To meet endless demands for new trends, fast fashion companies churn out cheap and accessible items. But at what cost?
One Pam Corbett doesn’t want us to pay. Pam is the founder of Sea & Grass, which sells bags handwoven from seagrass, a marine plant abundant in Thailand that can get cut and thrown aside. Rather than letting it sit discarded, Sea & Grass repurposes the plants through traditional Thai weaving methods.
During a time when the fast fashion industry is responsible for between 2 and 8 percent of global carbon emissions, Pam’s products defy fashion trends based in the present. Hers are grounded in traditions hundreds of years old, where handwoven creations helped sustain a healthy economy and ecosystem. There’s a balance to her creations, an emphasis on regeneration rather than removal, and this balance is mirrored in her approach to wellness.
Pam’s entrepreneurship and wellbeing philosophies brim with joy, hope and resilience, and I had the pleasure of speaking with her about her insights into nurturing both your business and your health. Her advice? Start with eating a cookie.
Beth Doane: What inspired you to find the intersection of natural products, charitable values and your cultural heritage to create Sea & Grass?
Corbett: Sea & Grass combines my love for natural products and my Thai roots. During my many trips to Thailand to visit relatives, I discovered seagrass. Thai artisans weave the seagrass into gorgeous bags and baskets. With the support of my family, I began to design handbags by keeping the Thai artistry and adding Western flair and touches. In many ways, the bags represent my American background and Thai ancestry; the bags represent the beauty of both worlds.
As a small business, my garage in Southern California became my warehouse, and we began selling bags at farmer’s markets and connecting with other local companies.
But we wanted Sea & Grass to be more than just a bag. So a portion of our profits goes to the Areeya Scholarship Fund. This fund helps send impoverished Thai children to school by paying for their educational expenses. As we grow, so does this fund and its incredible impact.
Doane: What has been one of the biggest challenges of growing Sea & Grass? How did you rise above them and move forward?
Corbett: Growing Sea & Grass has been extremely challenging. Like many other businesses, we had continuous supply and shipping issues throughout the pandemic. Our costs tripled in a few months, and shipments that would typically take a few weeks would take months. One shipment arrived, sat in the warehouse for weeks and became moldy. We had to clean hundreds of bags by hand. This was a hard day.
Despite these issues, we kept going, planned ahead and refocused our energy on expanding wholesale partnerships and growing the retail side of the business.
Doane: Your business is steeped in sustainability. How do you focus on sustainability for yourself, through wellness practices and habits?
Corbett: I’m lucky because my mom is an extremely healthy person (both in mind and body), and she taught me about healthy choices and habits at an early age. After my children were born, she’d visit and make me my favorite Thai dishes and insist I’d rest to heal my body. She taught me that it’s necessary to take the time to rejuvenate, even when you have a new baby. Then, before she left, she’d fill my freezer with yummy dishes. Her commitment to cooking and eating for wellness helps me make those same choices. But some days, I just want a cookie!
Doane: Aside from letting yourself have a cookie when you want it, what are three wellness tips that you implement in your day-to-day to achieve a positive work and life balance?
Corbett: 1. Fit in exercise any time you can. For example, I take meetings in my car in front of my gym some days. This way, when the meeting is over, I can get a workout in. It’s not ideal, but it works.
2. Don’t be so hard on yourself if you’re not perfect. A healthy lifestyle is a life-long mission. It’s a marathon. Some days you need to have a little fun. And that’s okay.
3. A healthy mind is just as important as a healthy body. Take time some days to do nothing, meditate or think happy thoughts. Dance with your kids. It’s essential to let go!
Doane: What advice do you have for those looking to combine their passion for wellness or sustainability with business?
Corbett: We need entrepreneurs. Especially women entrepreneurs. Sometimes your passion project becomes your livelihood. I like to think of it as one foot in front of the other. Or, in my case, one bag at a time. Believe in yourself!
Doane: Finally, what is a quote that you live and practice by?
Corbett: “What you think, you become. What you feel, you attract. What you imagine, you create.” Buddha