We’re diving into what life has been like for three small businesses after talking with their founders on how they’re navigating this new normal. From tea to housekeeping and holistic healing through food, these three small businesses are near and dear to our hearts.
What we’re experiencing on a global level is unprecedented and uncertain. Our current situation doesn’t appear to be dissipating in the near future, contributing to our daily emotional rollercoasters of worry. It’s essential now to conserve, but also important to support in any way we can.
When the Safer at Home orders began, all three businesses were either on the verge of launch or well into huge launches. Now, they’re learning day by day to navigate a new reality and find new ways to stay connected from afar. It’s so difficult to launch your own business so it’s important for us to support however we can. Support isn’t always monetary – a share, a follow, words of encouragement, it all adds up. Because now more than ever, supporting small businesses equals supporting your community.
HL: What inspired you to start Moody Maids?
MM: I was in a rough time, I had just lost my mom and just come back from Europe where previously I was making all of my money as a DJ. I came back to America about two weeks after she passed and I was questioning what I could do here. Nobody knew me here anymore, I was gone for almost eight years. I hadn't really tried to work in America. When I came home for holidays, I'd just be with my family. So I felt kind of worthless. And I was just like, what am I going to do? I decided to come up with a plan because I didn’t know if I would be able to do all this stuff I was doing in Europe out here.
The idea came to me when I was at a best friend of mine's house, Max. He's a designer of Public School. His apartment is super fancy on the East Side of Manhattan. And he had gone into work because he was working on Fashion Week stuff. And while I was there at his apartment, his maid came in and she was just doing all the housework––like changing the sheets, making the bed perfectly, cleaning the bathroom.
And he's single, like living alone. And yet he had, like, LaCroix waters in the refrigerator, like all this stuff she was doing. I thought that was so cool. That's like such a sweet deal. And she was really nice. She didn't speak English. I tried to communicate with her to make sure I wasn't in her way. I started thinking more about, like, I've always been super sensitive to people of color and the jobs they have in America. Back then I was wondering, how is she getting her jobs?
She's an older woman who doesn't speak English, you know? And I was like, I bet like there's a thing where all these people are working for companies and they're just not being respected or treated fairly or they're just hustling for jobs like this.
I came up with the idea to be a fair opportunity for people in this line of work, but also to start my own family business because I am the oldest. I had spent the last of my money to come home from Europe for my mom’s funeral. I knew I couldn’t be leaning on my dad because my life was falling apart. My younger brothers, I can't lean on them. I can't live with them. I had to come up with a plan that could suit all of us so we could take care of each other.
HL: How have things adjusted for Moody Maids during Safer at Home orders?
MM: We definitely stopped working for a while because a lot of my girls are parents or live with their parent and have other people to worry about. At first we were still working in little small teams and we were only taking jobs for regulars. But, as things got scary, we're just like, okay, let's just stop for a minute and see what's going on.
And obviously we got slower, too, because customers were weirded out about what was going on also. People were getting sick––when my girls were getting sick, I was like, we just need to chill. So we took a pause for a few weeks. And then we decided to try to accommodate people who had been asking. So we started doing one-person cleanings and made a rule that you can't be home. It really just applies to regulars, people that trusted us already to clean their houses when they're not present. And it has worked out so far. But we're a new company, obviously. It's been like less than a year now. May marks one year since we’ve doing cleans. We’re a team of 10 people and we were just starting to have cleans every day, but since coronavirus we’ve gone down to four cleans a month. It’s gone down a lot, but I care about everyone’s safety and health first.
HL: How do you find the motivation to keep your space clean? And why is that important to you?
MM: Well, there's two sides of me––the OCD cleaning side and then there's the when I get depressed, I can't clean side of me. This is one of the reasons I started Moody Maids. I have quite the feeling that sometimes keeping your space clear can make you be more productive. Or if you're not feeling good, it can get out of hand. And when it gets out of hand, it's harder to dig yourself out of that hole. A lot of people are clean people, but they just need help with catching up sometimes. What motivates me to keep my space clean lately has been disinfecting everything and also being productive. I feel more calm and I feel like I can rest better when things are a little tidy, and I feel really stressed out when things get crazy.
"I really love cleaning on Fridays because it sets the tone for you to be lazy on the weekend."
HL: What are some key things we can do to keep our spaces clean between our Moody Maids appointments?
MM: I think cleaning every two to three days is really nice. Like doing a refresh every two to three days. And I really love cleaning on Fridays because it sets the tone for you to be lazy on the weekend.
I also think getting rid of things you don't need. Decluttering is something I am really bad at. But I'm studying right now to become a professional organizer, and that’s for myself because I’m one of those young hoarders. Getting rid of stuff regularly is important. I always like to do a Depop pile, a giveaway pile, a throwaway pile to throw away stuff that I can't use anymore.
HL: What are you looking forward to most when we're able to go outside and be around each other again?
MM: That's a good question. I I think just being outside, especially during summer. I love sitting outside and I love getting together with friends outside and being in nature. I'm just excited to walk around, I really miss that. I think we took it for granted, like just being able to just go for a walk and pass people and not be afraid.
On the business side, I’m excited to expand Moody Maids. We are coming to L.A. Don't know when yet because everything that’s happening. But fingers crossed, next year we will be in L.A.
HL: I know you’ve been hosting tea ceremonies for a while and recently launched your online store (congratulations by the way!). How have things adjusted for Standstill during Safer at Home?
SS: The main thing was not being able to host or engage with anybody. Especially during this launch time that we were preparing for. We had to forgo all of these ceremonies that we were planning on doing, we usually did them every Sunday. And in lieu of that, we’ve been trying to do more lG live stuff of course. But it’s definitely not the same. We’re still figuring out how to explore that even further and make it more engaging, and still bring that vibe and connection somehow. And as far as the launch, it has definitely affected us with us having to hurry up and further along the web store. We weren’t originally planning to launch the individual tea options, our merch, and some of the single items that come in the sampler. It was eventually what we wanted to do, but it’s cool being able to be flexible. What we originally planned was to do some dope parties and in-person events. It’s been really sad to let that go for now and as you know it’s really open ended as to when we can pick that up. But at the same time, we’re grateful that we didn’t have to figure out an emergency plan like a lot of our favorite brick and mortar businesses were forced to do.
HL: What was the most rewarding part about the tea ceremonies?
SS: I think in a very simple answer, the most rewarding part was being to be the center of seeing people connect and bringing people together. We’ve met so many different people in the last few years doing Standstill, and so many people we host know each other in some way or form and haven’t been able to connect or they know someone who knows someone and are mutual friends by one degree. So it’s been really dope to connect that over a shared experience like tea, especially because drinking tea in the way that we do it is a new experience for a lot of people. But it’s very well received and it’s just been really dope to do all that at once––to connect people (to selfishly make all of our friends become friends) and to share really good and quality tea.
HL: What are some of the benefits of adding Standstill Tea to your routine?
SS: Tea in general is such a good beverage to incorporate into your lifestyle. Not to say that you have to let go of anything else. You don’t have to give up coffee, but I think it’s cool to switch it up with tea sometimes. We all know it’s not good to be downing coffee every single day. More than caffeine, tea drinking really helps you take a moment. That’s what our whole thing is about. It does take some mindfulness and time to brew tea. There’s something about brewing the tea and watching it unfurl and noticing the different flavors. There’s something about drinking that hot liquid and learning the components and science behind the leaf––you can find moments of stillness in that. I think we’re all searching for that in some way, but tea is a really physical way to incorporate that.
"We saw that parallel between stoner culture and tea culture"
HL: What inspired you to start Standstill and what makes your tea unique?
SS: We’ve been talking about this lately. It all started with this big trip that we took to China and Taiwan in 2017. We had come out of another business venture––I was doing accounting and Weichao was looking for the next thing to go into. I think being in the food world previously already put us in the mindset of people consuming and experiencing, and the shared obsession over food. But on the trip to China, we started having tea with a bunch of different people. Nerding out about the leaves, tea makers and tea masters talking about the crop and the whole process, down to getting tea drunk/getting a little fucked up and looking forward to drinking a bunch of tea and having a bunch of food after. That’s ultimately why we wanted to bring that over here to the west side. People still get together and do stuff like that, but it’s usually over wine or maybe coffee. When we saw that parallel between stoner culture and tea culture, we were like “this is awesome".
HL: What are you looking forward to most when we are able to go outside and socialize again?
SS: I’m really excited to pick back up our plans with launch. We were really excited to throw these amazing parties and most importantly, collaborations with so many friends and creatives doing dope stuff in their own lanes. There’s a lot of strength and magic that comes when you put people together. We are really heavy on experience with tea ceremonies and we’re looking forward to furthering it. We’re also gearing up to launch cold beverages and fridges in different locations when we call go out again. So we’re excited to start that as well! Drinking tea hot is one thing, but drinking cold brew tea is amazing too.
HL: What inspired you to start Camila Creates?
CC: It was a progression of things; my journey just sort of brought me here. I always knew that I would do my own thing at some point because I never really felt like I fit in in one place, career-wise. I'm a true polymath, so having a container to harmoniously create a lot of different things around holistic nourishment is what brought me to where I've arrived.
In the beginning I was blind, but following my heart allowed me to trust in my intuition. It was a lot of knowing where I wasn’t supposed to be that brought me to where I now feel is exactly where I’m supposed to be, running a small food business and making food and herbal medicine for people.
