I was invited to United By Blue’s tour and tasting preview for their new store! Ethan — who you probably don’t recall was my point of contact for Lokal Hotel but he’s now over at United By Blue — emailed me out of the blue (ha ha ha) to invite me to their preview event, and after checking that I was indeed free that evening, I wrote back immediately to RSVP. I love United By Blue, their cafe, their aesthetic, their graphics, and their mission, so it wasn’t a hard decision. I stop by their cafe almost every time before my UPenn class if they’re not already full! I also asked Ethan if I could bring my friend Jennifer along because I knew she would be excited to check out their new shop; she’s been following their story for way longer than I have and appreciates them on a whole nother level. Also, I needed the company to support me through this social endeavor! (She was my company for Lokal as well!) I was nervous about asking for another invite as it was a closed event, but Ethan was so kind and quickly put me down for two.
I was surprised that Ethan remembered me, because as a marketing/PR dude, he must come across countless faces. Even now, I’m still not 100% sure… (This Tumblr post is so me.) I mean, of course I remember, because how often do I get to shoot at a hotel before it opens and also get to attend its launch party?? (Literally never except for that one time at Lokal.)
Sometimes I remember even the briefest conversations oh so clearly. But I know that not everybody does. And even I don’t all the time. So I just assume that nobody remembers me — I’m not a narcissist! But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve been trying to be more mature and realise that… I am a person… and that person is also a person… so we probably all feel similar things. People things. Maybe not at the same time and maybe not in the same situations, but some time sort of eventually possibly. Maybe that person remembers me but since I’m acting like I don’t remember (because I’m trying not to freak them out), they act like they don’t remember. And then we all just pretend that we don’t know each other and that no one has any impression of or impact on us and we’re like it’s fine but we’re also like why don’t you love me.
So I decided that I’d try to be the person that’s friendly to everyone and who cares if they don’t remember me (we’re meeting now so here’s another chance!), but if they do, then great! (Plus one achievement for the socially awkward introvert!)
But what if we’re all pretending?? Whether that’s knowing each other or not?? All this to say that I’m still not sure… I guess I’d rather pretend to know each other than pretend to not.
As you might be beginning to realise, it can be dizzying running these circles in my mind, especially when my mind is already feeling out of its element (aka, in any social situation). Despite how exhausted I felt after Lokal Hotel’s launch party, I threw myself into this event with United By Blue, knowing that it would take a lot out of me but hoping that I would get better at handling social events with practise. This is how I’ve been challenging myself to grow — by committing to things I’m scared of and hoping that they work out.
First, Jennifer and I arrived ten minutes early. We weren’t sure if it was a dip-in/dip-out kind of event or a structured event with a schedule. We assumed the latter, so we wanted to arrive on time. Such nerds we are. We ended up walking past United By Blue to sit and chat on a bench outside until it seemed like an acceptable time to join the party.
Once we got in, there were several employees there to greet and welcome us. We were feelin’ good! Jennifer and I made our way around the shop at our own pace, sifting through the products on display and making our way toward the cafe/restaurant. United By Blue has a few cafe and clothier locations, but this is their first-ever restaurant (exciting!). The two of us settled into the cafe/restaurant area, caught up with each other, and talked about thesis-ing and photography. Basically, we were in our own little bubble. But it didn’t quite feel like we were isolating ourselves because many of the guests hadn’t arrived yet.
I took a few photos (of course), grabbed a slider from the bar, and the two of us went to sit down at a table to munch and continue chatting. Now this part felt a little more isolated because everyone else was standing near the bar and chatting over beer. It’s not that I didn’t want to stand with other people, but given the choice to sit or stand, wouldn’t anyone choose to sit? Because… chair… so lovely…
In the middle of the event, everyone drew to a pause to listen to the United By Blue team speak (honestly, I love structured activities like this; being responsible for mingling on my own is all too much for me to handle). I’m having Jennifer pitch in for this part, because she can talk all day about United By Blue!
First of all, thank you Audrey for inviting me to this event, and for allowing me to write about a company I’m very passionate about. Before I launch into everything the UBB team spoke about at the event, I want to give a little backstory as to why I fell in love with UBB (which will tie into what they talk about, I promise!).
I discovered UBB during my freshman year of college, probably while on my neverending search for good cafes in Philadelphia. But there was something about UBB that especially drew me in.
It was their passion for the environment and the creation of sustainable goods. Their pledge states that “for every product sold, United By Blue removes one pound of trash from our world’s oceans and waterways.” That alone is a strong commitment to our environment, but UBB takes it a step further. Instead of donating a percentage of their profits to a third party, UBB strives to make real, tangible change by “getting dirty” and hosting cleanups at our waterfronts. At these cleanups, the UBB team and several like-minded volunteers go out to pick up plastic bottles, tires, appliances, bicycles, and even some abandoned trucks from rivers, streams, creeks, and beaches around the country. To date, the UBB team has hosted 208 cleanups and has removed more than 1,000,000 pounds of trash from our waterfronts.
In addition to this, UBB focuses on creating sustainable goods because they truly believe that the responsibility for the environment is ours, and it can start from the very items we consume. UBB’s goal is for both the company and customers to leave the smallest ecological footprint possible. It takes all of us.
