MIMYCRI: BAGS MADE FROM REFUGEE BOATS - A STORY OF HOPE
For this kick-off episode of 2018, Claudi sat down with the inspiring Vera Günther, co-founder of mimycri (@mimycri). mimycri is a social startup that is really one-of-a-kind and totally expanded my awareness of what is possible in the field of circular economy - which, as you know, I’ve been diving in a lot lately through our circular economy tours.
A new year is usually kicking off with lots of hopes, plans and dreams - and if you are dreaming of a greener future, where people are just kind to each other, smile more, love and respect one another and love and respect our beautiful planet - be assured that you’re not alone in this.
If you still think that we’re not enough to truly matter: trust me, everyone of us has the power to move things out there. Even if it’s just you or a small group of people. The best proof is my guest on the show today, an incredible female social entrepreneur and passionate environmentalist: Vera Günther, the co-founder of mimycri.
WHAT MIMYCRI DOES?
mimycri consists of a bunch of dedicated people, reclaiming leftover rubber boats - which transport hundreds of refugees over to the shores of Europe - and turn them into super beautifully designed bags and backpacks!
Exactly - WOW! That’s what i was thinking too. And my chat to Vera was probably one of the most touching & at the same time most empowering and motivating interviews I had. Getting such a truthful account of what’s happening out there, right now, from someone who’s actually been on the ground… It really really touched me. At the same time it’s SO encouraging to listen to Vera and feel her passion… how they made it work as a team…
On top of that, with their beautiful products they prove that sustainability doesn’t have to be a trade off anymore. All in all, I feel super aligned with a lot of Vera’s values - especially her positive outlook on things.
Please, please, please, have a listen, it’s such a unique story and you’ll get such a better picture than the one painted by the mass media. In times of uncertainty and fear of the “other”, I couldn’t imagine anyone who would stay negative and anxious after listening to Vera’s messages. I’m sure it convinces every critic …
Anyway, before jumping in, I just wanna give a quick apology - the sound of my voice on this audio isn’t the greatest... Vera sounds great though, that is what matters 🙂 But I wanted to share with you the reason: we recorded the show when I was in transition on my way to Australia. Yep, I’m in the Aussie sister city of Berlin, in Melbourne, connecting with the local eco scene here and seeing if we can kick off GreenMe Melbourne. It’s pretty exciting, I’m meeting lots of interesting people and projects. And I can feel a crazy strong tie between Berlin and Melbourne. Last week I joined Jessie from Leftover Lovers for a zero waste cooking workshop - turns out she’s been in living in Berlin and worked with Pepe & friends at Nowhere Kitchen! I tell you, it’s no coincidence...
I believe that it’s key to broaden our horizons and see what’s going on in the rest of the world - and learn about other social, sustainable, eco-minded projects. Everything is connected on this planet. And we all need to join forces in order to protect it. So, if you’re curious to see what’s moving in the green scene on the other end of the world, stay tuned and follow us on Facebook and Instagram and soon also on www.greenme.melbourne. And if you’re around in Melbourne, let us know and maybe you even wanna join one of our first tours over here!
Now, I kept you waiting long enough again - without any further pre-talks, here comes Vera of mimycri...
IN THIS PODCAST EPISODE, YOU'LL LEARN ABOUT:
- A truly unique take on how circular economy can look like
- Why it’s important to look back and celebrate
- A first-hand report of the situation on a refugee arrival point
- How a washing machine can create a huge impact
- A business model that puts people on eye level
- The hardest moment to explain European politics to people who just survived
- How to find the battle you’re passionate to fight for <3
- What makes Vera jump out of bed every morning
- Why it’s better to do something small than to do nothing
- The secret meaning behind the name mimycri
- Why it’s crucial to have products that speak for themselves
- mimycri’s vision to create a new and open society
- When is it okay to be an occasional materialist?
