Hi…my name is Jonathan Gregory and I am a serial eco-entrepreneur, community organizer, and sustainability champion. And I iDentonfy!
It is with much excitement that I arrived in Denton this summer with my newlywed, Lindsay Pope, as she enters her first year of doctoral studies in choral conducting at UNT. We both grew up outside Boston, and we are thrilled for the opportunity of new experiences in a supportive community! As most of us can probably agree, traveling across country to live in a new place is always better done when you’ve got someone to share it with – and I feel blessed to have that someone be my best friend!
Hiking in the New England mountains helps us connect with each other and the world around us!
What’s my story you ask?
So if you’re still reading at this point than you are probably wondering, who is this guy and why should I care? Well I hate to burst your bubble, but I am not a rock star or the relative of someone famous – I am just a down-to-earth do-gooder with a humble upbringing and a passion for developing sustainable, collaborative communities. My story is still in the making, but here’s a taste of what I’ve been up to for the last decade…
I graduated from the University of New Hampshire in 2007 with a business administration degree with a concentration in entrepreneurship. After graduation, I spearheaded the development of an environmentally responsible home goods store that broke through the barriers of conscious consumerism. Due to the scientific findings on the negative health effects of BPA, one of our early bestsellers was the stainless steel water bottle. This knowledge had just been released to the public and came with a reaction of shock and fear. We immediately found ourselves in an educational role, providing transparency to our customers in a world of corporate retailing known for its fine print disclosures. In response to demand for answers, we created a 26-point “eco-icon” platform that helped consumers determine the social and environmental value of the products they purchased.
Our wine cork collection program was a huge success…turning used corks into recycled flooring!
My experiences managing and developing this business introduced me to the big, wide world of sustainability and how our choices as consumers make incremental changes in the way products are designed, sourced, marketed, utilized, and disposed. Areas of interest like the social wellbeing of the manufacturers employees, the environmental and health impacts of using one ingredient over another, and choosing local and US-made products were just a few important issues that I became privy to as a young entrepreneur.
Community development, the “secret ingredient”!
As an active member of the Main Street Concord, NH community, I simultaneously found myself serving in civic, non-profit, and volunteer positions that focused on the energy and environmental issues. I coordinated educational programs like the Green Living Film and Panel Discussion Series and managed the development of Green Business Trade Associations, and my responsibility as an educator and collaborator was recognized by many walks of life (just think Gabriel Killian, but in another town…). I would often get comments like, “You should run for Mayor someday!” This reminded me that my efforts were truly making a positive impact on people’s lives.
Consulting, Collaborating, Catalyzing…
Jump forward a few years; I was having a lot of fun working with various local business and non-profit operators in consulting capacities. Life as an independent consultant was very rewarding work because I got to focus on the projects and the people that I most enjoyed assisting. As a pragmatic thinker however, when I saw an opportunity to get in at the ground level of a solar energy installation company, I couldn’t resist. Two things you should know about me is that getting involved in start-ups is like a kid walking into a candy shop – I simply can’t retain my excitement – and the other thing is that I just love making tangible differences in the community and local economy. The solar industry is a shinning example of how we can leverage sustainability business practices for meaningful job creation and greater economic equity. It’s a win-win-win situation for the people, the planet, and the economy.
Public education on renewable energy and energy efficiency is a passion and duty that I hold dearly.
Four years later, the solar industry is growing at the fastest pace ever, and I was a member of the management team for the second largest company in New England (and 17th in the Country). Our collaborative efforts in the region were singlehandedly combating the largest threats of green house gas pollution, a direct factor of climate change, giving tangible value to the work we performing. The energy market is both interestingly complex and astoundingly important because it touches every person in our society in very direct ways. Working in the solar industry enlightened me to interconnectedness of energy, the environment and the economy, and from it I cultivated a greater appreciation for “being the change you wish to see”.
For those of us that believe in a higher truth, a divine presence, or simply put…fate, I can attest to the nature of these things happening the very moment that I set foot in Denton’s beautiful downtown square. Patronizing the popular Barley & Board with my family on our first night out, I was graced with a handwritten note from our server, outlining all the best food joints in town (apparently we came off as foodies, and that we are!). On the bottom of the note however was one outlier – instructions to search for a new development called iDentonfy. Without any prior discussion of who I was or what I wanted to do in the community, this person had been guided to share their project with me.
Though it may often feel like an uphill battle, I’ve always been a fan of the journey not the destination!
Short story, short, I reached out to Gabriel Killian the next day and scheduled a meeting to make introductions. Now, for all those times that I have been told, “Jonathan, I wish we could just duplicate you and everything would be great,” well old friends…I’ve found him! Sadly for my peeps back in New Hampshire, this guy lives in Texas and so do I. To my delight, I was provided the comforting knowledge that we were not alone in this town – that there were others that cared about creating deep-rooted communities, founded on the three pillars of social, environmental, and economic prosperity.
If you can associate with a sense of caring for the success and happiness of the people around you, then I welcome you to iDentonfy. Though I may be the new kid on the block, I am pretty sure that I’ve found the “secret ingredient” to what makes this community so special – a mission-driven organization that is looking to build community engagement through its diversity and sustainability.
So what should you expect from me next?
My desire to be actively engaged in the community is a real thing and one that I take very seriously. In just a few short weeks I have met with city counselors and administrators, made personal connections with several local business owners, offered volunteer time at small farms, joined the local cycling group, attended various downtown events, and have been to a dozen coffee shops (by the way, how many are there in town?). Getting in the face of action is the only way I know how to do it, and I’d like to think that I am off to a good start!
Panel discussions, open to the public, are a great way to raise awareness and encourage connection.
So what should you expect? Expect to see me strolling the streets, introducing myself, asking random questions about what’s what and who’s who, and genuinely doing my best to learn your story! The wonderful team at iDentonfy has blessed me with the opportunity to do so in a constructive manner by being a guest blogger. My focus in the immediate future will be on the interconnectedness of our business community. I’ll look forward to discovering the intricacies of our shared economy and documenting the importance of this identity. Together, we will iDentonfy!