Grow Ensemble’s Cory Ames and Annie Bright Prioritize Quality and Consistency to Develop an Attractive Content Creation Strategy

May 20, 2021 | | 0 Comments

Growth Ensemble

Cory Ames and Annie Bright discussed their ongoing work with impact media company Grow Ensemble, which also includes their podcast Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation Podcast. Grow Ensemble is a content and media company inspiring businesses and individuals to consider more sustainable business and life choices in support of the impact economy. Cory and Annie also train and consult other purpose driven businesses to achieve results to build audiences of advocates that connect with the mission of impact companies.

Both Cory and Annie describe their journey into the world of social entrepreneurship as coming from backgrounds of digital marketing and law. After being active in their own respective fields, they came to discover that there was a way to get involved with initiative’s closer to values they support. Cory’s journey is the kind where you see a different picture once you climbed a mountain. Annie’s story is the kind where you’re deciding between two paths until someone shows you there’s a third path. While telling their origin stories, both Cory and Annie blend into what led to using their skills for social impact.

Through content and media, Grow Ensemble is encouraging people to consider more of what their choices mean. People tend to downplay the personal impact they have on the world, but Annie gave an excellent example of how small actions influence larger outcomes and trends. Annie shared that the main point of personal small action is the way it significantly reduces what’s being added to the problem. Annie actually reconnected to share the exact statistic she mentioned in her example after our conversation, which is “The shampoo bottles thrown out every year in the U.S. could fill 1,164 football fields.”

As a social enterprise, Cory spoke about what it’s like to present information to an audience without overwhelming the audience. Two major factors he mentioned are access points and momentum of how people interact with the initiative’s content. He goes on further relating the two factors to providing opportunities for people to engage with better choices, as well as explaining how each small choice builds momentum. He explained what approaches he suggests for budding entrepreneurs versus established companies. The common thread of both approaches involves content creation, which Cory explained why discoverability is outside of “gaming” algorithms.

While speaking, Cory and Annie expressed their latest interests in regenerative agriculture. The duo came across the topic after working with a company focused on the issue. They learned how new age farming techniques disrupt nutrients and carbon sequestration of the soil. 

Cory Ames and Annie Bright shared what’s coming up for Grow Ensemble, including the launch of a new series focused on the impact of fashion. Grow Ensemble is continuing to introduce people to living with choices that more positively impact our world. The duo emphasized that it’s important that people don’t blindly trust certifications or advertising from companies, but that people are engaging with companies that truly care about the positive impact.

If you’re interested in learning more, you can visit their website, newsletter and podcast, or find them on Instagram, YouTube, Linked-In or Twitter. Also, check out the websites for Cory Ames and Annie Bright!

Read Full Transcript

Adam: [00:00:00] Welcome to People Helping People, the podcast to inspire greater social change and give you ideas on how to take action. I'm your host, Adam Morris. I'm so excited to have Cory and Annie of Grow Ensemble on the podcast today. Grow Ensemble is a content and media company focused on making sustainability and better for the world business practices the norm for both individuals and businesses in support of the impact economy.

Their focus is on inspiring consumer audiences to become more active participants in making the world a better place. Cory and Annie also train and consult other purpose-driven businesses to achieve results with their SEO driven content and efforts to build audiences of advocates, to help support and maximize the impact companies are making.

Personally, I'm really excited to dive in and do what Cory and Annie are doing because we're trying to figure out how to grow our own platform on people, helping people. They also have an excellent podcast called the Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation Podcast with some great guests on there.

So without further ado, Cory & Annie welcome on the podcast.

Cory: [00:01:02] Yeah, we really

Annie: [00:01:03] appreciate it.

Adam: [00:01:04] Can you just tell us a little bit about what Grow Ensemble is in your own words?

Annie: [00:01:09] Yeah. And I think that was a pretty good intro. And like you mentioned an impact media company. Aimed at increasing access and engagement with what we identify as truly sustainable businesses. So we're really trying to do is provide opportunities and information for regular people like us to make decisions that are in alignment with their values.

Whether that's through the daily purchases or the businesses that they're engaging with or working with.