- The power of a community of like-minded people
- How the newcomers of the mimycri team feel about their work
- The various stages of the journey of a mimycri bag
- What happens if there are no more rubber boats
- Why mimycri had to be launched in Berlin
- Social entrepreneurship vs. public sector NGO’s
- The enormous value of criticism & the various types of criticism
- The importance of not giving up on your dreams
- Why failure is not an option !
...and heaps more! There’s a lot of value and motivation to be taken from this interview. So without any further pre-talks, here comes Vera of mimycri.
LISTEN TO THE PODCAST RIGHT HERE:
As always, we’d be super grateful if you hop over to iTunes, subscribe to the podcast and leave us a short review. It helps us keep going and makes the show available to more people. THANK YOU!
MIMYCRI - INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT:
CLICK HERE TO READ THE TRANSCRIPT:
C: Hi Vera - welcome to the GreenMe Berlin podcast! Hope you had a fantastic start into 2018 and are full of positive energy & exciting plans for the year
V: Yeah, thanks so much first of all for having us on the show. It’s very great to talk to you. We did have a fantastic start into the new year. Sometimes, in the last weeks of 2017, we sweated and worked a lot, in order to produce the products for the crowdfunding for the people who ordered and wanted them before Christmas - and in the end we managed to do so! That was a great feeling.
And now we start into the new year with plenty of new material - nearly one tonne of broken rubber boats that we can turn into beautiful bags and backpacks and other products.
We also were in contact with some artists and some really inspirational people over the last months, and we’d like to explore those options of working together as well. So we’re really excited about the new year and about everything that awaits us.
C: Wow, it sounds like. I can feel your energy and your excitement over here, really, really cool. What did you do start on New Years Eve, to celebrate what you created and achieved over the last months?
V: On NYE, part of our team was actually together and we were standing on the roof in Berlin and were looking into the magical and were really doing a big round of hugs and celebrations.
Because, one year earlier, this was still an idea and a dream and we weren’t really sure how it would go and develop. And one year later, we stood there… it’s still not clear where it will go. But it exists and it’s there. It was an amazing feeling. And it’s actually important to celebrate. Because, often, when you want to go further and do more, you forget to do that. So it was a really good moment, also for the team energy, to stop and appreciate what has happened over the last 12 months.
C: Oh man, yes. That sounds so, so beautiful. And absolutely, it’s so important to celebrate and just stop and look behind what you’ve already done. A lot of people are not doing this enough.
It’s super great to have you on the show today, and the timing really couldn’t be better
The Fashion Week - and with it also the Ethical Fashion Show - are just about to kick off and the whole world is looking on Berlin to learn about what’s possible in sustainable fashion.
But let’s talk about the amazing work you do. When I first heard about your work I was really blown away. And also everyone I told about you reacted like “whaat?”. Just to repeat for the listeners out there: you are upcycling broken refugee rubber boats into stunning, handmade designer bags and backpacks.
I mean sure, upcycling and reusing materials that are already out there becomes more and more common. Especially in Berlin, we’ve got a great range of amazing upcycling designers. Since I started the Circular Economy Tours last year with my business partner Arianna - who happens to be an upcycling designer herself - I’ve really seen and learned a lot about this. And it’s crazy to realize how many perfectly usable materials are out there, only to end up on the next landfill. So there’s a lot going on here in this field.
But your take on this is for sure something I’ve never come across before - probably because you’re the first ones who do something like that - or do you know of any similar projects?
V: Yeah, maybe I’ll start from thinking of the project as a whole. I’m sure there were a lot of people working on the Greek islands - and not only being overwhelmed by the situation for the people who arrived there, but also the amounts of waste that are connected with that and are lying around at the beaches.
So, I think we’re not the only ones who had the idea to do something with the material, but then to bring it as far and take the boat material and produce something new out of it… I don’t know who else is doing that at the moment...
C: I don’t think there’s anyone. We’re already diving right into the heavy stuff probably: The story how everything started is really powerful, there’s been a lot of courage involved - but at the same time, it also shows that everyone can do something.
