Connecting with Dr. Sean M. Dixon & Megan Blythe on Sustainability in Action


For Simply Tiny Development, sustainability is not just a word, it is action.  We have the honor to learn from Sean and Megan this week about their incredibly important work in creating environmentally sustainable living options by building custom tiny homes and camper conversions.    Their commitment to sustainability goes way beyond the environmental and financial benefits of tiny living.  They apply it in every decision and action they make in their company and life.  

Learn more about Simply Tiny Development at the following links: 

 Website: https://www.simplytinydevelopment.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/simplytinydev/

Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/simplytinydevelopment

 

Credits: Raechel Sherwood for Original Score Composition.

Links:
YouTube Channel: Uncover The Human

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/company/wearesiamo

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/wearesiamo/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WeAreSiamo

Website: https://www.wearesiamo.com/

Transcript

Alex  

Well, hello, and welcome back to this episode of Uncover The Human we are joined by two guests today, Dr. Sean Dixon and Megan Blithe, who are the company runners of Simply Tiny. Simply Tiny is a sustainability focused business. And they're here to talk to us a little bit about that, about how that influences their overall business and strategy. And we'd love to welcome Sean and Megan to the show. Hey, guys.

Cristina  

Hello, hello.

Alex  

So we've known Sean for just a little bit, but it's a super interesting business model. Sean, you want to just dive right in, you'll give a better pitch than I would. What are you guys doing? What's up?

Sean  

I definitely can do that. So we are a sustainable development company, we do all things tiny. So we took a couple of different ideas here. One was Tiny Homes. And then the other one was camper vans, we kind of put them together, and then dropped sustainability in the center of all that. And now we have this whirlwind of a business that is growing pretty quickly, and in a lot of different areas, and we're really enjoying it.

Cristina  

And you're in one of your vans right now, right? That's the background.

Sean  

Yeah, this is a picture from the last van that we did. This was fun. I threw that up there because it looks way cooler than me sitting in my office.

Cristina  

Looks pretty awesome. 

Sean  

Thank you!

Alex 
I definitely recommend anybody who's listening to audio to check out at least a screenshot of the YouTube because it's a beautiful looking van. It's got a nice interior in it, it's really nice.

Cristina  

With a great view in the background.

Sean  

If I can move, it's actually Boulder. 

Cristina  

Oh, wow! Nice!

Alex  

That's a great shot. That is a beautiful looking van. So, I'm curious--the van life is beginning--of course it's like its own Instagram tag at this point, Van life-- but Tiny Homes are also growing. What led you guys to dig into Tiny Homes and all things tiny?

Sean  

Yeah, so we kind of took a look at a lot of different things. Throughout my doctoral studies, a lot of it was organizational development. And a lot of it kind of focused on the way that we are treating people and how burnout is becoming very prevalent. Obviously, the issues with climate change, and things like that kind of pop into it as well, too. But looking at how to sustain people and build better organizations, through business, that was kind of the inception of the idea of, of kind of taking everything that I learned or the things that I was seeing throughout all this. You know, you do a little bit of reading in the doctoral program. It's not too much, but you tend to pick up on some, some high level trends. And one of them was how business was actually contributing to the large-scale societal problems that we were seeing, really, in climate change. You know, if we're just driving shareholder profits and things like that, you know, we're not taking a look at all the other factors that are involved in this completely connected world. So coming out of my doctoral program, I looked at, okay, what I really want to do with my life and I said, "Okay, I think I'm best suited, me personally, to start some type of company that where we can start changing these high level problems around people, the way organizations are run, and then hopefully, we can take this towards a global scale and maybe start to influence some climate change initiatives or something like that." And real estate and construction are very much drivers of the things that we're seeing. Construction is extremely wasteful, you know, we do a ton of damage to the environment and the Earth. All the materials that we use, they're not really built to last. It's built around fashion trends, you know, every seven years you rehab a house to keep up with what is going on. So we kind of said, "All right, let's see what we can do." And then understanding that the world population is growing very rapidly, we have to start preparing for a planet that is going to be able to hold 9 billion people. And you know, right now we're using, I think it's 1.5 to 2 times the worldly resources that we actually have on earth. And obviously if you don't have to be an economist to understand that we're going to run out. So we kind of said alright, what can we do and kind of form Simply Tiny. We originally looked at yurts and things like that, which didn't really work out too well in the area. There were just too many restrictions and code changes. Ultimately, it wasn't sustainable itself, because the structures had to be replaced every 15 years, there's a lot of waste that went into it. So we started looking at Tiny Homes. And that's where we kind of found our niche with this whole thing saying, okay, we can take higher quality materials, use less, and build an overall better product that is going to serve the needs of the people right now and then generations down the road. And then following that, we kind of realized that the vans were essentially the exact same things/functionality, they're just moving. So we went ahead and jumped to that space as well, too. So we could kind of put them together and overlap and build multi-disciplinary competencies with a business.

Cristina  

I love how you started with, you know, the crisis, the burnout crisis of humans. And, you know, focusing on how we address the higher level and all the aspects of treating people better? Taking care of people? What does that look like, you know, especially since, you know, clearly we're not passionate at all about better treatment of humans at work, and in life. So that definitely resonates with us. But it's it's such a much larger piece, it's not just about you know, here's a paycheck, here is, you know, a semi nice chair, sort of, in your office, that gives you a backache only after six hours, not eight, You know, if you benefit here and there, there are some chips in the in the kitchen. It's way larger than that. It is about how we live, where we live, what happens to the stuff. You know, I made a piece about how everything is made to last for seven years, and it  reminds me of the fact that our washing machine died this week, it's about five to six years old.

