“Fashion & looking good is killing the planet. We’re on a mission to become the agents of change.” Ieva & Magda
We at BoxHuman are passionate about highlighting and celebrating inspiring humans; especially the ones who are inspiring, helping, and bringing light to the world. We do this to rebalance some of the negative messages we often hear, see, and receive daily. We met up with one of these amazing individuals…
Hi Ieva and Magda, it’s fantastic to meet you both. Without further ado, let’s start this BoxHuman Business Inspire Series interview. Can you please tell me a little bit about who you are and what you guys are especially known for?
Ieva: Hi, my name is Ieva Balciute, I’m a serial entrepreneur and co-founder of Aequem – a sustainable fashion platform that is changing the future of the fashion industry.
Magda: Hello! My name is Magda Daniloaia and I am a strategy consultant for small to medium fashion and retail companies and the co-founder of the leading sustainable e-commerce platform Aequem.com
What a fabulous introduction, thank you Magda and Ieva. Can you please tell us what inspired you to start your business? And…What’s the story behind your unique and cool name?
Ieva: Aequem for me was inspired by personal experience – I wanted to make better choices as a consumer but found it extremely hard and time-consuming. You need to do so much research to find cool, sustainable brands. In addition, there’s one more challenge called ”greenwashing”. So many brands claim that they are sustainable or ”green” and it’s questionable at the very best (especially when it comes to fast fashion) so you need to do so much research to understand what is what.
Magda and I met at a business event and she had the same observations and challenges. We thought: ”Wouldn’t it be great to have one platform where you can shop head to toe from many stylish brands knowing that they are all sustainable?”. We started researching and realised that there’s no such platform offering products that are both socially and environmentally sustainable. We started working on it pretty much right away.
Magda: For me Ieva and I are both extremely passionate about the environment. We really wanted to make better choices however leading extremely busy lives as female entrepreneurs made us feel like it is very difficult, if not impossible, to make better choices. We wanted to seamlessly shop for all our needs in one place, from vetted brands that we knew we could trust.
Ieva: It took us a while to find a name as we wanted something elegant but also with a meaning behind it – something that would reflect the story and the values behind the brand. Therefore we chose Aequem which is a spin-off from Latin word ‘Aequo’ meaning balance, equilibrium, equality – all the things that we want to bring back to society and our relationship with nature.
Wow, such a great name with a great meaning! So being friends who work together I must ask…What is the best thing about working with each other? And…What have you learned about each other since working together?
Ieva: I’m convinced that you only should be doing business with people that you actually like. At the same time, I believe that you should think very carefully before starting a business with a friend. Not all of your friends (even the closest ones) will be good business partners and you risk losing a friendship. However, if it works you can be unstoppable together.
Magda: I think that our common passion for the environment made us start our business together. It is quite funny because before, after we started our friendship we were both saying how we prefer to be solo entrepreneurs and have all the decision power. However, we agreed to work together and I could not think about having a better partner! We are both extremely hard working and very skilled and most importantly, we are willing to hear each other out and find the best solutions, together. I think we learned we can count on each other!
Ieva: I Absolutely agree! Also the best thing about working together for me is…It’s A LOT OF FUN! Starting a business requires a lot of effort and long hours, things don’t always work out as you expect them to and we manage to turn even difficult situations into something positive.
We also understand each other very well (sometimes it’s so bizarre – we have the same thought at the same time!). We also learned so much about each other – personally and professionally.
It’s so brilliant to hear two people can come together to work in such harmony while creating a great mission and business. As with life and especially with business there can be ups and downs. Can you please kindly tell us, in your own words, about any challenges you have faced since starting Aequem and how you’ve both personally dealt and overcome them?
Magda: Definitely. For me its been the lack of time and resources, it is a lot of juggling! I believe we work very efficiently but still, it is a fairly large scale project so we always have about a few dozen things we want to do! Sometimes it is also important to say no.
Ieva: When you start a new business you always have a lot of challenges daily. Unless you start with a substantial investment, I think the main challenge in most young businesses is the scarcity of resources (financial, time, etc.). So far for Aequem we dealt with it by optimising and automating a lot of processes. As we are primarily a tech business we also had some technical challenges – to solve some of them we bought the solutions, for others – we literally invented them.
Thank you Magda and Ieva for sharing some great insights into running a big e-commerce business like Aequem.
Knowing that we’re in the presence of such successful entrepreneurs I must move onto our ‘Power–Move’ question. Let’s begin…
What would you say you learned from all of these challenges?
Ieva: One thing for sure – having a business definitely teaches you how to be creative! I think it would have been great to know a lot of small things before starting Aequem – that would have made things slightly quicker, however, learning is part of the journey. We truly believe in the cause (i.e. to make sustainability the norm), the importance of this business, and that we have a capacity to make the world a better place – that’s really powerful and inspiring for me.
Magda: I would say…take it step by step and you can never be 100% prepared. It is all about being brave, prepare as much as you can and then learn as you go along. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Try many things, fail fast, and smart! I would say one piece of advice would have been to not worry as much, just do what you believe to be right at each moment and then the path will almost show itself! Trust your gut.
Thank you for sharing such great advice. Can we please now ask…Why is sustainable fashion so important? What is the difference between sustainable fashion to ‘normal’ fashion? And what do you want to see Aequem achieve next?
