Friends, Neighbors, Transformation & Easter

It’s been a time of transformation for me. My life looks nothing like it did two years ago. It’s not been easy, and I’ll admit that although I was surrounded by love, I was crying in my room on Easter Sunday morning.

Luckily, I have a sweet daughter and we sat together and I explained that I simply could not believe my life had turned out the way it did. I love Easter. I love having an Easter egg hunt, going to church, and cooking. I love hosting the holidays and making everything beautiful and special for everyone.

My daughter assured me that I have so many people who love me, and she’s right. I also have more wonderful friends than anyone deserves to have. So, my girl and I put on our dresses and went to brunch with friends where we had a wonderful time, then we came home and changed clothes and then went to a stunningly beautiful and elegant dinner at the home of our neighbors. In the end, it turned out to be one of the happiest and most memorable holidays I’ve ever experienced.

Last weekend, I was at a BBQ with my other neighbors and they told me that they watch over me. I never really doubted this, but it was nice to hear. Later, that night my house alarm went off at 2:30 a.m. and I wasn’t even scared. I was only inconvenienced to find my backdoor unlocked and blown open by the wind. That is how safe I feel. I know it is a blessed and lucky thing to feel this safely held in the network of people who surround and support me.

Today, I attended a women in business function followed by lunch with two of my favorite people. We ate our lobster salads and sipped our green tea on a rainy afternoon in Danville, California. We talked about our thriving careers and kids, and all of our exciting plans for our shared futures. It was inspiring to be surrounded by other entrepreneurs who are fearlessly living their passion and dreams.

I’m not where I thought I would be at this point in my life; married, safe and secure. Life had other plans for me. Life expected me to live up to my potential. The circumstances required that I step up in a big way. I’m so much more now than I ever dreamed I could be. Life is the master teacher clearly, and we either strengthen and rise, or we don’t. Now, I think of myself as nothing less than a warrior and nothing scares me, not even an intrusion alarm in the middle of the night.

Love and blessings to all.

Spreading the Love American Made Apparel

In fashion there are many moving parts and many people who touch the product while it is produced. I often have to remind myself that we are making something out of thin air. I am not just running a business that sells sustainable sailing apparel, I am also manufacturing sailing apparel. The fun part is designing the product, but honestly that takes the least amount of time.

It’s widely known that most of the clothing that is sold in U.S. stores is made in China or somewhere like China. I often wondered why this is so. It’s a history lesson of sorts. The U.S. hasn’t endured the upheaval of other countries that often fosters the type of industrial revolution necessary to spark the infrastructure necessary to make clothing. The garment district in New York City at the turn of the century is where most of American clothing was once made. This is where the most beautiful garments of our time were produced. Although it still thrives, it is very much out sewn by other countries and the polluting fast fashion industry we have grown accustomed to.

The U.S. economy currently is based on service as opposed to manufacturing. Sweatshops overseas now do most of the manufacturing of the U.S. apparel market.

Manufacturing in Los Angeles has been a comedy of errors. What they committed to taking five days, has taken five weeks. They blame each other for the delays and there is one error after another. Sometimes, they even blame us, but we just laugh about it.  Honestly, if I didn’t have a business partner who is cool, calm, and clear headed in the face of adversity all would be lost. I’ve never really been thrown under the bus by a woman at work before, but I have recently been accused of being “emotional” when I was being a business woman who demanded accountability.

Our pattern maker, our project manager, our embroidery house, our zipper manufacturer and our seamsters all work together to make our jackets. This is only after the 6 months we spent milling our beautiful custom 100% Merino fabric. Its archaic, but they actually use Uber to move pieces of fabric around. Coordinating so many moving parts is no easy task as each entity has it’s own timeline.

I took three trips and spent nine days in our factory over the past month. Still, it is a painstakingly slow process. Text messages fly around daily in coordination and it is easy to see why China is a preferable option to the process in L.A. Nevertheless, we are committed to sustainable products produced ethically on U.S. soil.

Someday, it will be a smooth operation. For now the errors, mistakes and mishaps are a learning tool for bettering our future operations and production processes. No one can ever accuse me of not understanding the process.

Love and blessings to all.

Sunnier Days

While in Los Angeles last week a homeless man approached me with a crow bar while stopped at a red light. My doors were locked and my windows rolled up, but he was inches from me. At any moment, he could have shattered my window, and pulled me out of the car. Andrew was with me, and the man moved around the car to the passenger side, and screamed at him as well. We couldn’t understand what he was saying, but he was menacing and terrifying. We were three blocks from our garment factory on Maple Avenue and we encountered him not once, but twice with the same experience. As much as he startled us, it’s hard to say what he might be going through to cause him to act this way.