Cory: [00:01:33] I would reiterate much of the same. Grow Ensemble for Annie and I is kind of something of like our own, documentation of our own sustainability journey and journey into sustainable business. As we connect with really exceptional people, as you mentioned through our podcast, learn about all sorts of things like regenerative agriculture, B Corp certification, composting all sorts of different stuff. And we like to really write that down, record it, record videos, and share that with the folks who consume our content.

Adam: [00:02:06] How did you guys get started on your journey?

Cory: [00:02:08] Before grow ensemble I always had some overlap in digital marketing, content, marketing and entrepreneurship generally. I first worked in a digital marketing agency that, randomly serves dental practices all over the U S and Canada. I was more excited about the opportunity to learn digital marketing itself and learn the ins and outs of the dental industry. Also important. And so I had a great opportunity to, to work right under the CEO of that small but fast growing company. Gave me a license to try, experiment with things and he, his promise was, he'll teach me everything. He knew about digital marketing and kind of set me up to, to run a business of my own in a few years.

And sure enough, he did. And I worked my way up in that company ultimately moved into the CEO position. And it was at that point in which I really had a full scope of the business and had to really grapple with why they were in business. What the purpose of it was to where I felt a little bit of a mismatch with what my values were particularly.

And I think what most appealed to me about entrepreneurship generally and why I think businesses should exist in the first place. And so with a little bit of a mismatch in values that kind of took me into an existential crisis of some kind, because not that motivated to just make money for the sake of making money.

And I sorted through what I thought about business, entrepreneurship and the skills I've developed over the last couple of years. And in question, if I should really continue on with any of those and thankfully, this was near the time of when Annie and I originally met and she is a much better person than I am.

And so she encouraged me to check out social entrepreneurship communities. It was specifically the certified B Corp community and learn about, great companies like Tom or Allbirds or folks like that. And I saw that they're having an annual conference. Actually in New Orleans at the time we were in San Antonio and it's an eight hour drive and it was a month away.

And so I reached out to the organizers and just asked to volunteer. And so I was trying to mismatch the skills that I had in digital marketing and entrepreneurship with who's my community of people. Are there other people who I think do business in a way that's ethical and a way that feels in alignment with what I value, what I believe in.

Went to that conference and met all those different types of companies. And I was blown away. I remember calling Annie. She was in law school at the time, so she had to stay back in San Antonio. But after the first day I was calling her saying Oh, I think these are my people, that's that and a good few ideas and things later, I think the core of Grow Ensembles idea really came from Annie herself, as opposed to me, I'm just like the skillset.

Annie: [00:04:54] This is why we got married. Yeah,

Adam: [00:04:58] I love that.

Cory: [00:04:59] From there, it was really diving deep into just learning more about community. What's different about these types of businesses, these business people, and as well, the realm of the areas of impact that they're involved in social or environmental, or what have you.

Annie: [00:05:14] I think there's also a thing of when you learn about with these businesses are doing. Truly sustainable and social business. It's very easy to then want to get on a rooftop and scream and every conversation you have, you're like, yeah. You're like, Oh my God, no. Did you hear, have you heard, did you know this was an option?

And so it makes our job very easy.

Adam: [00:05:32] How did you learn about social entrepreneurship or get on this journey, Annie?

Annie: [00:05:36] Yeah.

So I think one before, when I was deciding whether I wanted to go to law school my older brother runs a education-based nonprofit in Austin, Texas called college forward. And I had mentioned like, Oh, wait maybe I'll go to law school or maybe I'll get engaged with some type of business, which isn't where my family naturally goes.

There's a lot of like teachers and attorneys. And my brother said, you got to look at this, these poor people, there is a different way to run a business. And so he introduced me to that. And then when I was in law school and for a brief stint after I was working on immigration and a very common response that people would have to me, would be to say something like, Oh man, that's such a terrible problem.

I'm glad people like you were doing something. And I would think wait, now we're more of a triage side of things. There's a lot more that everybody could be doing way before the problems get to an asylum or an immigration attorney. And I think my brother made me aware of the community, but having that, like worm's eye view of how regular people can get to know this ecosystem of change around them and take action.

And that kind of came through a culmination of quite a few experiences like that.

Adam: [00:06:43] I always love hearing people's journeys to learn about social entrepreneurship or get involved. But one thing that you do Grow Ensemble is you're delivering this message and helping reach new audiences to teach them about social entrepreneurship. So what are some of the things that you find are helpful in the way that you spread that message for companies?