The whole idea came up while you were volunteering to help refugees on a Greek island called Chios. What exactly were you doing there to help - and what “motivated” you to go in the first place?
V: Well it’s not the heavy stuff, I guess it’s the interesting stuff 🙂 In 2015 I was already in Berlin and involved in working with refugees, wanting to support the whole process. But then I had some time off work and friends were telling me that there was really help needed on the Greek islands, especially on Chios. That’s why I decided to go there and see how I could help and support.
Then, arriving there, realizing that all the work that is done is done through tiny organizations, basically consisting just of individuals who wanted to show that they want to welcome people… Nora was joining me, so we were there together…
C: Did you know each other beforehand?
V: Yeah, we were really close friends from university. It was very emotional being there, so I talked a lot to her and one day she said “Very, you know what, I’m just coming”. And it was so good. It was really so good, to share this with someone and to go through this with somebody else.
Then, the work on the island is basically that people arrive with these rubber boats and most of the times during the night - otherwise they get caught and taken back. When we were there it was winter, so it’s really cold, only around 5°C. Often they have been in the cold water for hours. And often they are super wet, because there are too many people on the boat...
We had cars stocked with dry clothes and with food and drinks and you basically patrol the coast. In the moment you find people on the shores or at the beaches, you help them getting out of the water, help them getting dry and you bring them to a safe place where they get picked up by a bus and brought to the registration camp.
But when people leave, they leave everything behind and they can’t take anything with them. So the boats and the life wests and the wet clothes and everything is left behind... I’m a really strong environmentalist and I just thought “oh my god” - of course, this is not the most horrible part of it, but still…
As we were also cleaning the beaches, at one point we were thinking: with all the donation money we have, we buy new clothes. But actually, every day we collect wet clothes that we throw away. So why don’t we just add a washing machine and try to wash the clothes that we collect, and then we can reuse them for the next people who arrive.
So that’s when we started collecting money and buying a washing machine and a dryer - and basically starting a small project for reusing the clothes. But then we had to go back to Germany because of our work. Once we were back, we felt…
C: So basically you were still in your normal jobs?
V: Exactly! I already signed a contract for a new job when I was on Chios and Nora was still in her old job. So we had to go back. But once we were back, we still felt that we need and want to do something. But we wanted to do something that’s not just… you know… how can I say - the power imbalance of us helping someone. But instead working together and show that there is an alternative way of how we can, in our society thrive together…
C: You mean, as opposed to just donating money or so…
V: Exactly. I mean, I think that everything is right to do. It’s right together and learn German and so on. But we wanted to something where it’s about working together. Where it’s really this kind of “on eye level” cooperation.
And we brought a tiny piece of boat material just because it felt so weird to throw all these boats away when the material is actually really great. Then, we just asked a fashion designer “can you make something out of this?”. And he made a tiny bag, which… well, now we would maybe not sell or promote it, because it’s maybe not the most beautiful one, but...
C: That doesn’t matter, that was the start.
V: I think at that point we thought it’s the most beautiful thing we’ve ever seen. And we thought “hey, if we can make something like that out of this, we can really try.
C: That’s so, so, so amazing. There were just so many points in this whole story. You being an environmentalist and not only looking into one direction… Of course, helping the refugees and trying to minimize a humanitarian crisis is important. But then having such an open mind and open eyes and seeing that, actually, something positive can be created out of that.
So many people out there get scared and overwhelmed and nearly paralyzed when they see pictures and hear constantly stories in the news. There’s a lot of fear and negativity involved. But you actually decided to do something. That’s really the way to go: to show that there is something positive to grow out of that.
Was there any key moment when you were on the island that impacted you most?
V: Yeah. I’d definitely say there were two. One is that it felt incredibly embarrassing having to explain European politics to people who are nearly… you know, who basically just survived and are freezing. Who had to throw away their passports and don’t have anything anymore… To explain why we would not even provide a sleeping bag for them…
C: Why was that?
