Be For Change

sustainable living

Exhibiting at top Drawer and winning the Spotted Award

Upcycled Leather Goods, Sustainable FutureAna CarneiroComment
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How does one get into a Trade Show?

Starting this little business by myself and trying to do things right by the world hasn’t been the easiest journey. In fact, I can’t think of anything which ever brought me more frustration and headaches… on rainy days (like today!), when more things go wrong than right, I might even question if any of it is worth it. Are my designs good enough? Do people outside of my online bubble support sustainable business? Are there any shops out there willing to do business differently? Questions like these and more pop into mind, and the doubts aren’t always easy to shake.

So when I was contacted by the curator of Spotted at Top Drawer in June to take part in the fair, I was both surprised and flattered,

Top Drawer London is a bi-annual fair taking place in Olympia. Its maxim is to be ‘out of ordinary’ by showcasing a range of new and established brands across Home, Gifts, Fashion and Crafts. - all with design-led products. Spotted at Top Drawer is a section of brands exhibiting at a Trade Show for the first time, curated by Charlotte Abraham, from which a winner is selected.

My main consideration when deciding whether to go for it was the cost. Though this is meant to be a discounted stall, at £1495 (including VAT and insurance) it is a far cry from affordable. Add to that all the costs related to the production of goods to exhibit, printed materials and business cards, transport and set up costs… and let’s just say I didn’t have it in mind to spend that kind of money on marketing this year. But it did feel like a great opportunity, so I picked up a few extra shifts at my part-time job and committed to it. From the day I made the first payment, I had just over 2 months till the fair - included in which was my first trip to Portugal of the year to see my family, Of course that in one’s mind 2 months is plenty of time! In reality it went by in the blink of an eye…

I will admit here for the first time that in the weeks prior to exhibiting I had my fair share of moments of crippling doubt. Sure, it had been great to be contacted to take part in the fair, but wasn’t that all about the fair making money anyway? I’ve been in business for a while, but I changed my focus (product-wise) a few times, lost my fair amount of loyal customers in the process, and I am still working part-time to make ends meet. Was a fair the best way to spend my money? The only thing that kept me going was the thought that ‘if you never try, you’ll never know!’

Now that you know what my state of mind was, you can probably understand what I mean when I say that being shortlisted as part of the Spotted Award was a huge relief. Furthermore, I may or may not have shed a couple of tears when I found out that I won the award! Firstly because it confirmed that I hadn’t gone barking mad by investing so much of myself into this new collection, and secondly because it meant getting something in return for the huge investment I made signing up to this fair.

Winning the award provided me with a much needed confidence boost ahead of the fair, along with the validation that comes from being recognised by people and institutions that one admires.

Sam Hood—Founder of Amara said, “Both the idea and the end product are strong. Turning an unwanted raw material into a viable product is a great idea commercially and environmentally.”

Echoing similar sentiments, Emily Cuthbert—Head of Product at Wolf & Badger said, “The products are well-considered and using surplus fabrics to make creative accessories is a brilliant concept. Be for Change is a brand built on values and their focus on minimising waste is commendable.”

Setting up for my first trade show

Saturday was set up day. Being a Londoner as I am, I cycle around town and don’t own a car. I thought my display out in advance and decided to keep furnishings to a minimum (not just to facilitate getting things there, but also because I work from home and I have very limited space to store business-related equipment.) 1 suitcase worth of products, 1 suitcase with wall paint and assorted tools, plus an IKEA bag with plants and leather waste - that is all I took. I luckily got one of my friends to drive me to the fair, which made for a painless drop-off and unloading (do prepare all related paperwork in advance and look in the venue map for which loading bay to head to).

I proceeded to set up on my own, which took about 4 hours including the time to paint the wall and waiting for it to dry. I thought that writing with chalk on the wall would communicate the crafty element of my business, but quickly realised that it was simply not neat enough and looked a bit unprofessional. Oh well! Live and learn. There was nothing to be done about it at that point.

Having used a rack and plants I already owned and then nothing but my own products as decoration, I was definitely one of the people who spent the least money on their stand.. A number of the makers and designers in the Spotted section bought tables, shelves and display units on purpose for the fair, in addition to custom wall stickers, etc. I later found out that a number of the other exhibitors had been getting ready for the fair for over 6 months, which made me feel a lot better about how differently we had budgeted and prepared for this!

