eco-friendly entrepreneurs

Q&A with Female Entrepreneur Ayesha Barenblat

Ayesha Barenblat

Ayesha (@abarenblat) is a social entrepreneur with a passion for building sustainable supply chains. Remake is the world’s first platform that leverages technology and visual storytelling to build human connections between shoppers, brands and makers around the world. Remake unlocks the hearts and minds of shoppers to advocate for a better life for the people who make our clothes.

Ayesha is passionate about where things come from, who made them, and what their lives are like. She has spent the last decade working with brands, governments, and nonprofits to improve the lives of makers in global supply chains.

She led brand engagement at Better Work, a World Bank and United Nations partnership to ensure safe and decent working conditions around the world. She was head of consumer products at BSR, providing strategic advice to brands including H&M, Levi Strauss & Co., Marks and Spencer, Nike, The Walt Disney Company and Pou Chen on the design and integration of sustainability into business. She holds a master’s in public policy from the University of California, Berkeley.

“Today there is a long unhappy story of how our fashion is made and where it ends up. I want us to reimagine this story. I founded Remake because I truly believe in the good that comes from human connections. The modern shopper wants to know more, and the maker is better off when we use our voice and shopping dollars to advocate for her wellbeing.”

Can you tell our readers about your background?

I have spent over a decade drawing attention to and addressing the well-being of the women who make our clothes. I've provided sustainability advice to retailers ranging from Levi Strauss and Company, Nike, Gap to Target and Walmart and driven dialogue and engagement across unions, brands and local governments to improve working conditions in the fashion industry.

What inspired you to start your business? 

When Rana Plaza fell down it was the biggest industrial disaster of our time and over 1100 makers lost their lives, in our quest for cheap clothes. I realized as the death toll climbed, that in all my years of working on the inside of the fashion industry to improve working conditions, we were not moving fast enough and that there was a seat absent at the table. The seat being all of us as consumers. And that to prevent more tragedies like Rana Plaza we needed a groundswell of consumers saying no more. This was my inspiration for starting Remake. 

Where is your business based?

We are based in San Francisco, California but our movement is global. From Paris, to London, NYC to San Francisco an increasing number of fashionistas are embracing our message of breaking up with fast fashion and buying fewer better things. It's been powerful to see the drumbeat of feminists across the US and Europe wanting to wear their values and for their clothes to support our sisters at the other end of the supply chain. 

How did you start your business? What were the first steps you took?

After Rana Plaza fell down, I had a lot of conversations with my extensive and incredible network of mentors and colleagues, #girlbosses who had been fighting side by side for social justice in the fashion industry. Their advice and faith in me is was empowered me to take the plunge to start my own business. One of the first steps I took was to assemble a really good board and advisory board. My board was instrumental in helping me find pro-bono legal help to set-up my non-profit status, to get going on fundraising and setting our initial strategy. 

What has been the most effective way of raising awareness for your business? 

Live events such as our Wear Your Values event, film screenings, and workshops has been one of the best ways to raise awareness. I realized quickly that social media was a powerful tool to amplify our message but that the real converts and super users come from our live events. 

What have been your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them? 

Addressing the human rights abuses within the fashion industry is dark and complex whereas shopping is fun. I found that people tune out depressing news during flash sales. It become imperative that our message moved away from naming and shaming and instead comes from a place of hope and inspiration. Our Humans of Fashion series gets people to think about what we wear to be an extension of our values  and this is both powerful and uplifting. Our Meet the Maker series rather than painting the women who make our clothes as victims, instead traces the similarities of her life to ours. She too is a feminist and a #girlboss. 

How do you stay focused?

It's hard! I only check email at the end of my day. I've found that the constant back and forth on email is not optimal especially during the morning which is my best thinking time.

As a team, we use Slack, which is faster and more efficient to getting through to-dos. I revisit our strategy at least monthly to keep focused on our goals of engaging and acquiring more users. 

How do you differentiate your business from the competition? 

Unlike other labor activist groups we come from a place of hope and inspiration. Rather than telling you which brands to boycott, we provide you with beautiful, fashionable slow fashion alternatives. Rather than a focus on the pain-centered narrative of sweatshop victims, we bring you the human stories of the hard working women behind our clothes. Our stories are about her hopes and dreams, her messages to you. Fundamentally our movement is about building empathy and human connection between the women who make and buy fashion. 

What has been your most effective marketing strategy to grow your business? 

At every live event, we have super users, Remake Ambassadors, who become engaged and excited to spread the message to their friends and community. Our Ambassadors have been our best and most powerful marketing strategy.

