Being Present And Empathetic in Times of Crisis

By: Adam Yee (Former Food Labs Manager, Austin)

Hi, I'm Adam Yee and I'm a food scientist. I've made products like chocolate, jams, protein chips, granola bars, protein bars, deli meat and plant-based meat. I also love podcasts and have my own called My Food Job Rocks which has over 200 episodes.

We’re in a stressful time where everyone in the world has to adjust to this new normal. I feel that no matter what business you’re in, it’s not business as usual. Some do have it worse than others, but everyone is affected by the pandemic in some way or another.

But there’s a silver lining through it all.

Through the darkness, there are a lot of people who’ve stepped up and have given back.

Right now, you have a choice on how to spend your time. If your business is struggling, then, by all means, focus on stabilizing but if your business is not struggling and you have a little bit of wiggle room among the chaos, then now is a good time to think about how you can contribute back to the world.

I've been observing a number of digital communities that have inspired me through the efforts they've made to give back.

On Being Present

To set the tone, it’s very important to be present.

Check your emotions.

If you choose to post on social media, post about the present because it's more valuable and that's what people are focused on. Take time to understand and acknowledge people's emotions, why they're angry or frustrated.  

After you’re done noticing the present, let’s now focus on empathy.

The Empathetic Investment

Companies who invest in empathy will be paid back in dividends in the future. Helping a neighbor whether local or virtual won’t only make you feel good, but the people you help will remember that you were there for them.

Pivoting some of your time to helping others will pay off, but it can’t be tactless. It has to be consistent and it has to be transparent. Investing in empathy takes time, resources and effort.  

Here are some examples I’ve seen that have really made my day. These examples focus on solving pain by showcasing empathy through a variety of different companies and platforms.

  1. If someone lost money through a canceled expo, offer them a free consultation call. After Expo West was canceled, Jeremy Smith from Launchpad Group offered his time.
  2. Collaborate with like-minded companies and use their assets (delivery or product) to send gift baskets. Renee Dunn’s company Amazi Foods has collaborated with several companies to offer valuable digital content and care packages.
  3. If you have a podcast platform, shift some of your content to focus on interviewing people or companies about the situation. My favorite platforms are all shifting to COVID-19 content and it’s valuable. For example, Tim Ferriss is doing this. I'm also doing this as well.
  4. Host a webinar or a Happy Hour using Zoom. Anyone can do it and it’s really easy. Startup CPG is one example of a small group hosting happy hours for entrepreneurs.
  5. Do a live cooking demo or product tasting. My friend Alison at Ends+Stems had a lot of success doing this.
  6. Use your digital platform to write valuable content. Like this piece!
  7. Curate content about local restaurants and publish pieces on where to find restaurants that do takeout. Maybe even review them like A Taste of Koko in Austin is doing.
  8. Make branded face masks (if it fits your brand) like Kendra Scott or deliver your product to hospital workers.  
  9. The WeWork Food Labs team has been having daily virtual meetings with our small team of five. We talk business, but also have fun. This has made me feel more connected to the team.
  10. On a personal note, engage with people close to you. Pick up the phone and call someone. Your dad, your mom, or your best friend, or someone you just haven't spoken to in a long time. Do an activity like JackBox, Animal Crossing or even Dungeons and Dragons to connect with friends all over the world.

Probably the most beautiful thing about this from a food industry lens is seeing the industry's leaders stepping up and offering their advice for free. One of the most helpful non-profits in the food world, the Naturally Network, has been hosting a string of very valuable webinars. CEO’s of companies such as Lily’s Chocolate and Thrive Market, Seth Goldman from Honest Tea, and from Gary Hirshberg from Stoneyfield Organic have been offering support and encouragement. Though they are all fighting for the same share of stomach, they understand the entrepreneurs in pain right now need their leadership to help guide them through this crisis.

But never underestimate the value you can bring right now. People always feel like they won’t have a big impact but all that matters is showing you care. Good deeds don’t go unnoticed and at the end of the day, it’ll help one person feel good about what they’ve done.

And that’s you.

If you're interested in connecting with like-minded mentors directly, please visit the Mentor Directory on the Member Portal or ask your Labs Manager for assistance.

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