Cory: [00:07:03] Oh, that's a good question. It was really just, what was our existing skill set that we had laying around, as to why that was our approach and method degree. I had a lot of experience in online content and SEO and Annie's done quite a bit of writing and editing herself.

And so those things together is just alright, you know what's the first way that we immerse ourselves into this community. And that was our first approach, but. And a number of things that I guess we find to be most effective in spreading that message is one from the get go is just consistency.

I think just because, especially when you get into these bubbles of any sort of realm of social entrepreneurship, like social impact, environmental action. You start talking to all these people and you think wow, everyone thinks this way. And everyone is very considerate and mindful of the purchases that they're making or what they do with their waste or whatever it might be.

But then you know, maybe you talk to some family members or her friends or whatever it might be. And you're like, Oh wow. Nobody shares this same experience or that it's a very small little slice of the pie that we're looking at. And so I think that repetition first and foremost has been very important to us from the very beginning.

We've been doing grow ensemble now for two and a half years, and everything has been compounding on the other. It started with the podcast, then the blog, and then now we're getting into video production with our YouTube channel. But our plans with every single one of them is to find what is our kind of consistent cadence, that we can adequately publish on each platform, given our resources and capacity personally.

And plan on doing that for a decade or more is our thoughts. So that's the first one. I don't know if you have

Annie: [00:08:39] anything else. Yeah, I think so. We talk about this all the time of especially when companies are product focused, they're selling a product. And so what they're doing is looking for who's interested in the product and how can we get in front of them and inherently in girl ensemble, our focus isn't so much the people who've already drank the Kool-Aid as it is.

A water man or water person who doesn't know about reef safe, sunscreen, or an animal rights advocate that doesn't know about regenerative agriculture or social advocate that doesn't know about labor rights and companies?

the B Corp requirements for labor protections. And so for us, it's, there's a very centered group of people that are committed, like I said, but then there's so many people that really care about stuff and just don't even know that they don't have to make these daily compromises.

And so all of our content is geared toward coming in, getting out in front of those people. And it's, our expertise is SEO. We use that to reverse engineer, like what all these people looking for and how can we present sustainable options is something they find.

Adam: [00:09:44] So you use that expertise in SEO to help companies make sure that their content is reaching the right people and maximizing the impact that they're trying to make.

Now I have a question for you. This question has come up a lot recently. Quite often there is pushback of an individual who says, Hey, I could change my behavior. I could change what I do, I'm one person, what kind of impact does that make?

And one person among billions, it's easy to look at that and say there's not much change that me modifying my behavior is going to make. And I'm just curious to explore the other side of that. Because that's a relevant topic for everybody whose just wondering, how much is an effort for me worth in creating change in the world.

Annie: [00:10:26] That's a very, like you said, it's an extremely common response. That's also a good question. And it's something that has to be answered if people are to be motivated to stay consistent in making sustainable decisions. And I think there's two components to it. One I don't think it's completely accurate.

I think it is in some regards where yeah, the individual impact isn't, what's gonna make the big changes. But at the same time, it does influence trends, consumer trends, which companies respond to. And there are things that people can do that do have big impact. For example, we worked with Plain Products who did they make personal care products like shampoos, conditioners, lotions soaps, and they're in aluminum bottles that you send back to them.

Also, they smell really good, highly recommend them. But, one thing that we found when we were working with them is how many plastic bottles, one human being uses in their entire lifetime. And it's it's an, I don't want his quote if it's like an absurd amount. It's some dozen football fields.

It's like crazy. I don't want to misquote them. You can look at their website, Plain Products and they have that figure up there. But it is this thing of think of, the toothbrush that you bought when your first toothbrush still exists in a landfill and the shampoo that your parents washed your hair with, assuming it's plastic still exists.

So yeah. That's not gonna solve the pollution problem, but that does reduce significantly what's being added to the problem. And then I think the second thing is making compromises on your values and your beliefs every day, I think, and we think it Grows Ensemble does weigh on people. It's easy to say, I, for social justice, I don't believe in child slave labor or any slave labor for that matter.

