Interview with Imani Maxberry, Fort Berry Alternatives

Introducing the story on Imani Maxberry and Fort Berry Alternatives

Can you tell us a little bit about your background/history that has led you to this point?

I was born and raised in Southwest Atlanta, GA. Environmental awareness was never something I thought about until my senior year of high school. At the beginning of the school year, I was asked whether I wanted to take AP Physics or AP Environmental Science. I didn’t want to take physics, but little did I know that in my environmental science class, I would find the thing I would want to commit the rest of my life to. Since then, I haven’t been able to take my mind off of how to improve the status of the environment. I thought it was insane how I had gone my whole life without knowing about these things and became determined to spread awareness to my community. 

Following this, I attended Louisiana State University where I obtained my Bachelors of Science in Coastal Environmental Science. During my years there, I worked in a science lab where I discovered that despite the research, something was missing from environmental awareness. That missing part was a connection to the culture and creative aspects to get people interested. 

A couple of months after graduation, I began working at Cam Kirk Studios which is where I currently work now. Here, I am the project manager and head of community service and outreach. Along with my work here, I also was able to start my personal business, Fort Berry Alternatives, where I can specifically focus on environmental awareness.

Tell us about your brand and the inspiration behind it?

My brand, Fort Berry Alternatives, is my startup that brings environmental awareness through creative projects and activations. The inspiration behind it comes from me being a creative person in general, as well as a scientist. I know that creatives, like myself, take up a good percentage of my generation and with any information we retain, we want for it to be eye-catching and aesthetically-pleasing.

How does sustainability play a role in your brand development? How important has this been to consumers?

Sustainability is the overall goal of my brand. I want as many environmentally-friendly ideas associated with my brand as possible. I think it is very important to my consumers and audience because it sets the example for how things could be. That is why the name is Fort BerryAlternatives.” I think integrating that into everyday life will ultimately be the thing that promotes significant change.

What are your thoughts on the future role sustainability plays both professionally in business and in our everyday lifestyle choices, in regards to the future health of our planet?

I think more and more every year, sustainability will become a requirement for businesses and everyday lifestyle choices. People are becoming more aware of the harm being done to the environment and with social media, we are able to hold businesses accountable on a huge scale. Eventually, it will become unattractive to associate with businesses that are blatantly not taking consideration for the environment. 

As for everyday life choices, sustainability should increase because not only is it better for the planet, but sustainability tends to be a better choice financially! Reusable products in life will lead to less purchases and trips to the store. Also, these options tend to be better quality than the things that get thrown away after only one use. 

Fort Berry Alternatives in action, encouraging recycling practices

How does technology and innovation play a role in your business?

Technology and innovation play a role in my business right now through social media. Social media is the best way to spread awareness these days and if you want to get information out to the public, all it takes is a post. In the future, when I have an official office, I will use technology and innovation to make sure that my office and workplace will meet the highest quality of environmental standards.

What does wilderness mean to you?

To me, wilderness means the least touched and involved with human interaction. I did a research trip to the Everglades, and being out there was the first time I think I was ever truly in the wilderness. It was so quiet - aside from the animal noises - there were no nature trails, no signs, no cell phone reception. Just wilderness. 

Do you have a favorite item- it may be an heirloom handed down from a grandparent, friend or relative of some kind- that has great meaning to you?

A favorite item of mine would have to be my Moleskine. That notebook goes everywhere with me. I like to write everything down. The second any idea comes to me, I like to write it down so if I’m ever lacking inspiration I can just flip through and find an idea I probably forgot about. Also over the years, I like to be able to see where my mind has been and how it has transformed. 

If you had to choose one place to live with only the basics available to you where would it be and what would you take with you apart from the obvious survival gear?

If I could choose one place to live with only the basics available it would probably be Greece; it is absolutely beautiful out there. Apart from the obvious survival gear, I would bring my record player, my records, my Moleskine, my glass water bottle, and my bamboo utensil set.

More shots of Imani in action, creating materials and banners for Fort Berry Alternatives

Imagine that 25 years from now you are looking back on your life, what would be the legacy that you would hope for your brand to leave behind?

Twenty-five years from now, I would hope that the legacy from my brand would have been changing the standard for environmental awareness in urban culture. I hope that it becomes a normal thing and not just a “Go Green!” thing. I want it to be thought of as something that is as mandatory as drinking water. If I can save Atlanta, then I know I can save the world. 

What message do you have for those starting their own business in regards to sustainability and innovation?

A message I have for those starting their business in regards to sustainability would be: do your research. During my four years at LSU obtaining my degree in Environmental Science, I was able to gain a lot of knowledge about what is going on in the world and I still have so much research to do. Due to politics and other people who do not believe in climate change, it is imperative that the information we speak about is sound and factually correct. 

Do you have a quote, saying or poem you find inspirational and what is it?

My favorite inspirational quote would have to be: “Day by day in every respect I am getting better and better.''

What brands do you admire?

Brands I admire are Parley Ocean, Cam Kirk Studios, Bodega Rose and North Brooklyn Farms. 

A group representing Fort Berry Alternatives at an event in Atlanta

How important do you think transparency and authenticity in brands is to consumers?

I think transparency and authenticity in brands is very important to consumers. It is important that the people interested in your brand can feel where you’re coming from and feel that it is not just for likes or money. That way when they support they can feel good about it, knowing it went to a good cause and not just another money-hungry company.

Can you tell us something about your personal journey that might surprise us to know?

Something that might surprise you guys to know about my personal journey is that while I worked in a science lab at LSU, I hated it. I loved the people I worked for and the experience, but there I learned that I wanted to be on the more social-side of environmental awareness instead of just on the scientific research side. 

What is your favorite animal and why?

My favorite animals are probably dogs and I know that probably sounds boring, but I have always been really close to my dogs growing up. I like that dogs can actually bond with you. Other animals you can only admire from afar. Besides that, I would say tigers since that is my college’s mascot.

What is one thing you would be willing to or have already given up with the health of the planet in mind?

One thing I have already given up on with the health of the planet in mind is plastic bags. If I don’t bring my bags with me, in many cases, I am walking out with several items just in my hands. I usually have my bags with me though. I think it is crazy that something will be on Earth for up to 1,000 years, but is only used for an average of 12 minutes.