It was in Tanzania where Natalie Festa found what lights her up.
It was early in 2016 and the CPA had taken a leave from her advisory role at KPMG to volunteer at a small African fashion company in Moshi, a city at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro. The company, Kauli, is a group of 11 women who make bags and purses. “Only two of them spoke English,” Natalie explains.
She had big plans, wanting to use her CPA skills to help them further develop their business. But the obstacles quickly became apparent. No credit cards. No reliable shipping. “A lot of the developing world has these great talents, but they can’t offer it to the rest of the world unless people visit that place,” she says. The women of Kauli, however, provided an inspirational glow. They were happy and ambitious, even when faced with mountains to climb.
Before Tanzania, Natalie had developed a taste for this type of socially-conscious business with her side project, Fair+Square, a not-for-profit that uses the net proceeds from the sale of men’s pocket squares to help fund entrepreneurial initiatives for women in developing countries. She’d also began
“I realized I wanted to be part of something greater,” she says of that existential experience. “It put in perspective that businesses should be
And Boro was born.
“It put in perspective that businesses should be triple bottom line — social and environmental as well. I want to only be part of companies that emulate that every day.”
Launched in fall of 2016, Boro is a
Then there’s the environmental impact. Billions of new pieces of clothing are consumed every year across the globe, resulting in massive amounts of clothing ending up thrown away. “We think we can just dispose of our clothing because it’s a $20 t-shirt that we wore once. It’s a horrible way to look at things,” she says. “We have so much in our communities that just
The idea has already taken off, even garnering major national exposure through a collaboration with the Bachelor Canada in 2017. While the business has found footing in Toronto, Natalie is thinking bigger. “When we talk about our vision long-term it’s: You’re on vacation going to Bali. You take your Uber from the airport to the Airbnb and you open up your closet and it’s a collection of Boro clothing, all in your size, curated directly. It’s really accessing the full sharing economy model,” Natalie explains.
It’s a lofty goal, but Natalie has never been short on
While launching this business has become a 24/7 adventure, Natalie took time to chat with CPA Ontario about the challenges of working in the sharing economy, on knowing your non-negotiables and chasing the light.