And it feels, it's something you don't think about when you're engaging with all these companies that might engage those practices. But what does feel noticeably good is when someone says, I like your shoes and you say, Oh my God. Yeah. They're made out of recycled products and they're sustainable. Or I have these girlfriend collective like biker shorts that I. wear almost every single day and they're made out of recycled plastic. And and everyone, it feels noticeably good when someone compliments me that this is the social currency that I'm operating on is that I'm making values aligned decisions. It's not just based on a logo. And so the impact I think, is also in your own personal life, knowing that the way you are living your life is going to create impact.

And the question is whether that impact is going to be positive or negative.

Adam: [00:12:51] I love that.

Do you ever find that you're communicating with people and they just get overwhelmed with all of the different ways that they are impacting the earth and just don't even know where to start?

Cory: [00:13:03] Definitely I think for us, that's why like access points and momentum is critically important. Both of those. Just because, we're very open to wanting to meet people where they're at and invite them into making so much of what is core to us is like making that everyday change, very accessible, approachable, digestible.

And so wherever that is at for any one person, like really open to accepting that invitation, because, thinking about our own experience for one. Be it in the spectrum of, what types of sustainable businesses exist, just because you could go very deep on trying to define exactly that all the various certifications whether it was that timeline between where we started and where we are now to what we do with our food waste and how we think about the purchases that we make, there's layers and layers of things that. We feel, we think we know now however, we started in the same place as much as anyone else did. And so it's not necessarily about making the absolute most massive impact now, or, as Annie mentioned making some massive sacrifice tomorrow, I think it's more so about finding where there's momentum to make small, meaningful changes that perhaps, encourage and incentivize and facilitate other larger ones being with yourself or as well, the community that you have around you with friends, family, or colleagues or what have

Annie: [00:14:32] you. I think it's also what we're talking about. When we say we're increasing access to sustainable decisions. Like change paralysis is so real. Your kitchen, you see all this plastic and you're like, I'm going to become zero waste. And then you're like, I don't know what that means. And I know that, at two days in you're like I am failing. And so we, we try to keep all of our content, like Cory was saying is like, Hey, choose your gateway drug into sustainability.

This is yeah, just we'll make this plastic in your bathroom. And these are, we have, all of our, most of our recommendations are based on these are the ones that you can make with the least amount of resistance. And then there are some that require you to either adjust to what you're used to or find a new way to do something. It's never a good place to start. What we're focused on our content is providing more access points to people who are interested, but maybe don't know how to get started.

Adam: [00:15:22] Now at the other end of the spectrum here in Columbus, Ohio, we're very fortunate. We have a a weekend hackathon launchpad called GiveBackHack where people come in pitch ideas on a Friday night for social enterprises they'd like to start. Then they form teams and develop an MVP over the weekend.

Which is it's really exciting. And they've actually had a lot of success that people launching small ideas through this. We're also really lucky. We have a 12 week accelerator specifically for social entrepreneurs. So quite often people will come out of this, GiveBackHack weekend and have a 12 week accelerator that they can go through to really develop up their business.

It's just been great at growing the community and getting more people in. But what we find are a lot of people, they had an idea. They're not entrepreneurs. They're starting up. And one thing that they really struggle with is how do I grow my audience?

How do I connect with more people? What can I do to actually get my business off the ground? And that's a huge question on everyone's mind. And I'm just curious what your approach is with working with companies and what a budding entrepreneurs should know to get off on the right foot.

Cory: [00:16:24] First off, it's going to vary quite widely between the budding entrepreneur and then, maybe other companies that we work with to have in-house marketing teams, those are completely different scenarios. And I think it's important, not for the sake of you can never achieve what they could achieve, but, being realistic in the sense of your expectations. So you don't set yourself up for failure, when it, especially when it's early on, because so much in starting something new, being a business or whatever it might be, I think again, is really about continuing with momentum and enthusiasm and excitement because it is challenging like inherently.

And so you want to set yourself up for wins as much as you possibly can. And so what we typically recommend , particularly for folks who are just getting started is to document their process and their journey and figure out for one, what's perhaps the best medium for them to do that's most comfortable to them cause like we started with the podcast, but I don't necessarily recommend everyone starts a podcast or a blog or a YouTube channel. But I do think that there is some incredible value to picking one medium that works for you. Some sort of sense of consistency or frequency.