As if that wasn’t enough, UBB also works to inspire and educate people around the country who want to give back to the earth. UBB hosts workshops and events to encourage people to get involved in giving back to our environment. I attended one of these events myself in August. At this event, UBB partnered with the National Parks Conservation Association and a couple other clean water partners to host a “Clean Water Advocacy Letter Writing Event,” where we wrote letters to to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, who has moved to repeal the Clean Water Rule and replace it with a new rule that rolls back the Clean Water Act and effectively threatens waterways and wildlife habitat in and around our national parks, as well as the drinking water sources for 117 million Americans. As someone who is very passionate about the environment and benefits deeply from our national parks (and drinking water of course), this event was right up my alley. I’m so grateful to UBB for making events like this accessible and for inspiring more people to make real changes in the world and in their own lives.
And now that you’ve heard that spiel about why I love UBB, I should probably get into the actual preview event that Audrey and I attended.
The co-founder of UBB, Mike Cangi, kicked it off and spoke about how the idea for this company came to be and about the impact they wanted to make. He also introduced this new space — cafe, clothier, and restaurant all in one! With this new space, they worked to bring the outside in by incorporating two cabins, floor-to-ceiling nature graphics, and tons of reclaimed wood.
Next up was head of cleanups, Kelly Offner, who also spoke about UBB’s mission, as well as exciting milestones and new goals for 2018, the biggest of which is to host a cleanup in all 50 states. Considering that UBB started off only doing a couple cleanups a year, specifically in Philadelphia, to where they are now, this definitely feels like a very tangible goal. Recently, UBB partnered with many other companies including REI to conduct cleanups in many states in the US including California (my home state!). I’m really excited to see how this pans out, and I definitely want to be involved in some of the more local cleanups this year! Maybe I can get Audrey to join me! 😉
Following Kelly was the cafe manager, Lisa Brayda, who shared her love for coffee and gathering. #relatable.
Last but not least was head chef, Jeff Carr. Chef! For their first-ever restaurant! With their camp- and waterway-inspired menu, UBB aims to provide food reminiscent of “Americana,” in the sense that you could forage it for yourself outdoors. Environmentally conscious as ever, their food will be sourced locally from farms.
As the evening danced on, who should I run into at the event but Kelsey? We had shot together once, attended Lokal Hotel’s launch party together-ish, and are both part of the PHLbloggers network. It was nice to run into someone I knew — comfortable and reassuring. Both of us were a little nervous about attending social events like Lokal Hotel’s launch party and United By Blue’s preview event (me more than her; I like, can’t function). She was saying how she was inspired by United by Blue’s story and wanted to introduce herself to one of the co-founders as a blogger to collaborate with them and share their message, which is certainly worth spreading! It was a daunting proposal, but she scrummaged up the courage and Jennifer and I wished her luck. Soon enough, she was back to say that the co-founder had encouraged her to look through the store and pick out products to feature. Damn I need to learn how to network like that. It’s not so much about the perks that I’m concerned with, but rather with the real connections that you can make.
You see, I’m the kind of person who is comfortable with just doing things myself. Too comfortable. You don’t need to tell me twice to “do me.”
I knew that I’d be writing about United By Blue on my blog. I was familiar with their story beforehand, and their team also just told us a bunch of stuff about it. What more did I need?
“I love what you’re doing.”
But like. You don’t need to know how I feel. And it’s not that I’m protective of how I feel. But I don’t really see what value my emotion has for you. Words are empty; whether or not I say them, I will be the same and you will be the same.
I’m learning that talking about feelings can be cathartic. But even that doesn’t really apply in this situation. (I can only imagine bursting with such love.)
“I love what you’re doing. I want to write about you. You don’t need to do anything more. Your existence is enough for me.”
I think I just need to figure out how to let someone know I appreciate them without sounding like a fangirl.
I’m also learning that compliments are not frivolous. Or maybe they are and it’s okay. I know that whenever someone tells me they enjoy reading my blog, my heart swells and I wish I could convey just how much it means to me that they take time out of their day to check in on this space. My readership is small but close. It hasn’t gotten old for me, and I don’t think it ever will. Beyonce, tell me, does people enjoying your music ever get old? (Not that I’m ever getting to Beyonce-level. I’m saying United By Blue is my Beyonce. WOAH CALM DOWN. I’m saying Beyonce to every earthly being is what United By Blue or anyone I want to compliment is to me. I don’t think that was any better. You get my point. Oh god. Right. Let’s keep it movin’.)
In summary: United By Blue, I love what you’re doing. (Also thank you for the goodie bag!)
(For each guest, United By Blue prepared a goodie bag of John Muir enamel steel mugs, Tacony hemp socks, and ‘no place’ enamel pins all bundled up in their gorgeous gift wrapping. If you’re interested in looking at United By Blue’s products, on my wish list is the cabin pom beanie, UBB namesake beanie, luna waffle sweater dress, national parks enamel steel mug, and evergreen enamel mug candle. For every product sold, United By Blue removes one pound of trash from our world’s oceans and waterways.)
The grand opening of United By Blue’s new flagship store will be on December 1st! You can RSVP on Facebook! This is not an ad!
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