“Biophilia” at 1Million Cups

Our February presenters both promote a healthier you

Last Wednesday as the audience at 1MillionCups of Central NH settled down with their coffee, our first presenter invited us to close our eyes and picture the place where we were happiest. Marlena Sevigney, the creative mind behind Mindful Making, then pointed out that most if not all of us had pictured a natural setting. This reflects our inherent biophilia, or desire to be close to nature. Her career centers on helping businesses and homeowners to bring that outdoor feel indoors to create environments that make us feel happier and work more productively.

Citing studies that show increased productivity and happiness when companies provide soothingly natural spaces – and the vast preference of Millennial workers to be in a wholesome, pleasant environment – Marlyena shared a slideshow of highlights from her firm’s portfolio. Surprisingly, ”bringing Nature inside” did not have to mean wall-to-wall, needy plants. Many of her makeovers were a matter of playful but tasteful color schemes and incorporation of natural materials like wool, clay, and wood. A windowless conference room you only went to when your calendar said you had to, became a cheerful and soothing place to bring your laptop and coffee to work on that report.

A definite improvement over the first slide!

Our second presenter, Willows Plant Based Eatery, provides more literal natural nourishment in Concord’s one and only vegan establishment. (“Don’t Panic: It’s Organic!” reads her restaurant’s Facebook page). Owner Willow Mauck hadn’t necessarily been planning on running a restaurant but it was in her blood, given her mother own’s Susty’s Cafe in Northwood. But when Cafe Indigo, which previously operated in her location, shut down, the landlord really wanted to replace it with another vegan restaurant and pitched the space to her. Willows thrives because of its farm-fresh, healthful offerings… and because the regulars are extremely passionate about it, often coming in several times a week.

Both businesses were facing growth challenges. In Mindful Making’s case, the business is based in the rural town of Holderness and Marylena is working hard to get the word out. As the MillionCups audience has many Chamber of Commerce members, they had several enthusiastic ideas about marketing ideas to try. These included speaking to charter schools that are already trying to provide better alternatives to the institutional norm, and to assisted living and mental health facilities, where a supportive environment means everything to the well-being of the residents.

Willow has a road map for the ways in which she would like to grow her restaurant, but faces several obstacles. Although she has done well with staffing in an industry where it is often a struggle, she is constantly cooking which makes it difficult to step back and plan, let alone get away at times. The seating area is also small, but closing down for a renovation means a temporary drop in business revenue. Considering most of her clientele is not strictly vegan or even vegetarian, she would like to persuade more diners to give her cuisine a try. Much of her marketing is done word of mouth, but given her close proximity to two theater venues, the audience really wanted her to team up with her neighbors for “dinner and a show” marketing. If she were to sell alcohol, they also felt there was an unserved niche market for organic wines and beers. Perhaps a coupon campaign could dare the meat-and-potatoes crowd to see if seitan and quinoa could leave them just as satisfied?

It was a great pleasure to hear from two growing businesses that are helping Concord thrive on several levels and hope for a follow-up presentation to find out what strategies have worked for them.

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