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Q&A With Wen-Jay Ying: Founder Of Local Roots NYC

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I met Wen-Jay a couple months back after stumbling into a Sustainability Commerce Popup Conference in Williamsburg.  She was among an eclectic panel of speakers that day who's company missions were not only vivid with green priority, but also deeply rooted into the fabric of their local communities. Her company, Local Roots NYC provides New Yorkers with a access to goods and produce from a network of local farmers (local meaning that their supplier's operations happen within a 250 mile radius).  It's a subscription based membership where you can sign up for different seasons, each having a variety of different seasonal foods.  Throughout the city are different "markets" where your allotted order is ready for pickup.  What's awesome about Local Roots is that their markets don't just happen anywhere, they happen at your favorite cafe or dive bar right in the heart of your local New York community.Local Roots NYC has been in operation for six years, with over 25 market sites, and over 750 members.  When meeting up with Wen-Jay at one of her market locations set up outside of a cute Brooklyn cafe, I got an overwhelmingly inclusive community vibe.  Toddlers were running around, and Local Roots members came to grab their goods while also inviting me to their yoga class later that day... I felt right at home! Here's some things we talked about that day:

How'd you come up with the idea for Local Roots?

I wanted to find a better, more social way to connect people and their communities to local farmers.  Creating Local Roots was my solution to the gap between farm to table.  Not only does it support local farmers but also the local businesses that we symbiotically partner with for our markets.

What makes this different than meal kits or other food delivery systems?

Having markets not only encourages the social aspect to shopping with us, but also greatly reduces waste.  When you order a food kit or have groceries delivered they tend to come with an excessive amount of packaging.  At are local market locations you can bring your own reusables and stop it at your favorite bar for a drink all at the same time.

How does your company take sustainability into account?

Each of our farmers practice different levels of sustainability.  Kindness to animals and to the land are extremely important to us.  Our vegetables are either Certified Naturally Grown, a grassroots alternative to the USDA’s National Organic Program, or USDA Certified Organic . While the standards and the labels are the same – organic – the USDA Organic Program favors medium to big-sized farmers, and the Certified Naturally Grown program is better suited for small farmers. The Certified Naturally Grown label was created in 2002 in response to the USDA labeling, which is expensive in terms of time (paperwork per crop) and application fees. The Certified Naturally Grown program has farmers review fellow CNG farmers and prioritizes the exchange of feedback and ideas for growth.  More info on each of our famers can be found on our Farm page if you want to check it out.

So far what has been your favorite part of starting this company?

We've been running for over six years now.  In this time I've had customers become friends.  I've seen them get married and have babies, and I've seen those babies grow up on Local Roots produce.  Now these kids are almost three and they know so much more about their farmers and where their food comes from.  Not many other three year old kids are that connected to their food and how it grows! This makes me extremely happy and proud.

What's up!? I'm Katrina. I'm wandering, collecting, witnessing and learning. I'm drawn to all things found at the intersection of art and technology. If I could go back in time, I think I'd be best friends with Mark Twain, Nikola Tesla and Cleopatra. When I'm not obsessing about the human endeavor or the nature of time, I'm probably cooking or dancing.

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Quartz Bottle: The Water Bottle That Cleans Itself

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water bottle
Maybe you’ve finally started getting serious about cutting down on soda and coffee and drinking more water. You may have taken some swigs from a reusable container and wrinkled your nose in distaste afterward. That’s because cleaning water bottles can be challenging — and it’s hard to do it as thoroughly as necessary. Who has time for cleaning tablets and specially designed brushes, anyway? The inconvenient necessity of keeping your water bottle clean is one of the main concepts behind the Quartz Bottle. How does it work and why should you put one on your must-buy list as soon as possible? Keep reading to find out.
quartz bottle

A Light Inside the Cap Cleans the Water for You

Sometimes, the most helpful components of an innovative product aren’t the largest or most visible ones. The Quartz water bottle has a patented UV-C light inside the cap. You might not immediately notice it due to the product’s sleek design, but it’s arguably one of the hardest-working parts of the container.The light is a purifier that neutralizes up to 99.9999 percent of germs in only a minute. You can also choose between manual purification and a cleansing process that happens automatically every four hours. That latter option is especially helpful on days when you’re trying to balance a schedule of yoga practice, taking your toddler to daycare, meeting your business partner over coffee and more — all while knowing you can’t spare a thought for keeping your water clean.

