We chat to the lovely Ana Carneiro, founder of Be For Change, on sustainable product design and starting a new business… she tells us how she came about creating the brand to launching her own magazine: One Aware, which explores sustainable living and what it means to live mindfully today.
Qbic x Be for Change:
Tell us a bit about yourself and how you came about creating the brand Be for Change…
I guess a lot of my actions link with me being a romantic at heart, and being a bit naive. I grew up in Portugal, in a small city where there is a good balance between food farming, industry and services. At school, the importance of sustainability was highlighted, and so were examples of good practices within each sector. I think all of these factors combined to create in my mind a very positive and distorted vision of what is happening in the world – I believed that the majority of companies were doing their fair share to become as sustainable as possible, and that the planet would soon start healing itself. As we all know now, that is simply not the case.
The truth hit me hardest when I graduated from a BA in Product Design from Central Saint Martins, a little over two years ago. Looking for a job can be hard enough on anyone, and I was distraught at the prospect of finding a job within my field where I would contribute to the creation of unsustainable products. So I self-sabotaged repeatedly, because I didn’t believe in the companies I was interviewing for. I ended up forming a number of thoughts on what was wrong within the industry, which I started writing possible solutions for. And that was really when I first entertained the thought of starting a company.
Fast-track a couple of years in which I was making changes to my lifestyle, toying with the idea of starting a company on my spare time, while working as a waitress to make ends meet – and this year I finally registered Be For Change!
I started by introducing just the one product – Bag for Change – as a freelancer, and the company grew from there.
How would you describe the ethos and overall vibe of Be for Change?
The ethos at Be for Change is to live sustainably by being mindful. This means making choices considerate of the planet and its inhabitants, and it links to an awareness of what is happening and how everything is connected in some way.
The overall vibe I strive for is relaxed and relatable, fuelled by curiosity and a love for the good things in life. I don’t want it to be ‘preachy’ and I don’t want people to feel deprived when they make sustainable choices. The ultimate goal is to make it as easy as possible for people to live sustainably. But of course that, being a designer, doing so in style is on my mind as well.
Tell us about Bag for Change…
As I mentioned before, I believe it is important to be aware of what is happening and how everything is connected – or should be. We’ve been living in a world where products have a linear lifespan: raw materials are extracted, processed, made into products and these are sold, bought, and eventually thrown away. To move into a sustainable world means adopting a circular economy, or connecting the loose dots.
One loose dot that people often fail to consider is processed materials being thrown away at different stages of production. So I decided to start with waste fabric (which is also conveniently cheap) and make something useful – this idea was happening as the 5p charge on plastic bags was introduced in the UK, so bags seemed like the perfect product to invest on. Instead of simply making a conventional shopping bag, I addressed its design issues to make it more resistant and of enough quality to be used in other settings. The finishing touch was printing the name, which is meant to act as a reminder to be considerate when shopping.
In my naivety, I thought that sales would just magically happen once the first bags were out… It’s been a long process of learning about marketing and sales, and how to juggle different roles as a one-woman-band. But finally sales started coming in, leading me to consider what other products I wanted to create.
Congratulations on the release of Issue 1 of One Aware Magazine! Tell us about the creation of One Aware Magazine…
Starting a magazine wasn’t always in my plans. I was thinking of what other products to create, and considering what message those would communicate – when I realised I was more passionate about the message than the products themselves. So I changed my thinking: What medium would be most appropriate for the message? That’s how ideation for the magazine started.
I asked a few friends what they thought about a magazine on mindfulness, focused on experiences and beautifully curated. Each time they asked me a thousand questions and answering them caused me to feel like this was something I really wanted to do. So I started getting in touch with possible contributors, created a tab on the website and that was it. There was no turning back past that point.
I’ve been completely out of my comfort zone for the past year while trying to get One Aware off the ground, but it has been the most amazing journey. I don’t think I have ever learned this much in a year before in my life.
What type of content can we expect to see inside the magazine?
One Aware is made of articles, interviews and art features that aim to open up other worlds for us. The sub-themes can be commonplace or out of the ordinary, but what they all have in common is that they try to get us thinking about experiences and feelings that we might not be familiar or comfortable with. Unlike other wellness publications, it doesn’t have ’10 steps to…’ anything, or gender-marketed content. It’s also ‘clutter’ free and it’s not full of irrelevant ads trying to grab your attention at every half-page.