I always get asked like, how much should we publish your week or whatever, you know what I say, as much as possible without sacrificing on quality. And so if that's twice a month, once a month, once a week, or more like you just got to figure out your cadence and stay consistent. But I really think that the value in choosing any one of those realms and staying consistent with it is that there's so much serendipity that gets created as a product of the internet. And I think that's been something that's really appealed to me originally about SEO. And when I first started building websites to grab traffic from different places, I was just absolutely dumbfounded with, like people from all over the world are visiting this site that I built.

Knowing very little about websites or marketing. It's gotten a little bit more difficult now than it was then, but I think the very same thing with who we see come across, Grow Ensemble every single day, literally people all over the world, starting different social ventures, nonprofits of all different demographics and generations.

And that is because we've put things out on the internet consistently. Because in the world of search engines that we live in right now, it's like the search engines are going to do the work for you. Providing you're putting some interesting perspectives some useful perspectives, some honest and authentic perspectives out there.

They, the search engines, their job is to essentially do the work for you in connecting your content with people who are interested in looking for it. And you know why I liked the podcast. One for a way to get started is that it connected me with people first and foremost, as opposed to just publishing a blog.

And depending on what type of your business you're in, or maybe not really, it it's really people who are going to be everything to that business. Either customers, investors, or just advocates and supporters who are going to share what you do with much wider, communities or audiences, it's all.

Like richness in serendipity, both in business and in the relationships that you cultivate and curate are going to come from the people that you meet. So that's why I really loved podcasting. And then if people are doing podcasting, if you're going to write a blog, I highly recommend interviewing experts in folks in your space, just because so many people are very open to being interviewed, and you're not asking them for anything, but just their time, ideally you're doing something for them by curating some really useful piece of content and then share it with a wider audience, as much as you can to hustle and do that. But maybe that's a bit long-winded of an answer, but it's really where I'd recommend starting is picking your medium, ideally integrating other people in your industry, the space that you want to be a part of and learn about integrate that into your content process and then be consistent to whatever feels comfortable for you at that point in time and start slow.

First and then build up to other channels and other consistencies and frequencies over time. That's why we started with one at a time, the podcasts, then the blog then YouTube and our newsletter. Like those were all happening at the same time. We built those up one after another.

Adam: [00:20:33] Fantastic. Now, how does that approach differ for established companies that would say have a marketing department or kind of a larger budget and just a more established a business.

Cory: [00:20:44] I think with those types of resources available, you just have the opportunity to move a lot faster. And I think perhaps you'd invest in other things that I wouldn't recommend, a budding entrepreneur or a small startup might invest in. From tools, resources, high quality, like highest quality writers that you can possibly invest in just because everything of where I think organic discoverability is headed with SEO, as it relates to Google YouTube or any other search engines that exist is that the focus is really going to be on quality over time. And that's a very subjective measure and it's very relative to who you're competing against, in search engines. But if you have more resources available, then you know, it's ultimately like you're creating a mini, even if you aren't a media or a publishing company, you're creating your own little media or publishing engine within your company.

And so if you have more recent resources available, some of these bigger companies, I recommend that they go all in on the sense of what they can do to increase the quality of their content as quickly as possible. And so that looks like different things. I'm less concerned with the budding entrepreneur, with the quality of the video that they're producing or the audio, the podcasts, it's like more important that you get started and you probably meet people, and that you learn things. Versus it would be weird if a company that's, it has a very significantly sized marketing budget.

Starts producing videos. It doesn't have to be perfect. Doesn't have to be cinematic level, but if they started producing very pixelated, not crispy videos, it maybe be a bit off-brand or what, what folks wouldn't expect. So I think the resource investment is certainly different.

Annie: [00:22:20] I think also that one of the, this is just reiterating a bit of what Cory touched on, but a big thing is that content creation, as I'm sure, it takes a lot of time. It takes resources. You're researching and preparing for every interview or you're writing a blog post and then it's being edited and then it's being like quality checked and then it's, someone's publishing it.

And with a more established or larger business they can hire writers. And then there's people sitting in, content all the time. There's this idea of no, just put some on the internet, but the important thing is that it's quality content, and it's always so sad for us when someone's Oh, I've been, publishing a blog for a year and they're, really short pieces that they could put a lot of time into, but if they've maybe would have reduced the frequency to once a week or twice a week instead of every single day or once a week from twice a week, then there would have been a little bit more, it could be more of a resource for them as content.