The Co-Founder Has a Long-Term, All-Encompassing Mindset

While reading about the Quartz Bottle, you’ll find that many of the selling points focus on making your life easier. By using the product, you’ll enjoy constant access to water that tastes great and never have to deal with downsides like smelly bottles or cumbersome cleaning techniques again.However, Justin Wang, a co-founder of the company that manufacturers the Quartz, had an Earth-minded view when engineering the item, too. While writing a post about the bottle, he pointed out that people collectively dump one million plastic containers into landfills each minute.Also, if you like to consciously buy things that have large impacts by promoting the greater good, the Quartz is for you. The creators decided that 1 percent of every purchase gets donated to Charity:Water. The organization works to provide people around the world with improved access to safe hydration.

Design Scrutiny During Development

In another interview, Wang confessed having a very relatable problem. He successfully cut down on using disposable water bottles but still found himself reaching for one when another type of purified water wasn’t available or the reusable bottle he had been using became too gross to use.Wang spoke to friends and found their experiences echoed his own. The Quartz water bottle was born when Wang decided to tackle the issues that made him use disposable containers despite better intentions.However, he and the rest of the design team understood it was necessary to poll people in the target market. Only then would they find out about the factors that could turn them into Quartz devotees versus individuals who try the bottle once and decide they don’t like it. Some could fail to even get that far by coming to the conclusion there’s no need to switch to another water storage product because the ones they own are good enough.First, Wang toted a 3-D-printed prototype of the Quartz for weeks and gradually tweaked it. While pretending to drink from it to mimic an actual user experience, he got weird looks but knew the process was necessary.Next, members of the design team talked to hundreds of people and asked them about characteristics they’d identified that could cause problems. The potential issues ranged from a too-wide opening on the top of the bottle to a cap that might not twist easily enough. After taking these issues into account, the designers had a product they felt met user needs and made them feel proud.quartz bottle

A Kickstarter Success Story Based on User Needs

If the story behind the Quartz Bottle fascinates you, you’re not alone. One of the most impressive milestones in the product’s history is how it quickly achieved funding through Kickstarter. In only a day, it earned 600 percent of the total amount necessary to bring the project to life.Most of the Kickstarter content speaks to the clearly defined needs users have. It mentions the double-insulated construction of each bottle that keeps water cold for 24 hours or maintains its warmth for half that amount. Kickstarter page viewers also got details about how their decision to buy a Quartz bottle could save them up to $1,000 per year that they’d ordinarily spend on bottled water.Then, what about people who felt uncertain about whether they’d remember to charge their Quartz bottles to make them keep working? Since each charge lasts up to two months, they only have to make reminders for themselves six times a year. Quartz bottles are compatible with USB outlets, too, so it’s easy to power up the bottle while you’re embarked on a road trip or otherwise away from home.Speaking of taking your Quartz bottle on the go, maybe you’re a backcountry hiker or someone who otherwise needs to exercise special precautions before consuming water. If so, no worries! The Quartz has an adventure mode that increases the purification power for your peace of mind.All these features and others were part of the Kickstarter pitch, so it’s not hard to see why the project gained momentum so quickly. Not surprisingly, then, many customers (12,758 backers, to be exact!) turned their desires into pledges.

How to Purchase a Quartz Bottle

You might think such a high-tech water bottle would be a substantial investment. However, you can get yours for only $79 by pre-ordering it on Indiegogo (Another site that helped the product secure more backers).Choose from several pleasing colors to pick one that suits your personality or intended use. Pre-ordering requires being patient until June 2018 to get your Quartz Bottle, but you know what they say about good things coming to people who wait.Regardless of your current opinions about conventional water bottles, Quartz might manage to change them. Justin Wang and his fellow designers worked hard to create a product that readily eliminated consumer annoyances.This dedication paid off with successful crowdfunding attempts — plus a significant amount of positive press from news outlets and early reviewers.In several months, you might realize the Quartz Bottle makes you feel genuinely excited about drinking water and not polluting the planet while you’re at it. 
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Memobottle Raises Over $30,000 On Kickstarter In Under 10 Hours

