Here’s a story you might find encouraging – it’s a story that makes it seem entirely possible for the entrepreneurial impulse to exist alongside fierce altruism.
Three years ago Rene Geneva was a single mom at the end of her rope, finding food in the nearby community garden and scrounging for change. A Christmas card from her grandmother enclosed $100 and this message: I hope next year brings you good fortune.
She decided to take that money (and borrow a little more) and start a business. She had some design experience and an old sewing machine, so the choice was easy.
She started sewing clothing and, to her delight, her business grew. As her need for materials increased, she learned about the environmental impact of textiles manufacturing. She decided to switch to sustainable and organic textiles.
As her need for production help grew, she learned about the lives of workers. She established connections with a fair trade women’s co-operative in Nicaragua. Now she’s working on setting them up with a solar power source – it will make them immune to the rolling blackouts the rest of the region suffers. The co-op is in a CAFTA (Central American Free Trade Agreement) zone where getting a fair wage is by no means guaranteed.
But transporting goods from co-operatives in other countries means carbon emissions. Rene Geneva’s next step was to figure out how much carbon dioxide each of her designs was responsible for. That resulted in a ‘carbon neutral’ program that donates a corresponding sum to alternative energy sources like wind farms.
Is that enough? She says it’s not. She’ll keep trying to find ways to reduce her footprint and to do business as sustainably as possible. She says she wants her son, who’s four now, to know you can follow your dreams and still care about other people.
Maybe it’s true – after all, she’s headed to the fashion industry’s biggest trade show this August with a heart full of hope that people are ready to buy goods made with a conscience.
You can read all about her travels and epiphanies at her web site – mycorset.com
By Lisa Louise, Ode Magazine