Interview // Devin Donaldson, Founder & Chief Optimist of The Optimist Co.

Tell us about your business / current project.

I founded The Optimist Co. three years ago to bring natural cleaning products to our customers with ingredients they could easily read as safe. My industry is full of mistrust with green-washed labels and confusing ingredients. I wanted to help inspire others to make natural choices for cleaning but also educate and inspire them with what is safe to clean with. Our business has evolved over the past few years and our customers are loving our new and fully customizable subscription options.

If you could describe yourself in five words, what would they be?

Optimistic (of course) 
Resourceful
Energetic
Collaborative
Motivating

How can young women get involved with an organization like The Lady Project?

When I began my business it was a complete switch for me professionally. I felt a little lost at sea with all I had to learn and it could get overwhelming. Being able to talk these challenges through with other women in all stages of their business and professional growth is key for success. You also get to be part of a group of women who are doing "it" and that is different for everyone. What matters is that you share that motivation and drive and share support to take your dreams out of a what if and into what's next.

Talk about the importance of finding your tribe.

Being part of a group like The Lady Project provides a network women can access to not only grow professionally but grow through career and business pivots as well. You can't do it alone. You need a tribe that has your back and that you can lean on during the hard times and also celebrate the good times.

Why did you choose the career that you have?

You think you are on one path and a few other paths tend to find you. I studied forest ecology in college and then switched majors to business. I then took a break from consulting and did Asthma Education with Americorps. A few years later a natural cleaning product gave me an asthma attack and I ended up starting a natural cleaning product company. I feel like I was always on this path without even knowing it. Now I am working on a few new projects as well that continue to leverage what I have learned as a product based business founder. 

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How do you think your work helps women locally and nationally?

I hope I serve as an example to other women of what you can build in your local community. My primary customers are national yet I can run and build my business from my small, local community on Cape Cod. I do have to go a little further to network sometimes and it took me a little longer to find my tribe and support but it's not impossible. You can't always move to your ideal location to start a business and sometimes making it work at home can really be an exciting opportunity as well.

What current events do you think are impacting you or your business directly right now?

It's an amazing time to run an online business. I am able to in a few hours add functions to my website like a subscriptions model that would have taken months and a large expense to have custom built in the past. That being said you can go a little app crazy so you need to have a plan for implementation and testing.

What's the best piece of advice you've ever been given?

I was told to just go for it by my family and friends when I was just getting started. I had very little money to fund my idea so I sure lived that idea of a minimum viable product. Instead of being afraid to fail we have to be willing to test our ideas. You will not know unless you try and you only improve by testing.

If you had a theme song, what would it be and why?

I'm walking on Sunshine. I always dreamed of walking out on stage and that song came on. I think we can achieve and do more with positivity then negativity. It's not always easy but every time I have though how do I make this more personal and positive my message has always resonated more.