Meet Sandra Capponi, Co-Founder of Good on You. Together with her Co-Founder Gordon Renouf she has set sail to help consumers to shop more ethically and at the same time aim to shift businesses to become more sustainable and fair.
If you had to describe yourself in three words, what would these be?
Sandra: Passionate, persistent and fun-loving.
You are probably one of the few, if not the first person, who answered this question with exactly just three words. Wonderful! How did you come up with the idea for Good on You? Was there a certain moment when you knew „This is it!“ – A moment when you knew you were going to be persistent about this project and actually turn it into a company?
Sandra: I was actually very lucky to come across somebody who had already been experimenting with the idea of Good on You but I instantly connected with the concept. Mostly because it’s something I believed I needed in my life. And the whole vision and purpose of Good on You was closely linked to the things I care about.
Going back a little further, I was working in corporate social responsibiliy (CSR) in the corporate sector trying to influence businesses to be more sustainable and more socially conscious through their practices. And while I was having some success in that career and thought I was able to contribute to society, I also started to shift my focus on my personal impact. I began thinking a lot about the importance of individuals, not just businesses, to shift their behaviour in order to create the world that we all want to live in.
As I was thinking about the contribution that I wanted to make – which was mostly about stepping out of the business sector and going more towards using the power of individuals to effect change – I came across Good on You. It was an instant lightbulb moment and I felt: This is it! This is exactly what I think is needed in the world, what I need as an individual, and what I think that I can also contribute to.
How did you and your co-founder start out building the company?
Sandra: Fortunately, Gordon, my co-founder, had already built a team and ran a succesful crowdfunding campaign which proved that a lot of people in Australia, where we started, also believed in our vision. Everyone in the team was highly motivated by the idea of shopping more ethically and using the power of individuals tocreate a better world. The crowdfunding campaign turned out to be an important first step confirming that other people also cared.
When I came on board we were very much focussing on what would be the best way to build a global solution. Because it is a global problem we are addressing and the more people we can get on board, the more businesses we can shift to be more sustainable and fair. That is our ulitmate goal. My role and focus, when I joined almost 18 months ago now, therefore was deciding on our strategy for expanding into other markets. We did a lot of research and we decided to start with the United States as our next big market. It’s a huge market and therefore hugely influencial.
Once again we tested the potential of our business by running a crowdfunding campaign. And – again – it proved to be successful. We validated that American consumers, just as Australian consumers, and we also believe European consumers want options to shop in a way that matches their values but struggle to access that information. Good on You helps them do that.
What was a first challenge for you as a founder?
Sandra: It‘s a challenge we still have now. I always feel we don’t have enough time and enough resources to do things the way we really want to. Especially coming from the corporate sector where you often take for granted the vast amount of resources this sector has at its disposal. And not only is it a struggle for us on a daily basis not to have enough time and money to do things but it is a bit of a moral struggle as well. It doesn’t seem right that organisations that are focused on impact – whether that is non-profit startups or for-profit social enterprises – are constantly struggling for funding or accessing capital or resources that will help them deliver on their vision. That was, and is, a real struggle for us.
What are you doing to overcome that struggle?
Sandra: We are focussed on building a sustainable business model because ultimately that will help us to deliver on our social mission. And it means that we can sustain ourselves financially but also attract the right type of capital to help us really grow exponentially.
You mentioned earlier that you first collected money through crowdfunding. Coming from a social environment do you feel that money is actually flowing that way? Or is there hesitance from investors towards socially active startups?
Sandra: I can certainly speak from an Australian perspective. There is a growing movement towards impact investment which on the surface seems like a great opportunity for startups like ours- startups that are looking for capital but from investors that are driven by a social mission. But in fact, those investors are still expecting the same terms and returns that every other investor is expecting. And sometimes the impact investors actually add another layer of expectation and complexitiy to startup-investor-relations by also demanding the ability to measure social returns. It’s a confusing one – on the one hand it’s great that the investors care about social issues and the return of their investment from a social perspective. But from our experience in the Australian context this hasn’t resulted in increasing cash flow to social impact startups.
How did your friends and family react to the idea of you becoming a founder?
Sandra: Everyone always has an opinion. And even earlier on in my corporate career when I made the transition to less traditional corporate roles – into the field of corporate social responsibility – many leaders within my sphere questioned that intention. They basically told me I was moving towards a niche within the coporate sector and limiting my options to climb the corporate ladder and succeed in my career. And I guess, hearing this feedback from other people, I did have doubts whether it was the right move. But ultimately, I knew what was right for me. When you find something that really drives you, that gives you passion, then that is what you have to pursue. It’s not about following some pre-determined career path that other people think is the right one for you.
And now, 18 months later and being a founder, is it still a good decision?
Sandra: Absolutely. I think being part of the Good on You team and taking this step in my career has been the best thing I have ever done. Just like it was a few years ago when I decided to step away from a more traditional career path in banking and focussing on the field of corporate social responsibility. That was also the best decision at the time. And still to this day people are questioning my decision, but those that know me best, my friends and family, understand that this was a great move. And they also see that I am very lucky to be able to do something that I really care about.
Who inspires you personally?
Sandra: I think a lot of people inspire me in different ways. There has been a lot of women in my life especially that have inspired me along the way. Starting with my family, I am one of three daughters so I have two older sisters that I have always looked up to. And I have an amazing mother who has not always had it easy but dedicated her life to caring for us and supporting us to be the best that we can be
I was also lucky earlier on in my career to come across people, both men and women, that really impressed me and showed me in different ways what a good leader could look like. They also inspired me to keep challenging myself and keep pushing myself out of my comfort zone, to try new things and not to stay still.
And then, of course, there are always people in the business and political sphere that inspire me at different times but I have never had this one particular role model that I continue to look up to. Most recently, Julia Gillard, who was Australia‘s first female Prime Minister, really impressed me because she had to face a lot of adversity – firstly, to get into that position of power and then staying in that position. But instead of using her time to maintain this power, she used her time to push really important agendas for our country around education in particular but also female empowerment. That really had an impact on me and I really I admired her for that.
Do you want to be a role model for other women? What would be your message for younger women as a role model?
Sandra: I guess, I never had the ambition of being a role model for others but I hope through my actions I may be. My message would be: Have more confidence in yourself. And follow the path you know is right for you as opposed to what other people say is right for you.
What’s next for Good on You?
Sandra: We are focussed on growth. We want to rate more brands and uncover how they impact the planet so that more shoppers can use that information to make decisions that match their values and unlitmately we can shift the whole industry – starting with the fashion industry – to become better, to become more sustainable and fair. In order to achieve that growth a big part of our ambition is to attract the right kind of investors that willl support us to deliver on our growth plans of rating more brands and reaching more consumers in more markets around the world.
One final question: How sustainable is your own closet?
Sandra: At Good On You we often talk about ethics or sustainability meaning something different to every person. I like to think that I am very comitted to having a sustainable wardrobe and I regularly use our app to discover brands that match my values. I am also constantly feeling hopeful by the number of brands that I am discovering that are focussing on sustainability and ethics. But it is a transition. Being sustainable also means not just throwing away things but caring for them and valuing them. My approach to sustainability is having fewer quality pieces from brands that have a really great story to tell.
The interview was conducted by Christina and first published for F-Lane at the Vodafone Institute.