Exhibiting as a one woman band

I came to the fair prepared with everything I thought I might need: reusable cup, a filled water bottle, lunch and a few snacks. The business cards and price list I had left hidden in my stand over night, along with an order pad.

On Sunday the doors opened for the first day of business, and much to my thrill I got an order shortly after! Around midday the delivery of the prize ensued, giving me the opportunity to meet a few of the judges who were in attendance. Everything felt brilliant! I was alone at my stand but got to meet “my neighbours” and their work whenever things were slow. At this point I was getting a fair amount of interest in my products, but no more orders as my prices turned out to be too high for the buyers in attendance. Still, this felt okay as we had been told in advance that on Sunday a lot of general public and independent shops would be present. The day ended with Exhibitors’ Drinks, which was not only a great way to unwind a little but also to meet other people and their work.

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Monday was said to be the day in which most buyers and press attended, and I showed up coffee in hand and feeling ready for business (I made the mistake of buying coffee within the fair the previous day - far too expensive for the quality). Within the first few hours it was visible that this was a less busy day, yet quality over quantity is what we all really looked for. Unfortunately, throughout the second day I continued to get the same feedback: products were too expensive for the buyers who stopped by. A few people spoke with me at length and took my details, but none of these contacts resulted in business.

The third and last day brought me more of the same, but with even less visitors. I must confess that at a certain point I became a tad disappointed, especially as I continuously saw that buyer’s interests gravitated toward printed PVC products (just happens to be one of the most toxic, non-recyclable materials man ever came up… no big deal for some people, my head on the other hand was about to explode! It’s 2019 people! How do you do not care what material your products are made of?!!! Profit over planet is alive and well - including in small business in the UK) or goods made from not-that-bad materials but manufactured in China and then shipped over.

At the end of the day, my boyfriend (who had just got back in town) came by to help break down and paint the wall back to white. The painting at the end did add a bit more fuss to it than what other people had to deal with, but, as always, I was happy to get on with it instead of spending extra money getting it done. At the end of the day, we loaded everything into an Uber and made our way back home - thus ending my experience of Top Drawer AW19.


Spotted at Top Drawer first prize

While winning has been really exciting, I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t all about the prize.

The prize for the Autumn Winter 2019 edition comprises a free stand for the next edition of Top Drawer, as well as one-hour mentorship sessions with Patricia Van Den Akker, Founder of The Design Trust; Rosey Blackmore, Merchandise Director for Tate Enterprises; Madeleine Furness, Business Development Office at Cockpit Arts; Laura Jane Boast, Founder of Design Giving; Ella Doran, Founder of Ella Doran Design Ltd; Victoria Suffield, Founder of The Hambledon.

It has now been a month since Top Drawer, giving me enough time to settle back into a routine and meet with a few of my mentors. Each of my sessions so far have been precious lessons in not only what it takes to succeed, but how to wear different hats and do it well! A number of the ladies gracing me with their time and knowledge have gone above and beyond to provide value, from discussing my business in-depth in preparation to our session, to sending me further information in the aftermath of our mentorship session and making themselves available to help with anything else that may come up in the coming months.

It was really these sessions that made my financial investment worth it so far, and if I hadn’t won the award I wouldn’t be going back to Top Drawer anytime soon.

As I do have a free stand waiting for me, I look forward to going back to Olympia as an exhibitor in January, with the expectation that having a stand in the more relevant section of the fair will help me reach the right buyers and grow my business. In advance for the fair, I am developing a couple of new products which are less costly to produce - and therefore less expensive to retail.

More blog posts to come on the run up to the fair in the coming months!


I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and that it proves helpful to anyone considering exhibiting at a trade show!

Do let me know if you have any questions, as I would be more than happy to help as I can

Best

Ana xx

Spotted at Top Drawer London: I'm shortlisted for the Spotted Awards!

Upcycled Leather Goods, Sustainable FutureAna CarneiroComment

It’s a “!” kind of post today, as I am very excited to announce that Be For Change has been selected to exhibit at Spotted at Top Drawer London.

Top Drawer is a trade fair taking place in Olympia twice a year, which showcases unique design-led brands across homewares, gifts, crafts and stationary. They also have a special section named Spotted where they showcase emerging design brands. Spotted at Top Drawer is curated by Charlotte Abrahams and it has been a pleasure to be selected by her discerning eyes!