Instagram as a way to put the human face and have the conversation across the fashion supply chain from celebrities, to designers, consumers on the streets to makers in factories, has also been our fastest growing and most engaging platform. 

What's your best piece of advice for aspiring and new entrepreneurs? 

Stay focused and believe in yourself. You will get lots of wanted and unwanted advice, so be sure to filter it. Really listen to your customers and iterate early and constantly. Stay closely connected to your customers needs. 

What's your favorite app, blog, and book? Why?

A recent book that I really love is a fiction piece called " A Harvest of Thorns" that reimagines the Tazreen factory fire and what would have happened if the victims had had their day in a US court. Its written by a human rights lawyer and is a great way to understand the complexity of the issues as well as connect in a human way. 

What's your favorite business tool or resource? Why?

I am a big fan of Slack because it cuts our email traffic way down, kept us on task and is an easy way to share tools and resources and chat across our globally diverse team. I also really like MailChimp for managing our user lists and newsletters. Its easy to use and the software is intuitive. 

Who is your business role model? Why? 

Daniel Lee, the executive Director of the Levi Strauss Foundation is my role model and mentor. The foundation focuses on some of the biggest issues of our times: HIV/AIDS, worker rights at home and globally. I adore Daniel because he is both pragmatic and practical, inspiring and a big picture thinker yet solid in the execution of his ideas. As a corporate foundation, he's always pioneered in taking on issues of the most marginalized and stigmatized communities and despite all of his success he remains humble and approachable. 

What do you have planned for the next six months? 

We are back from taking some fashion design students to Sri Lanka to get to know the women behind the label. Over the next few months we will be editing and screening the film up and down the US and having conversations with millennials on how to join our movement. In addition, we will be adding more slow fashion to our platform to make the discovery of ethically made clothes easy. Stay tuned.  

How can our readers connect with you? 

You can follow or write me on twitter @abarenblat and join our movement across social media by following #remakeourworld. 

Q&A with Entrepreneur, Helen Andrew

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In between being a full-time mother and tending to her garden, Helen works on developing Spare Harvest so that valuable food and garden resources are diverted away from landfills and not wasted.  Helen believes that if we can continue to circulate what we no longer need in our communities, we will enhance the well-being of the planet and it’s people.  Spare Harvest works on the premise that your trash is someone else’s treasure.  Spare Harvest helps you find each other.  Helen’s vision is that we all waste less and share more. 

Can you tell our readers about your background? 

Over ten years ago I left my corporate job to be a full-time mother to Alesya and Jaryd.  It was difficult, but in time, I came to accept my new life and found being a mum one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences I have ever had.  Now that my children are older I wanted something more for me.  Something that challenged me in other ways and connected me to something bigger and purposeful.

What inspired you to start your business? 

When we moved to the Sunshine Coast, I wanted to start growing our own food and purchased a home with some established fruit trees.  After a couple of months, the flowers started to set fruit, and I realized we had three mandarin trees, a lemon tree, a kumquat tree, and a tangelo tree.  For very old trees they produced such an abundance that I had trouble using all the fruit.  I tried to share it with my network, but many of them also had too much fruit and didn’t want my excess.  I finished the season burying the excess into the ground which broke my heart.  This experience was the inspiration for me to find a way to connect with people I did not know and share my abundance.  Spare Harvest was born.

Where is your business based?

The operational base for Spare Harvest is on the Sunshine Coast, but all the connecting and sharing happens in homes and gardens in local communities. 

How did you start your business? What were the first steps you took?

Ihad a problem, knew the solution but did not know how to go about building the solution.  It was not until I had a meeting with a young man by the name Nick who volunteered to help me build a website.  When I left my job to have my children, there was no such thing as social media, no sharing economy, and no WordPress.  So with limited tech skills, confidence and money, Nick and I created the first version of Spare Harvest. 

What has been the most effective way of raising awareness for your business? 

We have grown through word of mouth mainly due to limited funds.  This strategy is working because we are attracting people who connect with our approach to building an online community that is committed to wasting less and sharing more.

What have been your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them? 

Initially, it was confidence;  having the confidence to share my idea, to ask for help and to start sharing Spare Harvest with strangers.  The challenge now is educating people, that just because you no longer need something that it is not waste.  Someone else in your community will use it.

How do you stay focused?

Ensuring every decision is aligned with our purpose.  I stay focused by asking the following question - are we creating a world that wastes less and shares more?

How do you differentiate your business from the competition? 

We are building a community.  Our focus is not on the resources it is on the people and how we build local connections.  We are about conversations, not transactions.  The more people we can connect the bigger the impact we make.

