Laetitia Rouget on Upcycling Material for Art, Making a Career Shift, and Anxiety

Name: Laetitia Rouget 
Role: Artist / Designer 
Based in: London
Age: 31

This week on ATEM we featured up and coming artist . Laetitia Rouget is a French creative living in East London. Favored by tastemakers from Vogue and Town and Country, Rouget’s art studio is named after her nickname for her husband: Shoopy Studio . Laetitia’s work is all about celebrating women and female form as well as sustainability, with all of her interior pieces focusing around recycling materials and fabrics she already owns.

We talk about her journey as an artist, how sustainability and womanhood informs her art practice, and her thoughts on mental health and anxiety.

1. In your words, who are you?

 I am a French creative living in East London. My work is all about celebrating women and female form as well as sustainability, with all of my interior pieces focusing around recycling materials and fabrics I already own. 

2. Give us a day in your life.

Monday was a nice day ! I woke up early and painted on my plates in the morning, I had a lovely lunch with a friend on broadway market, and then painted on canvas in the afternoon.

How much time does it take for you to produce a new ceramic plate piece, from connecting the design to the physical production? 

I would say 2 weeks. I don’t have my own kiln so there a lot of parameters involved; that is something I can’t control unfortunately.

3. Describe your wellness regimen if you have one. What are some actions you take to keep yourself well (mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually)?

I wake up early every morning, and start my day with a hot shower and a nice breakfast. It’s important for me to get mentally ready for the day, even though I [can] work from home. When I feel stressed, my secret is to close my eyes, breathe for a few minutes and try to think positively. Finally, drinks with my girlfriends and a good dose of laughter is also definitely keys for my happiness. 

4. How do you feel about talking about mental health? Is it something you feel comfortable enough to talk about with family, friends, and professional colleagues?

I feel open to talk about all these discussions, and I believe it is important and healthy to talk more about it. 

5. Have you ever experienced poor mental health and/or anxiety? If so, would you be open to sharing your experience with it?

In general I am usually a happy person, but yes I have anxiety. I usually manage to control it on my own and try to think about something else. I am now aware of when my body is reacting to anxiety and I know the only solution is to breathe, be calm and take some time.

6. You have always been working in the arts sector, but you only recently made a transition into fine art after pursuing a career in fashion for 6 years after graduating from Central Saint Martins. How did you know you were making the right move, and why did you feel motivated or compelled to change your career? Did you have prior experience with ceramics?

I couldn’t see myself working as a print designer all my life and I was always thinking to do my own thing one day, but I never had the courage until I met my husband who really pushed me to take risks.

I was tired of producing hundreds of designs every month– it was always the same and I wanted to work on a product that had more meaning to me and could properly feed my creative mind. I then started to explore ceramics deeply and ended up producing my first collection along with opening my first solo show last September in London. I was so happy and proud of how much I learned in a single year on my own and hopefully this is only the beginning. 

7. Many of your pieces explore femininity and the female body as a subject. What do you think motivates you to put that in your work? On your plates? On your canvases? And why are they almost always naked with bums out? (Any particular reason?) 

My work has always been about celebrating women and their shapes. I love the generous curves and elegance of womens’ bodies and try to represent my vision of our bodies through colours, lines and emotions. 

8. What are your thoughts on operating Shoopy Studio on Instagram? Nowadays, many artists rely on social media platforms to expose their work to new communities, and it’s a different kind of promotion that didn’t exist or was not traditionally supported particularly by those in the fine art realm. What are you thoughts on your relationship with social media as a consumer, but also as a professional artist? 

I consider myself as a creative more than an artist. So in my case, I think Instagram is a fantastic platform to meet people, and to show my work to a wider audience. I like to talk directly to my customers, and share with them a little bit of the process in my studio. I think it is good to put boundaries with social media thought, and not solely concentrate on this. However, it’s a good way to learn. 

10. What is a brand, organization, or an item in the wellness space that you are in love with?

I am in love with Zazi vintage, a German brand that not only sells beautiful products, but tell us about wellness, yoga and the power of communities. 

Interview by Susan Im

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Freakquencee on Manifesting Affirmations, the Real Influence of Trauma on Her Life, and Mental Health in the Family Sphere

Name: Freakquencee 
Role: Hiphop/Funk/Soul Artist
Based in: Newark, NJ
Age: 26

1. In your words, who are you?  

I am someone ever growing and changing. I am someone that doesn’t completely know myself yet and I am forever learning. I am also a healer, an influencer, and an amazing life changing artist.

2. Give us a day in your life. 

I pick Thursday. Every Thursday I wake up at 10AM to prepare for my weekly therapy session.  I stay in bed for about 10 to 15 minutes to give my brain enough time to fully awake. Once I get up I sit and take a brief moment to give thanks and say my affirmation and contemplate on what to wear and how I want to express myself for the day. Afterwards, I prepare to leave and finally exit the house around 11:30AM. At 11:59PM I arrive at the counseling center for my 12PM session. The session lasts about an hour. After leaving the center I go grab a bit to eat from any local vegan eatery and then I head home to take at least an hour or two to myself to unwind before I start answering emails or doing anything business related. I most likely always have a show/recording session/meeting or a rehearsal to prepare for. By 6PM my work is usually complete so I change into my nightlife clothing and prepare myself for the rest of the night. My day usually ends around 2-2:30AM.

3. Describe your wellness regimen. What are some actions you take to keep yourself well (mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually)?  

I’m still working on finding things that I enjoy doing alone or with the people I care about. However, right now my wellness regimen looks like going to therapy every Thursday, reciting positive affirmations everyday to keep my brain afloat, going to the gym and finding balance between my career, my personal life and the people I care for.

4. You’ve mentioned that you are the first person in your family to really live life at large and out loud acknowledging, talking about, and pursuing mental health– being the one to do anything “first” is a big step for anyone. What have been the dynamics like in relation to that, and discussing mental health in the family sphere? 

