February 9, 2022
Thrive Market is more than an online grocery store; it’s a community of over 1 million members and 500 employees with their own unique stories. Our members are parents and teachers, first responders and climate activists, artists and athletes—all doing healthy their way. We thought it was time to celebrate them, so welcome to Thriving Outside the Box: a series that puts our members in the spotlight and shares the inspiring, real-life stories that bring us together.
How many company office managers have their own Slack emoji?
At Thrive Market, lovemando is as iconic as his tiny digital likeness. If you work here, you know him; chances are he’s greeted you with a smile at the office or gone out of his way to do you a favor.
lovemando was born Armand Briones, and if you spend five minutes with him, you’ll understand how he ended up with this moniker. (Of course, we asked him to tell us how it actually happened—for the whole story, keep reading.) A former advertising creative director who’s worked with such high-profile clients as Starbucks and The Beatles, he found his way to the Thrive Market front desk four years ago. Though it was initially supposed to be a temp job, it didn’t take long for him to realize he was going to stay. “I’d fallen in love with Thrivers by day two,” he recalls. To this day, it’s apparent how deeply and sincerely lovemando cares for his colleagues, and it’s part of what makes Thrive Market such a special community.
We talked to lovemando about his passion for sustainability, his creative endeavors outside of work, and how his role at Thrive Market has played an important part in his own personal transformation.
Thrive Market: Let’s start with an introduction.
lovemando: My name at birth was Armand Briones. A rare and perhaps good name to have as an adult, however, as a child it was somewhat of a curse. “Armand Hammer Baking Soda!” I can’t tell you how much I heard that and other permutations growing up.
Then, as a young art director [at Ground Zero, an advertising agency], the creative staff was asked to bring pictures of themselves while young. I brought in two photos and in one of them the word “love” and my name were hung around my neck. At the time, I was signing all my emails to clients and friends with “love, mando” (“mando” was one of about ten nicknames for Armand I would hear). A print producer was looking at my photos and facetiously said, “You are so full of love, aren’t you?” And, an intern who had overheard the comment said, “Yes he’s lovemando!” I tried making dinner reservations that night using the name and it stuck. It is also an AKA on my passport. I could go on about the usage of this name, but I promised to be brief.
Thus: lovemando (he/him). Most people just call me love. California born and bred from Rialto to South Pasadena to Venice—and just about every place in between. Currently, Office Manager is my role at Thrive Market and I’m about to leap into impacting Thriver Experience while quickly heading towards my fourth Thriversary!
TM: How did you come to work at Thrive Market? Tell us about your background, your current role, and what you love about it.
l: Brian Tortora [Thrive Market’s former Director of Culture] and I met at ArtCenter College of Design and then met again in our first advertising creative roles. Five years later we started a boutique ad agency called HELP which we closed after September 11th. After that, I worked separately freelancing in film and television, and even flirted as a musician playing in lots of LA clubs, until one day Brian called me up to cover a front desk shift at Thrive Market. That day turned into three days and at the end of the third day he said, “People love you here, love, and they want me to offer you a job.” We just smiled at each other, because I think Brian thought I would never go for such a position. But what Brian did not know yet is that I had fallen in love with Thrivers by day two. So, I said yes!
That same feeling has actually expanded multiple times over the years and being able to impact the lives of Thrivers is what I love most about not just my job, but my life. The key to my apartment is painted with a graphic of a dragon, but my key to [the Thrive Market office] front door reads, “home” and there’s a painted heart graphic on it. I think that says enough about how I feel regarding Thrive Market and Thrivers.
TM: You are passionate about sustainability and just completed the TRUE Advisor certification. Tell us a bit more about why you did that and what it means.
l: Another Thriver I absolutely love is our Mission Manager, Kristin De Simone. She and I worked a lot with each other while I manned the front desk. I’m really proud of our working relationship and what we have accomplished together. I’m also really proud that she selected me to take on this extremely important Zero Waste project for Thrive Market HQ. Becoming Zero Waste Certified is a powerful step towards making the world a better place to thrive, so it is a sensible action to take and it dovetails with our Mission in its broadest sense—making healthy living accessible. I mean, how can we live our best lives with microplastic in our bodies and trash up to our elbows?
While I am hopeful for our success, I can’t sugar coat where we stand. At the moment, we will need to divert 95% of our generated waste from landfill or incineration for the next nine months if we want to meet the certification threshold. It won’t be an easy thing to do, but we know what the target is, and my expectation is that we will succeed because all Thrivers will work together at [the office] to make it happen. We are capable of achieving great things despite their difficulty.