What has been your most effective marketing strategy to grow your business? 

Word of mouth.

What's your best piece of advice for aspiring and new entrepreneurs? 

Focus on the 5P’s - Purpose, people, passion, persistence and patience.

What's your favorite app, blog, and book? Why?

I love books, and one of my favorites is Start With Why by Simon Sinek.

What's your favorite business tool or resource? Why?

Most valuable resource is my phone.  With all the apps available, including the Spare Harvest app, I can manage Spare Harvest while I am in the community.

Who is your business role model? Why? 

I don’t have a role model.  I get asked this question a bit, and every time I struggle to answer it.  I am influenced and inspired by people’s stories.  

What do you have planned for the next six months? 

To continue to grow Spare Harvest to ensure we keep valuable food and garden resources out of the landfill and in our community.

How can our readers connect with you? 

www.spareharvest.com

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Q&A with Lea Sharp of Organiccoconut.com.au

Lea Sharp

Lea Sharp is a Holistic Coach, Mompreneur, and Mental Health Advocate from Queensland, Australia. As the owner of Organic Coconut - an online health food store and healthy living blog - Lea aims to help people improve their mood, heal their body, and enhance their life through an integrative approach.

Can you tell our readers about your background?

I have a background in retail and animal care, but I never felt like anything 'fit' and I ended up floating between jobs with no real direction. When my son was born in 2012, I finally tuned into my inner ambition and started to pursue personal development and further education.

What inspired you to start your business?

I want to help people navigate through and heal from depression. After struggling with PTSD since I was 9, clinical depression and anxiety had consumed my life. In 2011, I made a serious attempt on my life and was hospitalized.

After returning home, I decided something had to change and spent years exhausting every therapy and medication and slowly spending every cent I had while desperately trying to find answers. My struggles led me to Naturopathy and through adopting a healthy lifestyle, I drastically improved my quality of life. I don't want others to suffer the same way I did; I want to help them see the way out.

Where is your business based?

My business is run from my home in Toowoomba, Queensland. We ship our products nation-wide and attend local markets regularly to connect with our customers face-to-face.

How did you start your business? What were the first steps you took?

The first thing I did was Google product trends to decide on my niche. Coconut oil had a huge growth rate and I was already in love with the stuff. I'm currently studying Naturopathy but knew I couldn't practice as a Naturopath for a few years yet and I was dying to have my own goals and accomplishments in the meantime.

I registered my business name, ABN and bought my domain - then had a logo created. After writing budgets and working out profit and loss, I started my website on Squarespace (super easy for beginners), signed up to every social media platform I could find (great for SEO even if you don't actively use all of them) and ordered my products!

What has been the most effective way of raising awareness for your business?

Social media by far! I can't stress enough how important it is to have a high quality, user-friendly website to drive customers to but social media has been king for me. I know my marketing is working because people around town refer to me as 'the Coconut Lady'. I also joined relevant Facebook groups and made lots of connections with other moms in business.

What have been your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them? 

Money, of course! We had to have the funds to start up and there was a lot of trial and error with the way we ran our business, which meant many changes along the way. We got through by reselling op-shop finds, decluttering our house, and having garage sales. Budgeting is essential.

How do you stay focused?

I keep a rough daily routine complete with family time, business tasks, and self-care practices as well as a to-do list and achievable goals. I also have made myself a beautiful vision board and write affirmations on my mirrors.

How do you differentiate your business from the competition?

I went into this thinking I had to be the quickest and cheapest to compete. I quickly learned that this meant a very small profit margin! I have now raised my prices to be higher than my competitors and focus on giving my customers more VALUE. I pride myself on knowing more than my competitors, specializing in all things coconut. I provide a high-quality service with excellent customer service and make everything as convenient as possible.

What has been your most effective marketing strategy to grow your business?

Early on, I had shirts printed with fun, memorable slogans including 'I've got 99 problems but coconut oil solved like, 86 of them' as well as our logo and had my car covered with decals. We also lived on the main street in town and hung a banner from our house. When people see me out, they immediately recognize the brand.

What's your best piece of advice for aspiring and new entrepreneurs?

Choosing one piece of advice is hard! I know when we are just getting started in our new entrepreneurial ventures our reflex is to save money but I highly recommend spending what you can on a business mentor. This can help you to avoid costly mistakes and having to make huge changes as you learn the hard way.

What's your favorite app, blog, and book? Why?

My favorite app is Evernote; it's extremely simple, but it means I can jot down any business ideas I get at 3 am on my phone, access my to-do list anywhere and file all information for easy access.

