It’s all about the economy. Sure, it’s true that unemployment statistics are improving and people are going back to work. But if you are not currently on someone’s payroll, then for you the economy is still in a ditch.
Politicians on both sides of the aisle agree that small business is the foundation that will foster job growth. No argument there, but the question is what small business entities will remain sustainable over the next several years? Sonia Thomas, founder and CEO of Olanova and Olanova Global can answer that question — environmental awareness. Thomas’ organization, Olanova is an environmentally-driven clothing recycling business. Her efforts go far beyond the concept of consignment or second-hand clothing. She hires local seamstresses and clothing manufacturers to design and create new clothing fashions out of recycled material.
Unfortunately, environmental issues are still in a tug-of-war with large industries (particularly with oil production and large-scale manufacturing). Not all governments are prepared to subsidize eco-friendly product manufacturing. However, Thomas recognizes that at some point everyone will need to take notice and get on board with environmental awareness. Environmental ignorance will only continue for so long before it comes around to bite us. In the meantime, companies like Olanova continue to push the need for more eco-friendly production and manufacturing processes.
Thomas is an expert at business models and she agrees that you don’t always need to reinvent the wheel.” If you see a model that works, go with it.” For example, she was greatly impressed with Tom Shoes where they give away a pair of shoes to a child in a third-world country for every pair they sell. Yes, they sell a lot of shoes, but they give away a lot as well. This idea encouraged Thomas to form her non-profit organization, Olanova Global where she trains and advises women (mostly single moms) to excel in business and leadership roles.
As the daughter of a single mom growing up in a third-world country, Thomas is no stranger to the struggles and economical woes that accompany this kind of lifestyle. However, instead of accepting her circumstances as what they were, she used her experiences to develop a level of resourcefulness and determination to both succeed and help others succeed. She has managed to complete her education and develop a strong business acumen that has served her well in starting a business that might take awhile to get off the runway, but shows promise for a strong future.
Similar to the Toms Shoes business model, she devotes her time and resources from Olanova to build up her non-profit effort. She feels that despite the progress we have made over the last century, women still struggle with developing their full potential in the workplace. “My endeavor is to serve as a wake-up call to organizations of all kinds about the value that women can bring to an organization and society,” says Thomas. While industries are evolving and seeing more women in leadership roles, women need to be better prepared to excel in business. “Instead of blaming others and societal norms for their circumstances, women need to focus more attention on making an impact when the opportunities arise.”
As an entrepreneur and business consultant, Thomas sees a bright future in environmental-conscious business entities. At some point, global governments and the rest of society are going to recognize that the environment is at risk and something needs to be done. Companies like Olanova and Olanova Global will already be in a position to lead the way in eco-friendly product recycling and manufacturing.