Later, back in Berkeley Andrew and I stopped into Hoi Polloi, a peaceful place that brews beautiful beer. We both ordered a pint of “Sunnier Days” pale ale, and laughed about our recent trip to Los Angeles. We’ve had some challenges, but we expected them, not exactly as they arrived, but we knew what we were trying to do wasn’t going to be easy.  In some ways, I feel blessed that I will have so many funny stories to tell my students about starting Ocean SF as this has been such a great lesson in not allowing anyone or anything to deter you on your path to following your dreams. No one said this would be easy, but it will certainly be worth it, as it is the common experience of anyone who has ever succeeded at doing something that challenges them.

It’s called a challenge for a reason.  Looking forward to sunnier days.

Love and Blessings

News 24/680 Columist

In recent days, I’ve been discussing writing a column for News 24/680. I will be writing a weekly column covering topics such as entrepreneurship, women in business, and work life balance.

I am honored to have this opportunity to work with this experienced team of journalists and share my insights and opinions on topics that are close to my heart.

My first column will be published in the near future and I will share this link and future links here.

Although, I look forward to serving this new audience of readers, I will continue to write my posts here as before.

It is certainly true that we never know where our path in life will lead. Becoming a news columnist is certainly a fun and exciting twist in the road.

Love and blessings.

Sailboat Races & The Corinthian Yacht Club

My business partner was racing today, and in 30 plus knots of wind, I might add. So we went to the Corinthian Yacht Club in Belvedere, California to meet him. This is a stunning place all around. I walked upstairs and there was no one around except a man drinking a margarita and talking on the phone. I took a seat and we both looked out over the San Francisco Bay. There were maybe 100 people in the bar and deck below, but it was supremely peaceful and comparatively quiet on the second floor.

Sailing has become my life. Not just the sailing, but the lifestyle and the people. After the Corinthian, on the way home we stopped to put the tags on the boat, however the wind made this task better for another day.

I went into the clubhouse and there was a Jazz band playing. Several friends were there, so I joined them. The jazz band played on as the winter sun slowly set over the San Francisco Bay.

Love and Blessings.

Smooth Sailing

The last months of the year surprisingly brought a tremendous amount of fun. My precious daughter was home from college, my friend Jeff was home from Colombia, my business partner and I attended some very interesting and enjoyable Capital fund raising events, and it was my birthday which brought a few weeks worth of parties, lunches and celebrations.

Now, everyone has left and it’s just Siena and I again. When I’m not spending time with her, I am working ten or more hours per day on our nonprofit The Trident Project, and Ocean SF, and on the book I am writing about grief.

I believe in setting intentions, achievable goals, and then tracking to these on a daily basis, so I am also planning my course of action for 2018 and in particular the months ahead.

Over the last eighteen months, I consistently thought of my progress as being one of laying a strong foundation. I had no other intention than to lay this foundation. I spent a good deal of time thinking about my own happiness and what I needed to do to one day arrive in a future where I could use my talents, share my wisdom and make a difference in the world. My nonprofit The Trident Project, our sailing apparel company, Ocean SF and my blog were all born from this intention.

Recently, I’ve been thinking about my character and how to improve myself in this regard. Over the past year or more, this hadn’t entered my mind, but now I want to be a better, stronger, and kinder version of myself. To do this I am turning to my books and writing to find this wisdom, and spending time by myself again.

After a week of near solitude, over the weekend I spent time with friends. On Friday night out to dinner with the girls, then Saturday on the water with the Race Committee for the Midwinter Yacht Races. I helped to check in the racers, then went to the bow and raised flags for the start.

It was beautifully calm in the morning and then, luckily, the wind picked up for the race that afternoon. I spent time with my friend Fran, it was her birthday, and we sat in the sunshine, and wind, eating lunch as she told me about her life. It was truly a beautiful and idyllic day.

Afterward, I met my business partner and his girlfriend for drinks. We’ve been friends now for long enough to have some very funny memories, many of these included our early days sailing and hanging out at The Olympic Circle Sailing Club, where I met our mutual friend and my Sailing Instructor Tom Dryja.

While I was in his class he would say things like, “Sydney, that’s a beautiful knot, but it’s upside down and backwards.”