I grew up in a household where discussing mental health wasn’t really a thing. As a child in my household it always seemed like the more you held in, the stronger you looked in the eyes of everyone else. Talking about mental health is still something that isn’t easily done in my family. There are a lot of stereotypes surrounding seeking therapy/counseling, some that may have turned my family off completely from seeking mental health. Some like you have to have money to afford talking to a therapist, mental health is only for crazy people, and mental health only being a thing for white people. I also believe that my family as well as many people don’t really understand what practicing positive mental health looks like. Positive mental health can be as simple as reciting positive affirmations everyday, learning to say no when you don’t agree, drawing boundaries with family, friends and associates. Taking up that favorite hobby that makes you feel good, practicing positive self esteem, working out, practicing healthier eating habits, talking about your feelings and also checking yourself when you do negative things as a human or things that may hurt others. I believe my family has to discover these truths on their own.

5. You are a big advocate of using affirmations for your life and your professional endeavors. Give me an example of how you go about it. Maybe tell us how an affirmation practice of yours played out, in actionable, “it happened like this” steps. We want to know.

My affirmations are more like mantras. I wake up and I take a moment to allow my brain time to catch up. Once I’m up and ready to stand, I stare into the mirror; It’s important to watch yourself, it makes a bigger impact. I believe in the universe so first I start by giving thanks to the universe, the same way one would pray to any God one believes in. After giving thanks to the universe for my existence, my life, and the loving people I have surrounding me, I give thanks to my ancestors and I also give thanks to myself because it’s important to recognize your own power and self worth. Then, I tell myself that “I am creative, I am accomplished, I am a phenomenal songwriter, I am an outstanding freestyler, I am a wonderful performer, I am happy, I am healthy, I am focused, I am wealthy.” I tell myself these things because I believe that humans are masters at manifesting. We have the power to bring whatever we think and say into existence. The more positive things I tell myself, the more I start to believe and act on it. The more someone says they have a crappy life, the more the universe provides them with that crappy life. Lastly, I picture my day and all of the beautiful things I want to happen for the day. I close my eyes and literally talk to myself as if the day has already happened for me and I try to think about it in the exact mood I would be in if something amazing has already happened to me. 

For example: I opened for Canadian singer/songwriter Ruth B. this past summer and I manifested my entire night.

Before I left my apartment to start the day I gave myself a moment to close my eyes and envision my day. It went a little something like this: “Today was fu*king incredible! My performance was amazing I can’t believe how much my skills have improved since my last performance. The people I’ve connected with are amazing. Everyone enjoyed my set. I made people dance, I made people cry, I made people release tonight. Wow, Ruth B. absolutely loved my performance and I can’t believe I have a collaboration with her. Tonight was so beautiful.” The scariest thing, but like scary in a good way, was that my day happened exactly the way I envisioned it would. At that exact moment I had more belief in the power of manifestation and positive affirmations than ever. For anyone that wants to try my manifestation technique, I would encourage you to say your affirmations and envision what you want as if, it is already yours and as if it is in front of you. Even if your don’t believe it yet. Take a chance and try it out for a month, because why not take a chance on your mental health? Why not take a chance on something that may benefit you?

We have the power to bring whatever we think and say into existence.

6. You have nurtured a love for music for 9 years, after having gotten your start in expression through the medium of poetry. Describe how it felt stepping into the roles you are in now, and continuing to develop your long-standing passion for music.  When does work transform into play? How does that feel?

Honestly, I feel a bit of everything. Especially lately, I’ve been getting really amazing opportunities. I’m surprised that I’m making a dent in the world of music but I’m also humbly cocky because I always believed I would. I also feel grateful to all who support me, grateful that my words are so powerful, and grateful to feel empowered through them. Work transforms into play when I am just creating music and performing. I absolutely love making music and performing with my bandmates, Liam aka Limabeats, Justin Guitarcia, Quinn Devlin, Bymaddz, Jake Stampen, Roc, Brandan Burdock, Nate Larose, Josué Simon, Hans, and Chiekh. Haha I don’t mean to name everyone, I just have a lot of respect for these guys so I had to mention them all. Creating music and performing– it doesn’t feel like a job at all. It feels like I’m speaking directly from my high self.

7. You are so passionate about your community. That’s pretty apparent through your platforms and your way of living. You hug a lot of the supporters that come out for your performances and you’ve hosted spontaneous mental health sessions too. How do you maintain the energy to keep on giving despite the emotional demands of being a performer and a community leader? Where does your motivation come from? 

I think that this is who I naturally am. I was born a Pisces and we naturally feel a connection to the world, to others and showing all beings compassion. Being that we’re the last sign of the zodiac we normally share so many qualities of the other 11 zodiacs and this is what I think makes it easy for us to connect to everyone. I’ve always felt an urgency to help my community, to help the people I share this world with and to show compassion to the animals we share the world with. I have an abundance of energy because this is my true spirit so I don’t feel drained. I only feel drained when I feel my spirit is being attacked, mistreated, or when I feel I am doing too much or not being my honest self.

My motivation comes from me seeing and understanding the demand for help in my community and in the world. I also realize that I have the ability to help and influence so I use the tools I have to help whenever I can. I have my life path numbers 33/6 tattooed on the back of my neck to remind myself who I am and what I stand for. I also have a koifish swimming up stream for good luck and great achievement on my arm to symbolize what I want to manifest in my life. Also, I was this years old when I found out how Pisces of me that is, haha. 

8. Tell me about a time you experienced poor mental health. 

I was just in a poor menstat. I’ve probably dealt with it for the past 2 and 1/2 weeks, maybe longer.  

I was under the weather for a moment and ended up gaining weight from lying in bed eating and resting up. With that I started to feel really bad because I’ve been working in the gym so hard to work off the weight I’ve gained back. I started to feel unattractive and once in that negative mind state, things in my life started to feel like they were falling apart and I got into a personal problem with my family and on top of that I got into another situation where I dealt with some really toxic masculinity in my neighborhood which left me feeling really powerless and I was in this really negative mindstate. It wasn’t until I listened to a song I have called “Driven” where I cried and realized how powerful I am and that I’ll be okay. I’ve also had a session with my therapist and randomly met some really beautiful souls. 

