September 12, 2019 6 min read

I had the honor to hold a speech at the Nova SBE Discovery Week for a group of Master Degree Students from all over the world. The task was to present my company, Fair Bazaar, and inspire these students to create something meaningful in their future professional lives by behaving more like a zebra.

I feel grateful to have my story as an inspiration for others to follow. I believe if I reached this stage of sustainable success is because I always guided myself with authenticity. I took care of myself, practiced yoga and meditation and created space within to follow my heart. And now, with all my heart, I share with you dear reader and eco warrior, the speech I offered to the students.

Hope this blog post inspires you to follow your dream!

 Why you should start behaving like a Zebra?

I bet you are asking yourselves why we should associate with a zebra reading the title of this talk. Before I explain you why we should start thinking and behaving like zebras, let me tell you a personal story.

Exactly 10 years ago I was in the same situation as most of you are today. I was about to start my master’s in management with a focus on Marketing. In the summer of 2008, I went to Mozambique to volunteer with children and help the local community of Nacaroa, a very little and poor town that didn’t even have electricity or other comforts we in the western world take for granted.

After an extremely impactful experience, I came back to Lisbon with a dream to build a social impact project. We created Kuxukuru - which means 'thank you' in Macua - the name for the project to give back to the Nacaroa community.

What exactly was Kuxukuru? We produced products with the famous Capulanas, the typical textile fabric from Mozambique, and a part of the sales of those products would support the mission where we had volunteered.

I know today Kuxukuru was the beginning of my journey as a social impact entrepreneur.


In this picture you can see our portfolio of the products. And interestingly, as you can see in this specific one, the Zebra spirit was already there. Without understanding the meaning, the seed had been planted…

I kept managing this project while doing my master. Once completed my degree, although the social impact seed was there, I decided to enter the corporate world. For my journey, I wanted to learn how to work in the big companies and follow one of my other passions: fashion and beauty.

My first job was at Estée Lauder as Marketing Manager (many of you probably know some of their brands like Clinique, Tom Ford and La Mer). Then, I went to Singapore to work for the biggest fashion e-commerce marketplace in South East Asia, called Zalora.

After a few years in the corporate world, I felt out of balance. Consciously, I felt there was something missing in my life-purpose equation, and I didn’t feel happy and fulfilled with what I was doing.

Feeling “out of balance” I decided to quit my job at the time at a tech startup in the summer of 2015 and invest full-time in my personal development. I started with yoga and meditation everyday. And what happened was AMAZING!

By allowing time for myself, became clear what in the equation was missing: I was lacking the impact. I wanted that everything I created to have a positive impact in the world. This realization made me aware and conscious about everything I was doing.

During this time, I thrived to get as much information as I could, I read a lot, and also watched different documentaries to learn and inspire myself. There was this one day where I watched the documentary that was determinant in what happened next in my life. The True Cost documentary.

It talks about the impact of fashion on people and in the planet. After watching it, I felt I was not the same person anymore. It completely opened my eyes to the true cost of fast-fashion and our patterns of overconsumption. I started researching more about sustainable fashion. Here are a few facts I learned and wish to share with you:

  • Did you know that the fashion industry is a major contributor to the climate crisis? It is accounting for 8% of global CO2 emissions and up to 20% of the world’s total wastewater.
  • by 2030 the global apparel and footwear industry will have grown by 81%, exerting an unprecedented strain on planetary resources. 

So, this means that if the pace of progress in sustainability does not increase, the harmful consequences of fashion will become even more challenging to overcome. With this information in my hands, I couldn’t stop, I needed to do something else besides the research. I needed to act.

I decided to attend in January 2017 for the biggest showroom/fair of sustainable brands, called NEONYT. In May 2017, I went to Copenhagen Fashion Summit, the world's leading business event on sustainability in fashion.

During this journey, I discovered incredible companies with amazing stories. I was so inspired by those brands that Fair Bazaar started to take form in my mind and heart.

I knew already how difficult it was to find sustainable brands in fashion and beauty. And they were very dispersed. I felt the market gap and entered the adventure to create a marketplace with only selected exquisite sustainable design and ethically made fashion, beauty and home products.

I wanted to share the access to these products, with the guarantee they were buying products which had a positive impact in the world. The interesting thing here, for the purpose of this talk, was the fact that I, without knowing was already becoming a Zebra.


So now you are probably asking yourselves what does Fair Bazaar have to do with Zebras?

Most of you have heard about the word Unicorn, right? Uber, Farfetch and Amazon are some examples of Unicorns.

Zebras fix what Unicorns break.

Zebra companies, as opposed to Unicorns are real and authentic. Zebra companies are both black and white: They are for-profit and for a cause. They won’t sacrifice one for the other.

Let’s look at a chart that outlines how a zebra company compares with its mythical cousin, the unicorn:

unicorn vs. zebra

Let me give you the example of my company, Fair Bazaar. In fact, Fair Bazaar has all the stripes of a Zebra.

The Why (purpose): Sustainable growth over quick exits

Regarding the why, Fair Bazaar is looking for profit and purpose in equal ways. We don’t want to make a quick exit to get rich, instead we want to create real value in our communities.

At Fair Bazaar we have a clear purpose: Our mission is to help people live more sustainably.

Everything we do is in line with our purpose. Whether it is the person working on the social media, the Business development Manager or the Store Manager, everyone is contributing to Fair Bazaar’s mission. It’s all about authenticity.

The How (method): Collaboration over competition

In what concerns the How, we don’t believe in competition, we believe in collaboration. If there is another company out there with the same purpose and the same clients, why should I fight instead of collaborating?

The Who (user pays): Transparency over Opacity

Transparency is one of our core values and we believe that our customers will appreciate if we tell them the truth about our brands.

The What (metric): Quality over Quantity

We don’t want to encourage people to buy more; we want to encourage buying better and consciously. This means our focus is on quality instead of quantity.

I know I can’t say that we are a successful Zebra company YET, but I can tell you that I have an amazing team that works everyday with a smile in their faces and we feel like we’re a family, because we have something very strong that unites us: our mission and our purpose.

And for me there is no better sign of success than belonging to a team where we feel at home. Knowing that we’re contributing to a better future is already a huge sign of success for me. And in order to prove that we are making a positive impact on the planet and society, we are currently working on the B Corporation certification. There are currently only 4 companies in Portugal with this prestigious certification.

I would like to leave a final message: You have the possibility and the responsibility to create a better world. Each step counts, with simple and consistent habits we can make a change. We must be aware and stay positive. Start by taking care of yourself, create awareness and stay positive. Just as I found my purpose you can also find yours! And then use it to create a better future for our planet.

“Each person has the potential of making a positive impact on the world. It all depends on what you do with what you have.” - Gary Chapman

Thank you!

Joana Cunha
Joana Cunha

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