Q&A with Land Of Ed
Eileen Vincett is the co-founder of Land of Ed, a company which designs bags that support children’s educational initiatives around the world.
She started a career in fashion working for Coach in New York City and then moved onto J.Crew where she designed accessories before moving to London in 2010. After designing for the high street, she left fast fashion to create a business which was more conscious in its practices and that made a social impact. After a brainstorming session with a colleague over lunch one day, Land of Ed was born.
TILT: SO FIRST, TELL US ABOUT YOUR IDEA.
Eileen: After years of working for large companies, I knew that I wanted to be a part of a different type of business that made a social impact in some way. My colleague, Danica Shepetys and I began chatting and realised we both had a strong belief that all children deserved to have access to education so we decided to become partners in this project and knew our focus would be helping that children get to school in any way we could. I also become pregnant during these early discussions and realised I couldn’t find a bag in the market that was minimal in its design. Everything seemed to be covered with flowers or chevron patterns.
So, we decided with my years of bag design experience and my latest challenge in the marketplace, we would design a baby bag for the mom who wanted a chic, timeless, functional silhouette that reflected her similar style.
We then reached out to a friend, Paddy Gilfeather, who had founded “Building Schools for Burma”, an organisation that builds and develops schools with the help of local people in the most remote areas of Burma. He loved our idea so we decided to work with him to share profits that would support his charity. It was a small idea that organically developed over a year. We launched officially in February of 2015.
WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO TAKE THE PLUNGE AND MAKE IT HAPPEN?
Through Danica’s teaching experiences in South Korea and my extensive travel to developing countries, it became difficult to come back into a fashion office and design season after season. We knew there was so much need and as global citizens, we should be helping! We had to figure out how to make a business socially sustainable. After reading, “Start Something that Matters” by Blake Mycoskie, the founder of TOMS shoes, everything started to fall into place.
We have approached Land of Ed as a marathon and not a sprint so it was easy to get it going because we had no expectations or hard deadlines in terms of growth.
We just developed our first baby bag, The Patrick, put it out there and waited. Luckily, it has worked and we have been able to raise a lot of money to help kids in Burma and in refugee camps through the sale of our second style.
WHAT IS YOUR BUSINESS MODEL?
We have a socially conscious model whereas when you make a purchase from Land of Ed, you are directly helping charities who bring education to children.
WHAT IS THE ONE BIG CHALLENGE YOU AND YOUR TEAM HAVE HAD TO FACE STARTING LAND OF ED, AND HOW HAVE YOU OVERCOME THAT CHALLENGE?
I think leaving the comfort of our 9-5 jobs that provided stability and a steady salary was probably the biggest challenge. It is scary to go for it in business when you are new and not exactly sure what you are doing or if it will all blow up in your face. Luckily, I had the support of an amazing family who has cheered us on through the whole process and I also have a deep belief in the work we are doing.
“Any challenge or doubts disappear when we hear about the children in the regions where we are trying to help.”
HOW DOES LAND OF ED CREATE IMPACT?
We provide charities with much-needed funds to continue their work. In the case of Building Schools for Burma, Paddy and his team use funds from sales of our Patrick Baby Bag, along with other donations received to build schools and provide solar panels and water tanks for remote areas of Burma. They have successfully built 5 school structures, educated over 1000 pupils with their first 21 heading to University! We love to tell our customers that they helped make that happen!
Edlumino is another charity we support through the sales of our Sawyer Shopper bags. We had the privilege of visiting them at a camp in Dunkirk last Summer to see first hand the incredible work they do bringing education to child refugees. These kids have been through unimaginable circumstances and to see their faces light up in a lesson provided by the amazing teachers who volunteer with Edlumino was incredible and I’m so proud that Land of Ed can help them make that happen.
WHAT ARE TWO THINGS LAND OF ED ROCKS AT AND WHY?
We rock at being positive. Business will always throw challenges at you but you have to approach everything as the glass half full and get creative with how you attack an obstacle. We also rock at loving kiddos and having the passion to help!
Everything we do at this company is to try to get education to as many children as possible and our drive knows no limits.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR WOKR?
I love how it changes every day. We are very small so it is a major case of rolling your sleeves up and getting involved in all aspects of the business. I find this so challenging yet exhilarating at the same time. Working in leggings and a t-shirt from my home office isn’t bad either!
WHAT DO YOU FEAR THE MOST ABOUT YOUR SOCIAL ENTERPRISE JOURNEY?
I don’t fear much but I am conscious of that voice in my head that says, “Why is this taking so long? You should be an empire now that has helped 1 million children!”. I’m desperate to give as many kids access to education as possible and sometimes I can become impatient but that does zero for the business or my productivity. It would be irresponsible to rush through product development or the selection process for potential charity partners so I have to remind myself to stop and breathe.
TELL ME ABOUT SOMETHING UNEXPECTED THAT YOU HAVE LEARNT ALONG THE WAY?
People want to be a part of something good. I’m amazed and humbled by the number of people that have wanted to come on board and help us. They believe so much in our mission and want to be a part of it. I didn’t expect such a positive response from so many people. It’s really great.
CAN YOU GIVE US ONE OF YOUR BEST MARKETING TACTICS THAT YOU ARE WILLING TO GIVE AWAY FOR FREE?
Find a tribe of like-minded people to keep you motivated through the challenging times. I’ll give you another tip - get help! You will know someone who knows someone who can aid in resolving almost every business issue you have, you only have to ask the question!!
WHAT IS ONE PIECE OF ADVICE YOU HAVE FOR PEOPE WHO ARE LOOKING TO START THEIR OWN SOCIAL ENTERPRISE?
Go for it. Be prepared to work like you never have before and likely for no money in the beginning. You may have to continue working a job in those early days but, if you are passionate about what you are doing and believe in your business, it will work.
WHAT ARE THREE RESOURCES THAT HAVE HELPED SUPPORT YOU ON THIS JOURNEY THAT YOU THINK COULD BENEFIT OTHER SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURS?
I really enjoyed Blake Mycoskie's book, “Start Something that Matters”. It was a great resource for practical reasons but also to reassure me that our idea was something worth fighting for.
I also recommend Ted Talks for inspiration from those who have done social business but also to learn more about the social and environmental challenges that our world faces.
Finally, we are so fortunate to be a part of the B Corp family. B Corps are for-profit companies certified to meet standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. The businesses involved in the B Corp community have been amazing resources to help us along the way and we are so thankful to be involved with them.