the local company that brings our magazines to you
It was a very hot day at the O2AA West Oakland Artisans Festival in June 2017, but a stroke of luck landed our Edible East Bay booth next to the Civil Pops cart. Those deliciously healthy, Oakland youth–made, frozen-fruit treats were drawing a steady stream of customers, and people lingered to chat as they slurped and learned about the pops company. It’s a signature project of Oakland-born Civil Labs, who “design ventures that tackle inequality in American cities.”
Among those hovering around the pops cart was April Fenall, a poised young woman who shows her affinity with the Civil Labs mission in the way she designed her own company, Piikup: “a socially responsible delivery hub.”
At the time, Edible East Bay was on the hunt for a new way to get our quarterly magazines out to our distribution points, and it sounded like Piikup could do the job in a way that suits our community-centered values.
“Businesses can do more to impact their [work and community] in a positive way,” says Fenall. “Being from the East Bay, I have a lot of love and respect for the mom and pop shops, those businesses that aren’t [part of] a chain. I see them as part of the solution to building and sustaining thriving, healthy communities.”
Fenall nurtured her interest in such solutions while studying communications at Cal State Sacramento, and after graduation, she carried forward her ideas as she built her one-woman business into a team.
“Communication has been one of the pillars that has steadied Piikup on this journey, in both our relationships with our customers and team members,” she says.
Fenall has focused on creating an environment where workers earn more than a paycheck. “I invest in our team members because I want them to be successful no matter who they’re employed with. They come to me under-skilled and often lacking confidence. My vision is that they will be in a much better position emotionally and with new skills to add value to any company or organization they work with.”
Fenall says that the population she draws from tends to have little, if any, experience using business applications. “Nowadays, even for those in low-tech roles, there are various applications that are needed at a basic level. Most people we hire have never fully used Google Suite, Excel, or any data analysis, customer relations, or project management application.”
Fenall says that learning works best when attached to real workplace scenarios, roles, and industries, and that there are soft skills—interpersonal skills or emotional intelligence—to develop as well. She shares a conversation she had with an employee who was saying “I’m sorry” quite often:
“I asked if she was aware of the positive and negative impact of language and word choice and have taken the time to encourage her to seek other words to better communicate what she’s trying to say. She shared that she felt she had been almost trained culturally to be smaller, to be invisible. I’m encouraging her to be seen, to be confident, and not to be invisible.”
Such conversations often bring reflection for Fenall. She remembers a time when she could not see past her own temporary situation, which then felt very permanent. “I want to continue to inspire, motivate, and empower people to change their narratives,” she says.
—Cheryl Angelina Koehler
Illustration by Margo Rivera-Weiss