TM: You shared that you’re working on a graphic novel. Can you tell us a little bit more about that? What’s inspiring you in your creative pursuits at the moment?
l: When I was a kid two events stood out in my mind, the oil crisis which precipitated the gas crunch of ’79, and the Save The Whales campaign which happened the same decade. The latter impressed me a great deal. I heard that mankind was hunting the ocean’s great whales to extinction. Greenpeace rammed a commercial whaling vessel and before you knew it, commercial whaling was being banned around the globe. Awareness of the issue seemed to play a big part in correcting this atrocity even when some were making great amounts of money from it. It made me believe that we could change the course of history with clear communication and a good bit of passion for the preservation of the natural world.
My graphic novel is titled “WHALE.” I want to create a vehicle to get across several core concepts that I believe humankind should be aware of and ruminate on so that we may save ourselves from some of the ills of today’s society and that of future generations—like 500 years into the future. Admittedly, there will be a lot to unpack. Eventually, I would like to produce a major motion picture from it. The way it begins is with the question, “Did you get the message?” I guess I’m still silly enough to believe I can help to change the world, but that is another core concept of “WHALE,” that “Believing makes it happen.” Of course, I’m saving the best storylines for you all to look at when it is completed.
TM: You’ve been candid about your sobriety, and how working at Thrive has been a big part of your recovery. Can you share a bit more about that?
l: Alcoholism is a disease that I believe will present itself in most drinkers given enough time. I was not a regular drinker; I didn’t have beer in the fridge except maybe on an occasional holiday or party. But if you have trouble with alcohol it tends to compound until one day it just pounds you. And soon enough you may find yourself in a jail cell, or a hospital bed. I’ve had occasion to try both.
After a day of drinking, I shattered the right side of my pelvis, and my tibial plateau just below the knee. As well, I fractured my right wrist and conked my head into a fire hydrant when I passed out riding a beach cruiser on Abbot Kinney Boulevard [in Venice, CA] on September 16th, 2012. I spent weeks in hospital and four months laying on a couch not able to use the right half of my body—if I had any hope of walking without a significant limp the rest of my life.
Thankfully, I recovered, and not without a small amount of grace. I went to AA for a spell. But I could not stomach the loads of coffee and cigarettes everyone used at meetings. But then I found meetings where only those who had 10 years of sobriety could speak, and those meetings were entirely different from those I had attended. Seeing the survivors who had been able to stay sober really solidified everything for me.
Since then, life is unexplainably better—meaning I could explain, but there are so many ways it has improved it would just take too long. Yes, Thrive Market has played a significant role in making my life fantastic. I was already committed to choosing to live better, and when you make that choice the next question is how to do it? Thrive Market has made it possible for me to reset my life’s path. It has transformed my desires into my reality for which I am grateful, and it is truly satisfying to know that this is also happening for our members around the country. I can also happily say that I will hit ten years without a drink this year. And, to those who may be considering drinking less alcohol I say, “Life is better without the buzz.
TM: “Healthy” means something different to everyone, and at Thrive we’re on a mission to help people do healthy their way. What does “healthy” mean to you?
l: I think healthy means living in peace and living in loving, getting plenty of sleep, recreation, and having a way to express yourself creatively for the benefit of others, be it strangers or the ones you love dearly.
Maya Angelou tells this wonderful story about rainbows in the clouds. I’m paraphrasing when I say, we all have a lot of clouds in life but we survive because of the rainbows, and that we should all prepare ourselves to be rainbows in someone else’s clouds. I interpret that to mean “healthy” is the state of being when you take such good care of yourself that you can do something to take care of others also.
TM: What’s something you do every day that helps you feel your best? Habits, rituals, routines etc.
l: I think you will hear a lot about yoga, reading, and meditation in response to this question. However, I find if I hold space to have incredible dreams, to write something inspirational be it a song or a story, to cry (I actually get weepy around things that make me incredibly happy), and stay present to the everyday little miracles that are occurring all around, that truly makes this a life worth living.
Thrive Market Organic Pasta Sauce, Tuscan Pepper
“I’m sure this is what I’ve purchased the most. I love to doctor it up a little for a great ragu. I think it is the best tasting sauce you can find in a jar!”
Thrive Market Dragon Fruit Chips
“I like that they are exotic and delicious. YUM!”
Thrive Market Original Pitted Green Olives
“These remind me of the ones my father and I would hand-cure every year. Every time I eat one I remember him and feel that connection, even though he is no longer with us.”
Thrive Market Organic Sriracha Cashews
“These remind me of my mother. Cashews were among her favorites, and I love the heat of these. Though both my parents have passed, I am still reminded of them when I eat these snacks.”
This interview has been edited and condensed.
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