Ogunte: Dear Kresse, what energises you the most about your work?
Kresse Wesling: Each and every day we are solving problems, we are fixing something, we are rescuing and resuscitating a material that needs a second chance.
Ogunte: How do profit and social impact work together in your mind? Who has influenced your opinions on this matter over your career?
Kresse: In the engine of progress, social and environmental impact is the destination, the car, the whole point. Profit is simply the grease in the wheels, the WD40. This is the only relationship between the two that makes any sense for humanity.
There have been many influences on this point of view - from my family, to mentors within the social enterprise space to heroes like Ray Anderson and Rachel Carson. If this weren't enough, just watching the news would make me this way. We have to do more, be better.
Ogunte: How did your early life influence your career choices? When did your interest in sustainability begin?
Kresse: I grew up in a Canadian idyll really - lots and lots of camping, lakes, moose, bear... I had grandparents who wasted nothing and gave everything.
My childhood was a gift, a debt I feel both obliged and honoured to repay.
Ogunte: What are the greatest obstacles you are facing right now at Elvis & Kresse? How do they compare to the challenges that arose when you first started out on the journey?
Kresse: We are tackling another material problem, the world's post-industrial leather scrap. This challenge is 80,000 times bigger than the fire hose problem. We need to scale every aspect of our business, dramatically, in order to succeed. And we need to do this all at once.
The scale just doesn't compare, but I think we have a shot at this because we have a reputation now, we have partners, we have help... we are much more prepared for this challenge than we were when we rather naively promised to save London's hoses.
Ogunte: What is your proudest career moment to date?
Kresse: We set up the business to rescue all of London's hoses. We started collecting in 2005. By 2010, we were big enough to be taking all of the hose, transforming all of the hose. We had lived up to our first promise.
Ogunte: Which areas of the business world do you find it hardest to be confident in?
Kresse: I am overconfident - that is a problem in itself - it means I expect results too quickly and lack patience. So I haven't been trying to build confidence, rather to learn a way around it and to celebrate the work we do as a team.
If I can't do something well, like sew or navigate our accounting software, I am very grateful to be surrounded by a highly skilled team.
Ogunte: What are three key pointers to keep in mind when trying to make a social business more visible and engaging?
Ogunte: What does self-care mean to you? What are your top tips for maintaining balance in a busy life?
Kresse: Elvis & I have no balance - we share a life that involves a lot of work. But this is how we want it.
Self-care for me is the joy of working with Elvis - the coolest, kindest, funniest person I know.
Ogunte: If you could travel back in time to when you were starting out on your entrepreneurial journey and have a 5-minute conversation with yourself, what advice would you impart?
Kresse: I would tell myself that it was going to work out - that it would be insanely hard, but that it would work. I wouldn't be specific about anything though, no warnings, no highlights - it is our failures and our successes that have brought us here.
Ogunte: What are the major challenges you foresee coming up in the next decade for you? What skills will you develop now to equip yourself to deal with them?
Kresse: Continuing to build a team of the same quality so that we can really, really see how good we can be, and to ensure that the business will outlive the founders.
I need so many new skills but the ability to coordinate and empower others would be at the top.
Ogunte: Finally, who are three women in social enterprise who inspire you?
Kresse: Wangari Maathai (∞), Sophi Tranchell (From Divine Chocolate), Kate Hofman (Founder of GrowUp Urban Farms, London’s first commercial aquaponics urban farming business.)
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