Adam: [00:23:15] Got it. So really focusing on information and resources that are useful for people. So things that people will want to digest and will help them. And. In that sense, they're more likely to share and refer back to over time.

Cory: [00:23:29] I think everything follows from that anyways, because that's really the core of what like discoverability, like search engine optimization is about. It gets muddled when you're trying to game an algorithm. And that's what people think it's about. Those are very short term approaches. They're getting less and less effective.

But instead of that, if you are creating things that people are actually going to engage with find useful, find interesting. That's really the core of it because Google is really attempting to meet your useful content with someone who is literally searching for it. You can get far more technical than that.

But if you're doing that first and foremost, focusing on, identifying who your audience is, who you want to connect with reverse engineering from there, like what are the questions you should answer that are important to them? What kind of content could you serve them that would be engaging to them.

You're going to be far better off with that approach and then matching it with some more SEO tactics and expertise over time, versus just focusing on how do we do SEO and how do we, game the algorithm and focus on optimizing for SEO as much as possible versus engagement.

First interest, first curiosity

Annie: [00:24:38] first, We're very excited about SEO as a tool so we can talk about it all day.

Adam: [00:24:44] I'm loving this. I would love to, shift direction a little bit. And I'd love to just hear from both of you, if there's a particular area of the social impact arena that calls to you something that you've learned about, or, you're really passionate about in the broad spectrum of social impact.

Cory: [00:25:01] We ran a couple good campaigns at the end of last year and started this one and that introduced us predominantly through the world's first regenerative, organic certified vineyard to regenerative agriculture for one.

Adam: [00:25:19] What is regenerative agriculture?

Cory: [00:25:21] So I guess contrasting it with more traditional or conventional agricultural methods, regenerative agriculture, maybe it's its simplest explanation. I'm sure. If there are any, true, purist environmentalist listening. And they'd be like, that is so wrong at the core of it, how it works is that the earth, the planet is better off as a product of the agricultural practices being implemented and used as opposed to the other way around very traditional conventional agriculture, and farming practices are very exploitative and extractive of the earth to where ultimately.

Th the thing that it really boils down to is that the health of the top soil is the soil becoming healthier with time. And as a product of healthy soil, we get healthy everything else ultimately. But is that becoming healthier over time? Or if you've, you'll look at some conventional farms, are they essentially extracting in, in pulling out all of the nutrients in any sort of organic capacity of that soil to where it's, they farmed it, they've tilled it, all this kind of stuff over time to where it's just a big flat dirt patch. And so it's going to contrast these two examples to where the ecosystem that's around the farm or the home as people start to garden a bit more.

Is that area becoming healthier as an ecosystem, a micro ecosystem as a product of it, or the opposite of that, are we taking more from the environment than we're putting in?

Annie: [00:26:49] Importantly, this might be public knowledge. I always feel like people are like, yeah, obviously, but if we did not know one of the, the super powers of soil is carbon sequestration.

So it takes carbon out of the air and holds it in the ground. It's a soil is really healthy. Not only can it hold more carbon, a bit of holds it for longer. It turns into nutrients for more plants, biodiversity. If that's increased, you're just getting this really healthy microbiome in the soil. And so as conventional farming practices are tilling up the land, they're releasing all this carbon into the air and as we all know, we have a very large carbon problem.

And so yeah, back to your first question of people feeling like, Oh, what I'm doing, does it matter? You can literally help reverse climate change by having regenerative land at your own house, make regenerate your soil and make it really healthy. And now you create an eco system, that's literally taking carbon out of the air reversing climate change.

We just were like floored, when we learned that existed, we were like, I always thought, yeah, there's going to be someone who's going to invent something. That's going to stop climate change. And then we watched. Kissed the Ground. And it was like, Oh no, it's literally the dirt it's soil. And we were like, just mind blown.

Adam: [00:28:01] I love that example because my friend Lindsay Stevenson was leaving her practice as a doctor because she cared so much about this. And she went out to buy a farm, to turn it into a permaculture farm so she could reclaim the traditional farming and put it to good use.

because she had just read so much about how all the oceans were being destroyed with all the fertilizers and bad chemicals and that runoff that comes in and creates dead zones. And then the carbon capture that is usually impacted so much by farming. So I love that example.