Sean  

That is there. It's where we live very much in a consumerist economy. You know, where things are not made to last. Its business models are built on repeat customers, how fast can we have something break and then have them buy something that is equal or higher value in the shortest amount of time. There's no recycling operations or anything like that. And with housing, we can definitely make a difference through that space, because they're not going anywhere, we always need houses. So the longer a house lasts, more educated people are about how to maintain their homes, and they start taking pride in those things, then we can really start lowering the cost of living and influencing maybe some of the climate change things that we're kind of seeing right now. And just basically reducing, you know, our footprint on the earth and making it better for everyone across the scale, multigenerational down the road.

Alex  

And the thought of that pride and ownership, you got a raving fan there. But that's a great way of getting people to especially take care of it just themselves as well as wants to do more of these things. That's a really great point. How did this kind of build into--you talked about--like the burnout, you've talked about how some of sustainability this, I assume, is also a little bit expanded during COVID, where we got a little more options do remote or a little bit more in various locations. How did that pan for you guys over the last year?

Sean  

It definitely did. And it helps and it hurts at the exact same time. It hurt because we completely lost the inventory, and building materials and commodities went through the roof. Like that was, for us to build sustainable homes, you know, that are decent, was very, very challenging. So we had to kind of scale back our operations a little bit for the year. But as far as it goes, it's set people free in a lot of ways. Even though we were quarantined, we changed the way that we could actually work, which you know, at this point, now we've been close to two years throughout the pandemic now or something like that. We've moved into the transformation phase. It's not a change anymore, it's a transformation. We will never go back to the original ways that we were doing things. There might be some things that would kind of maybe mimic what we saw before, and this is totally my opinion on all of this, but your higher level, your top talents and things like that. They know what it's like to have freedom. They're not confined to a desk anymore. They can do everything remote, they can travel and still produce, you know, high quality outputs throughout everything. And van life was one of the ways that people could actually do that. You know, we have some major technological advances through Starlink and all the internet connectivity, everything that we're seeing, so they can just hop in a van and still work remotely through a nice little background like this up on here, and everybody's happy. So the demand for van life really has increased and we didn't see it, not so much in the RV space, not not that we were monitoring, but van life is very, very cool. It's low impact and you can get a lot out of one thing. It's not like you need to go buy a truck and trailer and tow an RV around, or get a giant motorhome to live. I think people really realized that by reducing the amount of things that you have, you can really enrich the quality of life. I don't think a lot of people have really looked at that before, especially with that consumerism economy where it's "more is better," "more and more and more." But when you reduce things, you reduce just the stuff that's sitting around, you also reduce the mental clutter that you have. Which kind of leads into, this is kind of just a better life. For me, I enjoy what I do, I can focus, I'm not spread around in 50 different directions. And I think people kind of see the value of pure focus and concentration in their lifestyles now.

Alex  

That's really a good way of looking at it. It is definitely a nice reduction so that you have that lack of clutter, it's a lot easier to focus on stuff and a lot easier to get just into living. And then obviously an event you can take that wherever. And nowadays, you can attach WiFi to bands, and I'm sure that's what you guys are doing as well. I'm curious, Megan, what brought you into this?

Megan  

Um, he had to use my lawn mower. We were neighbors, and that's just how we met. And it just clicked from the start. I am still in school for environmental science. I'm actually graduating in December. But yeah, so then he was like, "Oh, you know, I have a company and this is what we do." It's like-- oh, yes, please. I want all parts of that. And yeah, and I just kind of started helping out when I could. I came on full time in July. I think that's right. Yeah, July. So yeah. And it just kind of flourished from there.

Cristina  

So talking about sustainability... What's that noise that you guys have--can you guys hear it?

Sean  

I heard it, but I don't know what that was!

Cristina  

Okay, well, the first time I flinched because I thought my roof had just collapsed behind me. And no, our next door neighbors have a huge dump dumpster because they're redoing their bathroom. So it's perfect timing.

Sean  

As we're talking about rehabs.

Alex  

So you guys do sustainability. You build vans. What are just, I don't know, some pride points or something that has been particularly interesting that have been like, ways to source sustainable goods or ways to think about building things sustainably. But what are some cool insights you've had just through a little journey, doing this?

Sean  

Well, there's so many good answers to that question. 

Megan  

Yeah, it's just so much research. And like, that's probably what turns people off the most is that they have to invest a lot of their time in it. It's not just like, clicking a button and saying, like, oh, here's this label, and it says it's a sustainable shirt, let's get that one. There are a lot of stuff is being greenwashed, now. So even though it's like, "Oh, it's made out of recycled plastic!" It comes in this massive box filled with plastic, or, you know, packing peanuts. And it's like, well, that completely defeats the purpose. So I mean, I think that's a really big pride point for us is the fact that we are doing that research and saying, not only is the product that we're using sustainable, but where we're getting it from, and our supply chain is even more sustainable. So, you know, we can't tackle these problems by ourselves, it's, you know, him and I aren't going to be the two people that solve climate change. It's going to be all of us as a collective. So really supporting others who are doing these, you know, actions as well, is where it's really gonna make a difference and actually start changing things.

Cristina  

That's a very good point. How does this translate into how you just run the business and who you work with? The people's side of things?

Megan  

Yeah. I personally love indigenous communities. And that's kind of something that I'm bringing into this as well, is, you know, wanting to work with companies who are run by indigenous individuals, working in areas that are, you know, high population of indigenous communities. And then, you know, also just supporting those different classes and smaller businesses, instead of purchasing items from bigger corporations. You know, supporting small guys.