We were delighted that you chose Qbic Hotel to shoot one of the photoshoots for One Aware Magazine, what was the reason for doing so?
Once I received the article ‘My Relationship with Desire’, I knew I had to produce some amazing photos to go with it. Almost straight away I knew I wanted the images to be quite intimate, and in a bedroom setting. Unwilling to let any part of the magazine be unsustainable, I needed to find a bed and linen that I could proudly answer questions about – and I found Qbic London! The more I browsed your website, the surer I felt that I wanted the photos to be taken there – so I gathered up the courage and placed the call (I hate making phone calls). The person on the other side of the line took my information, and that was pretty much it! I expected a long process of having to answer uncomfortable questions, but every part of the process was easy going. The week after I showed up with a model and photographer and we made it happen!
How would you like to see One Aware magazine develop going forwards?
I would love to see this magazine grow and become a separate business. I want to keep pushing it with the themes it approaches, opening up conversations that aren’t necessarily easy for us to have with ourselves. I want it to become a reflection of the evolution that Millennials are championing in different ways of thinking and acting – especially as we step away from the stereotypes.
Ultimately, it would be brilliant if One Aware became a staple for those trying to live more mindfully and sustainably, and if it could effectively support other causes important to this generation.
Tell us about the One Aware first Issue launch party at Qbic…
I initially didn’t know where to hold an event, as I was working on a tight budget and needed the venue to be aligned with the brand’s values. I was looking into different bars in London, but didn’t feel happy about what I was finding. 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 your bar.
At the risk of sounding like this is sponsored content – which it is not – I’m honestly so happy that we could make it happen at Qbic! The bar is quirky and stylish, without being one of those places that is ‘trying too hard’. You are already sustainable in everything you do, down to using metal straws, so I didn’t have to worry about enforcing my own values. And from event planning to re- arranging furniture on the day of the party, working with you was simple and fuss-free. It obviously didn’t hurt that Michael makes the most delicious cocktails!
The event itself went great, my guests greatly enjoyed getting to know the venue and that the drinks were prepared in front of them. Also, everything looks beautiful in the photos 😉
What has been the most enjoyable/ interesting part since starting Be for Change?
Getting to collaborate with other people in the last half year has definitely been the most enjoyable part. I simply love when ideas bring people together and how they grow in a different way when nurtured by more than one mind.
We can imagine it must be quite stressful starting your own business, what would you say the hardest moments have been and what made you overcome these?
This is the hardest question for me to answer. I would love to say that meditation and yoga are always there to save the day, but I do get stuck in a bad place from time to time. My biggest piece of advice to those also working mostly by themselves is to make a habit of speaking with other people – nothing has helped me as much as getting a different perspective from my own, and overall feeling loved.
My most stressful moments were the result of anxiety, worrying about ‘what if’ scenarios – some of them completely unjustified. Within the justified ones, I’ve stressed the most about money, which I think is because I’m not used to moving my money around. I never spend large amounts of money – even when I go on holiday I spend less than what I pay in rent. So putting the money I had saved up at risk was very stressful, and I had to frequently remind myself that it was just money, and that I can always save up again. I got in the habit of asking myself ‘what is the worst case scenario?’ (thanks to Tim Ferris for introducing me to stoicism) and so I find comfort in knowing that if it all fails I can always get quick cash working as a waitress again.
Lately I’ve been struggling to stay on top of my ever-growing to-do list, and so I’m having to re- learn how to prioritise. For the last couple of months I’ve been dreaming of getting some office space and finding someone to work with me, both of which I hope will happen early next year (if the financials allow). In the meantime, I’m guiding my agenda according to ‘Eat That Frog’ by Brian Tracy – a gift from my boyfriend after a particularly challenging week, and a book I definitely recommend.
What is the future for Be for Change?
I hope the future for Be For Change is full of collaborations through which a lot of quality materials are kept from the landfill. I do want to keep doing product design, and I want to work with other small companies and artisans – but I’m rethinking whether or not I want to always bring the products to market myself. I also hope that it will grow into a team of people working from our own industrial, creative place – complete with a small photo studio, because that’s where prototype dreams come true.