9. Trauma played a role in your life and in your mental health. You were raped/sexually assaulted (let me know which term you prefer I use). How would you describe the journey you took or take in continuing to heal from such an act of violence and what is it like, having an “invisible” injury such as that, which affects one internally as much as say, a comparative “physical injury” of being hit with a car or experiencing a violent physical scuffle?

I was raped: I was 12 years old and my innocence was taking advantage of. At first I felt guilty, confused, like I was to blame, like it was my fault, like I didn’t know myself, alone, just so many different hurtful emotions and it took me to some very dark and ugly places. Places I’ll never want to go again. It took me 12 years to get to a place of mental health I can be comfortable with and I still get flashbacks. It can be something as simple as a smell, a color, a word, a sound or even random memories or dreams. It’s something I feel I will always deal with, but I learn better ways to cope with it everyday. I realized I use to carry a lot of self hatred for myself, and in a way a I had developed a silence. I use to not speak up for myself or stand up for myself in moments I felt really mattered. I sought out the worst relationships and I thought I could carry tons of baggage because I’ve been through some pretty heavy things. Practicing self love, realizing that I am a different individual now and keeping it real with myself, confiding in a trusted someone and now seeking therapy, learning when to speak up even when the world stands against my decisions, demanding my respect whenever in spaces that where the minority is me, the black, queer, woman. Are all ways I’ve learned to find my power again and I see that I am extremely beautiful and powerful and I learn more everyday. 

10. What is something you want to share to those in your community who are specifically affected by trauma?

It is a frustrating, complicated journey. Be patient with yourself and the time it takes for you to heal. Be kind to yourself. It is okay to start over, it is okay to get angry, it is okay to be confused, it is okay to not know. This isn’t an easy journey but it is worth it. Dealing with trauma, I’ve always felt like something was taking away from me mentally. I now realize that I still have what I felt was taking from me, that I’ve always had it. My trauma just made it hard for me to recognize it and what has changed about it, but I am in control and I am relearning myself and empowering myself through every start. 

11. What is the next frontier in wellness for you? (Basically, what’s up ahead?)

I want to get back to meditation, I’ve been searching for ways to cope with my anxiety but kind of also avoiding meditation because I’m afraid of starting it over again. I also want to fully break down the things I find hard to understand about myself. I am currently working on that with my therapist.

12. What is a brand, organization, or an item in the wellness (I use the term wellness here liberally, basically any do good, positive impact related entity or thing that promotes good “health” or “wellbeing” of the world, or it can be referenced in the individualistic sense like the coffeemaker you use or the beauty product you use, etc.) space that you are in love with? 

I am in love with spaces that provide artists with a place to just work, expand and be. My good friend Regine Luis has a art studio in Newark, NJ that feels peaceful and provides me with peace of mind when I need it. If not there, whenever I am on stage. I truly feel free.

Interview by Susan Im

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Introducing New Forms of Narrative: Berlin Based Artist Seo Hye Lee on Navigating Hearing Loss and Taking Inspiration from Her Unique Sonic Identity

Name: Seo Hye Lee 
Role: Sound Artist 
Based in: Berlin 
Age: 29

Seohye Lee is a multidisciplinary artist from South Korea, living and working in Berlin. 

Seohye uses the mediums of sound and illustration to experiment with new forms of narrative, creating playful pieces that challenge the idea of listening. Drawing inspiration from her hearing loss experience, Seohye aims to show the difference between hearing and listening; regardless of your hearing skill, one can always listen in variety of ways. Coming to terms with her own sonic identity led her to take ownership of sound by incorporating it into her practice. At ATEM Life, Seohye talks about mental health, grounding her artistic voice, and inclusivity & diversity amongst the artist community in Berlin.

1. In your words, who are you?  

I am a sound artist who likes to work primarily with illustration and installation. I use my unique sonic identity and interest in technology to create my sonic world and share my experiences of being deaf with Cochlear Implant. My works represent ideas of inclusivity, art, technology and drawing. 

2. Give us a day in your life. 

As I am a freelancer, my days are mostly the same on weekdays and weekends.

  1. Wake up between 7.30 and 8.30 am.
  2. Make a smoothie with various fruits and spinach. Eat an orange/clementine with the smoothie.
  3. Make coffee and do video call to catch up with my family in Korea
  4. Organise the house and my workspace
  5. Begin work on my areas of research
  6. I normally make simple lunch at home but if I eat out I’ll normally go to my favourite Vietnamese restaurant in Berlin! 
  7. The rest of my afternoon will be filled with emailing collaborators, working on proposals, running errands, and reading material for my projects. 
  8. Between 6 and 7pm I’d start cooking dinner – unless I have plans to meet friends for dinner, I usually cook dinner at home. 
  9. I like to keep rest of evening free from working – using the time to watch Netflix or read. 
  10. Go to bed around 10 -11pm. 

When I am traveling, my schedule completely changes depending on the workload I have. But wherever I am, I’ll always start my morning with coffee! 

3. Describe your wellness regimen if you have one. What are some actions you take to keep yourself well (mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually)?  

I try to focus on doing small self-care things during stressful times such as taking a bath, doing face masks, drinking coffee in a nice cafe, going for walks and running. Also, being grateful for things I do and opportunities I come across is one way to focus on being happy. 

4. How do you feel about talking about mental health? Is it something you feel comfortable enough to talk about with family, friends, and professional colleagues?

I talk about mental health with friends– I do feel that it is so important to prioritize one’s self care. I used to struggle to come to terms with loneliness when I first moved to the UK so I didn’t really open up about it until a few years later; moving to a new country when you’re young definitely can be challenging. Looking back on my early 20’s, I had a hard time asking others for help, but now being almost 30, I have found it has become easier to come to terms with previous struggles and be open about how I feel. 

6. How long have you pursued your art practice? When have you felt like you stepped into your voice or specific style as an artist (or are you still exploring)?

I’ve been pursuing my art practice since I moved to the United Kingdom as a student. During my time at University, we were encouraged to be open to making new work and to be curious about topics we were interested in. Before going to my Masters programme at the Royal College of Art I was originally planning to pursue illustration further, however after discovering my interest in sound art and other artistic practices, I gained more confidence in pursuing these areas too.