Sean  

Yeah, a couple of things we had to do was--we first started off--pursuing our B Corp certification. We kind of tack that on there. And Meg is spearheading and leading us towards that end goal, which is definitely tough to get to, especially in the construction space. Because again, the amount of waste and things that go into it. So we kind of started off like, "Alright, let's take this one step at a time, inch by inch. Like, where can we really start making a difference quickly and start influencing others?" And it always starts with ourselves. So we're very, very heavily dependent on personal development. And both of us have plans that we walk through. And we're continually trying to find goals and better ourselves. Because ultimately, if we can't change ourselves, we're not going to change anything else, that's where it all starts, we have to be able to inspire, to influence, and show people that there's a better way. And a lot of times that is painful, you know, we are foregoing larger profits to spread it around to other domains. And the structure that we took with the company is a Public Benefit LLC, with a B Corp certification on top of that. So that, as far as business development goes, I think, as far as I know, is about as sustainable as you can possibly get as far as certification, and then the actual legal structure behind it. So we are a triple bottom line focused company. So taking things just from a profit driving standpoint, and putting them into two other facets is very, very, challenging, and it's fun, because it takes a lot of energy to do that. Our meetings are a little bit longer, because we have to question two other things besides driving profits, "How does this impact the earth? And how is this going to impact the community that we're in?" And then us as individuals, you know. There's a lot of discussions that go on about those types of things. And the pride point, I think that I would pull up for this whole thing, is how we handle paradoxes in sustainability. Because that is exactly what it is. You do one thing, you hurt something else--which one is better? How do we handle that? So, our decision making and our problem solving processes are really, really being honed down in a lot of ways. And it's just a ton of trial and error, there's no right way to do something. And Meg has a pretty good example, with her van, and everything that we're kind of doing right now that she can kind of touch on if she would like, of how we just worked through, "what is here now versus what we have to create in the future? And what is better for the planet and everybody right now and then down the road?"

Megan  

Yeah, I'm going to be doing van life here in the future. I'm actually going to get my van on the 13th. Yeah, and I had this, "Okay, do I get a brand new van if it's more sustainable? Or do I get an older van, and I'm creating less waste?" I'm not getting a brand new van that has to go through the production line, that has to, you know, be a whole new product that is eventually going to need to be thrown away, whether it's in 10 years, or 30 years. So I decided that I would be going with an older vehicle to cut back on the waste. And with that, the older vehicle is a diesel engine. So, that ultimately is going to be... the diesel isn't great. But I'm also going to be doing a different type of van life. It's a little bit different than you know, the typical, you're traveling the whole country and you never stop unless it's for a week or two, I'm going to have a home base. So even though my van is diesel, I'm not going to be driving it anywhere near as much as the average van life person. So that's kind of how I made the decision . This is definitely the more sustainable choice for my situation. Whereas someone else who's going to be doing van life more sustainable for them might be, you know, if they're going to be traveling constantly, it might be getting an electric van. So that was my take on it.

Cristina  

Definitely extra layers of considerations.

Megan  

It's so much. It's not it's not black and white ever. Ever. And the definition of sustainability is going to evolve and change completely over time. We're going to, everyday, have to change how we're viewing that aspect of sustainability--and what we think is sustainable? Someone else might not, you know, and it's more going to be where, you have to look at it and say, "Okay, this is why." It's not, "you're wrong, and I'm right." You know some person the other day mentioned to us that she was like, "You know, I can't get away from Ziploc bags." I'm like, dude, Ziploc bags are great. Like, don't get me wrong, they're great. But like, maybe you can do all of these other things to counter that one bad habit that you have, you know. Or try taking a mason jar. One day, for like one item instead of a Ziploc like don't try and just cut it out. It's like telling me to stop eating meat tomorrow. It's hard. You can't just stop and go on a whole different path within a day. So it's taking this you know, little steps and doing it over time. And that's where you're actually  going to be able to see the difference.

Alex  

Really good point of just general incremental change, because that's something that they highlight when they talk about things like climate sustainability. They have to talk about factory farming and just generally, eating meat is such a costly endeavor when it comes to resources and how much it takes to actually get that to you. And so like being a vegetarian or trying to move towards vegetarianism tends to be one of the greater things you can do in terms of personal carbon foot reduction, I guess. And so I like the way you put that because that's definitely something that I feel like helps people ease the transition a lot, and I like that you guys have taken a much more, it seems, nuanced approach. Like yeah, this thing might be sustainable, this is going to be non-sustainable in a different way. But it I think it helps because of that transition period, if you insist like, "Well, Ziploc bags are bad, so never use plastic bags," it's gonna be met with a lot more resistance than, "Alright well, see if you know, you can cycle out liquids, or, you know, fruits will just be mason jars this week." Or sometimes he just said the habits slowly change instead of, you know, the general New Year's resolution type of change where just one day you decide you're gonna go to the gym every day from now on. It never really works out.

Megan  

Even with eating meat, you know, I live in North Carolina, I'm on the coast, I'm not necessarily going to be buying fish constantly. I'm going to go to the beach and catch it myself. You know, I'm personally trying to cut back on where I'm sourcing meat and just different types of food like that because you know if this is getting transported to me, that's even more of an issue. But you know, I have friends who are duck hunters for  farmers and I get most of my meat from them, or I will get it from a smaller business. You know, smaller businesses, they're probably going to be sourcing more locally. It's just figuring out what works for you, and what works in your area too. Because, obviously if  you're not by an ocean, you can't just go and catch your food.

Cristina  

Very true. It's kind of funny because Italy is definitely a little more undemocratic. When it comes to changes like that. They definitely go with a cold turkey approach for the whole country. 60 million people--so when they banned plastic bags, for example, in shops, and they replaced them with mostly what they call recyclable bags, which they supposedly dissolve with the compost. So that's what you use for any food items. You put them in these bags that will dissolve with the compost, because they're made of that. It was overnight, it was pretty much like, "You know, hey, as of Monday, you've got 24 hours, no more plastic bags and shops. This is when you use it."

Megan  

I love that.

Cristina  

Honestly, when people don't have a choice, they don't complain. You know, you're like, Okay, got it.

