Rana Sabeh is as bubbly and full-of-life as they come. Though thousands of miles separated us as we spoke over the phone one day — she in beautiful Orange County, Calif., and I in chilly NYC — within two minutes we were fast friends (or at least I thought we were), chatting it up the way you do with an old pal you haven’t spoken to in a while.
I instantly understood why she’s the green darling of Orange County, adored by local eco-conscious businesses. It’s impossible not to gravitate toward Rana and what she’s building: a local green community from the ground up, through the OC Green Market which she founded. Her ambition seems fueled by an authentic desire to affect change in her community. Rana had a greener vision for OC, and she’s steadfastly made it an accessible reality through hard work and sacrifice.
Somewhere in between laughs, and chatting about this and that, it occurred to me that the point of our call was to, oh yes, interview Rana. Here’s most, but not all, of our conversation.
Gather Green: What was the inspiration behind OC Greenmarket?
Rana: It was definitely a very personal motivation. I had been to many farmers markets in Orange County but I wasn’t seeing anything at all in OC that was dedicated to green products. There was nothing that offered eco-conscious products and services in a one stop shop. I saw a need since no one else was doing it, so I thought, “Why don’t I create it!” And then it was born.
Gather Green: You’ve become such an influential healthy living advocate, but you weren’t always doing this. What sparked this desire inside of you?
Rana: It’s been 10 years now. In my twenties, I didn’t think anything about the way I was living my life. I had all of these ideas and always cared deeply about the environment, but I never really though about how I could live my life to institute change. But I eventually started looking into things; one thing after another. And the more you look into something, the more you learn. I’ve always been an inquisitive person and I love learning, so it just became a very natural fit for me.
Gather Green: What is OC Green Market’s mission?
Rana: I want OC Green Market to be a family destination, a comprehensive one stop shop where anyone can easily find green services and learn about healthy living. I’d like it to become a centralized hub to bring together products and merchandise with awareness. I want to reach people who may not know about healthy living and green products, and I want to do it in a fun way.
Gather Green: You have pretty strict standards that your vendors must meet. What exactly is your criteria?
Rana: All of our vendors have to be eco friendly. Every good sold on site must be eco friendly, organic, natural, sustainably- made, recycled, renewable or use re-purposed materials, fair trade, locally- made or hand- made.
Services must be eco-friendly, natural, holistic, complimentary or alternative therapies. And non-profit organizations must be related to green or holistic living, animal welfare, alternative health, sustainability, energy conservation, environmental protection, wildlife protection, re-using, re-purposing, recycling and other similar categories.
Gather Green: How important is community to you and your business?
Rana: It’s huge. It’s the reason why I’m doing this. As a greenie, I feel like I’m on the outskirts in Orange County because we’re all so scattered here in OC. I’m trying to bring everyone together and create community. I love to interact with people and businesses and cross promote to help one another.
Gather Green: How do you raise awareness about alternative medical therapies?
Rana: That’s another area I feel is so undereducated. Our society is geared towards western medicine. Educating the public about alternative medial therapies is one of my goals for the market.
I believe green and healthy living with homeopathic remedies or treatments work hand- in- hand. Eating well and taking care of your body are so important. So we bring things like reiki, trigger point massage, and acupuncture to our outdoor market so people can experience and learn about these therapies in a low pressure and fun atmosphere. I believe it opens peoples’ eyes and minds to the alternatives that are out there.
Gather Green: You work tirelessly on OC Green Market. What drives you to keep on going?
Rana: Admittedly, I’ve had many thoughts of quitting, but then I think about the vendors, and I think about how much they believe in me and OC Green Market’s concept. I really feel like this is bigger than me and that it will help so many people, not just the vendors and local businesses, but all of the people that come.
I want to further the mission of giving people more options. So thinking about how many people OC Green Market will help and how much of a need there is in Orange County keeps me going. Every time I think about not continuing to do this, I try to think about how much progress I’ve made, and everyone that has helped me make this successful. I’d love for this to spread across the country.
Gather Green: I’d love to see you on the East Coast! Do you have a favorite part of your job?
Rana: Meeting so many people that are doing such amazing things. I’ve met all of these incredible local businesses that I never knew about before I embarked on this journey. Many of them aren’t big enough to get national licensing but the products and services they’re creating are so impressive. They’re dedicated to the environmental cause and green living. I’m bringing all of these merchants together… I want to built a tribe.
Gather Green: In building up the market, what have you learned about yourself?
Rana: I’ve really realized in doing all of this that I’ve uncovered such a passion for helping OC businesses gain a following. I love figuring out ways we can reach people.
Gather Green: You’re in the process of making some pretty big changes to OC Green Market. Can you tell us about the change in direction?
Rana: I’m changing the frequency from every month to every 3 months, and from a static market to a traveling mini eco-friendly festival so we can go to different locations throughout Orange County all year long. It’ll be held in parks during the summer and in rented buildings in the rainy season. My vision keeps evolving, and changing, and more elements like performance, interactive arts and games are being added to make it more fun and exciting. I’m going dark so I can plan the next one for July 14!
Gather Green: Who are some of the non-profits you partner with?
Rana: I’m partnering with the OC Pop Up Free Store and the OC Time Bank. OC Green Market is their permanent home and will travel with me to every location. There will be other non-profits on every date, but these two will be constant. They’re part of the Catalyst Network of Communities, a 501(c)(3) non-profit in Long Beach.