I think now I’m in the beginning of my journey as a sound artist who works with different mediums and I have begun to talk more about my practice at public events. 

7. In your opinion, is the artist community in Berlin structured to support conversations within the community about wellness and inclusivity?

As I am still relatively new to Berlin, I am still getting to know the artist community in Berlin but from what I can tell it is an art scene that is very experimental and inclusive in terms of diversity, wellness and gender. I certainly feel that I would have the freedom to pursue my art practice and what I hope to achieve in such an open setting. Talking with people in the creative industry has always been a great way of motivating myself to do things by learning and to find out new interests. Recently I took part in a studio visit with students at School of the Arts Institute Chicago (SAIC) and this was a great opportunity to be inspired by the variety of work the students are creating – this certainly pushes me to keep creating my own work too!

What Did You Say?, Audio-Visual Installation, 2017

8. You openly talk about having a disability and living with assistance, and you recently gave an artist talk at the Art Institute of Chicago about embracing our individual identities. I think that’s an inspiration to others who still feel like they can’t openly talk about themselves fully because of how they are. How has the uniqueness of who you are informed your development as a creative and why do you choose to have this part of you influence so much of the way you approach your art and the work you choose to pursue?

Living on my own in a new country has taught me many things about myself and that I cannot do this completely on my own. I found it hard to ask for help and to open up about myself at the risk of being in a disadvantaged position. The uniqueness of who I am has helped to shape my art practice and what I want to share with the audience. I’ve been given great opportunities in various places to discuss how my Cochlear Implant has shaped my sonic identity and I’ve learned to embrace my individuality through my art practice. My deaf identity has allowed me creative freedom with sound art and the ability to reinterpret sound in my own way.

9. You’ve been living in Berlin as an artist in residence for 1.5 years. How do you feel about inclusivity over there societally? What is it like compared to your experience in South Korea and the United States? 

I’ve been living in Berlin for about a year and a half now and I definitely think it is a very inclusive place to be – I really feel that people are able to pursue their creative paths here. Having had the experience of living in four different countries, I think I have become quite used to adapting to new environments, however as I only spent my early years living in South Korea and the USA, I do feel that I have grown more artistically in Europe, as this is where I have spent the majority of my time as an artist. I do enjoy visiting my home country of South Korea each year and checking out the creative scene there!

Interview by Susan Im

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Iulian Circo on Social Impact, the Changemaker Generation, and Verifying Wellness Initiatives

Full Name: Iulian Circo 
Title: Co-founder. Wearer of many hats. 
Based in: Just relocated from Cape Town to Vienna, Austria, and spending time in Amsterdam where Proof of Impact is headquartered. 
Age: 44

1. In your words, who are you? 

I am a recovering humanitarian turned entrepreneur. Over the last two decades I have been part of action-packed operations in some of the world’s most challenging environments. These included humanitarian missions in post conflict and peace-keeping settings, starting up operations & leading a UN agency in Somalia, or turning around and taking to scale country operations for large global non-profits in places such as Swaziland or Mozambique. Working on the frontlines of impact delivery I have learned to appreciate the role of technology as a force multiplier and the huge impact that entrepreneurship and innovation have on people and communities. I have also understood the inadequacy of incumbent business models (be these for profit or charity) in these settings and the huge opportunity that can be addressed with innovative business models that combine social impact and profit. 

2. Tell us about your company.

Proof of Impact came to be out of the combination of my impact background and Fleur’s (the other co-founder) insights from a life spent in capital markets and impact investing. We met in 2017 in Cape Town and both of us got excited by the idea of making impact tradeable. Of unlocking a trillion USD value of that we ended up calling the “Purpose Economy”. We see purpose as a transformational element that is defining the identity of a whole new generation. Young people are aware of the importance of social and environmental impact and see them as existential topics. They define their identity through purpose and authenticity, and this will change global economic frameworks fundamentally (link to changemaker article). We are passionate by the possibility of building viable financial products for this generation. Investment products that are underwritten by impact. Not by impact narratives or theoretical models. But by real, verified events. Both of us had various attempts at defining such models in the past. The emergence of blockchain technology provided a technical solution to some of the structural problems that come with this model. We could now use impact verification as a proof of work for a new type of financial asset. The timing was perfect, so we pulled the trigger and embarked on this wonderful journey.    

We were initially self-funded and eventually we received some angel investment that helped us build a basic prototype and sign up a very exciting partnership with Cordaid and the Netherlands Government.. Eventually we signed up more than 30 different partnerships with impact creators and our partnership pipeline is looking pretty good. We are now at an exciting point in our evolution as we have just closed our current round of funding – the first institutional funding round – and have received investments from a good mix of venture capital and more established asset managers across Silicon Valley and Crypto Valley. We are now looking at going to market properly and growing fast.  

3. Give us a day of your week. How do you start your day, and what do you do with Proof of Impact?

Proof of Impact is a 100% virtual team. This defines the way we all work. We run a simple agile framework across the team and are quite strict with a few simple rituals – we have bi-weekly sprints with structured demos, retrospectives and planning sessions. Like everyone else in the team, I start my day with a quick stand-up, going over what I did yesterday and what I am planning to do today and calling out blockers if any. It’s all asynchronous – we use a tool integrated in Slack that allows us all to do our stand-ups at the beginning of our own day, and then interact as people activate on different time zones. Everyone’s tasks are public in an organization-wide board. My day is usually divided between internal and external calls or meetings and time alone doing specific tasks that need to be done. I try as much as possible to stick to my plan for the day and stay out of everyone’s way. I see myself as a last line of defense so every time I see an orphaned task, I’d just do it – even if sometimes I suck at it and need to educate myself into writing some basic code or running a financial report. Done is better than perfect. This is pretty typical in early stages start-ups with founders and first employees regularly swapping between super-micro to super-macro levels in the same day, as decks are put together, code gets written, websites and automation gets set up, payments need to be done, etc. I personally love that phase, but it does take a toll on people and teams. We were lucky for both of us co-founders to be the types to be comfortable with that rhythm. And we were extremely lucky that our first employees turned out to be incredibly competent, passionate and just all-around bad asses. This is the secret sauce, really.