Featured in the fair’s Eco Trail

Featured in the fair’s Eco Trail

And a second photo selected to feature in the Spotted section of the Preview Magazine

And a second photo selected to feature in the Spotted section of the Preview Magazine

Be For Change has been selected thanks to my new upcycled leather collection which launched earlier this year, a collection that I designed for over the year before the first products launched. If you haven’t already, you can discover the collection here, or read more about what makes upcycled leather so very sustainable over on this previous blog post.

As one of the selected brands, Be For Change has been entered into the Spotted Awards, a competition in between the various Spotted exhibitors to win a series of one-to-one mentoring sessions with industry leaders and a free stand for the following fair. I am very happy to say that Be For Change is one of the shortlisted brands!

I look forward to revealing more as I will be launching a new collaboration and new products at the time of this fair ;)

Till then, keep up with what’s happening on the Be For Change Instagram or subscribe to the newsletter

Ana xx

Live mindful and lessen your impact

Sustainable Future, War on WasteAna CarneiroComment

I've written it a few times in this blog and on the Be For Change website, but don't mind if I repeat it:

Being a mindful individual isn't just about practicing meditation, it's about being a well-informed, aware citizen that takes on a mindful attitude towards their life choices, big and small.

Before starting off the post its worth watching this short documentary from Vox media that explores why we might find it challenging to live and consume mindfully and the implications of such lifestyle. 

Ultimately, this short video argues that we do need the government to pass policies, however these policies aren’t successful without public support. It is through the individual change of consumption and the increase in public awareness that a cultural change occurs, one which acts as a bottom up support for large scale transformations. 

Going green does not need to be a sacrifice, either for us as individuals or for businesses, governments and the economy.

So in this post we are going to discuss how we provide and take part of this bottom up support.

We need to make big changes, and we need to make them happen as soon as possible

The previous blog post discussed the adverse effects of climate change and how much there is already at stake, revealing the urgency of taking action.

While irreversible damage has already been done, we are on time to mitigate the damages. To do this we need to become aware of just how close to home the effects of climate change are - no country or region will ever be the same again. This is where the extreme weather events of this summer can hopefully serve to make people realize the severity of the issue.

It is not only up to our governments and sovereign nations to implement better measures and change how business is done. as the video above shows it's also up to us! We definitely have a significant role to play.

There's no time for us to maintain our current consumption habits and keep living in a linear economy based on extraction, production, use and then waste. Our lifestyle choices are a great place to start.

It is vital that we move away from linear consumption and towards a circular economy, in which there is minimum need for virgin materials and products don’t have built in obsolence. In which outputs eventually become inputs too and businesses adopt production strategies such as upcycling (as Be For Change does). 

simple solutions for a complex problem...

Let's start with the big decisions: the top 3 things one can do to reduce their impact on the planet are to have one less child, to adopt a plant-based diet and to reduce one's use of any and all fossil-fueled methods of transportation (especially cars and airplanes). You might be thinking 'how's that simple?!' but the complicated part is the thinking of it - we'd argue that Not having another child, Not eating meat and Not traveling far away multiple times a year are simpler life choices than having another child, or buying and cooking meat, or planning a transatlantic trip. I call these The Big 3, because despite how clear the research is on these subjects they are highly controversial and emotional topics for many people.

'The Climate Mitigation Gap' study by Wynes and Nicholas assesses the CO2 emissions of different life-decisions and resulted in the following graphic:

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Please note that this graphic focuses on CO2 emissions and doesn't take into consideration the other benefits of adopting a plant-based diet (such as not contributing to deforestation and the release of methane by livestock, which firmly place it among The Big 3).

So plastic straws or a better kind of single-use coffee cup won't save the world, however they do jump-start a conversation and made many people rethink their use of other plastics. So change your focus, change your consumption habits and shop less. But when you do shop, invest in sustainable and long-lasting products (such as our Bags!).

When one starts their journey into mindful living and consumption it is crucial to be patient and setting realistic targets. 

Once you take the first steps such as carrying your own coffee mug, refusing plastic bags, checking where and in what way you’re clothes were made, these small actions will help you break the cycle. 

A great and impacting first step is to try to reduce your consumption of plastics - start with single-use and then keep going... A great resource is the Guide to Go Plastic Free by Our Good Brands (https://ourgoodbrands.com/). This comprehensive guide is completely free (you just need to fill out your email) and has some great tips! 

