Earlier this year we featured a profile on the ZOË Alliance, "a global alliance that harnesses market forces to help developing nations grow their economies and alleviate poverty." They do this by adding a conscious twist to corporate gift giving, connecting businesses with products that support artisans in developing nations as well as those facing social challenges.
Today we're featuring an interview with the company's founder and CEO, Angela Draskovic. Angela has 24 years experience in business and non-profit leadership positions in corporates as well as startups. Today she sits on the board of various charities, she runs the ZOË Alliance, and is an avid connector in the social enterprise sector.
4 Questions with Angela Draskovic, Founder & CEO of ZOË Alliance Inc.
1. How did the idea for the business model come about?
My faith shapes my life significantly and I reached a point about 22 years into my career when it became clear that I needed to step out and really commit to making a difference in the lives of people.
I became fascinated with social enterprises and I had always been personally passionate about alleviating poverty. The idea for ZOË grew out of seeking to find a way to help women and children in developing nations through business. In fact, it was an article in a magazine where Kerry Hilton from Freeset threw out the challenge, "If business can get them into the sex trade, why can’t business get them out?” That really got me thinking.
Helping indigenous leaders grow viable businesses and sustainable economies in villages seemed a natural way for me to pitch in, given my business and charitable experiences.
2. How did you decide to join this sector?
It occurred to me that back in my telecom days my company spent more money than I know on client and employee related gifts and promotional items. I did a little digging and realized this is a mammoth $40 billion dollar industry in North America, even in these economic times.
Of course we have seen and known about fair trade gifts for years through the good work of organizations like Ten Thousand Villages, but this is where my big business background and international development mindset kicked in.
The promotional gifts sector was in great need of innovation. Everyone is always looking for something different or meaningful. I mean, who needs another pen, right? And I thought about the social impact that could be achieved in rural settings if village-based businesses could employ hundreds of people making high volume gift and promo items. It was a win-win, market-based model for lasting social change.
3. How do you get your inspiration?
I think everyone who has stepped out to do something like what I am doing has a deep internal motivation rooted in his or her beliefs and values. My inspiration, my fuel on the difficult days that we all experience on a journey like this, is rooted in my faith. Next to this, the people I get to work with are so courageous, smart and amazing. They inspire me greatly; I mean, the risks I take and the challenges we live with here are nothing compared to what they take on with a smile.
4. How do you reset yourself to be creative? Do you have any rituals?
I spend some time each morning considering the day before and contemplating the coming day before I jump in. I also get away once a month to intentionally stop the treadmill, make sure that everything is still on purpose, and make the space to listen and dream.
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