Entrepreneur and Author Meena Harris discusses how we can come together, unite and support each other as we navigate through the COVID-19 pandemic.
You are Founder and CEO of an incredible company called Phenomenal. Can you explain to people what the company's mission is all about?
Phenomenal, inspired by Maya Angelou’s “Phenomenal Woman” poem, is a female-powered brand that brings awareness to social causes, such as achieving equal pay for women of color; ending family separation at the border; celebrating the positive contributions of farmworkers; combating anti-trans violence; and building political power for black women. By getting Phenomenal products, you're not only making a bold statement in support of social causes, you're also supporting the critical work that's being done on the ground by fearless nonprofit organizations every day.
You wrote a new book called Kamala and Maya's Big Idea. That's based on a true story from the childhood of your Mom and Aunt. What inspired you to write this book?
My entire life I've been surrounded by strong, fearless women: my mom and my aunt, of course, but also my grandmother. I was raised by them to believe that no dream is too big if you work hard and stay focused. Now that I'm a mom to two girls of my own, I know that’s not just a story I want to pass on to my daughters, but also a value system for them and their generation. That's what I hope to do with Kamala and Maya's Big Idea.
Your book is currently available for pre-sale in partnership with local bookstores from around the country. Why is it so important for us all to support local bookstores during this time of uncertainty?
Local bookstores are not just where we go to buy books — they’re also the backbone of so many communities. They support authors, they are community gathering places, they widen our worlds, and they connect us to one another. Even before this crisis, it was important to me to encourage readers to support independent bookstores. Especially now, when the future of so many small businesses is uncertain, I hope readers will support local booksellers online so they can continue to operate and thrive. I personally can't wait to walk into Green Apple Books (one of my favorites in SF) when all of this is over.
We are currently living in unprecedented times as the U.S and the world fight against COVID-19. How have you been handling the situation thus far in your own home?
It’s a really scary time for everyone, but we are trying to maintain as much normalcy as possible. As an entrepreneur and someone in the tech industry, I’m accustomed to working remotely, so I already have things like a dedicated workspace. But we’re also trying to keep a regular schedule for us and our kids. At the same time, I’ve tried to let go a little. I haven’t felt like exercising much, but I’m doing a lot of cooking, which is nice for my family and a stress reliever for me.
For those who are currently at home and self-quarantining, what are some things we can do to help out our local communities?
If you have anything to spare, whether it’s time or money, please support people in need. I’ve personally focused on raising awareness around anti-Asian racism as well as raising money for emergency relief funds that support domestic workers and farmworkers. It’s an overwhelming time, and so many people are impacted, but my best advice is to focus on one or two causes/communities and really lean into those.
When you look towards the future, what do you think is going to emerge from this crisis we are currently dealing with?
My hope is that our society and state and federal governments come out of this with a lot more respect for hourly workers who have risked their lives on the frontlines of this crisis, and that we actually treat them as the essential workers they are, including providing safe working conditions, paid leave and hazard pay, and a living wage.