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Memobottle
Jesse Leeworthy and Jonathan Byrt, the entrepreneurs behind Memobottle, designed a reusable plastic water bottle with a mission to decrease the use of disposable plastic water bottles and create a more sustainable society. Growing up in Melbourne, Australia they often saw heaps of disposable water bottles littering the beach. They decided to create a beautiful and reusable alternative to these disposable bottles. Their creations feature stylish design and durable construction to make them a solid accessory for everyday use.The Memobottle features a flat, flask-like design that fits in pockets, bags, and purses. The bottles are made of durable Tritan plastic, are BPA free, and dishwasher friendly. They are suitable for hot or cold liquids, and are freezer safe. Coming in three different sizes, Memobottle is a convenient and sustainable alternative to plastic water bottles. Their
Kickstarter campaign's success enabled them to sell the bottles in two new sizes. The slim Memobottle is a tall, elegant addition to a bag or purse. It holds 15 fluid ounces of water. The A7 Memobottle is the most compact. It holds 6 ounces of water and is perfect for kids and people on the go. Their existing A5 bottle holds 25 fl oz and retails for $36.Memobottle also has fun accessories like desk stands, lids, wrist straps and cases. Desk stands come in two dimensions and are copper plated. Lids come in matte black, copper, and stainless steel. Wrist straps and cases are made of leather.Their Kickstarter campaign is donating 1% of the money to a charity called water.org that seeks to increase access to clean drinking water in parts of the developing world. 1 in 9 people do not  have access to clean drinking water, and in developing countries without access to safe water and sanitation, women and girls spend an average of 6 hours a day collecting water. They are unable to attend school and stay trapped in a cycle of poverty. Water.org provides small loans to these families to enable them to access water easily and break the cycle of poverty.The mission, philosophy, and high quality products have made the Memobottle Kickstarter a resounding success with it raising over $45,000 of its initial $30,000 goal in just a few hours. 
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Interview: Max Temkin On Cards Against Humanity

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Brent Knepper Cards Against Humanity
Photo by Brent Knepper for Cards Against Humanity
Hillary Trump Cards Against HumanityInterview with Max Temkin.  If you have ever played the popular card game Cards Against Humanity, you are a horrible person. If you haven’t, prepare to die of laughter. To play, one person reads a question from a black card as everyone chooses the funniest white card from their hand to be chosen. It sounds simple, but with cards like “A big black dick.” and “Not giving a shit about the third world.”, you quickly realize that it is not a game for the weak.
During an exclusive interview with co founder Max Temkin, he tells us about business, Black Friday ideas, and doing things the Cards Against Humanity way. Best known for creating the game, he is also the cofounder of Blackbox, creator of Humans vs. ZombiesSecret Hitler, and Slap .45, and is on the National Finance Committee for Hillary for America. Though involved in politics, he does things a little differently, as you can see with America Votes with Cards Against Humanity. Like a true entrepreneur, the list of projects is endless. He describes himself as just a designer, but to think of him as just that would be foolish. Max Temkin is an inspiration for those aspiring to take their hobbies to the next level.

How did CAH get started?

Max Temkin - I've talked about this extensively in other interviews, but basically, the co-creators of Cards Against Humanity have a long history of making games together, and Cards Against Humanity was the first good one we play-tested. We put it out for free and it gained a cult following. Then we did a Kickstarter.

What are your backgrounds?

Max Temkin - I have a philosophy degree and I work on Democratic campaigns and elections. Some of the other Cards Against Humanity co-creators have backgrounds in economics, science, and advertising.

Why did you decide to create dick jokes instead of working in a different field?

Max Temkin - It was mostly a happy accident! We all still have outside interests, though Cards Against Humanity is my biggest project now.

When was your a-Ha moment?

Max Temkin - I'm not sure what that means! A time that sticks out in my memory that I knew Cards Against Humanity was pretty special was when I was play-testing it at college... I had a bunch of friends over in my dorm room, we were playing it and laughing, and more and more people kept coming over and joining. The laughter was contagious, and people kept coming in attracted by the spectacle. I saw that happen and I knew something special was going on.

How has sarcasm benefited your company?

Max Temkin - Not sure how to answer this one. We always try to find something earnest or authentic to make a joke about, and something that makes us laugh.

What is your on-boarding process?

