Social Impact Heroes: How Isabel Carranza-Gervais Of Ever Green Cloth Is Helping To Create Awareness About Sustainable Alternatives That Replace Single-Use Plastic
By Chef Vicky Colas for Authority Magazine
I had the pleasure of interviewing Isabel Carranza-Gervais, a seasoned digital marketer, is also a very passionate eco-warrior. She utilizes her 20 years of experience in the corporate digital world and applies them to her new adventure: Ever Green Cloth™. Her mission is to connect with like-minded people, motivate others, and create awareness about sustainable alternatives that replace single-use plastic and paper products for our homes.
Chef Vicky Colas (CVC): Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Isabel Carranza-Gervais (ICG): Originally from Mexico City, then moved to North County San Diego in the late 90’s to expand my knowledge of multimedia and technology. Which paved my career path into managing the web and digital teams for large medical manufacturers corporations for 17+ years.
Through the last 4 years I’ve been leading a boutique digital marketing agency in San Diego, CA — Digital Marketing Integrated. Focusing on providing businesses with customized targeted digital marketing solutions tailored to their business goals.
All through my life, I have been extremely passionate about the environment. Always thinking about the products we use and consume and the effect that these cause on our planet.
Coming from a culture, back in Mexico, where we are very good at giving every product a second life, whether it is a container, left over foods, clothing, etc., to a culture, here in the United States, where everything is disposable and one time use, such as paper towels, plastic cutlery, paper plates, plastic cups, etc. was a shocking experience to say the least.
This being said, I also realized that back in Mexico we did not have the infrastructure or programs in place to properly recycle items, like we do in the US. It was fascinating to me to see what one culture had over the other. One had the appreciation for utilizing products over and over and repurposing as much as we could, yet not having the proper programs to recycle, versus one that was all about instant gratification, one-time use, no hassle — no mess, yet having the right programs in place for disposing of items and recycling.
Working for corporations, then leading my own digital marketing agency, and also in my daily life and interactions with friends and family it became more and more apparent that I needed to take a stand for what I have been passionate about and privately doing on my own, which was to care for the environment by choosing better products. I wanted to join the eco-warriors by creating a brand that is not “green selling” but truly caring to make a difference for this world.
I realized that even a lot of the brands I was buying from, even though they were categorizing themselves as “eco-friendly”, they really did not care to connect with like-minded people nor to truly make a difference. They did not live what they preached and for sure they did not educate their customers on how to properly use and discard their products at the end of their life cycle.
Fast forward to today, I decided to utilize my knowledge and expertise in the digital marketing world to spread the word, create awareness and motivate others to join our efforts to choose better products for the planet. Saying no to single-use paper and plastic products primarily. Choosing sustainable options that are cost-effective, but also cute and fun to use. This is how Ever Green Cloth was born, a brand committed to bringing eco-friendly, biodegradable, and compostable products to the home & kitchen and also doing good by donating a percentage of our profits to nonprofit organizations dedicated to rescue animals, saving the bees and the environment.
CVC: Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that?
ICG: I started working at a very young age, back in Mexico City, helping my mom in her dental practice. Doing so made me grow up really fast and behave very formally in the business world. I always kept personal and business very separate. I worked hard for people to take me seriously, especially when I started working for large medical manufacturers leading their digital marketing projects and teams.
So, for the first couple of years of my digital marketing career I was very business-like, wanting to move up and be respected for my knowledge, experience and work ethic. Yet people didn’t know the real Isabel and all the other characteristics that made me who I am. I needed to understand that allowing people in and letting them get to know me could be very beneficial to my career and also allow me to form better relationships.
The tipping point for me for my success was when I met wonderful people throughout my career that allowed me to be myself and show that funny, lighthearted, and caring side, and balance it with the very business-like side I had always presented. This allowed me to connect with people at a deeper level and nurtured wonderful relationships that started as a business relationship and today are some of my closest friends, 20 years later.