On Impact Validation

4. What differentiates the way you’ve built your marketplace from an attribution lens in quantifying and measuring impact from other companies seeking to do the same thing?

I think our approach is quite unique, in a category that gets a lot of new entrants every week. We are different in several ways:

  1. For starters, impact validation/verification is not our core business, but rather a critical component of our core business, which is building financial products on top of impact; This means that anyone who works at solving impact verification problems is complementary rather than competing with us. In fact, a commoditized, standardized verification market is one of the best things that could happen to us, so the increased activity in that space is a very exciting development.
  2. We are also different in that we are not verticalized in any way: we are agnostic to impact sector and geography. Also, we do not impose any impact thesis on our users and partners, allowing them to articulate and operate with their own thesis. So, for instance, we are productizing active household solar panels – the fact that a given solar panel is functioning in a very specific location. As an investor you could fund this specific, objective event coming from an education impact thesis (girls that have light at home can study later) or a renewable energy impact thesis (solar replaces coal in that household) or from a health or entrepreneurship impact thesis. This is quite central to our model: we verify and securitize unique, repeatable, hard to dispute events (outputs), not complex, hard to measure outcomes.        

5. Can you share with us a couple impact creator partnerships you are proud of that are in development or currently active and what you are doing with them?

We have so may interesting and exciting partnerships with impact creators – non-profits and impact companies. One of our earliest partnerships has been with Cordaid – a leading Dutch Charity – facilitated by the Netherlands Government and the Government of Ethiopia. This partnership is exciting on so many levels – we are working in rural hospitals and we are innovating across the impact delivery stack. We are now working on structuring a basket product- like a compound impact index – that would allow the direct funding of activities in rural hospital that correlate with mother & child survival.  We love the fact that we are working with incumbent, large partners. If we really want to achieve impact at scale, we need to be able to work with the people who deliver impact at scale right now. Throughout the process we have been very impressed with these partners’ ability to innovate and think different.     

6. You guys are planning to launch in April 2020, what are some brand awareness or financial milestones you are looking to hit, or are proud of getting to?  

We have always taken pride in being a product company That means that our brand work has almost exclusively been limited to inbound, content-based work. We have also chosen to stay under the radar, particularly during the hype-phase that blockchain technology in particular experienced in 2017.  I think we are now ready to change that and we’re actively preparing more outbound marketing and more structured brand work. We are super proud of the state of our product and the fact that we can show traction and validation already without having spent a single cent on marketing. The most important art now is to work with a small group of real users to make sure our product experience is awesome and that we are prioritizing the important features, and then we are finally ready to activate our marketing.   

7. How do you plan to have POI allow the measuring of social impact initiatives that are harder to track? For example, organizations- institutions that target discrimination, mental health, or sexual harassment/gender equality, a lot of which is dependent on the feedback of individual parties and on social sentiment? What kind of goals would you suggest? 

Super important question. The truth is that some initiatives are easier to measure than others. Also, some of the most important work done in impact is close to impossible to measure individually. Awareness, societal behavior, structural factors. For now I actually think we should not prioritize these sort of initiatives and instead focus on those that have measurable outputs and natural proof-points that we can use to verify. As we get better at understanding correlations and verifying the right things, we can start focusing our impact design models towards these harder to measure areas. 

8. What markets will you focus on growing your marketplace in in 2020? 

Our plan is to focus on the Netherlands and Europe market first, then the Swiss market and eventually the US market. This is mostly opportunistic rather than part of some sophisticated strategy. We are 100% a global company and eventually we want our model to be available to impact creators and funders everywhere in the world. 

9. Will you be coming out with an app? 

We will make sure we build across any interface that our users would want to use. Apps are definitely part of that.

10. What is a consumer brand you feel is doing a good job in delivering positive impact? I’d ask you to stay away from any big, common names like LVMH, Nike, Patagonia, Nordstrom etc. as their efforts are either heavily spoken about or circulated.

This is a great question. I actually feel that most companies that stay close to consumers are actively working to bring purpose into their brands. This may be a differentiator now, but with the changemaker generation coming of age, they realize that without purpose they will simply slide into irrelevance. In this context, however, it is pretty hard to differentiate between real change and impact narratives. Without taking anything away from Patagonia – which remains an awesome, awesome company – it is relatively easy to bring impact at the fore-front of products that are premium, and that address educated, high-income market segments. It is a completely different story to do that in cut-throat, price-sensitive categories such as mass retail or FMCG. This is why I am personally very excited to see impact reflected at the level of mass-focused, low margin businesses. Often done quietly. I love it when I go into big retailers and notice that even the private labels signal purpose and virtue (locally sourced, organic, fair trade etc.). This is both a sign and an enabler of the mass-going revolution we all need. Patagonia and the likes have showed the way, now we need the Walmarts and the Costcos to follow. 

Interview by Susan Im

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Samantha Huggins on Her Wellness Regimen, Openness Versus Vulnerability, and Mental Health in Schools

Samantha Huggins is a marketing consultant and adjunct professor based out of New York. I met Samantha when she brought in her students from Yeshiva University who were studying Enterpreneurship to WeWork for a hands-on exploration of the subject, and where I had the pleasure of speaking to her students about my experience starting my own company. I was moved by her clear sense of nurturing and concern for her students, and we soon developed a rapport. We have since collaborated on a lecture with a lens towards entrepreneurship for the Business Organization and Management course at NYU, and I have asked Samantha this time to lend her voice to the wellness conversation as someone who has a lot of insight to share and with one foot in the commercial world and one foot in academia. We talk about her wellness regimen, mental health in schools and educational institutions, and vulnerability.

Name: Samantha Huggins  
Title/Role: Marketing Consultant & Adjunct Professor 
Based in: New York 
Age: 42

1. In your words, who are you?  

I’d like to believe that when it comes to me who you see is who you get.  I am a woman that strives to be my authentic self at all times, ever evolving and changing.  Funny enough, often I’ve been told by people “you aren’t what I expected you to be and it’s been a pleasant surprise.”  

