11 Sep Changemaker Chats: Eliza Eliza
Our Changemaker Chats interview series tells stories from the front line of impact entrepreneurship, as we get to know changemakers from the #EthicalHour community.
Changemakers come in many different forms, but ultimately are united by one thing – the desire to leave the world a better place than they found it, and the proactive attitude to make change happen.
In this series, we invite them to share their story openly and honestly, the highs and the lows, to give the world a better understanding of what it takes to make an income and an impact.
By bringing together thousands of changemakers and highlighting their journey, we want to collect and showcase the things they have in common and what sets them apart.
Through this series we hope to create a roadmap for the changemakers that come after us, so they can learn from our mistakes and take our successes further.
Today we meet Elizabeth, founder of Eliza Eliza, as she tells us about their Changemaker journey…
I’m Elizabeth, the founder of Eliza Eliza, based in Cardiff. I make sustainably conscious ‘Bags Of Meaning’.
My signature material is a hemp/organic cotton blend woven in Lancashire, UK.
I am a wife and the mother to 3 young boys. Before I became a Mum, I taught secondary school Geography and have always had a keen interest in people and places.
I love losing myself in podcasts and spending time at the beach all year round.
What first inspired you to become a changemaker? Why did you choose the cause you focus on?
There was never a lightbulb moment for me, like so many other people I have always felt drawn to helping others where I can.
I chose to teach Geography because I felt passionate in sharing my knowledge and teaching others about the people and places of the world around us.
It was during my maternity leave with my second child, I made a simple pouch bag to help organise my changing bag; other mums would comment on how useful they looked and if I could make them one.
This is when I began my search for charities to partner with.
Through teaching I was well aware of the extreme worldwide slavery problem; in 2016 there were 40.3 Million men, women and children in slavery
What many people don’t realise, is that slavery is happening right here in the UK: in 2017 there were 5,145 potential victims submitted to the National Referral Mechanism.
Unseen was my first partner charity; they work incredibly hard with victims of modern slavery in the UK.
They support survivors with rebuilding their lives as well as educating the public to recognise the signs of slavery in our communities. I want to use my bags to encourage the user to open up conversations with their friends and family about the issues tackled by Unseen as well as the other charities I partner with! Check out the work of The Eve Appeal and CoppaFeel!
Which of the Sustainable Development Goals do you focus on? How do you create impact against them?
Regarding my Freedom Collection, SDG 8.7 Decent Work and Economic Growth is my main focus.
Aiming to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking with particular target to end all forms of child labour by 2025.
SDG 5.2 and 5.3 Gender Equality puts particular focus on women and girls in all forms of exploitation. This is hugely relevant to me as my Freedom Collection was inspired by Unseen’s Butterfly Program which specifically builds the confidence and skills of women in the charity’s safe houses.
As I also partner with The Eve Appeal and CoppaFeel to raise awareness for Women’s cancers, SDG 3.4 Good Health is also relevant as aiming to reduce premature mortality from non-communicable diseases (NCDs) by one third through prevention and treatment.
My V and B Collection hope to break the ice and promote discussion of these sometimes taboo subjects.
When you knew you wanted to be a changemaker, what was the first step you took?
Firstly, I did my research by speaking and listening to what my ideal customer wanted. This helped me choose the charities I wanted to support. I also spent time searching for the best materials to use for my products – I was keen to ensure that I source from ethical and eco-friendly producers and from local suppliers where possible.
How did you get your first customer?
Instagram has been a huge importance to my business – there’s a great ethical community on there and I have made some great friends, even though we have never met face to face!
My initial customers were my family and friends, but the first time a ‘stranger’ bought a bag from my website was the best feeling!
How are you inspiring others to support your cause?
Inspiring others to talk about the causes I support is central to Eliza Eliza as a brand.
The most rewarding messages have been from women telling me how, after seeing information Eliza Eliza has shared, they have been given the confidence to attend their smear tests or visit their GP with concerns about their body.
When I see comments from people saying that they had no idea that slavery was so prolific around the world, I know that I made the right decision with my business.
What’s the biggest obstacle you’ve overcome in your journey so far?
How did you overcome it?
As I don’t have a business background, I needed to learn how to market, photograph, create a website…there was so much to do!
As an entrepreneur there is something new to learn everyday – I often feel like I’m spinning plates!
What’s the best decision you’ve made that’s had the biggest impact for your business/cause so far?
Finding an accountability partner has really helped me to push Eliza Eliza forward this year. It can be quite lonely running a business solo, so having another person to run ideas by, set goals with and give you that motivational chat when you need it has been great for me.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
That you can’t change everything at once, taking small steps to a more sustainable lifestyle is better than doing nothing at all.
Where do you see yourself and the world around you in 10 years? What’s your vision for a more ethical and sustainable future?
I would like to really cement Eliza Eliza as a trusted fashion accessories brand, raising money and helping to educate in a diverse range of issues and charities.
In the future I hope that we don’t have to describe brands as being ‘ethical/eco/sustainable’ as this will just be the norm.
Finally, what advice would you give to aspiring changemakers?
Take advice from others, but when it comes down to it when making decisions, go with your heart and your instincts.