Letting people in and allowing them to bring the best in you and vice versa is a really good thing in business. Also allows for better teamwork and successful results in business.
CVC: None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person or mentor to whom you are grateful who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
ICG: Well, I am very blessed because I have had a handful of people that have been very important in my career and also have believed in me.
One thing I want to mention is that throughout my life here in San Diego, CA I have met wonderful mentors at every job I had. I worked for MiraCosta College, a .COM startup and later on started working for larger organizations. The reason I mention this is because without those key people early on, I would have not been here now.
But, if I had to choose one (which is really hard), I would say it was Susan Slaughter. She gave me my first opportunity leading the web efforts at a larger nonprofit organization. Interviewing with her was the first formal job I was applying for in the United States.
Extremely nervous, I remember stumbling through the interview thinking my accent is so thick (as English is my second language) and I wondered if she could understand me, believe that I was qualified and was the ideal person for that position.
Needless to say, we had an amazing connection. She saw something in me and hired me. A couple of years later she left to pursue another job at a large medical manufacturing company. I was devastated to see my mentor and the person that so much believed in me go. To my surprise a few months after she left, she called to let me know about a webmaster opportunity at her new company. I immediately applied, interviewed with her boss and the rest is history.
She continued to be my boss and mentor for the next 7+ years and she was an integral person in my career. Teaching me how to maneuver working for corporate America (versus smaller businesses). How to work on larger teams, be inclusive, and always striving to do better and continue to move up in my career.
CVC: You have been blessed with great success in a career path that many have attempted, but eventually gave up on. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path but are afraid of the prospect of failure?
ICG: One of the many jobs I have had is to be a student ambassador for MiraCosta College. Even though it was a college job, it was one of my most rewarding ones because I saw that the work I did made a difference in kids’ lives. Being a student ambassador entailed going to local high schools to encourage kids that typically did not have interest in a 4-year college to at least consider a 2-year college, get a technical certificate and in some shape or form further their education to get better jobs.
And always be grateful and truly appreciate what you have accomplished throughout your career.
This experience has always made me want to help others by sharing my experiences and not giving up. I have tried to pay it forward and also mentor others in my area of expertise.
One thing I often say is that success does not come without failure first. I am not saying that one cannot get lucky and be successful right off the bat. I actually have had that experience myself working in my corporate jobs, but also have been on the other side of the coin when I decided to become an entrepreneur. It is a completely different ball game, having to re-adjust to new things and having a thousand new variables that one is not used to.
What I would say to those contemplating on giving up or starting up as an entrepreneur is that failure before success makes you learn from your mistakes and teaches you to be humble.
Never take things for granted and hustle all the way, but always being kind and compassionate to others. Surround yourself with experts in areas that you are not, nor have the time to spend time to become an expert. Learning and sharing knowledge with others makes you and your business more valuable.
CVC: Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main part of our discussion. The United States is currently facing a very important self-reckoning about race, diversity, equality and inclusion. This is of course a huge topic. But briefly, can you share a few things that need to be done on a broader societal level to expand VC opportunities for women, minorities, and people of color?
ICG: Yes, and thanks for asking that question.
I want to preface it by — I experienced first-hand what it is to be in a culture that was very male dominated (back in Mexico), then going into a career that again was very male dominated and also not very inclusive (here in the United States).
The reason I mention this is because it is not only the United States that faces these issues, it is a global issue and we can only hope to speak up and work towards changing things.
Let me get back to my beginnings back in Mexico City. As I mentioned before, I worked for my mom at her dental practice. Shortly after that I worked as a junior graphic designer at a local agency, thinking I was growing up and moving up in my career…. and was in for a wakeup call! I quickly realized something that most Mexican women in the work force experienced and it was the “double standard”. The chauvinistic treatment women got at this agency, and many other companies, was beyond words. I was only 19 years old thinking, my parents didn’t raise me this way, what is happening in the real world?
