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In the early days after the cancellation of Expo West in March, I was scared. Yes, for my business, but more so, was I sure that I was offering the right guidance, advice, and support to the founders I serve. Things were changing so fast, and there was so much uncertainty. It was my fear that caused me to reach out to other “providers” in the industry, folks who also work in support of this industry’s founders, and the brands they are building. I hoped that we could create a safe space to discuss all that was going on, what it meant for our respective businesses, and what guidance we should be offering our founders. What it became was so much more.

Every other Friday afternoon, a group of about 25+ of us come together on Zoom. It has become some of the most treasured hours I spend. We laugh, tease, visit and now jokingly call ourselves the Natural Products Mafia. More importantly, we all share our thoughts, worries, and ideas. We talk about how we can best show up in the madness of this moment. We examine the ways we can exact the most significant and most positive impact.

A few weeks ago, we started talking about the importance of this election. While most in the Natural Products Mafia are like-minded, not all are. Similarly, we recognize that the same holds in our industry as a whole. As we examined that further, we realized that we ultimately wanted to encourage participation, putting voice and action against the issues we face as a nation and a human race.

For example, although we recognized that it was not our place to tell people how to vote, we could undoubtedly encourage them to do so. That is what we’ve decided to do. Democracy is messy. It requires discourse and debate. Its actors must persuade the masses that their policy or approach is in our collective best interest. For it to work, its citizens must participate in that national debate and make their voices heard at the voting booth.

As an industry, we reach an estimated 50 million consumers. If we used our voices and our brands’ reach to encourage them to vote, we would be ensuring that the democratic process works. It won’t guarantee a particular outcome, but it will give us the certainty that we have had a say in our future.

You will hear more about our “Grow the Vote” campaign over the coming days and weeks. Again, we are not asking people to vote a certain way. Instead, we are just asking that they vote, that they participate in this messy democratic process. I’d like you to carry this message to those you influence both internally and externally.

Beyond this election, there will be other ways we’ll ask you to participate and leverage your brand’s influence. As a nation, we need to discuss racial injustice, inequity, climate change, etc. Change comes to the issues that we debate, where we find common ground. Let’s use our influence to encourage those conversations.

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Elliot Begoun a 30-year industry veteran, author, and the Founder of TIG, a practice focused on helping emerging natural product brands grow. TIG works with its entrepreneurs to build nimble, capital-efficient, resilient brands that become tardigrades, not unicorns. Catch him at FoodBytes, the Hirshberg Entrepreneurship Institute, the Natural Products Business School, and find his articles in publications such as The Huffington Post, SmartBrief, and New Hope.

Growing emerging food and beverage brands. Author & Founder of TIG

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