This week, we are speaking to Jo-Anne Godden, founder and CEO at RubyMoon. Based in the UK, RubyMoon design and sell innovative designer swimwear, using recycled discarded materials, to fund micro-loans for women entrepreneurs. Jo-Anne was a fellow of the Ogunte Make a Wave Incubator for Women Social Entrepreneurs in 2011.
Servane Mouazan: Your social business is centered around women, tell us why!
Jo-Anne Godden: Women are the key to development in the poorer nations. Where they have their own income, they have a voice. The empowerment is passed to the next generation. I launched RubyMoon on International Women’s Day in 2011 and our tagline is ‘Women Helping Women’, because the women who buy our swimwear know that 100% of the profit becomes a micro finance loan. We also have named the swimwear pieces after some of the 160 women we have invested in- they have great names like Pierette and Victorine and that is a wonderful link to the mission.
SM: What is special about the swimwear you design & sell?
J: It’s made with the ‘slow fashion’ ethos of spending time to get the right product and once that is determined we keep the styles as classics so that our customers remain loyal to those year after year. Our swimwear is not destined for landfill after one season- our fabrics are guaranteed for over 100 hours of exposure to sunlight and chlorine or salt water. They won't break down and will keep that great fit.
J: On top of that, we use regenerated yarns made from old fishing nets that have been removed from the ocean floor, meaning that the environmental impact of our swimwear is one fifteenth of a comparable high street alternative. We also produce using only European fabrics and manufacturing- in women's cooperatives in southern Spain.
SM: How do you balance the two missions of RubyMoon – selling swimwear and investing in women entrepreneurs? What do you do when they conflict?
J: It isn’t and it shouldn’t be a conflict, if you have the right social business model, there is no conflict. We have a completely circular business model that fits nicely into the circular economy.
SM: As a social business with a mission, why is RubyMoon better than other models at raising awareness and money for loans to women entrepreneurs? Why not then philanthropy for example?
J: Our current traditional business models are ruining our environment and creating worse social conditions especially in the developing world. Philanthropy just throws money at problems that we are creating ourselves. We must design sustainable business models that don’t create pollution, don’t enslave workforces, but that use profits for the good of people and planet.
SM: What one thing would help consumers choose better products?
J: Legislation for mandatory ethical labeling- with various levels of eco and labour credentials so that consumers know exactly what they are buying into. We can’t vote with our money until we have that knowledge.
SM: What 3 things do you consider necessary to be an effective leader in social enterprise?
J: 1. Vision, for what can be achieved.
2. Commitment, because it becomes your cause.
3. Tenacity, because it is harder and you will experience more set backs than any other mainstream business.
SM: What would be your top tip for any social business starting out?
J: Use the power of collaboration with like minded organisations to reach areas otherwise may not be accessible to you. In 2016 we will partner with Lendwithcare.org and FotoDocument.org to launch an exciting photographic exhibition to raise awareness and funds for women’s micro finance.
SM: Can you give us some examples of the effect of the micro finance loans you have made?
J: Yes, look at the story of Ketty Yadira Jiménez Cabrera,Ecuador, as well as the Desire Group, in Zambia.
Ketty Yadira Jiménez Cabrera, Ecuador
Ketty Yadira Jiménez Cabrera runs an internet cafe in the town of Catamayo in southern Ecuador. She requested a loan in order to buy three new computers, together with other equipment such as cartridges and supplies, to open an internet cafe with printing services. She is 35 and single and lives with her parents. Ketty has a degree in accounting and auditing and worked for some seven years in the headquarters of a construction company until unfortunately the company ceased trading. With her loan Ketty bought two new computers for her internet café as well as a new photocopier machine. She managed to obtain a discount from the suppliers because, through the loan, she paid in cash for everything. Her business is progressing really well, particularly after moving to the town centre Read more…
Desire Group, Zambia
Edina Phiri who is a member of the Desire group, told us how she used her loan and what difference it has made to her business already. Edina used this loan to order large quantities of cooking oil, beans, vegetables and kapenta (small dried fish) for her food stall. She has seen big progress in her business’s capacity. The loan she received has made an impact on her family. Edina is able to buy food, pay school fees for her children and buy clothes for them.
Edina started her business because her husband is not working and they have a big family. She wanted to be able to provide for her family. Since starting her food stall, Edina has gained new skills. Some of these are business management skills through reserving profits for business improvement. Read more