Friday Interview: Cristina Eastwood

Discover a very impressive and inspiring woman, Cristina Eastwood. I had the pleasure of meeting her this week and think that you will be as delighted as I was to get to know her!

Charities projects are very important for you, do you think that entrepreneurs need to be more involved with it ? How ?

I am a firm believer that , charity, humanitarian social projects, can be run alongside and be included in all entrepreneurial enterprise. Commit to a cause that makes your heart miss a beat, find ways to collaborate with fund raising, training , organising workshops, product design . The list is long and exciting, the choice is yours, variations upon a lovely theme .

Where does your passion about fashion and art come from?

I was a very inquisitive and communicative youth who insisted on talking to everyone , particularly strangers . You find out so much about people when you are spontaneous. Both sides of my family were art collectors , poets, artists, politicians , diplomats . I am a humanist with the flame of creativity always alive in my soul . I studied History of Art at the Courtauld  Institute , I stepped into the fashion world by default .

You turned your passion into your career. Is it difficult to earn a living from something you are passionate about?

I am a born linguist and speak 5 languages fluently. For many years I ran a parallel career as a simultaneous interpreter and translator . I became the agent and distributor for a French, Parisian label of accessories for the whole of England . Through really hard work and a lot of travelling I established  a network of  hundreds of boutiques who became our clients My French boss was a very hard task master , I learned a lot about the business and its disciplines from her . She gave up her business when she married a banker, our many  clients were adamant that I was to start my own collection and label, I did , with passion and pizzazz against all odds , it was a huge success . A few years down the line I found myself running a cottage industry with 50 out workers exporting our creations to many Continents and we’ll know Department Stores like Saks Fifth Avenue , Neiman Marcus, Harrods , Harvey Nichols .. I cannot sew to save my life , I learned my trade as I went along.

How did the idea to create eco-friendly fashion accessories occur to you?

I founded Ephemeral Brazil in 2007 after a long trip to Brazil . I was a volunteer on a local Government Health project to combat Tuberculosis and HIV in a number of Favelas of Rio , in particular Favela Da Rocinha which is the largest in the world with 180.000 residents . Many of the locals acting as volunteers in the project were artisans who raised funds for the local crèche with their clothes and accessories creations made  solely from recycled materials . Cardboard, newspapers , plastic bottles, Melita coffee filters… They had nothing, everything was donated or collected by them or for them . I was touched and inspired by their creativity and enormous sense of community . By the time my volunteering role came to an end I had an enchanting accessory up-cycled  collection made by the local ladies volunteering with me . Ephemeral Brazil was born , it has been the focus of my professional life ever since , another flame was lit in my heart .

You have a lot of partnerships (ABC trust, NGO Corpo, Instituto Work…) – how important it is for the growth of a company to develop partnerships with other companies?

From my point of view and experience I think that it is imperative to make alliances and work with  organisations and NGO who are trusted by the locals and already working with them Outsiders regardless of their good will and credentials can inadvertently create a sense of suspicion which can  take a considerable time to conquer . With the correct local  partnership you can expand by building on their foundations while bringing fresh ideas and creativity to the work place and the residents.

What tips would you give to people who want to run their business?

Have more than one career . Search as you go along your path , chose , which direction you want to follow on your own. Become a sole trader, build your business by finding a niche in the market and stick to it . Study the opposition, have faith in yourself, be constant in your input and determination , keep your antennae on at all times, be intuitive, think out of the box . Always speak to strangers , be a source of inspiration for them and all those around you . Surprise yourself !

Cristina is one of the mentors at the Migrant Business Accelerator.
If you wish to help migrants become entrepreneurs and change their lives for the better, get in touch with This Foreigner Can Social Enterprise.