- Meet Paulien Wesselink -
There are many women who work with Ethical Collection London that have helped to create our amazing brand. In honour of these women, we are dedicating one day a week, Wednesday, to introduce them and celebrate their achievements. We sent each of the women seven questions to answer about their businesses, inspiration and life. This week, we would love to introduce you to the incredible Paulien Wesselink of O My Bag.
O My Bag's locally sourced leather is tanned through a cleaner and safer process which results in a reduced carbon footprint. The bags are made in Kolkata, India, in a safe and positive atmosphere: fair wages are paid, benefits are provided for, education and training are offered, and women and minorities are given equal job opportunities.
(Founder, Paulien Wesselink)
What inspired you to join/start your Ethical business?
I started this business from a believe that the choices you make as a consumer can improve our global society. My master thesis compared the international political visions of John F. Kennedy and Barack Obama. Their messages of hope and optimism appealed to me and sparked my entrepreneurial mind to combine idealism and commercialism. By creating a stronger demand for fair trade products, we can influence a more just trading system.
The idea to start O My Bag burst into life when I couldn’t find the classic vintage schoolbag I’d been looking for and so I set out to create it myself. With the conviction that high style doesn’t have to come at the expense of cheap labor, I hopped on a plane to India to find the right tannery and manufacturers to produce O My Bags. The result? Classic, vintage-inspired bags and accessories made from a selection of eco-leathers, super-soft naked leathers and canvas.
What did you do before joining/starting the business?
I graduated Liberal Arts and International Relations at Utrecht University. After graduation I started O My Bag.
What are the 2 points (or more!) that makes your brand Sustainable/ethical?
Every O My Bag is handcrafted by a select group of producers in Kolkata, India, in the safe and positive atmosphere where fair wages and benefits are paid, women are empowered and training and education is offered. We work directly and closely with these producers and therefore we know ‘who made your O My Bag’.
Secondly we make eco-leather bags. This means they aren’t treated with heavy chemicals. This is better for the environment ánd for the people working in the tannery.
What do you love the most about your job?
Traveling. Especially traveling to Kolkata, India twice a year to complete new collections and set up new collaborations with social partners. I also love traveling to different cities in Europe during sales season to be at the trade shows.
How do you balance work/home life?
I don’t really separate the two so much, cause I’m always thinking about work, but also I’m never at work, because it does not feel like work to me. (unless I’m doing administration. ; ) ) When there is no stress and everyone at work is happy, it’s so fun and amazing what we do! But off course sometimes things do get stressful, or I’m I get overwhelmed by the to-do’s. What I like to do to unwind is yoga in de evenings and meditation. Also my friends and enough social activities keep me sane, I usually have dinner with friends 3 times per week. In the weekends I love to walk I or I unwind at my houseboat (making it more homely is always work in progress and I have been renovating/redecorating for months).
What achievements are you most proud of in business and or life?!
In business I’m most proud of making a positive difference in India with O My Bag; We are creating good jobs in India. Getting sustainable leather on the map, pioneering more sustainability in the Indian leather Industry. We are helping out in certain projects that empower troubled women. We have a producer in India that is proud and happy to produce for us. We support local artisans, we’re are supporting educational projects. All those things I’m so happy to be a part of!
Who do you admire and why?
I admire Barack Obama. I’ve been a huge fan since he surfaced on the scene in 2004. I think he has been an amazing president and the US has been so lucky to have him as their president for the past 8 years. Politics in the US is very polarized so it was difficult for him to realize his full agenda. But I think it will become apparent he has been a great and historic leader in time. I especially love his speeches. He is an amazing inspiration in terms of achieving something amazing that you never would have dreamed of. He is a very good inspirator, but at the same time down to earth.
Shop O My Bag here!