Annie: [00:28:34] Yeah, it's a different one. And I feel like that was one of our like gateways. We've become very obsessive. We keep saying, we have a backyard that's just dirt. And so we were like, we're going to regenerate it and it's a process. So we're always on that journey, but it is it's.

So it's one of those things that kind of has momentum built into it because like we have phone cases that are compostable. We compost all our food scraps. There's a company called Keela that makes phone cases and technical technology accessories, and they're, doing a Indiegogo for a composting machine that compost, usually your compost bin, if you've ever had one sits on your kitchen counter, we'd recently had some fruit fly roommates move in.

It's just, it feels it's like a Dante isn't photo. You're like changing the compost and they are extremely innovative and they've created, they are feeding and are raising money right now to produce, a compost bin. It just, it composts it like immediately, like you sit there. Yeah. How cool is that for us?

That's it's a space that's has a lot of innovation in it. There's a lot of, you literally look outside, I'm looking right now in our backyard and it's like green stuff exists where it didn't exist before. So anything that helps us keep momentum, we're always pretty stoked about.

Adam: [00:29:51] You're going to have to send a photo of your backyard.

Do you have a topic as well? Which really got you into this?

Annie: [00:29:56] Yeah, so well, Cory came back from the B Corp retreat. I tell a story all the time I came back from the B Corp retreat. And was talking about?

all good products and it's reef safe, sunscreen. And I have surfed my entire life, that's something I really enjoy doing. And I had no idea that the sunscreen that I was wearing was coming off in the ocean, killing the coral reef.

And it took 13 seconds for me to be someone who had no idea that existed to being the person who sees somebody else who's sunscreen. I'm like, Oh, it's really part of the problem. You shouldn't do that. So that was the first like slap in the face. But I also, I do study and work with migrants.

And so for me, one thing that's constantly shocking on one hand and also really makes me hopefully in the hand is how people integrate very easily exploited human beings for work and how they integrate them into healthy businesses, where they can thrive. And just treat human beings like human beings.

And that is a big thing that I think we find is both, strengthening a diverse workforce and strengthening labor rights and business practices around that. So that's always, for me, that's science, very present daily for me.

Adam: [00:31:10] No. Are any of those issues, something that you learned about when you moved to San Antonio?

Cory: [00:31:14] I it's interesting just because San Antonio it's a city that's grown on us rather steadily in that it feels like it's the small town in the world. So like San Antonio?

is a top 10 city in size population. It does the whole country and the whole country. It spreads the city limits spread very vastly and it takes a long time to get to know the city.

So there's also is a very, this kind of like folksy, very friendly, demeanor that most people have out in San Antonio. But you also, you can be constantly and we've lived here now for four years. We're constantly coming across things I had no idea that this like little pocket, this whole neighborhood existed.

And so sadly, no, I wouldn't say that these are things that we learned about directly through coming to San Antonio, but indirectly they've, there has been so much here in San Antonio, as it relates both to the realm of sustainability and as well diversity and migrant and immigrant populations.

I'll let you speak to that, but. We were just having conversations with I think the company's called Atlas organics and they work in the composting space and

Annie: [00:32:28] commercial composting, like really lifestyle. They worked for

Cory: [00:32:32] cities. And so they presented us with news and they're on the East coast.

And in that first call, they gave us the news that. San Antonio was one of the most sustainable cities in the U S and they were moving, they're moving or expanding their composting operations into San Antonio because of so many different other conditions. And in like city, government programs that have been set up.

And so we were like shocked by that. We're like, how are we not knowing any of this information? And there's a lot of people doing really exceptional work here in San Antonio, as it relates to that, sometimes it feels like they're disconnected. And it's a matter of, bringing it together and COVID, didn't really help with that and bringing people together.

So maybe as we approach the light at the end of the tunnel, we can do more of that community going. But I know Annie's work has as far more overlap here.

Annie: [00:33:19] I went to law school here I, that was here at St. We have St. Mary's law school and I went to my first detention center.