Over the course of my many days learning from him, 18 sails that first winter, I gained much respect for him, and his ability to teach the complexity of sailing to even a dyslexic like myself.

Eventually, I could tie all my knots correctly and now I own a boat.

This proves to me at least, that if you set foot in the direction of your dreams, they truly can, and do, come true.

I look forward to 2018 being one of smooth sailing not just for myself, but for everyone.

Love and blessings.

Newfoundland, Sailing & Gooseberry Jam

I’ve had a walk down memory lane recently. My cousin, and I have been chatting, he’s twelve years my junior, but we’ve always had an affinity for one another. When he was six he would hide from me, but I could always hear his laughter and quickly find him. When I was twenty I spent a summer in Vancouver B.C. and I spent a lot time with him, and his little brother Jeff and their dog, Lucy.

Now, he’s the father of three little girls and he calls me every so often to check in. No two people could be less alike. Mostly, we talk about raising our girls, or our favorite topic business. He’s also a very successful entrepreneur. And I’m not surprised, he was wicked smart as a kid. Now, he has a beautiful wife by his side, and they work together building their business and raising their children.

We talk a lot about the large family we come from. My mother was the oldest of twelve, and his father was the oldest son, Daniel, named after our grandfather, landing at number five. My cousin has a different perspective being younger and having grown up in Canada, in both Newfoundland and Vancouver, British Columbia.

I love to hear his stories of the things I missed. Not only is he wicked smart, he’s wicked funny as well, and everything he says carries our ancestral shared sense of humor, which is our birthright.

Talking to him recently made me nostalgic for Newfoundland, my mother, and her people. I pulled out the Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Shipping News, by E. Annie Proulx from my bookcase. She writes there is no place like Newfoundland, six thousand miles of coast blind-wrapped in fog, snow in May, a place of ghosts and magic.

That’s the Newfoundland that I remember.

However, what I miss the most is the language of Newfoundland, when Proulx wrote the novel, she said she went to sleep with the dictionary of Newfoundland under her pillow, for over a year, to get it right. But, it’s not the same to read it. I wanted to hear it. So, I watched the movie, it brought back memories of my grandmother’s house and her fresh bread, warm from the oven, smothered in butter, sour cream, and gooseberry jam, and the way they spoke there was almost musical, a melody to their words that can’t be explained.

Of course, there were always parties, and it was so much fun, with so many people around, and everyone inevitably gathering together in the warm kitchen drinking tea or whiskey from a tea cup with a saucer, no less.

My grandmother’s house was rambling with five bedrooms upstairs, and three below, she always kept it in perfect condition with freshly painted walls, and fresh wall paper in the hallways. It had a stately mahogany staircase and even a tiny telephone room at the second landing, where you could talk in peace, the floors were covered in red and blue rugs, the furniture in velvet.

My mother’s room was small and cozy at the front of the house, but my grandmother put me in my grandfather’s room the last time I was there. It was large with a fireplace, and a view of Portugal Cove Road, and the Memorial University Medical School Campus, and beyond the sea. My grandmother slept on the other side of the house overlooking the pond where the children ice skated in winter when they were young.

Last night, I went to sleep dreaming of Newfoundland, the icy tundra, the hypnotic crash of waves on rock, the smell of fish, weather and salt. It felt so strange to wake up to sunny California, my Meyer Lemon tree and the Christmas party I am planning.

Somethings remain in our blood forever.

I know these roots are what made me a sailor, I knew this the first day. I felt it immediately, I was completely comfortable, and at home on a sailboat.

The past always informs the future.

Love and blessings to all.

Marin, Tim Parr & Caddis

Being your own boss has many benefits, one of them is meeting up with interesting people in beautiful places. Today, in Marin, I sit outside in the sunshine having lunch with the legendary Tim Parr, who’s been a driver behind iconic brands like Patagonia, Kona, and L.L. Bean to name just a few.

He’s just launched another company called Caddis, an eyewear company. It’s all about lifestyle, check out their Architects and Custodians page here, it’s about creating change, generating ideas, and spawning creativity.

I’ve been trying to get a meeting with him since last summer, after an introduction by mutual friends, the Finegold’s of Tart, as he is very experienced in working with Merino wool. It was certainly worth the wait. He gave me some great advise for Ocean SF, aside from reassuring me that we were on the right track; he advised we take our time, and make the highest quality product possible. It will take as long as it takes. True that.

We’ve taken a great deal of time to create a sustainable product that is both beautiful and environmentally responsible, and after a year and a half of working diligently, orders will begin shipping in the next few weeks.

