Hello! This post is part of a series about our team values at Mind & Mountain and the ways that we practice those values within our programs and behind the scenes.
What does it take to build a business and a community that lives the values of inclusivity and equity? At Mind & Mountain, we’ve been on a journey to do just that. Whether you participate in Mind & Mountain’s programs or you’re a business owner looking for ideas, we want to provide transparency on our approach and our learnings (so far!) about implementing equitable business practices.
We want to point out that we are eternal students on this path. Equity and liberation aren't a box to check off once, but a practice in which we will always have growth potential and room for improvement. We’ve developed our current processes for transparency and accountability with the help of leaders in this field (primarily Black women) and we are excited and grateful to share those processes with you.
This is the first of a blog series highlighting our efforts toward equity and liberation at Mind & Mountain. Transparency is one of the ways we can build equity into our businesses, so here goes! Today we’ll make three short stops on our journey: sistering support, payment plans, and equitable employment practices.
Let’s dive in. First, what do we mean by equity & liberation?
So, what do we mean by equity and liberation? To help break down these concepts, we have included visuals (above and below) from our favorite resources that provide a zoomed-out view of what equity and liberation looks like. Equity embodies the idea that rather than providing equal help & support to everyone, we prioritize granting individuals access to the specific resources they need for their well-being. It recognizes the unique needs of individuals, and accounts for resources they, their bodies, and their identities need to survive and thrive -- in this case, inside our fitness, outdoor recreation and mental-health focused community.
This visual gives you a good representation of the imbalances that exist in reality. While equality seeks to place everyone on the same-sized block, equity acknowledges that individuals require different-sized blocks to truly have the experience they desire. However, the ultimate goal we strive for is full liberation, where barriers are completely removed, allowing everyone to have an unobstructed and inclusive experience. And full liberation is at the heart of all the work we do.
These two visual capture why we prioritize our focus on equity and liberation within Mind & Mountain. These visuals serve as a powerful reminder of the values we hold dear and motivate us to continue our journey towards equity and liberation.
“Sistering” is a construction term in which a post that’s holding up too much weight is supported by additional posts on either side. This is such a great metaphor for what we’re after with this program: helping to take some of the weight off those who are carrying a lot right now.
As one example, sistering can mean providing support for anyone who is experiencing challenging life circumstances like financial hardship. It also applies to those with marginalized identities who are navigating this world in BIPOC, queer, disabled, or fat bodies, as well as anyone else who is under-represented in the world of outdoor recreation.
Our Sistering Support Fund is made possible through two sources. First, those participating in our online programs are invited to donate to the fund if they are in a position to do so. Funding also comes from the sales of Mind & Mountain gear and occasional event fundraisers: 100% of these proceeds go toward Sistering Support.
We accept applications for Sistering Support year-round, and offer awards at the beginning of each round of Summer Strong and Ski Babes (a total of six times yearly). Applicants fill in a short survey to start the process. We approve applications for funding as a team, providing full and partial scholarships with prioritization to those with under-represented identities and financial need.
We launched our Sistering Support program in April 2021. After the end of its first and second years, we shared summaries of the impact and status of the program–you can read first year wrap here and the second year here. Here’s a current summary of the data as of this writing:
We are thrilled with the success of the Sistering Support program in such a short time, and it won’t be going anywhere anytime soon! We are so grateful for and honored by both those that have donated funds to the program as well as those who have applied to receive support.
Check out our Sistering Support Page with links to apply and donate!
Sistering Support isn’t the only program we’ve implemented to bring equity pricing to our community. Another important part of Mind & Mountain’s commitment to accessible pricing is offering payment plans at no additional cost. That means no interest fees or up-charges. Plain and simple, we break the program cost into chunks and leave it at that. Payment plans allow access to people from a wider range of financial circumstances, without adding even more financial burden on those who already need flexibility.
To be extra clear here, this approach to payment plans does come with increased risk and cost. We invest admin time into managing missing payments and cancellations, for example. And while it’s not common, sometimes we do have situations where the client is not able to complete payments, which translates to lost revenue for our business.
As our business has grown, we felt comfortable prioritizing this option for our community, but it’s important to acknowledge that not all businesses may be in a position to absorb the risks, and that’s ok.
Payment plans have and will continue to be available not only for our online training programs, but as often as possible, including for other services we may offer in the future, too.
The Sistering Support program and the payment plan option are just a start to equity for our consumers, and we are constantly learning and considering ways to both revise these programs and add new ones.
When I think about business and best practices, equity for the consumer is crucial, but it doesn’t end there. Equitable practices for myself as an employer, and my employees are also incredibly important. We need our whole team to be supported and thriving, so we can sustain our impact on the world.
The foundation of being an equitable employer is through compensation and benefits. At Mind & Mountain we endeavor to both pay living wages and also provide an intentional benefits package. In this way, we are actively working to run the business in a way that feels liberatory, fair, inclusive, and yes - equitable. These benefits also set the tone for a work culture that’s in line with our values. For instance, very flexible working hours and paid time to work on passion projects help our whole team stay in balance and avoid burnout. We also provide an office stipend, professional development funding, and profit sharing to our team. Compensation and benefits will always be a work in progress as our business evolves.
The prices for our programs all take into consideration the priority of providing support to myself and to my staff. Through fair pay, we can conduct our internal business and hiring practices in a way that feels inclusive and supportive. We want our jobs to support our lives, and not the other way around.
As a team, we read The Anti-Racist Business Book by Trudi Lebron this year and had open conversations about what we learned. I (Sarah) studied with Trudi in her equitable business mastermind, and would highly recommend this book as an excellent place to start if you’re interested in learning more about how to create equity within your own workspace or organization.
Many of the above strategies were also informed by my work with Kelly Diels, a feminist business coach who has helped me develop language and a business model that supports my values & vision for the world. Kelly taught me that citation is a feminist practice, and you can read more about her and the many other influences on my work on our Lineage Page.
Continued learning and growth on the DEI & social justice path is an ongoing part of this journey as well. We’re always evaluating our strategies, soliciting feedback, and looking to make improvements to our business processes and structures.
While incredibly important, financial accessibility is just one of many strategies to create equity within my business. We’ll dive into more depth on our internal diversity, equity, and inclusion practices in a future post.
If you’re interested in diving deeper into equitable practices in business and the outdoors, here’s a (non-exhaustive!) list of leaders and thinkers in the space to follow and learn from:
This blog marks the beginning of our equitable business practice series of posts that we'll be sharing over the next few months. Stay tuned for more blogs coming your way soon!
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