5 Questions: Featuring ‘Atmos’ Sustainability Magazine Founder Jake Sargent

founder interview Apr 21, 2021

Jake Sargent is a leading voice in sustainable design companies, in part because he takes such a holistic, multi-pronged approach. 

He’s the founder of Atmos, a sustainability-minded magazine and media company that considers environmental issues through a design and culture lens. 

On top of that, he cofounded Magic Hour VC in 2017, and has since backed companies that further environmental consciousness, human wellness, and cultural resonance—like Buffy sustainable bedding, Seed probiotics, Naadam fair knitwear, and This Saves Lives snacktivism products, to name a few. 

Given his wide and deep knowledge of entrepreneurship in service of sustainability, we asked him about inspirations, essentials, and what it means to really think big in this space. Watch the full interview right here:

 

Q: Who are two people inspiring you right now?

Jake Sargent: One thing that really came to the forefront this year is the role that capitalism plays in oppression, and in the exploitation of people and natural resources. I think it's really important we educate ourselves on  the harm caused by maintaining the status quo.

Two people that I'm currently learning from on social media are Sonya Renee Taylor (@sonyareneetaylor), an author, poet, and social justice advocate and Jeffrey Marsh (@thejeffreymarsh), who teaches on self-acceptance and being non-binary.

I think as entrepreneurs it's important we don't put ourselves in a box, and we're always seeking out opportunities to expand our worldview.

Q: What's one thing that a business can’t thrive without?

Jake Sargent: An organization can’t thrive without product-market fit, and an organization rarely thrives when there’s not momentum in the space it operates with.

There are exceptions to the rule, like the idea that’s so forward-looking that it creates an entirely new category or sparks a shift in directions. In many ways, those are the kinds of ideas we need right now, that completely reinvent the wheel in pursuit of a more sustainable and equitable future.

But as a general rule, stay closely connected to your audience and follow where the momentum is in the broader market or culture (as long as it aligns with your values!).

Q: What’s a lesson you’ll never forget as an entrepreneur?

Jake Sargent: When building your team, trust your instinct, create space for collaboration, and ultimately, don’t let anyone crowd your vision.

As an entrepreneur, you are at the helm of whatever it is that you are doing. Your continued passion is the most important ingredient for your brand or organization’s success. Hire people who you respect and who share the same respect for you.

Q: How do you navigate failure? 

Jake Sargent: Rapidly! Failure is an opportunity to fix what didn’t work and try again. If you get too emotional about failure, you might miss the opportunity to evolve whatever it is that you want to be doing into a version that’s successful. 

Q: What are two tips you would give to an entrepreneur on building a sustainable business?

Jake Sargent: It’s not enough to be incremental, particularly in the fashion space. It’s not enough to incorporate organic cotton or a recycled polyester. It won’t excite your customer base, and it won’t excite potential investors if you are raising capital.

Look for ways that you can be truly innovative—new material innovations that you can incorporate into your products (mycelium-based fibers, regenerated cellulose fibers) that are low impact and bio benign, or new systems approaches that are truly circular. Take the risk.

Think holistically and make sure you are walking the talk. You can’t separate environmental issues from social justice issues. What’s your product made of? Who’s on your team? Are your hiring practices proactively inclusive? What’s the carbon footprint of your shipping? Do you understand what’s happening in your supply chain and who is making whatever it is you are selling? What does the end of life for your product look like?

There’s a lot to think about, but as you think through these different areas you’ll find opportunities to innovate and differentiate yourself.

 

Meet the author:

Katheryn Thayer is a writer and brand strategist in New York City. Follow her on Twitter: @KATontap.

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