District Boss Interview: Danielle Vogel
Meet Danielle Vogel, Founder of Glen's Garden Market in Dupont Circle
If your favorite grocer doesn't have a background in politics, are you even in DC? Meet Danielle, the owner of everyone's favorite local shop, Glen's Garden Market, and a woman who spent a decade working to enact comprehensive climate change litigation on The Hill. While we love Glen's fresh and local products, we adore their conscious approach to every aspect of the business. Glen's has been a role model for the local community by working to make the shopping experience environmentally friendly in every way possible. They've also supports local business by helping launch so many other great brands we've come to love, and many owned by women through their AccelerateHERdc initiative! Read on to learn about how Danielle has built her beautiful empire!
1. Tell us about your business!
After spending a decade on Capitol Hill trying to enact comprehensive climate change litigation, I opened Glen's Garden Market on Earth Day of 2013 to make incremental climate change progress -- we do it by serving Good Food from Close By and growing partnerships with producers who treat their land, their animals and their ingredients with respect. Glen's is a vibrant grocery, craft beer bar and deli in Dupont Circle (at the intersection of 20th and S Streets), but it's also a mindful change agent. Every single decision we make for the business is made with the environment in mind, from our rigorous sourcing standards, to our no-food-waste mandate, to our community compost program to our decision to offer only reusable bags. In five years, we've also launched 79 local, small food businesses that share our commitment to sustainability, of which 44 are owned by women. We call it making progress, one bite at a time.
2. What lead you to where you are today?
When I graduated from college, all I wanted to do was work for my hometown Congressman and hero, Christopher Shays. I landed a job as his domestic policy advisor and absolutely loved it. Eventually, I decided to go to law school so that I could be a more effective Hill staffer. When I graduated, I accepted a job at the Department of Justice, enforcing the Clean Air Act. After that, I returned to the Hill to work as Environmental Counsel to Senator Lieberman. Ultimately, I concluded that Congress was not willing to take progressive actions to address climate change, so I took matters into my own hands, founding Glen's Garden Market specifically to make climate progress through every single decision we make as a business. It's incremental, but it's undeniable. We call it manually advancing the Mission :-)
3. What brings you the most joy when working in the shop and bringing vendors in?
Over the last five years, we've launched launched 79 local, small food businesses that share our commitment to sustainability, of which 44 are owned by women. When a person with a dream of starting a great, mission-driven food brand approaches us about selling in our store, and for the very first time in their journey, they hear the word "yes" from a retailer looking to be their advocate, it creates a very special connection. We've created a true family of mindful food makers, and that's simultaneously a very exciting, and extremely delicious way to do business. To commemorate our fifth Earth Day Birthday, we founded a business competition called AccelerateHERdc, which looks to identify and amplify the next great, local, woman-owned food concept in our region. The competition will culminate in a live pitch competition at the store on Earth Day (April 22), and the winner will walk away with a $10,000 no-strings investment, an amazing media exposure package and an opportunity to access mentorship from some of the most badass ladies in the local food movement. This is a REALLY exciting time for us.
4. What’s the best part of being an entrepreneur? The most difficult part?
Every day I get to walk into the physical manifestation of my lifelong intention/the stress never, ever stops, or even slows.
5. How do you stay motivated and continue to grow, personally and professionally?
Motivation has never been a challenge, and truly must be integral to your DNA if you're going to be an entrepreneur. There is no mailing it in. There's no such thing as a tomorrow problem. You're on all of the time, in front of everyone, and there's no time for procrastination whatsoever. If you're not deeply and passionately motivated, keep your day job, and all of the incredible perks that come with it (evenings, weekends, holidays, a certain paycheck...).
In terms of how I grow personally and professionally, I read a lot of books, especially about subjects where I have exposures (emotional intelligence). I also participate in an amazing group of like-minded grocers called the Good Food Merchants Collaborative. It's an awesome source of collaboration, support and encouragement. I also love to peep the opposition. You'll often find me taking photos a-plenty in the aisles of my competitors' stores, which by the way is a completely mutual phenomenon.
6. What’s your nighttime routine?
Half a bottle of red (my amazing, brilliant, supportive husband, Ken, drinks the other half), with my dog in my lap for a few episodes of Shark Tank or The Profit.
7. What’s one piece of advice you would give to other entrepreneurs in your industry?
Start with twice as much money as you think you'll need and hire a terrific accountant. Refine and revise and revisit your vision obsessively and consistently before making your first big move. And start small -- it's a lot easier (and far less expensive) to build than it is to contract. Finally, you're the only one who will be there from the very beginning to the very end, so trust, but verify.