Eve Friedman is the social entrepreneur behind Eve Echo, a skincare company with a social mission; for every sale the company makes, Eve Echo gives a portion of the profits to female entrepreneurs through microloans.
In the interview below, Eve goes into more detail on the business model, and how she has been able to create a successful company with a sustainable social empowerment component. She also shares how she took the leap from a high paying job in the advertising to trying her hand at building her own for-purpose company.
4 Questions With Eve Friedman, Founder of Eve Echo
1. How did the idea for the business model come about?
The Microfinance Industry has always interested me. I was intrigued by the lending model. The small capital loans that are lent to women have had profound effects on their lives.
The women who borrow are incredibly resourceful and able to stretch a $50 loan into a sustainable business. Between 98% and 100% of women repay their loans on time. When a microfinance organization empowers a woman to improve her income, the resulting profits are typically poured back into the family, providing better nutrition, housing, or education for her children, especially girls who are the first to be pulled out of school due to lack of finances or needed for household chores.
Because females are more frequently deprived of the collateral needed to access a traditional loan and the means to make a living, the percent of female clients reached by a microfinance institution is often considered a measure of the depth of poverty that organizations like FINCA are confronting.
I wanted to create a business model that fuels microfinance opportunities for women and by doing so, create beautiful health and skincare products that women would love to use and also espouse economic empowerment in women. For the longevity of Eve Echo and by way of creating new, innovative social models, we needed to be a for-profit business.
I did not want to build a business that relied on donor-ship, it’s not feasible in this economy. I wanted to create a company that represents economic empowerment and to do this, all facets of the business needs to be financially sustainable.
I partnered with FINCA (global village bank) as our investment arm to reach the women in developing worlds. We lend 100% of net profits to FINCA at an interest rate. FINCA uses the capital to provide microloans to women to help them start and grow businesses. After one year, the interest + loan is returned to Eve Echo and reinvested in the company. Then the cycle repeats, allowing us to lend larger amounts of capital to organizations that focus on bringing social empowerment to women, advancing us closer to our mission: Eliminate gender inequality and free women from oppression.
2. How did you decide to join this sector?
Crazily, I resigned from a great career in advertising and said goodbye to stability to join this sector and create Eve Echo. In February 2011, I quit my job and jumped right into building my company. I made this leap because I knew I could do more with my life. I knew I had the potential to do something great for myself.
Of course, I miss the salary and things are tougher financially, but I wake up every morning thrilled about what we’re building at Eve Echo. I’ve always been passionate about women’s right and an activist. I wanted to do more and my economic philosophy might be a good one for women, but I know it’s not panacea. I am not trying to solve world poverty, but if I can help to impact women at a micro-level and soon macro-level, then I know we’re on track in helping women reach for financial independence and ultimately eliminating gender inequality.
3. How do you get your inspiration?
My inspiration is filled by many individuals -- my grandma being first and foremost. My father was also an entrepreneur and I admired him greatly.
The journey of Eve Echo began a year ago, when I read an article by Nicholas Kristoff called "Why woman’s right are the cause of our time." It was about the brutality and inequalities women face every day living under oppressive regimes. I got so angry reading it but I also got inspired because I learned about microfinance and how it changed these women’s lives. I was inspired by all the women benefitting from it. A lot of these women are abused, raped and live under horrific atrocities but somehow continue to prevail.
I believe that by financially empowering women they have a better chance to escape violent acts of crime from their husbands, families, society and governments. Simply getting cash into the hands of women (by way of working capital) can lead to increased self-esteem, control and empowerment by helping them achieve greater economic independence and security, which in turns gives them the chance to contribute financially to their households and communities.
Studies have shown that women’s financial contributions help them earn greater respect from their husbands and children, and some can even negotiate with their husbands to help with housework. Several studies have also shown that women receive more respect from their communities after joining a micro finance programme.
A number of programmes also found increased political participation, including involvement in civic action and women clients being elected to office. It is this kind of positive impact that inspires me to trudge forward no matter the challenges of a start-up.
My vision for Eve Echo is to build an enterprise that is defined as a distinctive platform for the global empowerment of all women. We know that by putting more money in the hands of women, we see many positive effects. When women are able to take care of their families with better nutrition, improved education, and a higher level of health care, economies are more stable, benefiting everyone. We call this the "Echo Effect."
4. How do you reset yourself to be creative? Do you have any rituals?
Exercise – running helps keep my sanity intact!
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