Evolution Rather than Resolutions

Jan 7, 2015 | Food & Food Justice

We held our annual ICI (now called Maison May Dekalb ) staff party this December, and decided to take a group picture—everybody piled in: staff, partners, kids, everyone. Looking at the happy bunch of 40 people or so, I got completely overwhelmed.

At year’s end I always become reflective about what I’ve been through, and, most importantly, what lies ahead. As 2014 drew to a close I began to wonder: in a city that never sleeps, where success is measured in dollars, where everyone runs on an invisible wheel, and where sustainability is often mixed up with being slow, how do I figure out my professional and, in turn, personal progression?

How can I define my ambition in terms of the right way to grow?

Just as I took my usual holiday pause to look at this growth, the evening of our party, and the picture we took, struck me. Feeling at once humbled and empowered by the notion that I could own my role—feeding and nurturing people—once and for all.

I said to myself, I’m going for it in 2015, and I’m expanding my business: opening another (couple of) business(es)…

What does that mean? Well, here’s how my journey took shape.

First, I had to root down. It’s like seeding.

I truly believe that nothing happens on air, without sturdy ground under your feet. Over the years I’ve learned that no matter how painful or hard things can be, looking away never solidifies your footing—I’ve had to face my demons head-on, and clean house to set a stronger foundation. For me, this has always been the first step before anything else can move forward.

I’m not trying to be discouraging—the beauty of it is that you don’t actually need to overhaul everything and orchestrate a full spring-cleaning before setting the rest of the process in motion. Everything can start at the same time—otherwise, you’ll be waiting your entire life to get anything done. As long as, on the eve of a big jump, a bold change, or a brave move, I’ve made the commitment to be rooted, gotten a sense of who I am (for the time being), what I don’t like, and what matters to me, and I’m able to clean and organize it all, I’m in strong shape to make progress.

Doing it this way has helped me establish a home base as well as a filter to determine if everything I’m doing fits within the values I’ve set, so I can apply them to each and every decision I make. For example, when looking for a new floor manager for ICI (now called Maison May Dekalb ), my director of operations, Lauren, and I, conducted traditional interviews and checked resumes in the usual way, but at the same time, we set up our questions for each candidate in such a way that helped us determine if, beyond the professional skills required for the job, they shared the same core values as we did, or had the strong potential to grow into them. Before adding to our team, we equip ourselves with a strong sense of who the team is, and wants to grow to be.

This step is what I like to call the seeding, as well as the weeding, and this phase never really ends, because if you stop seeding, well nothing will grow the following year, and if you do not tend to your garden, the weeds will get the best part of it.

And then what?

Once I had defined what my garden looked like, and how to tend it, it was time for me to assess my strengths, and figure out what could get me so excited, I jumped out of bed each morning—now and for the next 10 years of my life.

This part was the most destabilizing of all for me: the end result seems so obvious now, but it took a lot of time and a few different spins for me to get to it. While I have certain constraints as a single mother, I am privileged to have the freedom to be able to ask myself what it is I really want to do.

In the end, I fully realized the impact that I can have as a female entrepreneur, and the impact that running a farm to table restaurant in Brooklyn in 2015 can have, from the hundreds of couples seeking an ethical place to hold their wedding celebrations, to providing the community a neighborhood restaurant with real values and a commitment to quality. Beyond that, along with the farmers and suppliers we work with, we’re connecting the dots between Brooklyn and Local Farming, and participating in the incredible growth of what is a truly restorative path for our food system. Then, lastly, back to my employee family—I recognized and thoroughly enjoy the impact of providing a safe place to work, a nurturing, evolving but steady place for them to grow, explore, and be truly happy.

So as I realized my calling to feed and nurture people, both literally and figuratively.
In 2015, we’ll open another restaurant where more weddings can be held, more people can be fed, more employees & farmers can thrive, as well as a Bed and Breakfast and a product line which, along with our new spaces, will encompass my core values.
With everything I do I go back to the idea of creating a new kind of business, an ecosystem that’s timeless, ethical, uplifting, and nourishing.

With both products and spaces we strive to weave those ideas into an elegant and healthy lifestyle.

Simple enough, right? Click here to see the details.

Looking forward to setting all of this in motion in 2015.


PS- Of course, I can’t do any of it alone and it takes a small army to inspire me get there—merci Theo, Lucas, Armando, Lauren, James, Holly, Jasmine & Gilles.