Welcome to our interview series where we speak with purpose-driven business owners and ecopreneurs from around the globe. Every few weeks, we’ll dive into their journeys, learn about their wins and challenges, and the resources they couldn’t do without.
Prepare to be inspired and learn something new!
Today’s guest is Aub Wallace from Dandelion Branding.
Please tell us a little bit about who you are, your background, and what you did before starting your own business?
I’m Aub Wallace. I grew up in a very small town outside of Flint, Michigan called Clio and went to college at Michigan State University, where I dual-majored in Criminal Justice and Interdisciplinary Social Sciences (focused on Sociology), and worked almost full-time running a teahouse.
I think it’s clear by now that my journey to marketing certainly hasn’t been a straight line. After college, I worked for years with kids with autism in both Lansing, Michigan, and then again when I moved to California as a supplemental job to my first co-founder role at ravishly.com.
Then I got sick of ABA. I was teaching kids how to create relationships, but I wasn’t able to have a real relationship with them. I’m not that kind of person – but I loved the healing aspects of it. I was in a bit of a spiral and then I connected with how much I loved the teahouse so I decided to combine the tea and the healing, by going to Herb School.
At the same time, I started at Annmarie Skin Care (ASC). There, I met Courtney and worked as a customer support person and blog writer. Because of my experience at Ravishly (you know, cofounder = person that does everything), I moved into the editorial coordinator position quickly and excelled at it. Courtney was my project counterpart – we were trusted to come up with solutions for every problem that arose.
When I fell in love with a Dutch man and decided to leave the Bay Area, California for a life in the Netherlands, I left ASC and became a freelance digital marketing manager for herbal-based businesses – that allowed me to use (and develop) my skill in digital marketing strategy AND my herbal education!
What inspired you to create a purpose driven company and how did you come up with the business idea?
Well, I loved my client work as a freelance digital marketing manager but marketing cannot exist in a vacuum. I can (and do) drive traffic all day long, but if it doesn’t convert into sales, I’m likely to be out of a job! So I connected with Courtney again to work with me on the optimization side.
In your experience, what are the main challenges of starting and running a green business?
I think the main challenge is setting and holding to your own standards.
Our world isn’t set up for sustainability, and there aren’t any universal standards (yet) to uphold. So every single business that is focused on environmental and social sustainability has a ton of extra work to meet their own standards WHILE building a business in a competitive world working against them. It’s not easy.
What is your business mission & purpose and why?
The Dandelion Branding mission is to amplify the social and environmental impacts of organizations dedicated to creating resilient, sustainable change in the world.
Marketing is powerful. We want to make sure that the folks using business for good have the impact they are striving for.
How does your work address societal and/or environmental issues?
We only work with people and businesses that are taking action towards building a more equitable, just, and sustainable world.
Our whole business and mission is dedicated to elevating the voices of people who are focused on saving the world and creating a safer, better future for people, animals, and the planet.
What are the most common mistakes you see green businesses make?
The number one most common mistake is not communicating what they do. They just say they are sustainable, but don’t offer any of the technical information about how they’re reaching that sustainability goal. Most of the time they’re working tirelessly behind the scenes to get certifications, meet a set of standards, or (at the very least) heavily audit their supply chain – but that’s not clear on their website at all.
What makes your business unique?
We are a digital marketing agency that is NOT FOCUSED ON HYPERGROWTH. We focus on organization that saves our clients time, optimization that pulls in ideal customers, and sustainable marketing strategies that allow the business to grow at a pace they can maintain.
In which area of your business are you struggling the most to reduce your environmental impact?
Travel. Because we live on opposite sides of the world, we have to travel quite a distance to meet in person. We have been working on doing longer term visits once a year. As we grow, these visits are increasingly jam packed with things like, photo/video shoots, yearly planning, and business meetings in addition to our usual client meetings.
How do you grow and scale your business, and what are the main growth constraints and opportunities?
We grow through making network connections, attending conferences, giving talks, and hosting our sustainable business social hours (which we will start again in 2023! Watch out for those on the horizon!). Scaling is a bit more of a challenge because we want to scale sustainably and work with contractors and employees long term. That is certainly our largest constraint. Because we do holistic content marketing and we use data and SEO as drivers for our brand’s strategies, we need excellent, versatile people on our team. We ask a lot and have high (and very clear) expectations for the work that comes out of Dandelion Branding.
What green businesses/sectors do you see growing the fastest right now and/or will become mainstream within the next 10 years?
I think in the next 10 years, you’re going to have a hard time finding a household brand that doesn’t have some sort of sustainability measure attached to it. I think if a kitchen/bathroom brand is still using virgin plastic in the next few years they’re going to be left in the dust. Consumers don’t want that now – sustainability is only going to become more of a lifestyle choice in the coming years.
In your opinion, what are the top skills necessary to be a successful eco-entrepreneur?
Drive, perseverance, networking, and one thing you’re decent at. You can hire just about any skill, but there has to be something that you bring to the table that you own in your business. Maybe it’s leadership, technical skill or maybe it’s your humility and passion.
Any “lessons learned” or advice you can share with aspiring or current green business owners?
Meet people. Networking is very undervalued in the sustainability sector because people are still so separate and our culture values competition. But we are learning that there are hundreds of thousands of people out there with passion for sustainable growth and change that feel like they are living on an island. Talk to the people around you, make connections, and use your contacts to further your cause.
This is a huge lesson for me. I’m pretty introverted, and being from a small town without a lot of opportunity, I never had the chance to learn about networking or building relationships when I was younger. I only got my start when I moved to California – and then I moved away to Europe and felt like I started over AGAIN! I think building a network helps you feel rooted and connected with the world around you in addition to helping you grow.
What inspires you every day to wake up and keep going?
Curiosity and my own self. That feels a little selfish to say here, but my journey has been lonely and sometimes very sad. I have relied on myself and my drive to pull myself up over and over again – I know I can do that. But I want to see how far I can go. I want to push my own limits, say yes to opportunities and find myself falling into a life that I love, I want to discover that I have softness in my own quiet spaces, and I want to feel what it is like when things are simple and my heart is singing. Are those business goals? Not really. But I know that I don’t want to see life and work differently. I want my 24 hours a day to be a whole experience.
The passion for making a difference in people’s lives and doing something good for humanity.
Aub is the cofounder of Dandelion Branding. When she realized how challenging it is for businesses to get consistent organic readership, she learned organic traffic and retention strategies and turned it into a business with Dandelion Branding! When she’s not working on a project, you can usually find aub nosing about in the forest or giving congratulatory high fives to her plants for growing.