A time bank is a trading system in which hours of work become the currency, exchanging service hours of one skillset for another. Meet Woodstock Timebank, Inc., a nonprofit organization with life-changing initiatives and 2020 SCORE Business Achievement Award Winner. This business model is designed to help prepare vulnerable populations for a post carbon, climate-changed future. The organization provides a framework of interrelated projects focused on food and water access, plant medicine and mental and emotional skill building that engage displaced refugees, the underserved and immigrant groups in a time bank community.
This story has its roots, no pun intended, in social transformation programs built by Pamela Boyce Simms, native of Woodstock, New York. She has been working with plant medicine and prescribed herbal products for most of her life. Singularity Botanicals, launched in 2019, promotes selfcare with medicinal plants and education to help transition anxiety, depression, panic and chronic stress into a state of calm, joy, mental clarity and gratitude.
The Path to Success
“It takes a while to build trust with a community,” Pamela shared. “Getting people to understand these plant-based medicines, how we make them and how they are a natural connection to our earth takes time.” After a year seeding the concept and sampling these supplies in Chester, a BETA launch took place in February 2019 over a three-day period. The community was invited to focus groups where the brand team explained how the program would be introduced. Sample teas and tinctures were served and feedback was gathered. The new products were a big hit available with a monthly membership including herbal packages or bundles and community education. The team was delighted with donations raised on the first day, much more than was expected. Conversations with clients supported that their experience with these all-natural plant medicine supplies provided “such clarity of thought.” The benefits were clearly recognized and needed.
Donations directly support accessibility of plant medicine in Chester and other economically depressed areas. The goals of Singularity Botanicals are to increase control over the treatment of illnesses, to localize plant medicine production in times of climate disruption, and to build and grow a cottage industry that promotes self-healing and self-transformation.
Chester residents are now growing their own plant medicines, and reclaiming their right to selfcare. People of color experience heart disease, stroke, diabetes, hypertension, asthma and lead contamination at exponentially higher rates than the mainstream population. Singularity Botanicals growers work beside communities in Chester to cultivate and harvest plant medicines which treat these health conditions prevalent in populations affected by prolonged stress, poverty induced diets and longstanding systemic health disparities.
Pamela originally came to SCORE in September 2019 for help with QuickBooks, an accounting software package. After the first meeting, Pamela decided to involve SCORE Mentor, Bill Pearce, in the further development of her branding and marketing strategy. Bill and Pamela started working together on the plan for the Singularity Botanicals introductory trial in Chester, Pennsylvania.
Prime time topics included the operations and service model, branding and package labeling of plant medicines, development of additional services and supplies. Additionally, value assessment of the concept was challenging since these supplies and their presentation to market were unique, with suggested donations instead of traditional price tags.
Bill’s openness, curiosity and deep interest in Pamela’s perspective helped her to sort out what could work for this new business and reach her own decisions. She especially valued how “Bill brought his expertise to bear over time, while he speaks to you in the moment.” Pamela appreciated that they spent their working sessions focused on getting the important work done and not on the formulaic approach of checking boxes or dwelling on complex matrices. She recalls her first impressions of her SCORE Mentor as “extremely accessible, personable, down to earth.”
Pamela also worked with Mike DiLeo and Dave Turner, SCORE Mentors with nonprofit experience, who provided important advice on the requirements for a 501c3 organization, the role of an advisory board, and intellectual property management.
Chester, a city of 30,000, is now the operational center for Singularity Botanicals. The project supports farming, education and medicinal herb distribution free of charge to Chester residents. Local community centers and churches help build awareness, while university interns and volunteers support the program with their time and labor. For a nominal donation, clients from surrounding communities can access supplies such as gingko mint tea, milky oats, and vitality strength clarity tincture. Membership programs, guided meditation practices and self-transformation articles are also available.
As is the intent of the Woodstock Timebank, the projects work in harmony. Singularity Botanicals collaborates with Community Supported Enlightenment (CSE), a national network of like-minded people. The CSE network operationalizes a confluence of:
- ancient wisdom tradition practices
- cutting-edge techniques that optimize neuroplasticity, the ability of the brain to change continuously throughout one’s life
- tools for skillful experiential navigation of the multi-dimensional web of quantum interconnectedness
Many in this community are herbalist and herb growers. Skills are shared among the practitioners to assure all members obtain the support they individually need through retreats, workshops, and webinars. CSE receives donations for memberships and selfcare supplies.
Pamela is very happy about the progress. “We’ve gotten tremendous traction and built deep, trusting relationships among Chester residents sooner than anticipated.” As she developed her concept for Singularity Botanicals, Pamela was fortunate to work with a talented design artist who translated her vision into “an absolutely stunning professional presentation” of the brand image and packaging.
Now in the midst of the 2020 pandemic crisis “shelter in place” guidelines, Singularity Botanicals is addressing the seasonality of growing herbs and the availability of university interns who have become a key volunteer labor force. This is a good time to entertain some ideas to focus and pivot the program to keep the momentum going.
Paying it Forward
Pamela’s current focus on plant medicine and selfcare extends far beyond the borders of Delaware County. Woodstock Timebank has formed a close relationship with its community partners at Chester Senior Center, Widener Taylor Memorial Arboretum, a team farming a 20-acre parcel nearby Cheyney and others. The Singularity Botanicals project also has herb grow-sites in New York, Illinois, Ohio, Texas as well as Pennsylvania.
Staying focused is a priority for Pamela. She advises others who are considering a new business idea or are just getting started,
“Stand in the truth of what you know your vision to be. Let your intuition drive what you do. Remember, you will need to listen, to be creative with your business model, to take feedback seriously, to wake up with drive and zeal every day.”
“Avoid mission creep. Stand firm amidst challenge and difficult times.”
Singularity Botanicals was developed from a big picture view. Pamela says, “See it happen in your mind. Envision people using your products and services. Work to know what the chess board looks like from above it, so you can make the moves that make a difference!”