How a protest over pine trees led this woman to create her dream company.

In 2012, Jen Horn watched as local residents in Baguio City, Philippines, protested over pine trees.

It might not seem like a particularly obvious political reason, but when people tried to expand a mall and eliminate a large area of pine trees in the process, the residents were so concerned about the environmental impact that they organized.

Jen, who owned a successful design company in the Philippines, was inspired by their collective action. It raised questions she had about the ethical responsibility of a business to treat the world well.


In regard to her own business, Jen often found herself wondering what happened to the things her company helped create when people were done using them.

Was her business conscientious, she wondered. Was she making the world better with her work?

Finally, someone who is as excited about succulents as I am! All images via Muni, used with permission.

That's when she got the idea for Muni, a community and company dedicated to mindful, sustainable, creative living.

"[I] really wanted to do something with greater impact and start creating more learning and networking events for like-minded folks," Jen told Upworthy in an email.

The name of the company is derived from the Filipino word muni-muni, which means "to think, ponder, muse, or reflect." And the core of the organization's purpose is just that — to facilitate mindfulness, sustainability, and ethicality among entrepreneurs.


"I wanted to create a way for all of these great people to be heard more, to be connected more to other people who share the same ideals," Jen said in a TEDx Talk last year.

With the pine tree activists' efforts at the front of her mind, Jen started this organization by uniting her personal values of sustainability and mindfulness with her business.

Because it wasn't just about her vision for the whole world. It was also about what was going on in her own backyard.

So, what exactly does Muni do? Well, a lot.

Muni brings awesome events to communities across the globe, like a series of talks in Manila, Philippines, a sustainability festival, and an upcoming "camp" for start-up founders to come together and learn from each other.

A Muni Meetup in the Philippines.

Jen hosts Muni Market Days for local creators, artists, and performers to showcase their talents to the community — kind of like a farmers market but for makers and creatives. People subscribe to Muni's Facebook page and get notified when they put up a new event.

"I wanted to create a way for all of these great people to be heard more, to be connected more to other people who share the same ideals." — Jen Horn

With this upswing in female business leaders, like Jen, there is also an upswing in sustainability.

Research has shown that female business leaders are more committed to corporate sustainability and creating businesses that function in harmony with the planet.

Why? One reason may be related to how female board directors and executives tend to be better at planning for the future and communicating a broad vision. A stronger reason is how diversity of all kinds always make the world a better place.

Including a diverse mix of voices in the decision-making process reveal smarter and surprising ways to make things systemically better at all levels — and sustainability is undoubtably a core area for that.

Unfortunately, only a fraction of Fortune 500 companies have women at the helm. It's clear that we need more Jens to lead the way.

The Muni community hosts Market Days to showcase local makers.

Jen's advice for other Jens out there is simple but effective:

"The goal is to be more mindful in your business or in your life every day, and the only way for us to figure that out is if we’re in the process, doing it, talking to people who are also trying to do things in a different way."

Every action to better our community can be a source of inspiration — and in this case, it planted the seed for a company that actively seeks to improve and protect the world.

As Jen says in her speech: "At the end of the day, your world is your choice."

Reflecting on our roles as consumers, producers, and stewards of the planet is something we can all definitely get behind.

Listen to Jen's talk about starting a mindful business and see if you're not inspired to make some changes of your own!

Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

Keep Reading Show less
Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less