We're bringing you another great #LadyBossInterview featuring Lili Rengifo, founder of Wana Bana Design. An ethical brand who started out of the need to have social impact in developing countries. They have unique, exclusive, hand-made, and authentic products which are designed by a group of talented designers. They also give back to several school organizations. Therefore, 5% of Wana Bana's profit will go to an education program for children in need. By purchasing products from Wana Bana, you are helping children in need. Keep reading to learn more!
Can you tell us about yourself and personal background?
I am a Colombian industrial engineer, proud mom of 2 (Thomas is 5 & Matias is 2) married to Patrick (the love of my life). Lived in Colombia until I was 25, then moved to Belgium for love and moved to The Netherlands for work as a Consultant in Continuous Improvement. What has always driven me is to empower people to change their environment. To learn from my mistakes and make it a bit better every time. To have positive social impact in my homeland and to leave behind as little as possible CO2.
I believe the world is driven by the wrong KPI’s. Profit is as important as the community and the planet. And I believe in Less is More. Consuming less gives great satisfaction.
What's the story behind Wana Bana Design?
I guess Wana Bana Design was born when I lost my only daughter Luna. That gave me perspective and I decided to go back to basics and follow my passion and instincts. It took me one year to understand that I wanted: to leave something of my own behind. I wanted to do something with Fashion, Colombia and Sustainability. Then I quit my job and started to write my business plan. 7 months later Wana Bana was born.
What means Wana Bana?
The name comes from the fruit Guanabana. You can only find it in South America en Asia I think. The analogy is something unknown but delicious. Inside looks like cotton and you have to take with the hand each seed in order to make juice or dessert. That is Wana Bana: unknown but beautiful. Another source of inspiration for people to express their uniqueness. All made with the hand.
Can you share with us what is the brand's mission and vision?
Wana Bana Design is a Latin-American Lifestyle brand, where consumers find design items to express their unique self, made with respect for people and planet. We are currently developing the fashion brand for the Dutch market.
We develop the local economy Colombia. Our focus group is unprivileged single moms. We empower them to be able to work at home and take care of their children. In The Netherlands, we make people conscious about the benefits of slow fashion/design.
Wana Bana is a space for young Latin designers to expose their beautiful products in Europe. Do you have a specific selection process when it comes to working with the designers?
We select designer we believe can have a market in the Netherlands. I first interview them via Skype. If the first interview is satisfactory (they follow the 10 principles of World Trade Fair Trade Organization) then I personally go to meet them and check their production facilities and interview the makers.
How you ensure that the items in question are high quality products and made with respect for the planet and the people?
I pay for samples and try them on for 6 months. This is my quality check and during my visit to the facilities and supplies I check that everything is in order.
Who are the designers? How can we learn more about them and their work?
In house I have 4 designers:
Nixa Sierra: Makes vegan bags from re-used vintage LP covers and magazines
Alado: 2 top young designers from Medellin. They make clothing and accessories from rest materials.
Diente de Leon: Hand-stamps 100% Colombia tights with eco-inks.
Photo: Claudia Gomez Mejia (Designer)
Thea Grant: She makes jewellery from lost and found art.
We are currently changing course: we are focusing during the next period to make Nixa Sierra a successful story. She is the most complete designer in the sense of price/quality/sustainability balance. We will measure the success by the amount of new single moms that can be added to the atelier according to the sales volumes here.
To guarantee sustainable and ethical practices within your company, what are the measures taken?
I visit the makers in average every year to see if they are complying. I am a one person company.
Annually, you will donate 5% of Wana Bana Design profits (of each sold product) to an educational program for children in disadvantage in Latin America? How important it is to give back to the community?
For me is a principle. I am very sensitive to fairness and since I was a child I believe in the important balance of giving and receiving. Call it karma: construct good karma and the world will be kind to you. I chose children because it's the future. And through education is the only way to empower the future.
Photo Credit: www.wanabanadesign.com (Fundacion A las 5, Ciudad Bolivia)
You are aware that the distance between Latin America and Europe will create CO2 releases; How CO2 release is being compensated?
We go to Colombia and plant trees. So simple it is! In internet, we found a tool to calculate the CO2 release into trees. The first time it was a big event: a university donated the trees, a person gave the terrain and volunteers came to have a great day. It was organized in 1 week. People just loved the idea.
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
That is hard. I try to make blocks. Wana Bana Design is supported by Wana Bana consulting. I work 3 days in big organization on how to improve work conditions and labour satisfaction in order to improve productivity. One day I play with my children. One day is for Wana Bana Design. In the weekends I am totally exhausted. My mind is working all the time trying to figure it out how to make Wana Bana Design sustainable as a business. And it is very difficult to focus. But for that I am receiving coaching.
What is the most significant barrier to women’s leadership in the business world? If any?
We have to choose between being a mom or being a business women. The world is not designed to have us as both in one.
How do you envisage the future of Wana Bana Design?
I see in the near future 2 things:
1- A huge atelier where unprivileged single moms can come to work and be trained in making Wana Bana products. Next door is a day care / school where their children are being taken care. Stream of company waste being reused in new design products.
2- I see here in the Netherlands Wana Bana headquarters with children facilities where moms can come to work and breastfeed, play with them during the break and leave without any rush.
Do you ship worldwide? Where can we purchase Wana Bana Design products?
We ship to the whole world via our Webshop: www.wanabanadesign.com. We currently have a pop-up but soon will come a store.
To connect with Wana Bana Design:
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