If you are in London and want to start shopping 'zero waste', do take a look at the BFC London tabs, or simply find the shops near you in this map:

The journey of mindful consumption is a difficult one a great way to look for tips as well as share your experience/ difficulties is joining some of the Facebook groups We have made one ourselves and if t you would like to share your thoughts check it out!

We also have an event on adopting a Low Waste Lifestyle this Saturday in London, so do come and meet us and ask your questions to our experts in person ;)

Be For Change & EcoACTIVE: let's educate for sustainable living!

Sustainable Future, Bag For Changelidia callejoComment

As a business committed to making the world a more sustainable place, it has always been our aim to partner with other organizations to extend the reach of what we can do. We are finally taking action in a direction which has long been on our minds: we're committing to donate a part of our profits to a charity that shares our mission and values! That charity is the London-based EcoACTIVE!

One Aware Launch Party at Qbic

OneAware MagazineAna CarneiroComment
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I initially didn’t know where to hold a launch party for One Aware. Sam and I had discussed having a party at length - but as the days rushed past and the magazine costs went up, a party looked more and more like something we'd have to say farewell to. I was looking into different bars in London, but didn’t feel happy about what I was finding. I was working on a tight budget and needed the venue to be aligned with the brand’s values. For some reason, I had failed to consider Qbic until this one day I was browsing Instagram and saw a post about Friday’s at their bar.
The bar is quirky and stylish, without being one of those places that is ‘trying too hard’. And because it is part of London's most sustainable hotel, they are already aligned with Be For Change values in everything they do - down to using metal straws in their drinks!

Making preparations with Qbic was surprisingly simple and painless. Their Community and Social Manager, Nathalie, was there for me every step of the way and made me feel confident in how things were being handled ahead of the event. From making the cocktails vegan to re-arranging the furniture, my requests were quickly turned into reality. The two following photos were taken at our meeting the week before launch - and yes, I did finish one of those cocktails... You know, just to make sure that every last drop of it was delicious ;)

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On the day of the launch I took plenty of photos ahead of the event... but completely forgot to grab my phone or camera anytime after the first guests arrived! So here's a mix of my photos and those taken by our guests - there's even a surprising number of photos with me in them (something really has changed here!).

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This was not my first time at Qbic London - I initially found out about them when I was looking for the perfect set for the photos in the article 'My Relationship With Desire'. I knew I wanted every aspect of the magazine to be sustainable, including the bedroom setting of our photos. After considering ordering new bed linen to use in someone's house (would anyone let me photograph their Airbnb property for free?), I thought 'how about a hotel?'.

My first instinct was to question that thought. 'Does London even have a sustainable hotel?!' I decided to Google it. 'Is this search going to show me all the green-washing advertisement of big chains?!' I wondered as I typed. Google gave me a list of 'sustainable' hotels, and I was breathing deeply to calm myself as I undoubtedly entered into a goose chase. I opened the first five websites into separate tabs, and stupidly started from the bottom. As I read the third website, I was actually feeling calmer - this one doesn't look too bad! It genuinely looked like they were making progress in the right direction. The fourth was even better! And by the time I opened the 'sustainability' tab of the last one, I realized my mistake in not looking at it first.

As surely you've guessed it by now, this tab belonged to Qbic. I was immediately impressed by their long list of 'Green Credentials'. Solar panels on the roof, recycling done independently from the burrough, no plastic bottles in sight, 100% chemical free cleaning products,... the list goes on! Their water and energy savings probably rival most households, let along what is the industry standard. Just to put things into perspective, in 2016 they saved: enough electricity to boil 321k+ kettles, enough water to fill almost 217k bathtubs, enough gas to bake 216k cakes and enough CO2 to drive around the world 125 times!!!

And... drum roll... they have recycled bikes that their guests can use for free! (I want that in every city I go to, please!)

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If you ever find yourself in East London, I highly recommend stopping by Qbic. In fact, I highly recommend going to East London on purpose - make a date of it with your favourite friends, because their zero-waste cocktails are worth it! (and each cocktail is a fiver during happy hour *wink wink*). Is there anything better than an amazing new find that is aligned with your values and fairly priced? Life just doesn't get better than this.

While you're there, help yourself to a copy of One Aware and have a look! They are there to be read :D

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