Megan  

Well, and that's also not necessarily a habit that you're trying to break up for someone. That's just like, they get groceries in a bag, and they just take it. It's like, instead of putting plastic bags in stores, you just put the paper ones. No one's gonna think anything of it. It's going to be more when you're like, "We don't sell Ziploc bags anymore." People are going to be like, "What do I do? I don't understand how to function without this material." Or like plastic water bottles. If we randomly decided to stop selling plastic water bottles, people would freak out!

Cristina  

Yeah, well, I think one of the Scandinavian countries has done that recently. Yeah. Or France, or somebody just banned all plastic bottles.

Megan  

Yeah, but even then, like in Italy, water is way more accessible. You're walking around, and there's like a beautiful fountain that you can drink out of. Here that's not a thing. It's such an ultimatum all the time.

Alex  

So you guys have been refining the process of trying to decide which sustainability choices to make both for yourselves for your business. Have you started to systemize any of that? Does it feel like there's patterns that you can start to reuse in some of these decisions? Or is it so relentlessly contextual that it ends up being just new every time? 

Sean 
Another good question. Right now, I think we're starting to get better in the fact that we're training our brains to work faster to get to the decision, versus something actually that's emergent every single time because, like Meg said, it's never black and white. You could argue it for days if you really want to. But if you could just go back and forth and pull up a million different scenarios and never come to a conclusion. I think it kind of is just boiling down to what best aligns with us as a company, as a brand, our mission and what impact we want to make. The closest thing to that is probably what we're going to go with, as far as decision making goes. So we've really dropped it down a lot, especially with Meg and I working together all the time, now we're starting to learn how one another thinks, if there's an angle that one of us isn't seeing the other, and we can bring it up, without any fear of judgment or retribution or something like that. Like, "No, that was actually something I completely did not see." And that's kind of a large impact on somebody that I didn't even recognize. So I think it comes down to us trusting one another as well. And the other people in the company, which is we have very specialized positions, we always backfill one another, we're a very fluid flat organization. But we understand one of those jobs enough but respect one enough to realize that is your specialty, and you probably have the best answer to it. So unless I can counter with a major argument, we're just going to go with what the other person is going to be the best. And that's all we're trying to do is just do the best that we possibly can and recognize that we are not perfect, and invite as many other people in on the conversation as you possibly can to find the best answer or the best solution for what we're trying to accomplish.

Alex  

And you mentioned, I think before we even started recording that you guys are looking to bring some more people on full time. How does that look? I mean, you're going to be having these sustainability debates and discussions with now larger groups of people. What's your feeling when you're going into bringing people on?

Sean  

Yeah, very, very specific. The personality, the traits, and the way we screen for the little mini culture that we do have right now, as far as Meg and I, and then our builder who's not on full time, he's a contractor at this point. But just pitching to them and making sure that we start with their purpose. That's kind of how we started screening. I'm not going to ask you interview questions about your skills, or something like that. Tell me who you are, tell me what your purpose is in life. And let's see if that fits. Because ultimately, if we really want to motivate people, and we want to have a long term sustainable organization, that energy needs to be maintained, and they need to be expressing that driving towards their purpose. And the business itself needs to be remodeled, to allow people to see their purpose through it and use it as a way to get to that purpose. So if they expand far beyond Simply Tiny, great! We will help you get as far as you want to go because we do not want to limit your impact or your ability to do anything that you want to do in this world. And if we're not big enough, and you have the skills with the ability to do something larger, please bypass us just give us a cool handshake and maybe a shoutout on Instagram on the way to go. It's not anything crazy. And that's kind of how we've approached those types of things and to stay lean. And to understand one another very, very deeply. So we don't have to have a larger organization where, you know, "Oh, that's Bob, I don't know anything about him."  We have to be able to stay tight like that, especially with the triple bottom, like focus at the inception of the company, because we're not generating larger profits that we probably could be with everything. So keeping the right people in the right place for as long as possible, reducing any type of turnover. Obviously, you guys know better than anybody else, how expensive turnover is, how time consuming it is. Our basic principles to tomes and bands and everything else, which is you know, find the best people, find the best materials, find the best of everything, and then develop it. Help them develop, give them a channel to reach their full potential. And that should, in theory, keep everything in place. And the wheels greased and everything moving smoothly, but it has to be the right person who understands what we're doing, and really sees the larger vision of what this could be and can make some short term sacrifices for some long term gains.

Cristina  

Talking about lack of sustainability is a turnover in companies. Ultimate lack of sustainability. It's very painful, yes. Actually, I just posted a LinkedIn article yesterday, or the day before, I think it was HBR, Harvard Business Review article that I was sharing. But it was literally about how to lose your best employees. And it's to do the opposite of what you're doing, which is to focus on their skills and box them in and then expect them to be happy doing the same thing for the next 20 years. Instead of focusing on their purpose, understanding what that is and then giving them the space and the resources and whatever they need to grow and understand their growth and pattern and how it changes so that they can, if it's time for them to go, it's time to go. If it's a different role, it's a different role, but without silently boxing them in.

Sean  

It's painful.

Megan  

Yeah, and just to kind of touch on that and bring back in getting burnt out: my work week is four days a week, you know. I'm working max six hours a day, but I'm so productive in those six hours, in those four days a week. And Sean has allowed me to build my position into whatever I want it to be. And so with that, I'm like, "Oh, I have all these ideas!" and I'm bringing a different aspect to the position that somebody else may not have thought of, or... we're able to live our lives outside of our job as well. Which, then when you are at work, you're happier, and you're able to bring a different perspective and a brighter perspective, because I'm going to the beach every morning before I clock in and start working. I'm able to cook a really nice breakfast. I'm not like, "Oh, I have to be at work in five minutes!" I can make some nice eggs and have my coffee on a porch swing. Maybe go do some yoga midday and then come back and work the rest of the day. So it's just, it's a different aspect of sustainability with like, your actual self and your soul.