V: Well. I guess it’s political interest to make it as unpleasant as possible to arrive in Europe and to not create… I mean, this is at least a common understanding of European external politics to say: the less nice and pleasant it is to come to Europe, the fewer people would arrive.
You stand there as a European and you, in a way, represent European politics… The feeling that… you know the slogan “not in my name”? That’s what I totally felt. I also didn’t want to be only “against” though. You know, going on the streets and express that you are against something. I really wanted to find a creative, positive way to say “I’m against - but I’m also for something”. I want to provide and offer an alternative solution.
And also showing that these are just people! Okay, maybe they pray to another god, or eat different… well, probably they even eat the same food… These are just people. And it’s just a coincidence that these are not our brothers and sisters. That was probably the emotional side of our motivation.
C: I can feel it here. I’m really touched by this I have to say…. Sorry…
V: Ah, don’t worry, don’t worry. Well, and the more practical side is, what you also mentioned, it’s this feeling of: “it’s not actually that hard to do something”. I mean, of course, you can always debate how high is the impact. But we felt, already with this washing machine project we saved hundreds of euros! And it’s not actually been that hard to do. It’s just about wanting to do it and not give up too easily. I think these were the key moments for us to think that it is actually possible to do something.
And it is much better to do something small than to do nothing. I think that was important for both of us over the last years as well. To still keep going, although we were living in different countries (I was living in Paris for the last two years, and now I moved back). To believe that it’s possible to do something.
C: Definitely! Man, this is so important. Good on you for keep pushing forward. I really really strongly believe in that too, that every single little thing counts! If everyone out there, everyone of us would just do a little thing, the impact would be massive. I think it often stops people from doing something, that they always think they have to solve a huge problem out there. And then they feel overwhelmed, because, obviously that’s much harder as well. But if more of us would say “hey, let’s just do this small thing - everything counts”, the world would actually be a pretty good place 🙂
V: Absolutely! I totally agree with you. I spoke quite recently actually - it’s not that long ago - to a very wise person, who told me: “Vera, you don’t have to think that you’ll change the whole world, but you have to pick a battle or a passion you are happy to fight for”
I think if you find that, it already in itself feels right and feels good. And then, obviously, you want to have the highest impact possible. But in the end, it’s already just doing it which inspires other people. Showing that things are possible that you can’t even measure that easily…
C: Exactly, as you say, it’s also inspiring other people. It’s about bringing them along… You probably already created a strong community around it. Then people see it and maybe new ideas arise. There’s a whole energy, a movement and that’s really really important.
Now, I know that the name “mimycri” is also incredbly well chosen and it has such a powerful meaning. For the listeners out there, could you describe what mimycri means?
V: Yeah of course. mimycri is a phenomena in nature, which basically describes either insects or plants that pretend to be something or someone else. They do that either to not get eaten, or to eat more - basically, to survive.
And why we chose this name: mimycri, for us, is really about changing perspective. About realizing that often we categorize and label things. And this is the way we perceive them. You can see a broken rubber boat as a broken rubber boat, that is waste and that you have to bring to landfill and that is just basically a burden.
But you can also think of it as a future super beautiful bag or backpack. The same is true for human beings. You can label them as refugees and then you associate certain characteristics with them. This will shape your behaviour towards them.
You can also see them as friends or as colleagues and this will change your behaviour and will open so many opportunities. Also in general in life, it’s important to see that there is the possibility to have different perspectives on everything. This is why we wanted a name that embodies this changing of perspective...
C: Nice! There’s a lot of thought that went into this, I really really like it. There’s also a tagline, your tagline is “Time to write a new story”, which again, I really really like. I think for you the storytelling bit is also really important, right?
V: Yeah, absolutely! I mean, we really also want to have products that speak for themselves. So we don’t want to be only interesting people because of our story. But this is clearly what matters most to us. It’s really this idea of creating a new way of living and working together. To show that you can be sustainable, you can be social and you can be sexy and it doesn’t have to be exclusive and you’re either the one or the other.
And to also show that, even in challenging situations - and I think we talked about this a little bit before - that so many people feel that this is just a challenge and a burden that so many people come to Germany and to Europe now. And that we have to be afraid and we have to be careful and “how should we do that”. But there is actually also a lot of potential and opportunity. This could be also a great new start, to learn from each other and to create a new and open society. We really want to show that with our project.
C: Wow. That’s really awesome. Yeah, I sometimes step back and just wonder: why are we humans so scared of one another? But luckily, there are lots of passionate people out there who want to change this. And you just made another great point: being sustainable in all ways, no matter if it’s environmental, or social, or economic, the whole range of sustainability doesn’t have to be a trade off anymore.
For example, for you I guess it’s important that… you said that the first bag you created, you wouldn’t sell anymore. So it’s important to create beautiful products that people want. To show them that they don’t have to go for something that is minor in quality or minor in design. That they can actually do something as a consumer and feel good - in all ways.
And then of course, for me as a circular economy enthusiast, I love that you put peoples’ attention towards seeing the value in waste. You give new live to material that is just out there. Plastic that’s lying in nature. I mean, you said that you are an environmentalist. But circular economy, or zero waste, was that something that you looked into before already or did it come up for you on the ground?
V: No, actually I worked the last 2 years in a UN environment on the topics of circular economy - on a very much more academic level. But I think the circular economy revolution interests us as well as a team and thinking about how we could do that in the future.
And also… well as I said, I’m an environmentalist, but then, on the other hand I’m also very materialistic in a way. I have some things that I really love. But I love them because they have a story, or an attachment, a history. And that’s also why I would say that we not just reuse something that is otherwise waste and has no meaning.
But this is material that is historical and is telling a story - that is not only beautiful, clearly - but that is happening right now and that is connected to a lot of hope and courage And then continuing this story using these products. Giving the opportunity also for the people who make them to continue their story, for me is as well what makes the material so special.
C: Yeah, definitely. And there, we can actually straight away jump to the people who make them as well, because that's really interesting, too. Basically, you have a super multicultural team. Especially the designers and the tailors, who have a migrant background themselves, who have been refugees - which is incredible. Just to see that closed loop in that way...
How is that? Do you sometimes talk about their own stories? And how does it feel for them to work with these materials? Is it hard or is it something positive?
V: I mean, clearly, we're working together so closely, we also talk about the stories or the past of Abid and Ali and Khaldoun, but I think for them, working with the material is really... It's their job and it's what they really like to do.
I mean, in the beginning, before we started the project, we were a bit hesitant using this material because we thought maybe for some people, they get reminded of a very difficult time in their life and I'm sure that there are some for whom it holds true. But actually, with the people who we work with and also worked with to start the project, they were all much more saying that it actually is important for them. For the aspect of saving history and of remembering what's going on...
C: I guess it gives them a lot of meaning as well as, right?
V: Yeah, exactly, exactly. And then also, we work with this every day and they work with this every day. So it's also very kind of getting normal. We come to work and we have fun and it's not that we sit there every day and be like "oh my god"...you know
C: How did how did you actually all find together? I mean, it's become pretty big now the team, right? How many are you?
V: Yeah, we're seven stable, fixed people in the team. But then, also for different things that we do or organise, we have a lot of volunteers that help out. But yeah, we came all together actually through Facebook! We put up a Facebook post and we look for people. Then Abid came and then on one point, he brought another friend and then again somebody told another friend so it was very kind of...year by year.
And now, I mean, they are the experts, explaining to us how things work. We learned so much about sewing machines - because we're both not designers or tailors. So it's really them who have the expert knowledge and who teach us how to do a lot of those things. It's a very strong "together feeling" in the team, that's very nice.
C: That's beautiful! What would you say… probably you've mentioned a few things already. But what would you say is it that really drives you most? The thing that makes you jump out of bed each morning. Or also the thing that keeps you actually going.
V: I think, the thing that makes me jump out of bed every morning is that I can actually fall asleep at peace. I mean, the feeling that I'm standing up for what I believe in. And then seeing the impact that we already had.
So that some people now can have a job and learn German and they have friends... And the really massively positive response we get from people and the support we got. It's actually not that hard to get up in the morning and be excited.
C: I imagine. Let's just switch direction a little bit, because I'm also kinda curious about the logistics. How do you actually source the material? Can you just really quickly walk us through the journey that one of your bags might have gone through?
V: Of course. So well.. In the first part, I would imagine someone who buys this boat somewhere. People then cross over to the Greek island of Chios and then it's just destroyed most of the times, because it shouldn’t go back. Then, the amazing organisation, that small NGO we worked with on Chios as volunteers...
C: What’s their name?
V: CEST. That’s Chios Eastern Shore Response Team - very long name for a very tiny organization 🙂 There's a lot of people volunteering for them - or sometimes they also need a lot of people… They are doing the beach cleaning and usually they would have thrown the material away.
But nowadays they collect it and then either Nora or myself, we went there this year. Once, for example for a week to cut it and clean it as much as possible, or other people help us to do that. Then it gets packed into boxes and gets shipped to Berlin.
And then in Berlin we welcome the boxes and bring them to different places - because we don't have a storage right now. So we have to kind of find cellars from friends... Yeah, and then we bring it to our workshop at Fablab and clean it and start working with it.
C: Right. Fablab, that is what exactly? Is it like a coworking space?
V: Yeah exactly, it’s like a design lab in Prenzlauer Berg, where there’s a lot of projects and also individuals who work on design issues. And luckily, one of the people who work there, Tammy, she's also part of our project. She helps us with the pattern and the printing and all of that. She brought us there and now we can work there.
It's an amazing place to be with inspiring people. We often get a lot of guests and there’s a lot of interaction there. We’re incredibly happy about having found that place
C: Yeah, that’s super important I guess to have people around you, to have support mentally, but also to not work alone. Even though of course you guys are working on your project. But I guess, Berlin is giving a good ground there.
Which brings me to the point where I wanna talk about this city as a hub for social entrepreneurs a bit. I mean, first of all, Berlin is a hub - if not the hub in Europe - for sustainable fashion and design. But also for eco-minded projects and social social business and everything to thrive.
First of all, would you agree on that? And second, is there any other reason why you started mimycri in Berlin and not somewhere else?
V: It’s actually a good question. Because, in the beginning we were thinking about whether we should maybe start the project in Greece and start producing something in Athens. But then, we really felt exactly what you described. First of all, we wanted to do really cool designs, we really want to get contacts who can help us and that would be best in Berlin.
But also because we both studied here and we have worked in different places we had a really good network in Berlin. By now, this is growing and growing. We really feel that this is a good place to develop the project and bring it forward. To feel that it can grow. I absolutely agree with what you say about Berlin being a really good place to do something like that.
C: Awesome! There’s just so much happening right now both in sustainable fashion - and also in zero waste, circular economy, there's many many events around it. So many meetups and such a strong community.
What I love is that it’s so supportive. Of course, there’s maybe projects that are kind of competitors. But everyone is so welcoming instead of elbow pushing. It’s really “let’s just work together” because there’s actually another purpose, another “WHY” behind it.
V: Absolutely. I wanted to say it before, that’s exactly the point you mentioned. I really feel… I mean I always wanted to work for a public good or something bigger. But I was always a bit hesitant thinking “my god, the private sector”. I'm not so sure if this is the case, but I really feel exactly what you described. That in the social entrepreneur scene, especially, with a focus on sustainable consumption and production and circular economy it is a community that works together and helps each other out.
I think this is super motivating and then and just basically going forward and showing who maybe is not convinced yet that it is possible. Creating basically physical arguments for why it is possible - that’s super nice.
C: Exactly. Your model is basically non-profit, right? I mean the bags have a certain price and you sell them. What happens to the money that you generate through that?
V: Exactly, we're a non-profit. So basically, all the money that we get from the bags and backpacks is to cover the costs. That is from giving some money to the organisation that works in Greece, to paying for the material to come here, and then obviously to support the people who we’re working together with us also financially. And doing all the work that’s around it.
But we don't make any gains, this is not the aim that we have at the moment. It's just basically that we want to be economically sustainable and not exploit the people we work with and neither ourselves. That’s the model we work with right now and it works quite okay, let’s say 🙂
C: I think that’s really really important because there’s still this old idea in peoples’ minds that, when you do something sustainable or something socially good, then it should not generate money at all. But that doesn't make sense, because then you run out of resources, you burn out and it just doesn't happen. It also has to be financially sustainable for everyone that's working on it I guess. Otherwise it's gone, or always just running 50% or so. I believe.
V: Absolutely. I mean, still ourselves, we need to improve in that. When you’re so convinced, it’s easy to exploit yourself and just go without sleeping or eating. But this is no help for nobody. It’s important that it’s economically also sustainable
C: I understand. That’s the problem we have sometimes. We have a lot of passion for something and then when you're passionate you’re always saying “oh no, let’s do it for free” - but it’s something that we have to learn. And I think that also people out there are ready to pay for things. And it would just be amazing of in the future, the social business approach would just become completely the norm. That would be a dream. Everyone could survive on it and everyone could still have a nice life…
V: Well exactly! And I think it’s really important to believe that this is and we can actually do this. Sometimes this is the issue with people feeling that there’s no alternative and the only goal is to not make it worse. But actually, I think we can also do it better. It’s not only about not making it worse, it’s really possible to make it better. And this is why it’s important to stand in for this dream.
C: I absolutely. What I was wondering, do you see this as a temporary, kind of transitioning project? In the hope that one day, of course, there won't be any more rubber boats from refugees landing on the shores? I mean, probably it won't stop from today to tomorrow. But do you have ideas about how to change what you do a little bit, or adjust?
V: Yeah, of course… I mean, that’s often the question “what if there’s no more boats coming?” - and like you said, we would celebrate! We would be incredibly happy. But of course, the core idea of mimycri work together with people who - not even just newly arrived in Germany - but maybe also people over otherwise have difficulties to enter the labour market and to work on materials that have a historical meaning or are in some way special, or upcycle them into beautiful and high-quality design products…
We clearly already think and brainstorm about what else that could be. But at the moment, we are still so overwhelmed with actually working with boat material, that it’s a lot of... we have a lot of ideas of what else we can do. But first we’re already quite busy just doing that.
C: Yeah, I believe so. Right at the beginning you were saying that you just got a ton of new materials coming in actually. So basically the new year is going to kick off with lots of work and lots of new bags, right?
V: Exactly, exactly absolutely and yeah we got some really good feedback about what we're doing right now and we want to improve the bags and backpacks. We’re also thinking about doing new products and also about using the material more in an art context. Really emphasizing the awareness rising off the product and I think some of the material, we will also use for that as well.
C: Alright, keep us in the loop, definitely. If there’s a big art project coming up or like any news that you want to share, so we share it out with our community. Well, I could go on and on forever there’s just so many interesting things going on. But I also don’t want to stretch out your time too much. So let’s just swing over to a few questions that I always ask.
The first one is: since you started mimycri - which of course is still pretty young - but what was one of your biggest learnings on the way?
V: I think… Well, maybe two things. One: don't let the critics keep you small (or I don’t know how to phrase it - but basically, they will always be people who criticize what you do and find a mistake… and I think it's important and really really valuable to get constructive criticism as this is best way to grow. But then, there is also criticism, which you don't have to spend energy on. I think this is really for us a small, young and new - and also in some ways provocative - project a really big learning. If you’re convinced of what you do, you do your thing and you deal with constructive criticism. And with all the rest: don’t let it question what you do.
C: Totally! That's a really big point. I think if you are creating something successful than there’s always going to be two sides. There’s going to be people who love it and then people who criticize it. And as you say, not letting it completely demotivate you, but really taking actually power and energy from that is a really really good way to go.