Not a particularly uplifting. Daytime activity, but very impactful. And So one thing that I think I really liked about San Antonio specifically is that it's a very human city. Obviously. It's something I'm very interested in by the number of times I can work the word human into a conversation. But it is, it's just. It'd be this thing where we're like, Oh, it's like a big town. It's these are just like real people live in San Antonio and extremely diverse set of people. And so we meet our really good friend Alma, who knows everything about composting and soil health. And you're like, Oh yeah, you're just like a gym in this massive city.

But of course we found you because once you get your toe into this community, you start, it's very easy to get enmeshed in it. And so there's one that our individual community, like individual community members that we have that are experts in sustainability. And for me the immigration aspect of my legal community is here.

And so I, I've learned quite a bit about human rights since I've been in the city.

Adam: [00:34:30] So what's on the horizon for Grow Ensemble. What's coming up?

Cory: [00:34:34] At the moment we are about to launch a new series on the impact of fashion, where we'll be exploring the social, environmental, and economic challenges facing the fashion industry. And we're doing that in partnership with a fashion technology company by the name of Donna they're really great folks and leaders in the space of sustainable fashion and as well, circular fashion another interesting term there, but we just yesterday recorded a good handful of interviews for that.

And we are queuing up, in partnership with Donna, a book on the entire subject and breaking down the different components. That are currently of a great challenge to fashion in both their impact on the people affected by it, and of course the planet. So we're excited about that. And I'm about to queue up launching,

Annie: [00:35:28] some of that content.

Adam: [00:35:30] Fantastic. I definitely want to know about that when that comes

Annie: [00:35:33] We'll keep you up.

Adam: [00:35:33] My, my side hustle social enterprise is a work program for youth experiencing homelessness. We go in and we screen print t-shirts with them. So we're getting a lot of local orders. And the more I learn about making t-shirts, the more I realize the impact that has on the environment.

And so anything we can do in order to improve that process, I think it just makes such a difference.

Annie: [00:35:55] Yeah. What, where there's big problems is big opportunity for impact. So it's always exciting. At first shock is Oh God, this is really bad. And then you're like, Oh, but I can make small changes and make some big differences here.

Adam: [00:36:06] Yeah, definitely. That's wonderful. How did people find out about Grow Ensemble?

Annie: [00:36:09] Of course ,

Cory: [00:36:10] you can just go to grow easy access to all our stuff, their YouTube channel, blog, podcasts. But I would say maybe the greatest way to get connected with us and keep up with the week to week pulse of what is going on. Is our a better world, weekly newsletter, which I write curate and publish myself every single Monday.

I think I've done 82 consecutive and that's probably about 90,000 or a hundred thousand words now that published over the span of that time. And so every single week I'm sending out this email to give a little update as to what's going on with Grow Ensemble. What kind of, interesting things in the realm of sustainability that we're exploring and new content we're publishing.

So that's at grow backslash newsletter. That would be the greatest place. Cause that's really where you get what's top of mind for us on a week to week. It's a great place

Annie: [00:37:00] to get a book and reading recommendations. Also that's my primary use of the newsletter.

Adam: [00:37:06] I love that. And if you're listening to this podcast, also check out the Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation Podcast where they'll hear some great stories of the conversations that

Ensemble is having.

Cory: [00:37:16] I'm always bad at flagging that. So thank you.

Annie: [00:37:19] Yeah, it was a nice thing. It's nice to be able to listen to what other leaders and social business CEOs from really impactful companies like what their perspective is, what their story is. I think my last, and then also I'll shut up. But the, one of the things that we'd really like to drive home is

it's not about certifications or what companies are telling you. You're not just trusting that sound like the various companies values lined with you. And you're engaging with them. You want to know a bit about the human beings behind the company and know that their values align with you, and then trust that they're making decisions in alignment with the shared values.

And so the podcast is a really great way to get to know some of these people that are really making large differences through their companies.

Adam: [00:38:04] Thank you so much. Cory, Annie, for joining me on the podcast today, it's been a real pleasure. I feel like we covered a lot of ground, so I just really enjoyed that.

Annie: [00:38:12] No, it was really lovely. Obviously, we love to chat so we could go on forever. Thank you for having us, Adam.

Adam: [00:38:19] And if you're listening check them out at Or if you're listening to podcasts, check out the Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation Podcast as well as sign up for the Better World Weekly Newsletter, which you can find at

For other resources, you can check them out on the show notes on And thank you so much for listening. Until next time. Cheers.

Follow People Helping People on

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.