Alex  

That's a good way of putting it as well, just that.  For one, I actually just heard from Fox Fox.com, they just are--I guess Fox is a large company--but they're also a magazine. But they have, they just went to the four day workweeks, like, officially the whole company is going to do 40 work weeks, they kind of looked into it. And there's no real reason to settle on 40 hour work weeks, that's no optimal time. It's in fact, pretty non optimal. Nobody actually works 40 hours a week, which is one of the reasons that four day work weeks work fine. Because that's about the amount of time you actually get stuff done. But to your point, Megan, it ends up being like, because I had this extra time, now I'm filling all the other pieces of life, it's way easier to engage in my role. And it sounds like it's also a much more flexible role, which is necessary when you're a small company, especially since there's going to be so many different things to cover. You get that creativity, and you can do it in less time. I mean, there's no, there's not a downside to this, it's a much better and more efficient way of doing this, again, sustainable. So, I'm curious, and this one will dive slightly deeper, but you talked about your interview process being asking people what their purpose is. I'm curious from you guys, what your answers would be, what your purpose is, and what you feel like your place is, either life-wise, or even within the company.

Sean  

Yeah, absolutely. And that's really tough for a lot of people to kind of find and describe, you know. A lot of them are very surface level, and it takes a little bit of time to actually think about what you can do. And it's an inventory of the self; what's the one thing I do the best with the least amount of effort, right? Learn. I consume massive amounts of information. It's just, it's my gift, it's the thing that I can kind of do. I try to read 52 books a year, you know, one a week and up that every single year. And then I sat and I thought a lot and I said, "Okay, I have some decent leadership skills as well too. My vision is pretty good. The way that I can put patterns together and see farther down the road and kind of navigate things." I said, "You know, starting a company would be a bad idea." To kind of lead this, the sustainability revolution and things that we're going to see down the road of Boomers are retiring, you know. It's our time as a generation to step up and take the reins and I'm an elder millennial, I believe.

Cristina  

You gain the elder status?!

Sean  

I don't know what the range is, but elder millennial. Okay, we have a lot of challenges as a generation, there's no doubt. We've seen a lot of things that can either be looked at in a positive light, or in a very negative light. Two of America's longest wars. 2001. 2008. Pandemic... and we're only 30. We're not even halfway through this game yet. I don't know what's in store for us down the road, but we got a lot of left. And we can we can choose to be victims or we can choose to take our futures into our own hands and do something about it. And these events, while they are tragic, and terrible, in a lot of ways can really build a generation of resiliency, if we take it that route. And I think at this point, the generation needs new ways of doing things, new ways of work, and a company that is willing to do that and show everybody that there's a better way to do all that and we don't have to adopt the things of the past. We don't have to do any of that. We continue to create our futures and the drive where exactly where we want to go and take back that power that I think we've lost a little bit over the years, in a lot of ways. So, I said, "Alright, I think I think I'm up to that kind of challenge, you know." It's, "Who am I going to have to become to do that?" and then kind of set off on that journey... just filed an LLC and just went for it.

Cristina  

That's awesome. There's a huge need to just take the old ways and not follow them. There's no rule that we have to follow that, and clearly, they're not all successful. Or we wouldn't be where we are.

Sean  

Conventional wisdom gets you conventional results. I don't like doing things conventionally.

Cristina  

I'm pretty sure that's how we bonded in the first five minutes of our conversation; "Yeah, I can, I can relate to this guy."

Sean  

And then kind of touching on back, to tell this story, because I think it's very, very powerful, and it kind of displays who she is, as a person. When she was living a couple of doors down for me, I went over there and borrowed their lawnmower. We went over there one day, and we were drinking some adult beverages at that point. I saw Meg, the music was louder, everyone was having a good time, and Meg's kind of sitting in the corner, reading a textbook on Environmental Science or something like that. Here it is, later in the afternoon, and all these people are having fun doing their thing, including myself, and she's in the corner studying. I said, "Okay, I don't think I could find a better person for this position. One who's going to be more dedicated to it, because this right here, if you're not distracted, and want to join in or something like that, and you're, you're that focused on your passion, and the thing that you need to do, which for her still is school. I think that's one of the most valuable things, and I could see the leadership potential, her just through her actions in that whole thing. And that's why I kind of was like, "Would you please?

Cristina  

Megan, what's your purpose?

Megan  

Mine has always been to just make an impact, as big as it can be. And I've always had this struggle of, do I make an impact with people? Or do I make it with the Earth? And so my first degree is in psychology. Second one, with the Earth, and so I'm still leaning to more of that environmental side. But I always just have this touch of like, "No, I just want to help the less fortunate." So when Sean gave me the opportunity to be able to build my own position, I was like, "You just solved all of my problems, because I have never been able to say... I have changed degrees and million times, I've changed career paths a million times, of like, “what I want to do," and I just, I was always stuck with like, I want to go in every direction. Absolutely every direction. And so when Sean brought this position to me with the sustainability coordinator, I was like, "Oh, my God, I can do it all." And so my ultimate thing to really make a difference is helping underdeveloped countries after natural disasters, because we're fighting those natural disasters in a increasing with intensity because of climate change. Them also getting that help in underdeveloped countries, and then the lesser fortunate will not even retract that statement, not even less fortunate, because some of the most happy people I've seen have been in Ghana, you know, sweeping the streets singing like beautiful songs in the morning, and they're just happy if they make $5 that day. No, they aren't anywhere near less fortunate. I strongly stand by the fact that when I say that people in developed countries, sometimes they won't even get close to the happiness of those in an underdeveloped country just because we have so many wants and needs and we just can't see the simplicity of life. So yeah, sorry, rant. but, yeah, that's my purpose. Helping and being a part of and developing my culture. A culture of myself, with the cultures of underdeveloped countries and communities and indigenous people, and then targeting it and helping them with the effects that climate change is having on them specifically. Whether it's, you know, sea levels rising or their rain season shortening or standing to the point where they can't grow crops because they're just getting waterlogged. Or, once they get hit by a tsunami or, you know, whatever the scenario is, being a first responder to them. And I've kind of mentioned that to Sean later on in our Simply Tiny life, we can start doing some of that.

