As mentioned in an earlier post, this year’s TEDxToronto saw an impressive group of speakers working to achieve Alchemy. In their effort to “bring ordinary elements together to make something extraordinary,” SEE Change was particularly inspired by Angie Draskovic, founder and CEO of ZOË Alliance Inc. We caught up with Draskovic to learn about what prompted her to launch the business and why she believes poverty alleviation starts with changing corporate spending.
What inspired you to launch ZOË Alliance and when did you launch?
I formed ZOË Alliance in 2008 and spent the first few years establishing projects in partnership with suppliers in various countries. In late 2010 we began to position products for corporate clients. The fundamental reason that I launched ZOË Alliance is that I could not reconcile the fact that where people are born and the circumstances they are born into often decide whether or not they will be able to pursue their dreams.
Having been to villages in developing nations, I could not walk away without being deeply impacted by the realization of just how blessed we are in Canada. As I shared in the TED talk, I felt a clear call-to-action, and began a period of reading, learning and dialogue with leaders in international development that lead to creating a for-profit social purpose business model that leverages the routine spending of companies to help sustainably alleviate global poverty.
What’s your mission with the social enterprise?
Our mission is to harness the power of routine business spending on corporate promotional gifts and merchandise to sustainably alleviate poverty by creating transformational connections between global developing communities and markets. Our initial focus is to encourage companies to add Social Sourcing as an intentional pillar within their Corporate Social Responsibility programs and through that to seek to source up to 10% of what they are going to spend anyway from companies that employ people living in poverty, adults with disabilities or street involved individuals.Seamstresses in Dharmapuri, India who produce ZOË Alliance’s Nambikai Collection
Who’s your demographic?
We are a business to business company. Today our products are purchased by companies either as gifts for clients and employees or as branded merchandise for sale through their stores. Going forward we will increasingly be providing branded merchandise to other clients including university/college bookstores and zoos.
What would you say are your greatest challenges to achieving your mission?
Probably our biggest challenge is gaining executive awareness of how powerful social sourcing is for their business and how extremely effective it is as a way to invest in social impact alongside traditional means such as philanthropy and volunteerism.
How would you define success?
ZOË Alliance envisions a world economy that intentionally commits to prosperity for all. For us, we would have been wildly successful if, in 10 years, it was just as intuitive for companies and individuals to socially source 10% of what they plan to purchase as it is for them to recycle their paper and plastics. And if, as a result of this, we collectively harnessed billions of dollars toward the eradication of poverty.
Check out TedxToronto: Alchemy in Action for a synopsis of all the speakers at TedxToronto this year.