better, they were compelled to give more. As my company grows, my investment in my community grows too.
Lastly, to be totally transparent, the profit margin of a small handmade company is not much (This was also a thought I inadvertantly used against myself to keep from helping) but every little bit helps. Nothing we do is perfect but we have have to get over that and keep trying anyway.
If you'd like to learn more about the organizations that I am giving to this year here are some links: