Jamie Bennett. CEO. Corvus Fittings. MBA and Social Entrepreneur.
What do pandas and sustainability have in common? Bamboo! Bamboo is the secret ingredient to Jamie’s two-year-old sustainable eyewear company- Corvus Fittings. Based in Vancouver, BC, Jamie’s story demonstrates the future of social entrepreneurship and sustainable business in Canada. Corvus focuses on fashion while building sustainability into the essence of the company. Jamie is a force to be reckoned with; his enthusiasm is contagious and vision is inspiring.
What inspired you to start your social enterprise?
It started as a hobby, me tinkering with recycled wood from old skateboards. I got more interested in working with different kinds of wood. I saw a niche in the market by using bamboo. Since sustainability has always been important to me, combined with my interest in fashion I saw the opportunity and just went for it.
When did you know you were onto something?
We started on a crowd-funding site and when we saw people were putting money down before the product was even made, we knew we were on to something.
How did your past experiences help you get to where you are today?
I saw skateboard fashion become mainstream fashion. Those guys were my role models and inspired me to work hard and aim big. I have always believed that if you do what you are passionate about that good things will happen. I worked hard getting my MBA, and even though I have the degree, I don’t use it often. It actually slows me down analyzing every decision- to be an entrepreneur you need to be the right kind of stupid. Although you can’t be too disconnected from the spreadsheet- the numbers are important.
When did you know you wanted to be a Social Entrepreneur?
I really think if you are going to be a successful entrepreneur today you need to have the “Social Good” part built into the system or you won’t be in business long; the world really has changed. But to be an entrepreneur, that is part of who you are and it’s been inside me for a long time. It’s often a lonely road and there are rough days where I think how much easier it would be working for someone else. But if you want to have an impact and do something more, you got to just go out and do something.
I really think if you are going to be a successful entrepreneur you need to have the social good part built into your systems or you won’t be in business long.
How important is the sustainability aspect to your product?
My product wouldn’t sell if it wasn’t fashionable. I believe our company is the perfect storm of style, functionality and sustainability. But sustainability is only the icing on the cake. I have to win on sunglasses, with the added benefit that they are sustainable.
Many people say Social Innovation, Social Good, Social Impact, etc are just buzz words- what would you say to that?
I would say they are right, they are buzz words. But they are descriptors of where the industry needs to go. Social Good needs to be a part of the business system and it needs to be strategically aligned with the company. For example, CIBC Run For the Cure, this event creates no connection between CIBC’s core business and cancer research. Imagine if CIBC decided to invest the marketing dollars it spends on the run in financing for cancer research. I really believe more can be done when companies apply their strategic expertise to doing good rather than donating a percentage of profits. Giving money is easy, applying your business to solve social problems is harder but the return on effort is incomparable.
If you could have one super hero power what would it be and why?
To be able to freeze time