Eye sight for sore eye lashes

Idealog - - FORWARD -

IT WAS THE clash­ing of two worlds that gave 19-year- old Bon­nie How­land her busi­ness idea. On the one side there was her part-time job in a hair salon in Auck­land’s trendy New­mar­ket sub­urb, while she stud­ied for an event man­age­ment de­gree at Auck­land’s AUT Univer­sity.

And on the other was an ex­pe­ri­ence in Van­u­atu, where she met a young woman who was sac­ri­fic­ing her ed­u­ca­tion to care for her mother, blinded by cataracts. It didn’t seem fair some­how. “I could see the power and in­flu­ence be­hind the beauty industry. There was an op­por­tu­nity for the industry to do some­thing re­ally cool.”

By which How­land meant she could do some­thing cool. Ear­lier this year she set up Indigo & Iris, whose first prod­uct is Mas­cara For Sight, an or­ganic and ve­gan mas­cara. Work­ing with The Fred Hol­lows Foundation, How­land’s busi­ness model is that for ev­ery four mas­caras sold, one per­son’s sight will be re­stored.

“I wanted to see a brand like Indigo & Iris, so I just went for it.”

The next step How­land took was to en­rol on a 10-week in­ten­sive ac­cel­er­a­tor pro­gramme, Live the Dream, run by 2015 Young New Zealan­der of the Year Guy Ryan and his In­spir­ing Sto­ries or­gan­i­sa­tion.

Par­tic­i­pat­ing in the pro­gramme gave How­land the kick-start she needed to em­bark on mak­ing a dif­fer­ence, to­gether with the busi­ness nous she needed to progress her idea.

“Live the Dream teaches par­tic­i­pants how to use busi­ness as a way to change the world. It was re­ally awe­some and in­ter­est­ing for me to learn about busi­ness, and the ten weeks were very em­pow­er­ing.”

As a busi­ness model, so­cial en­ter­prises are be­com­ing more com­mon. Think TOMS Shoes (free shoes for the third world) and Thankyou (an Aus­tralian wa­ter, food and body­care prod­ucts com­pany which uses sales to fund global san­i­ta­tion projects). Closer to home, com­pa­nies like Eat My Lunch, Mr Foureyes, and Frank Sta­tionery do­nate packed lunches, glasses and sta­tionery (re­spec­tively) us­ing the “buy- one, give- one” model.

The cru­cial fac­tor for How­land is that she’s run­ning a busi­ness, not a char­ity, though the out­come is sim­i­lar.

“We will pay all our busi­ness ex­penses first, and then use all of our profit on im­pact. It’s ex­cit­ing look­ing at so­cial en­ter­prises and what they can bring to the tra­di­tional char­ity mod­els.”

How­land has al­ready gained in­ter­na­tional recog­ni­tion. In July, she was cho­sen to rep­re­sent New Zealand at the 2015 Global En­trepreneur­ship Sum­mit in Kenya, an event co-hosted by US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama.

While How­land didn’t meet him per­son­ally, she jokes they made eye con­tact – just. And the ex­pe­ri­ence was “mind­blow­ing”.

“The three day con­fer­ence in­volved en­trepreneurs from all over the world, with lots of high-net-worth in­di­vid­u­als do­ing some amaz­ing things. It was great to step out­side the New Zealand mind frame for a time.”

Mean­while, How­land has taken the bold step of putting her univer­sity stud­ies on hold to work full time on Indigo & Iris. The launch of Mas­cara For Sight is im­mi­nent, with the prod­uct to be sold on­line and in stores across New Zealand and Aus­tralia.

How­land is still work­ing out the finer de­tails of where the busi­ness is headed, but there is no deny­ing that the po­ten­tial pot of con­sumers to use her prod­ucts is huge.

“I read an ar­ti­cle that stated that in the US the av­er­age woman spends $4000 on mas­cara in her life­time. It’s just crazy when you add it all up.

“I am re­ally ex­cited for the day my­self, my friends, other women, any­one that loves wear­ing makeup, can look into the mir­ror, ap­ply their mas­cara, and know that some­one is get­ting their sight back be­cause of the choice they made to pur­chase Mas­cara For Sight.”

AP O L O GY Teenage en­trepreneur Bon­nie How­land put her univer­sity de­gree on hold to launch a cos­met­ics com­pany

where ev­ery sale will help re­store the sight of blind peo­ple in the Pa­cific Is­lands

The pho­tos in the “Col­lab­o­ra­tion works” fea­ture in the last is­sue of were taken by pho­tog­ra­pher Ste­fan Marks, but not cred­ited to him. Apolo­gies.

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