Last week we paid off our startup loan! The other day I came across this video from the Saint John organization Kaleidoscope Impact that has helped me in many ways get LifeDirt Started. I started reflecting on the last three years and thought I might write some of it down for those of you who care to know.
Have you ever felt stuck in life? I did in the fall of 2020. I was planning on leaving my job, had a vague business idea but no one to start it with, wasn’t doing so hot in most ways. I had decided the year before NOT to return to India where I had lived prior to moving to Saint John, because my inner voice told me it wasn’t time. But I wasn’t seeing any good reason to stick around. I was part of Kaleidoscope Impact’s Enterprising Women program, but I was just going through the motions to get the homework done (ever the studious one).
The concept for LifeDirt had come from an explosion of ideas and creative conversations in the summer with some friends. I had known for years that I wanted to start my own business. Living in the south end of Saint John, I felt that I could have a positive impact on my neighbourhood through a small brick and mortar business; spending so much time during the lockdown in nature, I wanted to do something that could help others connect to nature in a practical way. My friend suggested the idea of a co-op green grocer, and that vision was the final spark I needed. I heard of this program through Kaleidoscope (then The Saint John Community Loan Fund), applied, had my interview, and was in.
I heard of this program through Kaleidoscope (then The Saint John Community Loan Fund), applied, had my interview, and was in.
But a lot can happen in a short while, and by the time the classes started I had lost my drive and was heading steadily down the path of deteriorating mental health and increased isolation.
Our instructor Diane could see what was happening, and encouraged me at every juncture. She finally said it was time to start the business and I decided to start making raw juices for people who were willing to give them a try. A friend suggested buying a juicer at a thrift store to make it less of a leap, so that’s how I started. And surprisingly, making juices was one of the few things at that time that made me feel alive. Other people seemed to enjoy the product too. So I decided to pursue it.
After finishing my full-time job at the end of December, I started working on applying for the Self Employment Benefit, and diving into a stronger version of the business plan that I had drafted in Diane’s program. Countless people I'd never met before encouraged me to move forward with the greengrocer idea, and very suddenly it seemed I had a business on my hands. I incorporated LifeDirt Foods in March 2021.
Starting a business when you are experiencing mental health and personal struggles is not an ideal situation. But life is full of less than ideal situations. Sometimes the right thing seems to be taking a break and finding health, and sometimes it seems to be simply "keeping on." I was dropping out of things left right and centre, but I kept going with my business. For me, it was a positive creative project for me to focus on that had the potential of becoming something good for the community. I had the right people around me, even though it felt very lonely a lot of the time.
As I drafted this blog post, I started listing the names of everyone who had a major impact on the beginning years of LifeDirt. It was starting to get as long as the genealogy of Jesus of Nazareth, so I stopped. But the amazing thing to recall is the number of people (until then, perfect strangers or sometimes people I looked up to from afar) who were willing to pour into me and sit with me in struggles because they themselves knew the deep importance of pursuing a dream.
I want to say thank you to all those people who said the right word at the right time, volunteered to pack boxes with me late into the night early on, or instinctively "got" what LifeDirt was about and helped me create elements of it or envision how to make them happen.
In March, we will be going into our 4th year in business. I honestly did not expect this. It seems that this business has appropriately followed the life cycle of a plant: a seed planted in great hope, the period of darkness and uncertainty followed by a small shoot of green coming out of the earth, with renewed hope of what it could become and all that could grow around it.
LifeDirt is heading in the direction of more community partnerships and hopefully more goodness and life for our community and our land. I have grown so much alongside this business, and trust that the team and I will continue to do so. I thank you for taking a chance on a new business and a new face, and helping us get this far. Looking forward to the year ahead and all that is to come.