V: And maybe the other one is that failure is not an option. I mean not in a way... I think it's totally fine if things don't work out the way you want and it’s important to at one point say “ok we try this, but maybe the way we did it doesn't work and we'll switch gears”.
But to not question so easily what you do. In the moment where you think that it's not an option that this really fails, you find so many creative ways to also deal with situations in which you just feel like “oh my god, this sucks, this is difficult and this is hard”. And then it's quite amazing to see with what kind of solutions we come up with.
C: Definitely. Do you have an example of any specific moment?
V: Ah yeah. I think already our start was like that. Because when we were nominated for the German Integration Price last December. We handed in a proposal and we still didn't really have a team together. At that moment we felt like “OK in 6 weeks we have to put together a crowdfunding campaign. How the hell should we ever do that?” But then we were just like: “This is what we have to do. There's no other way, there is no alternative option.
Then we somehow put all our energy together and found amazing people who supported us and you work like crazy to make things possible. And six weeks later, we had a video and we had a Facebook page and we had a website…
C: It’s always surprising again and again what we are actually capable of. We always underestimated it so badly…
Then, if you could change one thing in Berlin within the next 24 hours, what would it be?
V: Okay, give me a second… Well, this comes more from my environmental side I guess, but I would totally change it to kind of a Copenhagen style Berlin, where cycling would be lot of fun and we’d have a lot of space and cars would have less space that would be awesome…
C: I’m definitely with you. I still haven’t made it to Copenhagen, it’s incredible. But I just heard so much about it and met people from there and everything. I 100% sign that 🙂
Alright then what question should I have asked but didn’t. Is there anything we didn't talk about, anything you wanted to let the world know about?
V: Actually, one thing that we are looking for - and it would be great if anybody in the community had an idea or hint - is a new place. Because the place where we are now is amazing but it will, it has to move and they changed quite a bit of its structure, so possibly, we will not be able to stay there. So we are looking for a new home in Berlin.
It doesn't have to be big and it doesn't have to like be fancy or anything. We would love to share it with amazing people and have a little bit of storage place a little bit of space for a few people to work together. That is some big to do for us for the next week, so if anybody has any ideas or contacts or whatever, we would be absolutely grateful.
C: So big shout out there, if you know anything or anyone, or if you have a space that you want to share, or rent out and support a really beautiful project, then get in touch and I'll get in touch with you - or how can people contact you?
V: Exactly, they can write us a message on Facebook, they can write us an email. Whatever they prefer. And a big bonus is that Abid, one of our tailors, is the most amazing cook, and most of the time he brings the most delicious food - so you’d also definitely benefit from that 😉
C: Sounds amazing! I wish I had a space. Now, last and final question: If there was one thing you could pass on to the GreenMe Berlin community, the people out there - what would it be
V: Yeah, I think we’re on the right path, all of us. And it’s encouraging to just like go and meet people... and then support each other and encourage each other. Strengthening the things you believe in. Lifting each other up. I think that's really crucial and this is a great community to do that.
C: Definitely, baaam! Vera, thank you so, so much! It's been incredible to talk to you. There’s been a lot of energy, a lot of emotions a lot of fascinating stories coming out here and I just deeply acknowledge you for the things that you do. Definitely keep going and just follow all the things you mentioned. Thanks so much for making this world a little bit better - and thanks a lot for your time.
V: Yeah, thank you so much for inviting us and for having this really interesting conversation and also of course for all the work that you do! It’s amazing….
THIS IS MIMYCRI
I’m just blown away by the amount of dedicated people I get to meet on this show and in everyday life… It really strengthens me in my beliefs that we can change the world for the better, that it’s not too late & that it’s right to be positive and let positive energy fuel you.
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Now, I hope you have a huge smile on your face, go out there, spread some positive future vibes - and always remember to keep it green!
MIMYCRI - SHOWNOTES & LINKS MENTIONED
[photo credit © mimycri]
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