My favorite blog is byRegina.com, she gives great advice on marketing and business in general. And I love her personality.

My favorite book? I love Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert and anything by Tony Robbins.  Mindset is so important in business!

What's your favorite business tool or resource? Why?

I'm quickly warming up to Wordpress after switching my website from Squarespace. It's user-friendly once you get the hang of it, the plug ins make almost anything possible and of course, it's where the money comes in! I also love Buffer for scheduling social media.

Who is your business role model? Why?

I love Richard Branson for his business model, his values, and ethos and his book. The Virgin Way has played an integral part of my development. Oprah comes in a close second because of her massive success and values, as well as the ways she uses her success to help others.

What do you have planned for the next six months?

Our website is currently in redevelopment and we are expanding from one supplier to six! Once this settles, I'll be automating and outsourcing where I can so that I can move on to other ventures including defining my personal brand, releasing motivational daily planners, a range of t-shirts and a not-for-profit drop in center for parents with depression.

How can our readers connect with you?

You can find my website at www.organiccoconut.com.au

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/organiccoconutaustralia/

Twitter https://twitter.com/OrganicCoconutT

Pinterest https://au.pinterest.com/OrganicCoconut

Instagram https://www.instagram.com/organic_coconut_australia/

Q&A with Environmental & Wildlife Organization Entrepreneur, Natalie Kyriacou

Natalie

In today's FemFounder interview series, I chatted with Natalie Kyriacou, founder of My Green World and here is what she had to say about launching and growing an educational and conservation organization. 

Please tell us about your background.

My name is Natalie Kyriacou and I am the Founder and CEO of My Green World, the Creator of World of the Wild mobile game app, and the Director of Dogstar Foundation Australia. I hold a Bachelor degree in Journalism and a Master of International Relations degree from the University of Melbourne as well as undertaking a scholarship in Gender and Security at the University of Delhi, India.

I am also a member of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and former Board Member for the University of Melbourne’s Animal Ethics Committee in the Department of Veterinary Sciences.

I have enjoyed a rich and rewarding career as a wildlife advocate, social entrepreneur, Corporate Social Responsibility Director, and freelance journalist.

Since 2010, I have been endeavoring to drive change within Australia’s social sector; creating pioneering youth programs that aim to increase engagement in wildlife and environmental conservation efforts.

In 2008, I traveled from my hometown of Melbourne, Australia, to spend time connecting with nature throughout Asia. One of my first stops was Borneo, where I lived in the jungle working at an orangutan rehabilitation center.  I was based in Eastern Sabah, and spent my days working with orphaned and abused orangutans who were rapidly losing their habitat to palm oil plantations. These plantations have eaten away at a continent once ample in species, engulfing the countryside, and swallowing the rich diversity of the jungle.

In Borneo, I first witnessed the devastating impact that humanity has had on natural habitats and the species that inhabit them. Then I returned to Melbourne feeling determined to share these experiences with my community, in the hope that I could instigate greater participation in wildlife conservation efforts from Australia. And so, my organization, My Green World was born.

Why did you start your business? 

I found a problem that required a solution. It was really as simple as that. The rate of species extinction and the consequences of environmental degradation were too important to ignore. I felt that as a global citizen, it was my responsibility and my privilege to play a role in the future of planet earth and all its inhabitants. I started My Green World because I felt that young people would benefit from a platform that allowed them to connect with nature conservation issues, and I felt it was imperative to engage young people in these issues in a positive way.

What market does your business serve? 

My Green World is a youth-focused organization, primarily focusing on young people aged 6-18. However, we also provide resources and materials targeting educational institutions as well as teachers and parents, to ensure that we are providing comprehensive programs that reach children from all walks of life.

What's the largest challenge you've encountered as a business owner? 

The progression of My Green World has been a series of successes, failures, and challenges, and each one is something that both myself and the company can grow and learn from.  Working in my field, we are faced with huge barriers, and sometimes it seems that the odds are not tipped in our favor. Wildlife extinction, habitat erosion, food insecurity, poverty, and animal abuse are gargantuan issues that sometimes seem too big to take on.

The biggest challenge I am faced with (aside from funding, which is a perennial nightmare) is encouraging people to take wildlife and environmental issues seriously. These issues can seem so abstract, and so far removed from the day-to-day lives of many people, that they are often sidelined, or altogether ignored.

What's your best piece of business advice? 

Don't find a problem to "fit" your solution. 

How do you like to relax? 

Reading. I am a bit of a bookworm and devour books in my spare time. 

Connect with Natalie on:

MyGreenWorld.org

Twitter.com

Natalie's Twitter.com

Facebook

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