Max Temkin - Is that like when you hire someone? We don't have a lot of formal procedures. Trin is our events director and is kind of in charge of office morale, so she helps people find their place in the company.Cards Against Humanity staff

Describe your office culture.

Max Temkin - We have a large open office that we built in Chicago, it's a co-working space full of our friends... other designers, artists, musicians, podcasters, and weirdos from around the city.

What is the best way to respond to negative feedback?

Max Temkin - I try not to get defensive and rush to defend myself... I usually take a moment to absorb the criticism, and then translate it into something constructive that I can act on. Sometimes people have constructive criticism that I can't act on, and I just try to make sure that they're heard.

Who are some influencers that you admire?

Max Temkin - I truly hate thinking of people as "influencers," thinking like that instrumentalizes all of the relationships in your life and makes them transactional. I don't know that you can think about other people in terms of being an "influencer" or not, and still view them as honest and emotionally available to you.

What is the biggest lesson you learned since starting CAH?

Max Temkin - It's been very hard for me to delegate and give work to other people... even when they're way better than me. Our design director Amy Schwartz is a much better designer than me, the best designer I've ever worked with, and I really look up to her. I know that she outshines me in every skill. But it's still emotionally so difficult to give up the work.

How do you determine a good employee at CAH?

Max Temkin - We look for kind, funny, and well-rounded people who are first good human beings and second good employees. We value a diversity of experience and viewpoint, and whether people have full, real lives outside of work.

What advice would you give to people trying to start their own business?

Max Temkin - Every good business that you admire figured things out for themselves. They forged their own path and came up with their own way of doing things. Apple does things the Apple way. McDonald's does things the McDonald's way. Cards Against Humanity does things the Cards Against Humanity way. Reading business advice and blindly following what other people did didn't get those companies anywhere, and it won't get you anywhere either. To make a successful company or brand, you need to start from first principles and figure out your own way forward.

What advice can you give people new to crowdfunding?

Max Temkin - Again the whole notion of "giving advice" on crowdfunding is kind of crazy to me. The whole point is to authentically figure out what you're about and how to connect with other people. Some advice I like from Matthew Frederick's 101 Things I Learned in Architecture School is that successful designers learn to make design decisions conditionally - that is, with the awareness that they may or may not work out as you continue toward a final solution.

Where do you see yourselves in 5 years?

Max Temkin - Tough question - I have no idea if people will still be playing Cards Against Humanity or care about us at all in five years. For the last five years, I've had a personal goal of making one small Kickstarter project a year. Sometimes they're really small and personal like my Maxistentialism zine. And sometimes they're huge public projects like my new game Secret Hitler. But I'd like to think that I'll still be doing that in a year.Cards Against Humanity

How did you come up with 12 Days of Holiday Bullshit?

Max Temkin - We needed to come up with some way to market Cards Against Humanity during the holidays that was funny and still had integrity. The first year we did a holiday stunt, it was a pay-what-you-want pack and we made $70,000, which we donated to charity. We felt like the next year we needed to out-do that. The blind subscription, where you pay us and get a series of mystery gifts in the mail, was a nice escalation. We did that for three years and now we're taking a break.

How often do you guys visit Hawaii 2?

Max Temkin - I've never been! I hear from lots of people who have been to visit, and apparently it's really nice during the summer.

What do you do with all the dumb ideas that people submit?

Max Temkin - Mostly we use them as kind of raw brainstorming ideas... I don't think we've ever gotten a crowd suggestion that went directly into the game.

What are some Black Friday ideas that didn’t make the cut?

Max Temkin - We probably investigate a hundred ideas that don't pan out to get to the one that works. The original idea was a $0.01-off coupon, but we ultimately rejected it because we felt that it was still a marketing deal. We always want to do something genuinely surprising and risky. This year's is going to be a doozy.

How did you come up with the idea for The Bigger Blacker Box?

Max Temkin - People asked us for a big box that held all the cards, and over my strong objections, we decided to give them what they wanted. This was the best product we could design that fit those needs.

A few Redditors mentioned that they want to send you beer. Has this happened? Have you received anything out of the ordinary?

Max Temkin - We've gotten all kinds of crazy gifts and things from people. I love that people feel like they have a relationship with us and want to send us stuff, I think that's a sign that we're getting our message out there and our voice is coming through. 
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