What’s the status of your business? Did you have to pivot, go online, temporarily close?
We actually launched Herbert right when COVID-19 became a reality in North America. We had to pivot away from our launch plans: our launch event, for example — a lunch for press — was scheduled for April 7th, and that’s been postponed. Fortunately we were planning on launching with a strong push toward D2C so we had the backend and operations in place. In the end, we’re selling a beverage that requires some education (i.e what are the herbs in the drinks; what can they do for me?; what is their history of use?; what do they taste like?) and we were super excited to be on the streets and in Greenhouse stores and other small retailers and restaurants/cafes/bars sampling our product with customers, talking about it with them, getting people excited. These are things we haven’t been able to do. Instead, we’ve created more printed, educational content to send with our sample packs and have pivoted our Instagram approach to one that’s more educational and informative than one that’s solely visual.
What’s been the hardest part of this pandemic for you?
On the Herbert business side: we’ve been working toward this launch for three years. We’ve put a lot of time, energy, love and hard-work into getting to this point. There’s been some disappointment because we were so charged and ready to get the drinks out and get people excited about them and we haven’t been able to do that in a way that we expected. That being said, there’s nothing like receiving positive feedback from customers and friends who are trying Herbert for their first time and finding joy while quarantining in their homes.
On a personal side: My husband (and business partner) and I both got the virus the first week of March before the quarantine period here in New York. There was a lot of unknown at the time and a total lack of information shared with the public about symptoms and treatment. It was a very strange time and work was busier than ever. I remember being so exhausted that I had to eat dinner in the bathtub. I’m also 38 weeks pregnant so there was definitely some added stress about what COVID-19 meant while pregnant and fear around the hospitals. And relatedly, since we live in New York and my parents live in Toronto, they won’t be able to come meet the newborn, which has certainly been a big emotional challenge to work through.
What can we as a community do for you?
As a community, we would be so appreciative if you took a chance and tried something new — Herbert. We are so in love with the product: it’s tart, refreshing, hydrating, effective and delicious, and we believe that people just have to try it to fall in love. (Drink chilled!) As summer approaches, it’s a perfect replacement for a sugar-filled sparkling soda / iced coffee / second or third cocktail… I am so jealous of everyone in Canada who has access to it (we haven’t started selling into the US and I dream about opening my fridge one morning to Herbert-filled shelves)!
What advice would you give women?
I might reframe the question to ‘what advice would you give pregnant women’ right now, if that’s ok?! I’d say: find community and ask for help. One of the best things to come out of this period has been the decision to change health care providers for the pregnancy and birth. We are now seeing two midwives who have made it their mission to develop a strong community and support network over Zoom. Every evening, we participate in a guided healing and meditation session with our midwives and the other pregnant women and partners who are seeing these midwives. We look forward to our sessions every night and to seeing the other faces who have now become friends. Though we can’t meet in person, it’s been an amazing lesson for me: feeling supported, cared for and loved is the foundation for a healthy pregnancy and state of mind. Asking for help is OK and necessary. Seeing how resilient and creative everyone has been during this time has been super inspiring.
What is your greatest hope right now?
My greatest hope right now is for my family, friends and community to stay healthy physically and psychologically and mentally at peace as we approach month four of quarantine. My greatest hope for myself is to have a smooth labor and a healthy baby.
What are the 3 things keeping you sane?
1. My husband (and Herbert co-founder) Lee. He’s been working so hard so that I can find time to do yoga, get the house ready for the baby and take long walks.
2. Our cat Haruki. He’s the most loving little soul.
3. The support from my midwives!
ELEVATE! We are committed to representing much greater diversity of BIPOC women in this series and are now asking every female food founder we feature to spotlight a BIPOC woman from their own network.
Toronto-based Jana Zaibak, founder and CEO of healthy snacking company Nomz, has been actively hiring female refugees for years and credits them for much of her business' huge success. She points to her own Syrian-Canadian background and the positive experience her parents had as newcomers to Canada in the 1980s as inspiration.
Update: since the time this interview was completed, Deeva has given birth. Both mother and child are happy and healthy.