2. Give us a day in your life. 

Samantha: On this particular day I woke up at 7:30 AM,  I dressed and was at the entrance of Prospect Park by 8 AM.  I ran the inner loop of the park and returned back home by 9 AM.  I had breakfast at home, which I enjoy because I like making breakfast for myself, two scrambled eggs, 2 slices of turkey bacon and a cup of coffee.  I checked my work and personal emails while creating my “to do list”. For most of my adult life I’ve created a to-do-list. It helps me to keep track and prioritize the things in my life.  At 10 AM, I had to meet with my real estate agent in regards to a sale of a property. The meeting lasted for an hour and a half. The next two hours are spent working on any projects that I am consulting on, returning emails, and completing a few things on the to-do-list.  Then, for the next three hours I had to prep for my graduate class. What they don’t tell you about teaching is besides the actual hours that you spend in the classroom there are far more hours spent prepping. At around 4:30 PM I started getting ready for work to make it to my 6:20 PM class in the city.   The class ends around 9 PM and I’m home by 10 PM. When I get home this late I tend to simply have a light dinner while catching up on my recordings or the news. Over the past couple of years I strived to create a work life balance. I choose to describe this day because it was neither strenuous nor overly exciting for me, it was a good balance.  

3. Describe your wellness regimen if you have one. What are some actions you take to keep yourself well (mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually)?  

Samantha: After I wake up in the morning I try not talk to anyone for at least and hour.  I take this time to be quiet, to plan my day and to set my mind on my intentions.   This hour can include activities such as meditating, going for a morning run or simply sitting alone on my balcony.   I really enjoy the quiet time. Since I set my own work schedule this works best for me and may be difficult for others.  I’m also aware a lot of my female friends with other obligations wish they could do the same. I know I’m not going to have the luxury of my single lifestyle forever so I’m grateful for this season.

4. How do you feel about talking about mental health? Is it something you comfortably talk about with friends or professional colleagues in person?

Samantha: I am extremely comfortable speaking about mental health with others, and I encourage others to talk to me about it as well.  I believe mental health is often the cause of a lot of human issues. I’ve been blessed to have an inner circle of friends, male and female, that feel the same way.  However, I’ve seen up close what poor mental health can do to a person and his/her community. I believe in the African American community, seeking professional help has been considered something that other people and cultures do, and it’s unfortunate.   Speaking with a professional has personally been beneficial for me, that is why I am an advocate for anyone seeking help.   

5. Do you have a daily/weekly regimens to be well? What is it? 

Samantha: I am a runner, it’s the thing that clears my head, it’s what I do when I’m about to make a life altering decision.  Lucky for me, as a bonus, it keeps my body in shape and physical health under control. If a week goes by and I haven’t ran I honestly start to feel bad about myself.   

6. How long have you been teaching? What do you find is a primary concern revolving around students’ minds today?

Samantha: I am in my third semester of teaching.   Most of my students are Millennials and their primary concerns are about the state of the economy, their growing debt and competition for jobs after graduation.  Many believe that they have gotten the short end of the stick when it comes the the economy. They worry that they won’t be able to fulfill their dreams of getting a good job, starting a family and buying a home as “easily” as they believe their parents generation did.  

7. In your opinion, are today’s educational institutions built to support conversations amongst youth such as mental heath or inclusivity? Are there sufficient guidelines in place for professors, directors? 

Samantha: I do believe that today’s educational institutions are built to support conversations amongst youths about mental health and inclusivity.  There are far more resources for students than when I was in school at the time. In one of my classes I recall spending the first half of the sessions discussing mental health and university outlets for the students if they needed any.   I think credit should be given to this generation for that change. They have been at the forefront of mental health and more accepting of the concept than their older cohorts. As for the faculty, there are mandatory training courses for Diversity and Inclusivity for Professors and Directors.  We have to take these courses and be “certified” every year before the school semester begins. This is all geared to be of better service to the student body. With that being said, I don’t think there is enough mental health support for the faculty. That is something that can be improved. 

Are youth equipped with the support to navigate modern living and constant connectivity (when people used to be connected to on average ~100 people, and with technology, that number being in the 1000+ number now)? How do you feel that’s affecting wellbeing? 

Samantha: I do think today’s youths are overly concerned about the number of “likes” and “followers” they have on social media.  Technology has made the world smaller and instant. But the reality is, this is their normal and we have to accept it.  Unless something catastrophic happens, the world isn’t going to get any less connected than it is now. So we all have to learn to navigate this new world.   I have faith that with life and maturity our youths will learn what’s truly important just like the generations before them did. Despite all the distractions our youths are still doing amazing things out there, I haven’t given up on the generation and there really is no reason to. 

8. Is there is such a thing as being too open?  

Samantha: I believe there is a difference between being vulnerable and being open.  To me being vulnerable means allowing yourself to have a human connection, being open means over sharing.  I do think there is such a thing as over sharing, especially in today’s social media era. Ironically there are many people being open but not emotionally connecting.   I do not however believe that there is such a thing as being too vulnerable because having human connections with each other is why we are here.   

9. What is a brand, organization, or an item in the wellness space that you are in love with? 

Samantha: I’ve recently discovered NATIVE.  I use the brand for their deodorant.  For a while I have been looking to replace my old faithful Secret antiperspirant deodorant for a brand that does not include aluminum in their ingredients.   I am loving that they have a variety of fragrances to choose from, so much so I haven’t been able to settle on a scent.  

