Conscious Entrepreneurship: May I introduce Nicole Robertson of Swap Society

Nicole Robertson is the Founder and CEO of SwapSociety.co, an online clothing swap for women and kids that makes it easy and affordable for women to mix up their wardrobes sustainably.
Robertson worked in the beauty industry for many years, holding senior-level positions at companies including Beautyfix by Dermstore.com, Fred Segal Beauty, and P&G’s Reflect. Her passion for the environment led her to take a position as VP of Marketing and Communications for an international bioplastics manufacturer in 2010 when she started taking a deeper look at her personal environmental footprint.

It was at that time that Robertson learned the truths about the fashion industry (it’s one of the biggest industrial polluters and enslaves millions of women and children around the globe), so she searched for alternatives to buying brand new clothes. She traded in shopping for swapping and, with a few exceptions, she hasn’t bought new clothes since. Robertson launched Swap Society in 2017 to bring swapping online and is on a mission to make sustainable fashion accessible for all.

CONSCIOUS ENTREPRENEURSHIP — What meaning do you give this term?

Conscious entrepreneurship is creating mission-driven businesses that take a triple bottom line approach, focusing on the social and environmental impacts of a business as much as profits. I created Swap Society to provide women with an eco-friendly, ethical, and economical way to mix up their wardrobes. We are always thinking about people, planet, and profit in equal measure.

MENTORS — We all need a little help along the journey. Who has been an invaluable mentor for you? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

My earliest mentor has had the greatest impact because he helped me get off to a great start in the early days of my career. When I was 19 I got a job working for Yves Saint Laurent Beauté and John Krites was the National Training Manager. He believed in my abilities, encouraged me to take initiative, and helped me fast-track my career. John’s willingness to share his industry knowledge and experience with me was invaluable, and I could always rely on him for career advice. I am grateful to him for giving me a peek behind the curtain of the cosmetics industry at a young age.

TO THRIVE — When you see yourself thriving: Do you see yourself opening up opportunities for others along the way to participate in your success, and how?

I absolutely believe in paying it forward, and I love mentoring young people who are starting out in their careers. It’s something I have been doing for years and will continue to do.

CAUSE — What are the causes close to your heart, and you are supporting right now? Can you share a story how you got involved? How did it make you feel?

I have long considered myself to be an environmentalist, and as our window to tackle the climate crisis narrows, I find myself dedicating myself to the cause more and more. I am also very passionate about social justice, and believe that all people should receive equal rights, opportunities and treatment. Since launching Swap Society, I have become a sustainable fashion advocate, using my platform to educate and inspire others to take action. Everyone wears clothes, and what we wear has an impact on people all around the world. I believe that fashion can be a force for good and that it’s important to wear your values.

THE FUTURE — How do you see the face of entrepreneurship in 5 years? How do companies /brands need to adapt to secure their place in the future?

The future is circular. Companies must move away from the take-make-dispose linear economic model and embrace the circular economy.

ADVICE — What kind of advice would you like to give to an aspiring entrepreneur who feels limited due to their background or lack of resources?

Don’t be afraid to reach for things that are beyond your experience. Keep learning new things and push yourself past your comfort zone. Surround yourself with a network of others who are entrepreneurial and find mentors who can help give you a step up.

DRIVE — Do you sometimes feel bad for “wanting more out of life”, and if so, why? What is your personal motivation that leads you through the hardships of entrepreneurship?

I don’t feel bad for wanting more because I am not only trying to lift up myself, but also others. Knowing that the work I am doing is having a positive impact helps to keep me going. Also, I aspire to be a good role model for my children.

CHALLENGES — Entrepreneurship is very challenging. We each have our own coping mechanism. Mine is humor. What is yours? Can you share a story?

Yoga. Lots and lots of yoga. Yoga has helped me through some of the most difficult times of my life. I try to practice every morning and on days when I don’t get on the mat, there’s a noticeable difference in my mood and my ability to deal with challenges. I am also a professional singer and retired dancer, and although I don’t perform as much as I used to, making time for creative expression always makes me feel good. On really rough days I blast “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing” by Stevie Wonder and sing along. That always makes me feel better.

YOU — Is there anything you would like to share that we have not asked you here?

We need to slow down our fashion consumption. The apparel industry puts more greenhouse gases into the environment than all international flights and maritime shipping combined. It’s the second-biggest water polluter and the industry’s excessive water consumption is unconscionable. Fashion waste is a mounting problem — every second a garbage truck of textiles is landfilled or incinerated. The majority of people who make clothes for the global market live in poverty, and are subject to exploitation, working in unsafe and dirty conditions with very little pay. We can make a difference by wearing what we have, mending our clothes, swapping, and shopping secondhand before buying something new. When we do buy brand new things, we should make sure they are from brands that are ethical and sustainable. And we need to push brands to be better. #swapbeforeyoushop

THANK YOU!

Follow Swap Society on Instagram.

Demee Koch about the MEDIUM interview series on CONSCIOUS ENTREPRENEURSHIP:

Conscious entrepreneurship for me is about building a sustainable business that values and respects the resources used and makes an effort of giving back to society.

I believe we need entrepreneurs to really get involved in the causes close to their heart.

This is why I reach out to entrepreneurs that aim for more than generating profit. With this interview, I aim to share entrepreneurial purpose-led passion to inspire others.

Looking forward to learn from you. Reach out to me via LinkedIn.
Demee ❤︎

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