HL: How have things changed for your business since Shelter in Place?
CC: Obviously food sourcing has been the biggest shift. It's a little bit more cumbersome, for sure. I've started getting more creative in making do with what I have, finding ways to reduce waste, and stretching ingredients further. All of that was important even before Shelter in Place, but understanding the gravity of the significance, and being able to feel that really viscerally was definitely catalyzed by this pandemic.
I've also been re-weaving the ways in which I spend my money, who I support—farmers, local grocers, instead of chain stores, etc.
HL: Right. Our relationship to money is definitely changing. I, too, critically question everything I buy and think about who my dollar is supporting or how will it trickle from here.
CC: Yeah, exactly. They say you vote with your money and money really talks. So much of what I do is rooted food education, food justice, understanding our food systems, and bringing awareness to where those imbalances are. Once there's understanding, we can create new practices that improve how we relate to good. I was a real creature of convenience before this and so I've had to dismantle those attachments to convenience within myself, which translates directly into my work.
I'm also making a pivot to share digitally, in a way that is compassionate to the state of mind that people are in right now—because it’s a bit precarious, you know? There are a lot of people who are really affected by what's happening, whether that be their mental state of entire livelihood being uprooted. The landscape of where we’re at is changing so quickly right now too, that it takes a lot of care in approach. So the overarching thing here that has changed about my business is that I'm personally being massively more intentional, about literally everything.
HL: Since I’ve known you, you’ve naturally always had a strong instinctual knowledge in you, so it’s great to hear that you’re moving with even more intent.
CC: Yeah, Shelter in Place has definitely lifted many veils of the way I perceive myself and how I can best be of service. I want to give people access to a new perspective of where they can be more sustainable, healthful, resourceful, and reassess what's truly critical to nourish both themselves and the world.
"When I share information, I’m like, here's something that was helpful for me. It may empower you in the same way so that you may feel more self-sufficient in your capacity to tend to yourself."
HL: Information on health and wellness, especially these days, is super valuable but how do you decide what to share and what's the best way you're able to deliver your knowledge?
CC: Using a lot of discernment. I study a lot and I study people a lot—I’ve always been that way, from people watching, down to paying really close attention to people’s psychology. I'm also learning to be better at listening and observing. Social media gives you insight on what's got people's attention at the moment. Noticing where I can add nourishment to the narrative is what drives me to choose what I share. Lately that's been visually and I obviously have help doing that with my creative team—they kill it (s/o NSFW World.)
Also, I've been trying to get more comfortable finding my voice as a writer and sharing my written perspective on things - and finding ways to weave my embodied wisdom in a way that is relatable for others. Most things I hope for people to consider are rooted in self empowerment. For me, I've had people call me a healer, and I have a bit of an adversity to being called that because I'm like, well literally, we're all healers and there is no hierarchy for anybody who is more special than the next person. We all have those capacities and for those who might have a different library of wisdom, I guess, the most responsible thing we can do is create a container for others to safely explore those things. When I share information, I’m like, here's something that was helpful for me. It may empower you in the same way so that you may feel more self-sufficient in your capacity to tend to yourself. Enriching empowerment—that's really it, that's what inspires me to share things.
HL: I feel like the things you’ve shared on your digital platform are super digestible for people to understand, which is great because some people may feel like this sort of wisdom is far woo-woo, or too mystical to understand.
CC: I appreciate you for speaking to that. Accessibility is everything to me and accessibility doesn't mean just monetarily having access to something, but truly being able to wrap your head around it. Most of the information that I share about health and wellness is pretty pragmatic. I'm also definitely into woo-woo shit, but I try to make the information I share be void of that because I do want it to be culturally intersectional and accessible. By intersectional that means across all spectrums, whether you're religious or spiritual or black, white, brown, whatever. Earth wisdom is meant to be simple, you know? It is the basics of being a human. So yeah, accessibility is really important, thank you for speaking to that.
HL: So what are you most excited for coming outside quarantine and being able to socialize again?
CC: I'm excited to see people integrate their new ways of being. I wonder too, after these veils have been lifted and new shifts in perspective have happened, how do we then integrate them into our lives and make those shifts become really impactful and meaningful, rather than just topics of discussion? How do we actually bring them into action?
I'm also excited for reconnection, honestly. I'm so social and I love being around people so I'm excited to be around humans again and to be able to eat together, that's a big one. I really miss being able to break bread with the homies.
HL: Yeah, regardless of the timeline of stay-at-home, the mental state of the world is going to need time to adjust.
CC: Right, and I’m excited to see the growth and feel the love of all being together, you know? I’m also excited for people to not be afraid anymore.