Editor’s Note:

“There is insufficient evidence to support the belief that using antiperspirants/deodorants increases the risk of getting breast cancer or Alzheimer’s.  The American Cancer Society (ACS) states that the main risk related to using these products is that they can cause skin irritation if a razor nick or cut becomes infected. The myth that deodorant causes cancer has been circulated via emails, on websites, and even in newspapers.  The story varies from source to source, but contains some or all of the following elements:

  • Aluminium-containing antiperspirants prevent toxins from being expelled by the body.  These toxins clog up lymph nodes around the armpits and breasts and cause breast cancer.
  • The risk is higher for women who apply deodorant after shaving.  This is because nicks in the skin increase absorption of aluminium and other chemicals.
  • The aluminium in deodorants is absorbed by the skin. It affects the blood brain barrier and has been linked with the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

Reputable organisations like the American National Cancer Institute, Cancer Research UK, the American Cancer Society and most other major authorities suggest the link between deodorant or antiperspirant use and breast cancer is unconfirmed, or simply a myth. Studies show that there is no relationship between antiperspirant use and Alzheimer’s disease. Humans are exposed to aluminium from food, packaging, pans, water, air and medicines.  From the aluminium we are exposed to, only minute amounts are absorbed, and these are usually excreted or harmlessly stored in bone.  At any one time, the average human body contains much less aluminium than an antacid tablet.  The Alzheimer’s Society states that the link between environmental Aluminium and Alzheimer’s disease seems increasingly unlikely.6” –

By Susan Im

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Chanel Tyler on Her Mental Health & Wellness Regimen, Diversity, Tokenizing the Black Community, and Communal Empowerment

Name: Chanel Tyler 
Title/Role: Director, Local & Cultural Relevancy, The Estée Lauder Companies
Based in: NYC 
Age: 31

1. In your words, who are you? 

Chanel: I am first and foremost a Black woman, I am a believer, I am a wife, a daughter, a friend, an entrepreneur, a young professional, a Virgo, a skincare enthusiast, a blogger, a student, a strategist, a creative.

2. Give us a day in your life.

Chanel: I wake up around 630am so that I have time to focus on selfcare, mainly my skincare routine.  I always take the bus to work, it has really contributed to lessening my anxiety levels and giving me more peace to start the day.  I love my job and I work a full 9-10 hour day usually followed by a workout that I booked on Classpass. I grab a salad from sweetgreen or groceries from Trader Joe’s and I head home to relax and decompress with my hubby.

3. What are some actions you take to keep yourself well (mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually)?

Chanel: A huge part of my wellness regimen is tied to skincare.  Every Sunday I take time with my skin and I always Mask, it’s my #selfcaresunday ritual and I always make time for it.  Through my instagram page @buymechanel, I encourage the women and men that follow me to do the same. Once a month I also try to take a day for myself just to do the things I want to do whether that be doing nothing, getting a facial or massage, eating or cooking something gluttonous, going to hot HIIT, anything that just focuses on me.  It’s something I am finding I have less and less time for but it is also so important.  Mentally I focus on remaining positive, thinking positive, being optimistic.  Emotionally I focus on owning my feelings but not sitting in them, being introspective and working through the roots.  Physically I do my best to treat my body good, give it the things it needs to thrive, the things it needs to operate at it’s best.  Spiritually, I pray, I believe, I am faithful. 

4. How do you feel about talking about mental health? Is it something you comfortably talk about with friends or professional colleagues in person. If so, or if not: Why so or why not?

Chanel: Mental health is huge and I am so happy it’s finally becoming less taboo especially within the Black community.  The negative stigma is finally starting to fade but it still exists. I feel super comfortable talking about it especially within my friend groups.  Feeling stressed out, anxious ridden, exhausted, sad, insecure, those emotions were the norm for so long and so many of us never even knew where to begin to address it, we just lived in it and looked forward to better days.  Now there are options, therapy / counseling, support groups, podcasts, wellness apps, meditation. It’s so nice to be able to just admit and own how you truly feel and be met with the support and resources to get beyond it.  Life can be really tough and it takes dedication, focus, support, desire and love to push through, to grow, to evolve, to be better

5. What are some sources or tools that you believe have impacted your wellbeing? 

Chanel: For me it’s just about being focused, I pray, I take time to myself, I set boundaries (work in progress here), I exercise as often as I can, I eat fairly healthy but I also give myself the opportunity to really enjoy food, I spend time with the people I love and care about and I get energy from this.  The best IG page and platform that impacts my wellbeing is Refinery29 Unbothered— it is unapologetically Black, Millennial & Female; I feel seen and understood consistently and I am beyond proud of the work that team is doing. It’s impactful and it means something– something real.

6. Wellness and inclusivity – how do they come hand in hand? 

Chanel: I wouldn’t exactly say these come hand and hand but they are related.  Inclusivity by definition implies included, from a mental wellness standpoint if you feel included whether that be in your work environment or elsewhere you feel like you can be your full self and bring your full self. That, in my opinion gives you a level of peace and comfort.  You don’t have to code switch or bring pieces of yourself. You can be whole. That part of wellness is a luxury for people of color.

On Diversity & Inclusivity

7. What are some initiatives you are bringing to the fore in your role of marketing to a global audience and serving a multi-ethnic community for prestige and heritage beauty brands? What is something you hope to achieve in collaboration with these brands for the long term?

Chanel:  I focus specifically on the North America market and for me it’s important that women of color not just feel included but to also feel a part of, feel a sense of belonging, feel truly seen.  Everything I do is led with that being the priority. I want to continue to see beauty brands move far beyond tokenism, I want to see women of color also be known and seen as the standard of beauty, I want to see representation across ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, body shape, all of it.  I want to see women of all backgrounds celebrated, their differences and cultural nuances understood, their beauty put at the forefront.     

8. Top brands regularly appear in the news for being celebrated for a value that should be the norm, not the exception. When you see a brand that’s been an industry leader for decades just beginning to support inclusivity and diversity initiatives, what ought to be the consumer response? Should we be applauding? Should we be critical? 

Chanel:  I think we should always be critical, that proves we are always thinking and analyzing, but we should also recognize the importance of progress.  We should snap our fingers but not applaud when brands actually get it right, when it’s authentic and you can tell there is diversity behind the scenes.  That is the key for me, ensuring that brands have diversity across their teams, across creative, product development, marketing, strategy– we should be everywhere.  We should criticize when brands get it wrong because that is a learning opportunity for them so that they can not only do better but also recognize the power diverse consumers hold.  Additionally, brands “should” want to do what is right, and what is RIGHT is inclusivity, what is right is embracing and celebrating everyone not just certain groups.  