Thankfully my mom always taught me to speak up and never allow anyone to treat me with disrespect. I do have to say, I thank my mom for teaching me those survival and hustling skills. She was not just an excellent mom but an excellent first boss and mentor which shaped who I am now in life and in business.
So after moving to the USA and working at the college, and later on at larger corporations, I realized that even in a different country I was experiencing some of the same issues. Not to the same extent but in a different way. For example, I went into the web design/development area which is male dominated and primarily from the Asian culture. So here I am, a Mexican young woman, trying to infiltrate a new culture, new industry, and a new career. I felt, to say the least, overwhelmed and intimidated.
For the next 17 years I experienced all the roller coaster emotions of trying to move up and climbing up the corporate ladder, to show my worth to the company and so on. Even though throughout most of my career I was blessed with wonderful bosses that believed in me, there was always someone above that reiterated that it was a man’s world.
I quickly learned that in my career men moved with just the expectation or hope of performing at a certain level, while women moved up after they had shown their worth, had worked on the job for probably several years and had demonstrated results. This is when I thought the balance was, well, not balanced. Men were treated with the “potential” they could have, while women were treated with “experience and results” you have. Which in my humble opinion was not a fair playing field to compete on.
For almost 17 years of my career I battled this, fighting for ALL my employees fairly, not based on what culture or sex they were. I wanted people to be treated fairly and evaluated based on the knowledge and expertise they brought to the table.
After battling some of these issues at my last corporate job at Henry Schein Ortho and not getting anywhere, I decided to start my own agency, where I could lead my business as I have always wanted and treat people fair and square no matter where they came from.
CVC: What you are doing is not very common. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were going to focus on social impact investing? Can you share the story with us?
ICG: The Aha moment for me was working with businesses in my digital marketing side that truly did not have any regards for environmentally friendly practices. Me being so mindful of that and really trying, and I say “trying” because it is hard when we are surrounded by a society that is so used to using single-use everything, was really a an eye opening of the type of businesses I wanted to associated with.
I guess one day I realized that I wanted to contribute at a larger scale and not just do my own eco thing but “what if” I could use all my digital marketing skills and put them to good use. Connecting with the right people, sharing, motivating and truly making a difference in society.
Even though my career has been in digital marketing, I have always had the desire of owning an ecommerce business, and what a better one, than one that helps spread awareness about environmentally friendly choices. I get to do what I always wanted (with clients) and drive campaigns that are not just about selling but educating people on why it is important to start making some changes in our daily habits NOW.
CVC: If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?
ICG: I would encourage them to look at the choices they make in life. Are they based in their upbringing? Are they the right choices and do they align with their own beliefs? Do your own research. Not because you were brought up a certain way means it’s the best way. Things progress, technology advances, and I believe that people that have that desire to learn, research, and in a way disrupt the status quo are the ones making the biggest impact in society.
I like to tell people, if you do something because that’s what was taught to you but does not feel right, then look for alternatives. What resonates with you?
I have met many individuals during my Ever Green Cloth journey that are passionate about being environmentally friendly and yet, they were not raised that way. They found this calling later in life and that’s ok! Same thing for women entering a job or career that is male dominated, go for it, be courageous and never stop dreaming and work hard for those dreams.
CVC: We are very blessed that a lot of amazing founders and social impact organizations read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you’d like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this. :-)
ICG: Sheryl Sandberg. I read her book Lean In years ago and so much of what she said resonated with me. Also, some of what she has had to endure losing her husband has been something that I saw my mom go through when I was 11 years old and my mom 34. It’s a tragedy that no one ever expects it, and my opinion should live through — but that’s life. Living through it, pushing through the sadness, uncomfortable times, and turning into something positive takes a lot of courage and determination. I would absolutely love the opportunity to just meet her and have coffee with her.
CVC: How can our readers follow you online?
CVC: Thank you so much for this. This was very inspirational, and we wish you only continued success!
Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film, Sports and Tech. Authority Mag is devoted primarily to sharing interesting feature interviews of people who are authorities in their industry. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.