Blog: Bena Burda

Call the term "taking ownership" a cliché, but that's literally what's in the works at some local businesses. This week, Maggie's Organics founder Bená Burda writes about forming 100% worker-owned co-operatives, from Nicaragua to North Carolina to Michigan.

How Maggie's Organics Was Rooted

Maggie's Organics is thrilled to be hosting the Concentrate blog and getting a chance to reach out directly to our local community.

First, we would like to say that we had a blast earlier this month at the Green Fair and Mission Zero Fest with! Thank you to all who stopped by, we hope you are enjoying your free pair of Maggie's a2energy socks! (If you missed out, click here).

In the spirit of these great local events, we wanted to talk a little bit about why our Michigan community is so important to us. There is no doubt that Maggie's Organics has always been focused on the "big picture", establishing worker-owned cooperatives and developing fair trade and organic standards internationally. But as our business grows, it has been easy to lose sight of our local community and what it has meant to us throughout the years. A2 and now Ypsi have been incredibly supportive places for a company like ours to call home, and meeting old and new friends at various events over the past few weeks has inspired us to reflect on our recent 20-year birthday and the value of our local roots.

Maggie's beginnings can be traced back to a small condo on the west side of Ann Arbor in 1992, where orders were processed on the kitchen table and invoices were filed next to the bed. After moving to California for a few years and buying her partner out in 1997, Maggie's founder Bená Burda followed her heart and chose to come back home, first to Ann Arbor and now to Ypsi. Though an unpopular decision at the time, it turned out better than anyone could have expected. Maggie's loves calling Southeast Michigan home for the same reasons that many of us are drawn to live here year after year: a community of creative minds, a collective spirit of support, and a vibrant multicultural environment, all embedded within a grounded Midwestern atmosphere.

We are also particularly grateful for residents' passion for environmental sustainability and social consciousness, which is why we are so excited about our recent collaboration with the city's Clean Energy Coalition. We created a special Maggie's organic cotton sock with the logo, which was introduced at the Green Fair and Mission Zero Fest. The socks are being used to educate us all in conserving energy as we help our eco-city grow more green. What started out as a quick conversation with A2's Environmental Coordinator Matthew Naud has evolved not only into a cozy organic cotton sock, but it has also made Maggie's realize how crucial it is that we engage locally.

So while we appreciate that local residents may buy Maggie's products because they share our values of environmental sustainability and social responsibility, we don't want our interactions to be limited to an occasional purchase of our merchandise. Just as we have worked hard to develop personal relationships with the 2,000 farmers growing our organic cotton in Nicaragua and the families in North Carolina that knit each pair of our socks, we want to continue strengthening our connection to the vibrant Michigan community in which we live, work and play on a daily basis.

As we look forward to spending more time with the residents of Ypsi and A2 in the future, we want to pause and offer our heartfelt thanks to those that have supported us throughout the years. Sometimes it can be easy to lose sight of your immediate surroundings as a business, but we know that without this local encouragement, we would not be sitting here today. Our ultimate goal is to ensure that the connections Maggie's has built within this dynamic Michigan community remain an integral part of our values and our identity.

A2 photo courtesy of Maggie's Organics