Cristina  

Can you imagine him saying no?

Megan  

I won't let him. That's definitely down the line, it's definitely down the line. I'm in no rush, because like I said, we are becoming more sustainable. And therefore, I will be able to do what I want to do far longer because I'm not getting burnt out. So whether it's in five years, 10 years, 30 years, I will be able to still be like, as prime as I am now with my passion for it, because I didn't get burnt out from the start.

Alex  

Sustainable careers in sustainability.

Cristina  

So what drains your energy?

Sean  

Good question. When I'm not organized, I will tell you that. When I'm not organized, and when I sit in traffic, those two things. I have rearranged my life in Denver to hit the least amount of traffic possible. If I gotta wake up at 3am to go do something, I will do it to not sit in traffic. That's one of the big things and yeah, just if I'm, if I'm disorganized, myself, or my house is disorganized, then the rest of it kind of feeds off of that, and I get a little bit tired. Overworking is it as much anymore, as you know, we've adopted the four hour or the four day workweek six hours. That's not always possible right now. So in doing so, it's self management with it all, and trying not to overthink on large scale problems. And really coming back to the personal development side and managing stress. If the stress isn't managed, then that's definitely an energy drainer. And then, kind of increasing the amount of faith and belief in the future and not finding the negative everything, always find the positive, it doesn't matter how bad it is find the positive, because the negative will just drag you down, and it doesn't serve any purpose whatsoever. It can give you an objective look at reality. Sure, you can shift out of that pretty quickly and get back to where you need to be. Because it's just a life drain.

Megan  

That is a hard question. One of those questions that you don't ask yourself because you're scared of the answer. But just thinking about it... and this is gonna sound very harsh coming off the bat, but I'll explain it as like wasting time. Like, people wasting my time, me wasting other people's time. It's not sustainable, and not good for anyone. And what I'm meaning by wasting time is being true to yourself as well, you know, if something is posed to you, and you're like, "No, I don't resonate with that at all." Don't waste your time on it, you know, let the person know from the get go, "Hey, that doesn't align with me. I'm gonna pass," and then you're saving everyone's time. I mean, someone, you know, had to say that to us, I think it was a week ago. Where she was like, "ah, I don't know if I can work with you guys if you go down a certain route," and we were like, "We appreciate that. Thank you so much, you know, like, we will contact you when we can work with you on these things. And if it doesn't align with you, then we don't want to do that either. Because we want you to be fulfilling your purpose. And our purpose is not your purpose." Yeah, that's probably one of them. And then I just take on everything at once. Everything always, like, I have a million things going on at the exact same time. And I want to solve all the problems and all of everyone else's problems all at the same time. And I'm pretty good at managing it most of the time, and then I'll have a day. And I'm just like, anybody says anything to me, and I'm just gonna cry. But that's probably what drains me is the fact that sometimes I don't realize that I just need two seconds of quiet in my day. And to counter that I've, I've started doing tea ceremonies. It's a Japanese style of sitting with tea and it's an active meditation. Because I can't sit still for an hour and not think of things. So it's just a form of active meditation that slows me down so I can sit back and be like, "Wow, I don't have to fix the world today. It's okay, if it works tomorrow, like, I don't have to do it all at once.

Cristina 
Yeah, it's good personal development realization.

Megan  

It's scary.

Sean  

Yeah, the hardest work we will ever do is personal development

Cristina  

If we have the courage to face it.

Sean  

if you have the courage, yep, hardest thing you will ever do.

Cristina  

Too often people are like, nope, don't want to see it. I'm perfectly the way everybody else needs to adapt.

Alex  

It wasn't anything we explicitly stated. But you guys did a great job of just kind of talking through some of your own personal development. It is cool to see how that is tied into the development of this company, the development of your own personal goals, how you work, where you work, when you work. I mean, these are all really well tied in. We didn't usually kind of ask people to make those connections directly. But yeah, just kind of live them, it's really fun to see. Right? Yeah,

Sean  

Glad we could be easy!

Cristina  

You've anticipated my next question, oh, my god, she's answering that's fine.

Sean  

Well, I don't know she's gonna ask

Alex  

One thing I'm curious about is that you guys have a great community orientation. You want to be able to help this, you want to help yourselves, develop your impact-- to Megan, to your point, you want to develop that larger impact on what you're doing. I'm curious, and this is not to add things to your to-do list since obviously, in the beginning of anything, it's a massive to-do list and always, always adding. But I'm curious about some of your research and sustainability. One of the best parts about getting good use of the internet is you can find other people's research. I'm wondering if you guys are developing ways to share some of your decision making process and some of the sustainability reasoning that you've gone through, I'd be super interested to read through it personally.