Inclusion & Diversity isn’t something that should have to be celebrated at all, it should be the norm, it should be expected, it should exist across every facet, it shouldn’t need a day or a month, it shouldn’t be a trend, it shouldn’t be a headline or even a department, but that is not the world we live in.  We live in a space of change, growing acceptance, increasing equality, and a plethora of other things.  I am proud of the progress that has been made over the last few years especially within the beauty space, but we still have a long way to go and I hope I can contribute and be a part of that progress.

9. You are a mentor and have been involved in that capacity with organizations such as Girls Inc. Why is it important for you to mentor younger girls/women or be a part in building community with TRIBE?

Chanel: In my opinion we are nothing without community, no matter that be friends and family communities, female communities, ethnic communities, it’s always important to give back, to build, and to foster a better world for yourself and for the next generation.  I’ve had tons of mentors throughout my career and would not be where I am without them. Mentors provide guidance, context, support, all things that help you navigate the complexities of professional and personal life. I mentor younger girls because I want to help them achieve, achieve the highest levels they want to go and help create a clearer path with less mistakes and less of the challenges that hold you back and take a toll on your confidence.  I want to help them shine, glow, and grow but also be, to know who they are and take pride in it. TRIBE is all about empowerment, connection, support and celebration…and that is the core of the community we build. 

10. Tell us about TRIBE. Who is it for, when is your next meetup, and how does one attend?

Chanel: TRIBE is for Black Women, it’s a safe space, a community, a celebration of us and everything we are.  TRIBE is not exclusive in the typical sense, it is inclusive of friends, allies, supporters but it is designed to meet the needs of professional Black women working in Beauty, Fashion & CPG.  These are industries where Black women in particular over-index in spend and monetary power, but are severely underrepresented across executive leadership, strategic functions, and marketing campaigns.  

Our next event is at the end of Sept and we will be posting the RSVP details to our Instagram @tribe_org and our website

11. What are some younger beauty brands you are in love with? 

Chanel: Vintner’s Daughter, Dr.Barbara Sturm, EPARA, Klur and of course ATEM!

Victoria Wong on Self-Awareness, Work – Life Balance in the Fashion Industry, & Her Mental Health Journey with Food

Victoria Wong 
Title: Account Executive, Thom Browne
Based in: New York
Age: 26


1. In your words, who are you? 

Victoria: An extroverted introvert with creative tendencies and grandma habits… I am a curious and open-minded person, and love discovering new things whether that be through travel, art, fashion, food, and most recently, fitness! Maybe I am a slight enabler (ha…)… and I like to think I am a pretty optimistic person. 

2. Give us a day in your life.


I used to really hate Saturdays, having grown up with my Saturdays filled with Chinese School and piano lessons and tennis lessons and art lessons. Yes, I did grow up with a tiger mom. And I am also really bad at everything that I just mentioned. 

But I love Saturdays now. Especially within the past two years, I have found myself getting into a habit – a good one – of waking up early and giving myself ‘me’ time to do the things that I want to do, for example, reading through the entire series of Game of Thrones, practicing calligraphy, getting back into drawing, attempting to learn French… So I’ll usually spend the entire morning bring productive with my accountability partner, Susan, who so graciously keeps me on track. 

Saturday is also my day to catch up with friends, so I might grab lunch with some people around 1PM, maybe stop by an art gallery after, do some market research (read: window shopping / actually shopping), and if I’m really feeling up to it, I’ll try to work out and go for a long run through Central Park. Or even better, I might attempt to cook… like I said, grandma tendencies… : ) 

3. Describe your wellness regimen if you have one. What are some actions you take to keep yourself well (mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually)?

Victoria: I don’t really have a wellness regimen to be honest. I think for me, wellness is equivalent to having balance. Yin and Yang. You know, having a good work-life balance, having ‘me’ time and ‘friend’ time… Everything in moderation, I guess. I try not to look at emails after work, I try to work out at least once a week and get those endorphin boosts, and I try to self-reflect daily on how I can improve on things or attitude or whatever.

My mantra is to look forward, and to not dwell on the past or have any regrets. The past has already happened; you can’t change anything, and you can only move ahead. I think having this mindset has really helped me stay and focus on the positive, but also has made me more self-aware. And I think having self-awareness is also component of wellness.  

4.   Have you ever experienced a trough or growing point in your mental health thus far in your life?

Victoria: I have a weird relationship with food, and it’s an issue that I’m working on improving. It’s something I’ve struggled with since high school and I can admit, I have good days and bad days. Even now. I didn’t really talk about it with anyone at first; it was a little shameful you know? I mean, I still don’t really, but working on it and it’s helped. At the time, because I wasn’t eating, I was getting into a lot of fights with my family, becoming anti-social and overall, just unhappy with everything. I didn’t go out at all, didn’t see friends, and if I did, I would really beat myself up the next day about it. Opening up about my issue the first time really helped… I think talking about it made it real, and forced me to acknowledge and reflect on what was I doing to myself. 

5. How do you feel about talking about mental health? Is it something you comfortably talk about with friends or colleagues? If so, or if not? Why so or why not?

Victoria: I think it is important to talk about mental health and even more important to normalize it in daily conversation and life. We’ve become so used to hiding it from the public sphere that it’s become something negative and shameful, and as a result, it’s hard to get better and hard to achieve wellness in that sense. For me, sometimes saying this is easier than doing, especially when it’s about myself (read: this interview was a little difficult), but I think it’s necessary. It’s definitely something I’ll be working to improve on. 

6. As an individual who is very passionate about the fashion industry, does working in fashion tie closely with your idea of wellness? 

Victoria: Yes and no… I think a lot of people see working in fashion as being very glamorous and while there are truly some spectacular moments, 90% of it is working late hours, being on and available at all times… There’s always something going on, and especially in this retail-apocalypse, everything is urgent. I feel lucky now, but from my previous experiences, there wasn’t much of a work-life balance. There are companies that do realize this… and all the summer Fridays, the option to work from home, gym perks, etc. definitely help. 

7. Wellness and happiness – do you think they come hand in hand?

Victoria: 100% yes.