StartHuman founder leading Northern Nevada conscious business movement
RENO, Nev. — It’s Friday, April 6, inside the Hub Coffee Roasters on Riverside Drive in Reno, where a group of people with direct and indirect ties to business — from an investor to an entrepreneur to a politician to a professor — are huddled up in lively conversation.
They aren’t talking business, though. Instead, this group is talking about changing the dialogue of how business is conducted in their community, Northern Nevada.
The grassroots movement derived from the recently closed Northern Nevada chapter of Conscious Capitalism, which launched in June 2015 and dissolved this past Feb. 2018, said Amber Barnes. Barnes founded the local chapter and is now leading the newly spun-off conscious business movement through her Reno-based company, StartHuman.
“The goal is the community, and raising consciousness in business and consumerism in our community,” said Barnes, sitting in the conference room of StartHuman, which works to re-humanize the workplace and beyond. “And I don’t want a national organization that kind of has their hand over what we’re doing. I basically said ‘StartHuman is taking this (conscious business movement) over.’ To make sure people are still interested and engaged and care about this movement.”
Barnes and Co. are challenging companies in Northern Nevada to think about the impact they have on humanity beyond profits, beyond meeting the bottom line.
After all, “Capitalism is one of the most powerful engines or systems that we have in the world today,” Barnes said. “Large businesses have more power than I think we want to admit that they have. So if we want to make this world better for human beings, if we want to make it better for future generations, than we have to go through business; business will be the thing that changes everything else.”
A soulful approach
Fact is, according to the World Health Organization, most of the world’s population spends at least one-third of their adult life at work, contributing actively to the development and wellbeing of themselves, their families and society.
“We ought to think about the impact that it has on our children, on the earth, on our relationships, on our families, of what happens when you send a human being to work in a toxic place where they’re getting their souls sucked,” Barnes said. “And how that contributes to other problems that we have around addiction, abuse all of these other things that we’re trying to solve. I think a lot could be solved if we had healthier workplaces.”
So where does the local conscious business movement come in and what will it aim to provide?
Barnes said an initial goal of the movement is to develop a strong core of people in Northern Nevada who can facilitate conscious thinking among leaders, employees, business founders, business owners, and even educators.
Barnes said the group — through workshops, mentoring, and coaching — will educate and help them see that there’s another way to answer the question “why are you in business?” or “what’s the purpose of your business?”
Added Barnes: “When you have a better answer to that question that’s more soulful, that’s more aligned with where we are as human beings, you get better productivity, you get higher profitability.”
Members of the movement will also bring back ideas percolating from across the country as well as look for opportunities to get Northern Nevada business leaders regional, national and global recognition for their conscious business practices.
“We want to change the dialogue and start sharing more stories of businesses — small, medium, large, for-profit, nonprofit — that are thinking differently about how they are making money, how they approach making money, how they approach employing people,” Barnes said.
wells fargo factor
On the other end of the spectrum, Barnes pointed to Wells Fargo, which is struggling to move past a scandal over having created roughly 3.5 million fake accounts from Jan. 2009 to Sept. 2016. Two months ago, in February, the Federal Reserve restricted Wells Fargo’s growth, citing “widespread consumer abuses and compliance breakdowns.”
“They were putting so much pressure on their team to sell, sell, sell,” Barnes said. “They’ve lost, I think, not only billions of dollars in reputation capital, but they’ve also had to do massive layoffs and they’ve really created a kind of a hostile environment. And none of that needed to happen.”
Barnes should know. She worked for the embattled San Francisco-based bank from 2004 to 2011. Though Wells Fargo hadn’t been exposed for the fake accounts until well after she left, Barnes said her exit coincided with the realization that there are companies that do go above and beyond doing business ethically.
This, Barnes said, was the precipitous for her starting StartHuman and spearheading the Conscious Capitalism chapter-turned-conscious business movement in Northern Nevada.
The culture effect
One local business that values this movement is Simco Imported Shoes, said Lindsay Bradley, operations manager at the Sparks-based shoe distributor.
At Simco Shoes, Bradley said, the culture is “transparent and trusting” and all lines of communication between employees are open regardless of one’s job or title.
“Everyone is heard, everyone has a sense of ownership and feels involved when that happens,” said Bradley, who’s been with the company for about two years.
Bradley said when she joined the company, helping existing employees recognize their own skills, giving them training to learn new skills, promoting growth, and opening a dialogue about ways to improve certain areas were her goals.
It wasn’t long before she saw a hop in the step of Simco Shoes employees.
Specifically, “Our customer service department just kind of blossomed,” Bradley said. “We already had good feedback from our customers and end-users of our products about our customer service. But they had now taken ownership and woven that with that they do and, in turn, exuded the confidence and excitement to our customers.”
Notably, Bradley has helped Barnes create workshops and coaching strategies to foster similar conscious business practices.
To rev up the re-launched conscious business movement in the region, Barnes has reignited the Conscious Coffee Chats, held at 7:30 a.m. on the first Friday of the month at Hub on Riverside.
Barnes said the attendance typically ranges between five and 15 people, though she suspects it will grow.
“We have a vibrant business community,” she said. “When you go in some place, you want to feel that they’re happy and that they love what they’re doing. They’re doing it with purpose and fulfillment. I think there’s an opportunity to make that part of our brand. So that’s why the focus, for me, needs to be on Northern Nevada.”
The $625,000 deal included a low-interest SBA 504 loan facilitated by Nevada State Development Corp., the state’s largest SBA 504 loan provider. City National Bank partnered in the financing package.