Sean  

That is, another great question! That's the thing about that is, how do we make a profit off of our mistakes? It's what we need to do, because, you know, we make them on a daily basis, and it is, you know, very much trial and error. And as far as things go, we're starting to take that a little bit more seriously. I think once we bring these other people on, and we kind of get out of this initial build phase that we are in, we are going to open up a consulting aspect of all this, whether that be just for some type of homes or sustainability consulting. We might go into the business realm of it all, depending on how things go down in the future. Meg is starting some blogs, our Instagram, Simply Tiny Dev is on there. And she's working on that pretty frequently to start updating some content and put out some best practices and best materials and things like that. I started working on a book that I'm just putting these lessons in. I don't know when that is going to be done maybe, 10 years down the road. I'm not really sure how long, or how many mistakes I'm gonna have to make in order for it to be really valuable. I'm not, you know, we'll get there. But yeah, those are some of the things that we're doing right now we're trying to have a better media presence. But it's a little bit difficult and always working with people like you is definitely the best way that we can kind of get our message out there and start reaching more people because we can't, we can't do it alone. It's just impossible. There's just too much we have to partner with as many like minded people as we possibly can to work together to get it done. And it's really just a large scale, team effort. And respecting the pace of change and how time needs to flow and move from an order for all the pieces to come together is really, really important.

Cristina  

Sounds like you'll have a series of books ready.

Alex  

We'll see.

Cristina  

"Mistakes 1 through 15!"

Sean  

Yeah, then 15 to 30! Yeah, yeah.

Megan  

Yeah, just to add on top of that, you know, it is going to be risky for us to be offering this information to others. Because as far as I know, there's not another company like us, there might be in we just haven't found them yet. But with the level of sustainability focus that we have, we haven't found anybody. So we reach a very niche market. You know, expanding that to other businesses and showing them how to reach that market as well. It's taking away our customers, but the way we see it is that, you know, we can't do this on our own. We, you know, it's not going to be me and him, it's not going to be us. And if we hire 50 people to fix all the world's problems, it's going to be a collective and everyone working on it. So the more that we can expand our knowledge and get other people to be doing like minded acts... That's going to be, you know, the best way to expand that--what's the word I'm looking for? I don't know. Just make it better for everyone else. And just making sure that we're putting the planet's needs before our greed and maybe someone else sees what we're doing. And they're like, "oh man, let's do this too!" Cool. Well, we just gave you this idea. Let's take your idea. And then let's just take it across the world.

Cristina  

Very infinite mindset.

Megan  

Yeah.

Cristina  

Which is how sustainability action is gonna happen.

Megan  

Yeah. And I mean, we're not trying to be superheroes. We're literally just trying to be guides. So...

Cristina  

it's amazing, though, you'll be surprised how many companies may want to take it and then still not use them. I mean, think of Elon Musk and the fact that he's, you know, given open source to Tesla specifications. And yet nobody has really taken that and done it well, as well as he does. It's like, it's out there. It's not a secret. Why are you messing it up?

Sean  

You are your own competitive edge. Yes. Not another person like you. Nobody can think like you. Nobody can act like nobody sees the world like you do. So, giving it away... chances are, if somebody does it better than you, then you should probably go have a conversation with them pretty quickly. Because pretty much peers at that point. But everybody else, you know, do the best they can with it. But it's not, it's not their own. So they can't use it in the way that you can to maximize it. And that's kind of what we take in it. It's like, okay, we're going to blaze trails consistently, like this is the way it's going to be just give it out, it doesn't matter. But you kind of know that really, nobody can do it exactly like we can. And that's how we can kind of hold our competitive edge and reduce the risks that are in business and stuff like that, you know. We're a very generous company, a generous brand, but you know, they're still competition, we still have to survive up to thrive. Sometimes you gotta throw some elbows in doing that. But I think for us to be leaders, that's just the style that we've adopted. And we said, "Okay, we're just going to push hard and never quit, and try and keep up with us. Here's all the information. Great, we'll partner with you. Even if you don't like us, great. We'll still partner with you, tell us what's our blindsides are and we'll figure it out from there."

Cristina  

And you have a head start

Alex  

This was all incredibly interesting, just general business philosophy as well as sustainability, which is obviously an endless topic. So thank you so much for hearing these. This is probably fascinating to just kind of hear it laid out. Like I said, we really didn't even ask specific questions. You guys just went right to how this works into your life. And it's super interesting to see.

Sean  

Yeah, appreciate it. Yeah. Great. Thank you guys, for having us here. And this has been a ton of fun. It's awesome.

Cristina  

Yeah, thank you. You're welcome, anytime.

Alex  

One thing we love to ask people, and then we kind of covered some of this when we're talking about purpose, everything. But this is a little bit more of a wide question. What for--and for each of you--what does authenticity mean to you?

Sean  

Yeah, so being authentic, the first step in that is being transparent.

Megan  

Hey! That was my answer!

Cristina  

You can copy it! You can still be authentic, and copy!

Sean  

We know transparency is key, it has to be if you want to be a sustainable company, you have to show people the good and you have to show people the bad. Period. Yes, we still create waste, yes, we still have some harmful things that happen. It's unfortunate. But again, we will partner with everybody else to help solve that problem. Because we can, we can't do it on our own. So yeah, the first piece of authenticity, I would say, is the transparency piece. And we try to go as far as we can to put as much out there, whether that's how much waste we're producing, or how much we're recycling, you know, we, we keep a balanced equation. So we're not going to give you all the good without giving you all the bad as well. Because it's still when you solve one problem you create one of equal or higher magnitude, every single time so the world will never be void of problems ever, there will never be any dirt. So in keeping that mindset and that philosophy, that's our first piece of it, and then just staying true to ourselves and not deviating. There's a lot of hot buttons and touching points. I'm in the world today where bad Instagram posts can sink your company, you know. One opinion or one bad Tweet can do a lot of damage. So we had to put our guiding principles in place first. And those are out there. And we built philosophies for everything that we'd like to do, whether that's our design philosophy, our supplier philosophy, our management philosophy, all of those are written down in, it's called our Living Constitution, which is our formal document that guides us and shows us where we're supposed to be going, how to make good decisions, and why it's important. So we kind of took that and said all right, this is who we are, we're going to stick to it. The mission will always be fluid, I believe. Kind of being authentic with that is to keep reading the world. If something needs to change. And we're better suited to provide that. And that's where we're going to pivot to, we're going to go ahead and take that it might not always be housing, it might not always be climate change, I hope that we solve this problem quickly, we'll have to, we'll have to figure out something else there, see what other larger problem pops up for us to kind of tackle. And that's where we stand as a company. And then I kind of embodied that as well, you know, being transparent with everybody, you know, whether that's people, employees, the media, podcast, anything like that, you know, we're very open book about a lot of things, and here's our flaws, here's what's good, and this is what we're trying to work on. And the only thing we're aiming for is the best that we possibly can be. And I think that's all you can really do in life and ask others for us to do the same thing.

