Meaningful Business (MB:) Please tell us a bit about your background.
Cara Boccieri (CB): A little bit unique in the world of ethical fashion, my background is rooted in conflict and migration with a focus on the region where I work – the Thailand Myanmar border. I first moved to Thailand when I was 22 years old. I lived in a remote area and left after a few years with an opportunity to work with people affected by conflict and migration in India.
Feeling forever inspired by the people I met in regard to their desire to create peace and positive change in their lives, I completed an M.A. with the United Nations University for Peace.
Afterwards, I returned and carried out unprecedented research in the region’s refugee camps. My research, the basis for Akamae, explores the cultivation of self-reliance in refugee communities through moving away from our current global model of humanitarian aid, dependency and deficit and towards a model of abundance, human connection and worth.
While presenting my research findings at a conference in Australia, I was offered the opportunity to work for the Red Cross in the development of their migration policies and procedures.
I was based out of Melbourne, Australia for three years before returning to the Thailand border to establish Akamae.
MB: What led you to start Akamae?
CB: While carrying out research in refugee camps I was hearing repeatedly from people about their desire to use their existing traditional skills to work towards self-reliance and move away from dependency on aid. The missing link was access to a marketplace.
I believe that everyone is innately valuable and worthy of connection. However, I have seen how our global economic systems, which we use to express value to each other, prevent certain groups of people from even entering this value system.
I started Akamae to showcase the unlimited abundance that exists inside of refugee camps. And to connect people.
MB: What is the problem you are trying to solve?
CB: Disconnection (from ourselves, the Earth, each other) and the subsequent lack of self-worth that manifests when living in this state.
We see it in the systems that have created our broken aid model and it is further cultivated in the implementation of it through forced dependency and narratives of ‘lack.’ We see it in our environmental catastrophe and the fashion industry. We are surrounded by it!
MB: What is your biggest challenge right now?
CB: Putting myself out there. This will always be an ongoing challenge for me. As a small business I need to do it. The work that I do is an extension of myself and my values, so every time I highlight my business, it also feels very vulnerable for me.
MB: What is your vision for the future of your business?
CB: That we continue to be a place that cultivates authentic connections. That we continue to create freedom through entrepreneurship with the people we work with. That we continue to see endless, flowing creative energy in the spaces that we design.
MB: What is your advice to other leaders who want to combine profit and purpose?
CB: First and foremost know yourself. Know your values and beliefs, question them and rebuild. There are various ways to create positive impact, what is important is that you create it in alignment with yourself.
I am not suggesting that you leave out the research, experience and – the most important aspect – communication and co-creation with stakeholders. However, there are one million ways to approach each challenge. So understand yourself and understand your ‘why.’
MB – Who inspires you?
CB – I find inspiration in people everyday. People who are living a life aligned with their own values. People who are happy and connected.
MB – How do you define success?
CB – It is important that as individuals, as businesses and as communities, we define things like success for ourselves. When I begin a new business, I sit down with my various stakeholders and ask about their vision for themselves, their measurements and their goals. This is how I define our impact indicators.
When I think about how I define it for myself, it is a very holistic picture. It expands from my personal emotional state to health and to meeting those impact indicators set by the people I am working together with.
MB – What is something you wish you were better at?
CB- There are numerous skills that I don’t have. However, I don’t want to be good at everything. I don’t want to do everything. I want to connect with people who love doing their work and co-create together.
MB – What is the one book everyone should read?
CB – “All About Love: A New Vision” by Bell Hooks. She is obviously iconic and amazing and she cultivates lucidity in this topic. She explores American society (the references are US-based, but still worth a read for everyone) and how polarisation radiates through our relationships from personal to societal. And of course, how a lens of Love, embodied in our actions and policies, would look. I have read it multiple times…and I think I will read it again!
MB – What do you do to relax?
CB- I meditate everyday in various forms. I sit in silence. I write free form. I connect with nature. I talk to the moon. I also find relaxation in reading and walking…a lot.
Discover the other MB100 leaders recognised for their work combining profit and purpose to help achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in 2020, here.