Magda: Fashion is one of the largest polluters globally, in fact, surprising to many people. Especially since fast fashion appeared, which is a relatively new phenomenon, our consumption and waste production has increased so much. We are destroying the planet in this rhythm so it is time to review our practices.
Sustainable fashion for us means socially and environmentally sustainable. All our brands are socially responsible but also use exclusively sustainable materials – meaning organic / upcycled / recycled – the most environmentally sustainable materials on the market.
Our goal for Aequem is to make sustainability the norm so we want to grow as much as possible and make this the new reality.
Ieva: Why sustainable fashion is so important for me? I think we are at the real breaking point now – it’s becoming a consensus that we can’t carry on consuming like this. As much as I love fashion it’s the second biggest polluter on this planet after the oil industry. Things need to change so we decided to become the agents of change.
Wow, such powerful and insightful information! It’s such an honour to be able to highlight what you are both doing in fashion and for the planet. Can we please now ask…What’s been your proudest achievement so far with Aequem? And….What is the future vision for Aequem?
Ieva & Magda: Aequem is a very young business – we launched it a year ago and we have quite a lot of achievements to be proud of. To name a few:
- We are the first multi-label e-commerce site to align with United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (under every product on our site you can see which SDGs we align with);
- We are the largest and the greenest platform in the market – we have over 50 brands on our site and over 150 now signed so our consumers can find new products every week;
- We had our first physical pop-up store in Milan during the Fashion Week in September;
- We had mentions of our platform in quite a few publications including Vogue Italia and we spoke at many events promoting sustainability.
All this we achieved with no investment. We have some big plans for Aequem – we want to grow significantly and do more amazing things! So stay tuned!
Congratulations! Such amazing success for a young business. We’re nearly at the end of our time together. I think it would be great if we throw in a BoxHuman Inspire question before we say goodbye…
If there was one piece of advice you would give to someone to inspire and empower them what would it be and why?
Magda: Believe in yourself and do not stop until you find your path. Find the thing in life that makes you feel like you are achieving your purpose on the planet. I strongly believe we are all made for something unique, whether it is big or small. I am inspired by all women everywhere that are pioneers in their field and showed everyone it is possible.
Ieva: What I always say to people who want to start their own business (or do anything new that scares them) – just do it, just try and something good might come out of it. Very often (especially at an early age) we are surrounded by people that push us towards ‘safe routes’ in life and that way insinuates us from a level of fear when it comes to entrepreneurship.
It all comes from a good place, they wish us well, try to protect us from risk but often that really backfires in life as many people choose a path that is safe but doesn’t bring them happiness or fulfillment. Unfortunately we then need years to unlearn this behaviour and thought patters.
If you want to do something new in life ask yourself ‘What do I have to loose?’ Make a plan and take action. You don’t have to quit everything that you were before – you can start making changes and building something in your free time and see how it goes. I can assure you – trying and failing is million times better than regretting that you didn’t try at all (I see in other people that these regrets become even stronger with age) is the ONLY way to achieve things that you really want in life.
And lastly…What do you do to empower and motivate yourself on a daily basis and why?
Ieva: Most days I’m already motivated as I do what I really love and I see purpose in it. I listen to many podcasts, I read a lot, I surround myself by positive people, I write down future scenarios that excite me and it inspires me to take action.. I have many techniques. Of course, I also have days when I feel miserable. The key is to be kind to yourself. If you work a lot – sometimes the best thing to do is to have a good night sleep and the world becomes much brighter when you wake up.
Magda: I love having flexibility in my work. Even though I work probably most than most people the fact that I have a relatively flexible schedule makes me feel like it is not a chore. I am also extremely motivated by the impact we have on the condition of our beautiful planet. I care about preserving it for us and future generations. We motivate our staff trough flexible working conditions and the capacity to learn in a fast-growing environment.
”Everything is energy and that’s all there is to it. Match the frequency of the reality you want, and you cannot help but get that reality. It can be no other way.”Albert Einstein
I just have to say…The world needs more people like you, Magda, and Ieva. Thank you for shining your light for others and for caring about the future of our tomorrow!
Finally and to conclude this interview…A BoxHuman is an empowered individual. They will not be defined by society’s labels. They show the better qualities of humankind, such as strength, kindness, and inspiration. Can you please tell us what makes you a BoxHuman?
Ieva: I think BoxHuman is such an amazing concept. I always try to be the best version of myself and to create the most positivity I can. Sometimes it’s by building entrepreneurial ventures and sometimes it’s just by giving time to people that need it by listening, trying to see their perspective, their challenges, and helping them to overcome them.
I believe that we are much stronger working together, helping each other, collaborating, and lifting each other up (not fighting!). Sometimes a simple smile, a hug, or a positive inspiring/encouraging comment can help so much. A lot of the time it takes courage to listen to your heart and do what you think is right.
I try to be the best example to people around me and I think that’s what makes me a BoxHuman.
Magda: I Love the concept of BoxHuman! I have always considered myself a bit of a revolutionary, even from a very young age. I believe the BoxHuman idea is really compatible with how I see the world in general.
We are all capable of amazing things, we need to be an inspiration to the world in our own unique way and let our light shine bright!
“Thank you, Ieva & Magda.”
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