It’s been a journey, with many twists and turns along the way, but ultimately there is nothing more rewarding than seeing a vision you created with friends on a sailboat come to fruition. This is something Tim Parr completely understands.

What an inspiring guy. And he bought me lunch. What’s not to love?

Check out his company at caddislife.com.

Love and blessings to all.

Boyfriends, Mountain Tops & Being an Environmentalist

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Mt. Bachelor, Bend, Oregon 1986

My high school boyfriend taught me how to ski by throwing me down the face of Mt. Bachelor. He took me down a treacherous black diamond trail, ironically called Texas, that ran from the top of that mountain straight down to the Lodge. It was one of the most terrifying episodes of my life, but I soon mastered the basics and was hooked.

At Oregon State, my then boyfriend, took me on a ski trip my freshman year. There was nothing about it that I didn’t like. I loved spending time in the cabin with friends, skiing all day with the snow falling, and sitting at the top eating lunch overlooking a vast and pristine valley.

Many ski trips followed, including one to Whistler, Canada with my Alpha Phi Big Sis Susie White, also an avid skier.  We could not of had more fun.

I didn’t think of myself as an environmentalist then.  I only knew that I loved nature.  And there wasn’t anything I enjoyed more than skiing down a snowy mountain with the people I loved.  I realize that what I valued most was the serene and unspoiled beauty of these landscapes.  I was blessed to be able to share this love with my own children who spent the majority of their childhood in Lake Tahoe, winter and summer, either skiing, hiking, or paddle boarding.

When I found sailing, I felt the same way about it.  I love the beauty of the ocean, the gorgeous Islands that sit off of San Francisco, the inlets around Tiburon and the incomparable beauty of sitting on a boat as the sun sets behind the Golden Gate Bridge. These settings and the people I am with have combined to create some of the most priceless moments of my life. So, that is why I am an environmentalist.  I think in many ways, we all are environmentalist, we have to be, it is no longer a hobby, but a necessity of this life.

The Trident Project, our nonprofit, has an Ocean clean up scheduled for the end of January, 2018.  We will be partnering with Save The Bay, and will provide an environmental education component geared toward the elimination of plastic usage, as well as a clean up effort to remove plastic and other garbage from San Francisco Bay (I will share more as we get closer to the date).

Along with all the other environmentalists, or nature lovers, I will dedicate my life to preserving these beautiful places for the people I love, my own children, and all the children that come after them. I can’t imagine a better way to spend my life.

Love and blessings to all.

Whoever Said it Was Easy Must of Had it Pretty Good

The life of an entrepreneur is wrought with untold obstacles, stress, and fight or flight inducing fear. If this were easy, then everyone would be doing it.

I’ve worked for four start ups, all of them successful, but I took note of the downfalls, the set backs, and the inherent doubt and confusion involved. So, I knew exactly what I was getting into when I started Ocean SF, but the lure of following my own dream, making a meaningful mark on the world, and being my true authentic self was too great. Safety and security and a known path in life can be beautiful, and I’ve done that as well, but stepping onto an unknown path is another matter all together. Taking this risk has summoned my upmost courage.

From the beginning, the obstacles along the way have not deterred, or surprised me. I expected them quite honestly, and regardless, I continued on knowing in my heart that I was on the right path, and there was no turning back.

Now, the fabric that we went to hell and back to manufacture has shipped. We looked all over the world for this fabric from LA, to NYC, to Italy, France, China and Bangladesh. We had everyone looking for it, and we rejected countless samples. Finally, we had no choice, but to acquiesce, and mill it our selves in our custom colors, most significantly Safety Orange. It took four solid months! Believe it or not, you can’t buy sustainable wool fleece, not like ours and not anywhere in the world. You can buy polyester fleece all day long for cents on the dollar, but it pollutes drinking water, and does not keep sailors, or anyone else warm if it gets wet. There is nothing like it for performance outdoors.

Our fabric is custom milled for Ocean SF of 100% Merino wool. The exterior is tightly woven to keep the wind out, the soft interior to keep you warm, while regulating body heat. Anyone can wear it for any sport. It’s beautiful, machine washable, and so on.

I’ve been conducting focus groups. And no surprise, everyone who sees our jackets, touches the fabric and tries it on absolutely loves it. Thank goodness!

To see the light at the end of the tunnel finally, feels so good. If it were easy everyone would be doing it. Follow your dreams people! Find what makes your heart pound and do that.

Love and blessings to all.