The beginning of our story: Part 1
As we near an official launch date for the new name, look, feel, and rebrand of Gathered and Grown, I'm inviting you to stroll with me down memory lane to look back on the beginning of G&G, and the series of steps, missteps, and lessons learned that have brought the business to our exciting next evolution.
Let’s start at the very beginning (A very good place to starrrrt);
G&G beginnings Part 1: A love affair with Alaska
I came to Alaska 12 years ago by way of a budding career in environmental sciences. As a student in Environmental Studies, I was fired up about protecting the earth and lusting after a job that would let me spend my working days outside. I landed in SEAK at the tender age of 20 as an unpaid college intern working on a trail crew tasked with building a plank-step trail up the side of a mountain in a forested wilderness where it rained every. Single. Day. My midwestern flatlander self had never been west of Chicago. Had never laid eyes on a mountain in the rocky flesh. And then I flung myself to live on the side of one for 3 months. I was ruined, in the best possible way.
There's me, Angie, happy as a clam hiking on maybe the only day it didn't rain that first summer (;
I drank up every soggy inch of this wild, beautiful, rain-soaked country. I wanted to intimately know this landscape and I took every opportunity to explore, learn, and observe the plants, birds, terrain, critters, and history of this place. I fell in love with the close-knit small communities I spent time in. I was completely under the spell of this misty corner of the world.
After graduating college and seeking to spread my proverbial wings, I couldn’t make my way back to Southeast Alaska fast enough, and in 2010 scrapped enough cash together for a one-way ticket on the Alaska Marine Highway to the cozy island town of Wrangell.
My first years in Wrangell were spent kicking around seasonal field jobs collecting data and hanging with bears on Forest Service sites. Field seasons in remote locations offered the sweet simplicity of days spent outside soaking in the wild, with field books, bears, eagles, and curious seals to keep company. Field work evolved into office work with a regional nonprofit where I had the opportunity to blend my passion for the landscape with a passion for human and community connection. This work allowed me to experience and connect with the many unique little communities of our region, and to deepen my understanding of the ways in which people connect with their environment.
The work was engaging and rewarding, but somewhere deep inside I felt an itch for change, to use and stretch my brain in different creative ways, and to build something on my own. To explore other ways to connect with the natural world that got more to the heart of the matter with less grant and report writing. I started to feel what I would come to identify as a rumbling hunger for entrepreneurship…
Early sketches and doodles that would become G&G labels
I’ve always been a bit plant-obsessed in my personal and professional life. Poring over field botany books and challenging my plant ID skills on hikes and walks, studying herbalism and plant-based healing modalities, covering every spare foot of space on our tiny lot with raised garden beds to grow and tend to my own veggies, herbs, and flowers, and learning to forage, process, and cook with the wild edible plants of our backyard wilderness. The more I learned, the more I wanted to know, and the more fascinated I was with all the intricate ways our bodies connect with those of the plant world.
Around 2015 I started to dive deeper into studying medicinal properties of plants, especially those growing in and around my own backyard. I read every regional field book and herbal studies book I could get my hands on. I planted more medicinal and healing herbs in my garden. I started to mix and blend and boil up salves, oils, lotions and potions in our little kitchen. I filled spiral notebooks with notes on plant properties and formulas and ideas. I decided to learn how to make soap (with many, MANY horrifically failed attempts). I gave lip balms and bath salts away as gifts. I started to seriously dig this new way of connecting with nature by playing with creativity and alchemizing plants into luscious body care products that felt so good and indulgent to slather on my skin.
The very first bars of G&G soap! Each lovingly wrapped (and hot glued) by hand
And then I thought, “what if I dipped a tiny little toe into exploring this entrepreneurial hunger-pang, and tried selling some of this stuff?” I wanted to see what “small business” felt like. If I had the chops and the heart to really get into it. I wanted to know if anyone was remotely interested in these things I was making.
I reserved a table at our little town’s local Saturday community market, and low and behold, PEOPLE BOUGHT THINGS! They smelled and sampled what I had made. We smiled and chatted about plants and body care. And it felt SO GOOD to share something I had grown so passionate about with others. And a new little spark of joy and intrigue lit up inside my brain.
The early Community Market days, with a shower curtain-made tablecloth (:
I vended at more markets. I listened to feedback from sweet local customers. I bought more books, watched more videos, read more blogs, and made more oily messes in my tiny kitchen. I downloaded a 99 cent font and busted out my sketchpad to create our original hand-drawn labels. And I brainstormed a name for the business that would reflect my passion for these products – made from ingredients that I gathered and grew myself. And thus, Gathered and Grown Botanicals was born.