Cristina  

Creates trust.

Megan  

Yeah, I was gonna say those two things. But just to add on top of that, you know, with being transparent, people are going to hold us to a higher standard by having the "We're sustainable," aspect of our company. Okay, you know, they're gonna say, "oh, they're not vegans. How is that sustainable? Or their cars aren't electric? How are they sustainable?" Or, "Sean lives in a 1600 square foot home? How is that sustainable?" Well, you know we're not the only people living in these houses, you know, we are decreasing our footprint by having several people under one roof. Or, you know...we're just being transparent with the fact that we aren't perfect. And like, my dog is on a raw diet, and I have to separate his food into Ziploc bags. Ziploc bags are an issue for me, and I'm the sustainability coordinator, you know, but in different aspects of my life... I'm way more sustainable. You know, I'm not buying meat from the grocery store. I'm literally only harvesting it myself. And then, you know, staying true to yourself and your values. How far are you willing to be inconvenienced with being sustainable? Because ultimately, it's an inconvenience. It's not easy to be sustainable. It is not fast enough to be sustainable. You can't just stop at a fast food place and ask for the sustainable option of their number five, you know.

Cristina  

Not yet, but maybe one day!

Megan  

Yeah, maybe one day, but right now, it's still gonna come with a styrofoam cup. It's supersized. You know, so it's just, how far are you willing to be inconvenienced to stay true to those values? Are you gonna pack your snacks and take them with you? Are you going to pay a little bit extra for your flight to get a more sustainable airline? You know, are you going to add on the Co2 emission offset, or those types of things? Yeah, I just--understand that there's going to be hiccups, and accept those hiccups.

Alex  

I love that as an answer for both authenticity, as well as just finding the core values that are most important to you. You know, how much inconvenience are you willing to accept? To make a great framework for it? Yeah.

Cristina  

Following value isn't convenient. I could accept the job for the paycheck, but it goes against my values.

Megan  

Exactly. Or, you know, people who are extremely religious, sometimes that is not convenient for them, because it's hard in certain aspects of their life. But staying true to you and staying true to that value. By all means, do it. It'll show you how important it actually is to you.

Alex  

So where do people find you guys if they want to get in touch, get a van, just learn more about you?

Megan  

So we have an Instagram Simply Tiny Dev. We have a Facebook page, Simply Tiny Development. Our website is SimplyTinyDevelopment.com. I'm still trying to get our blog up, but it isn't quite ready. I'm working on that. But yeah, those are our three sources. Our contact information is all over all of those. Yeah, we're slowly trying to build our range and the people that we're meeting and seeing and seeing us and even if they can't support, you know, buying a van, or buying a house, they can do other things like learn how to be more sustainable, you know, so... we can't do it by ourselves.

Alex  

Awesome. Thank you so much, again for joining. It's just really interesting to see sustainability compliance guys do a great job.

Cristina  

Yeah, thank you. I love the 360 Sustainability. It's not just about recycling, it's about everything else too.

Alex  

Farthest thing. Farthest thing from it!

Megan  

We've been trying to get more reuse there...it's hard to train your brain because you're so used to recycling first. And it's like, how can we reuse this before recycling it? You know, like, how can you get that one more point in there before it's kind of done.

Cristina  

One of my favorite things you said, Megan, was :”how do you sustain your soul?” Carrying that out... because everything else is much harder if you can't figure that out first.

Megan  

Absolutely. And I mean, that's probably the hardest part. Once you figure that out, you’re set. I mean, the biggest part of me, trying to get to where I am now is, I got to make the most money ever. You know, I gotta get a job that's gonna pay six plus figures. And half the time those jobs just, they're not that great. They're not fun. And they require a lot of work and sitting at a desk, and no sunlight. And by the time I realized, like, I'm going to put money out the window and see what I really want to do. Then Sean happened, and I was like, I can have both. I can save the world and not be broke. This is great. There's room for growth in this career too? Cool!

Cristina  

Can I work with you guys? Thank you again. Really appreciate your time.

Megan  

Absolutely. Thank you guys.

Cristina  

Thanks everyone for listening. Thank you for listening to Uncover the Human, a Siamo podcast.

Dr. Sean M. Dixon Profile Photo

Dr. Sean M. Dixon

CEO

Dr. Sean Dixon is the CEO of Simply Tiny Development, a Colorado-based Tiny Home and CamperVan conversion company. He received his Doctorate in Management from Colorado Technical University in 2019. His passion for sustainability led him to found Simply Tiny Development, which aims to create system change in home construction and corporate management techniques. His hobbies include CrossFit, snowboarding, hiking, and spending time with his Golden Retriever, Harrison.

Megan Blythe Profile Photo

Megan Blythe

Sustainability Coordinator

Hi! My name is Megan Blythe and I am Simply Tiny Developments Sustainability Coordinator. Or as we like to call it, Head Sustainabilibuddy. I’d like to think of my position as our companies advocate for the Earth and our personal ray of sunshine. I currently reside on a little island off the coast of NC so most of my free time is spent on the water or not too far from it. We like to focus on our employees purpose in the world and mine is to make an impact.