Get to know commUNITY founder: Darby Burger
Today we have the first in our 3 part series on getting to know us! We start with a Q&A with Darby Burger. Each week we will profile another one of us answering the same questions. While we may be family, I think you'll agree that a lot of our answers are very different. But with just enough in common.
What does the word community mean to you?
To me, community is a group of people coming together and supporting each other. Gathering in times of joy and being there for one another during difficult ones. Community is defined as a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals. Before the pandemic, I would have described my community as my neighbourhood, the school that my kids go to, and our circle of friends and colleagues. The global pandemic has brought a common goal to us all. It has taught us that we need to wear masks, physical distance, and quarantine to protect a much wider circle. I feel more connected to our global community than ever before.
What has been the hardest part about the pandemic for you personally?
That is a tough one, there have been many challenges this year. The toughest part has been watching my children suffer emotionally, academically, and they have been more sedentary than ever before. We have done our best to provide structure and support for them, but it hasn’t been enough. It feels like having three full time jobs. Getting my work done, teaching my kids, getting them outside and active, and an emotional coach for them, and um… and did I mention laundry, cooking, and managing a home. All the while doing my best to keep myself together at the same time.
What is your role in commUNITY?
Primarily, I have gone back to my roots as a Graphic Designer and focused on the creative for the website, newsletters, and marketing. I have also spearheaded some marketing initiatives. However, as we are a small company we lend a hand whenever it is needed. At any time, I will be stuffing envelopes, packaging masks and sending out samples for marketing and client appreciation.
What is the biggest strength you bring to the team?
My creativity and willingness to take on new initiatives. Once we decide on a course of action together, I am able to run with it and bring if from idea into fruition by doing research and creating the systems necessary. I am more of a “doer”. I am also able to make decisions quickly and put them into action.
Fun fact: I also hand tie dyed hundreds of masks!
What does the day-to-day working on the business look like for you?
I work from the kitchen table. I pepper my work day with taking the dog for walks, making meals for the kids, laundry, and I try to do a little workout. I mostly focus on optimizing the website, creating images and letters for promotional materials, and lately writing and laying out our e-newsletter and contributing to our blog section.
What has been your favourite part about building a business?
I have enjoyed the challenge of dedicating myself to different aspects of the business depending on the need. There has been an immense learning curve. I have enjoyed stretching my skill set, getting out of the familiar, and trying something new. The most important aspect is that we are helping people feel protected during this pandemic by making high quality masks with filters and giving back to our community.
What has been the biggest challenge about building commUNITY?
I think the entire process has been a bit kooky.
- None of us has had any experience in clothing manufacturing or sales.
- Working with family has its elements of frustration. (Also fun)
- We started a business during the pandemic when our children were at home and we were home schooling and we were only supposed to leave our houses for essential business only. There was a lot going on and time management was a challenge.
- Managing the inventory was a challenge. I believe it always is with small businesses, but at the start of the pandemic supply chains were not as reliable and there were wacky pricing variances. It was particularly challenging.
Did you have any hesitation starting a business during a pandemic?
Not at all, I thought it would give Deanna, Colin, and myself something to focus on that was outside of ourselves. We wanted to be able to help support Canadians by providing cloth masks so the medical grade masks could be left for first responders. At the time, it was difficult to get your hands on a good quality cotton mask. We thought we could fill a need in the short term and also give back to Food Banks Canada to help people in need.
Did you always want to be an entrepreneur?
Not ever in my life, not even for one second.
Have you been able to find a good work-life balance?
I like Oprah’s take on work-life balance. She says, “I learned that you can’t have everything and do everything at the same time.” I think that sometimes you have to focus more on one area of your life and the others have to sit on the bench for a bit. Certainly, in the spring and summer, we were focusing on the business.
I feel like now that we are more established, we have been able to spend more time with our kids and weaning them off electronics and focusing more on school. At the same time, I feel that we are leading by example. I am proud of Deanna, Colin, and myself for starting a company and supplying masks and helping people during this difficult time.
What does the future look like for commUNITY – what happens next?
One of the most important things we have done with the business is create products that help keep people safe and organised. I don’t think masks are going away any time soon. I do think that people have started to recognise a well-designed mask made from a premium cotton that will provide increased safety and will stand up to many washes in comparison to inferior masks. We like to think that we have hit the sweet spot between manufacturing a premium product at high value. Also, all of our products are made in Canada. It is so important to us to help support Canadians at this time.
We have some ideas for new products and new collaborations with different charities and are looking forward to bringing them to fruition.
I also see a designer line of masks and lifestyle products in the future.
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