Maria Rodriguez is the founder of sustainable start-up Kind Bag, beautiful design-led shopping bags made from recycled plastic bottles.
Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role
I was born and raised in Tenerife, Canary Islands. I studied law at Complutense University of Madrid and came to London afterwards in 2015 to develop my career and hone my English, working as an intern at a law firm. I met my partner James who had just started his own company called Love Cocoa and began helping him. It was then that I realised how rewarding it is to work in a start-up environment, especially an ethically-minded challenger brand.
At the same time, I became increasingly aware of environmental issues. I travelled around Asia and saw so many beautiful sceneries, but they were often polluted – by plastic waste. I grew up surrounded by beautiful nature, and it was extremely shocking to witness this. This was my wake-up call to try and do something positive to help the environment.
I pooled all my savings together to launch Kind Bag in 2019. The brand is on a mission ‘to be kind to the planet’, turning plastic waste into beautiful bags. Consumers can find it daunting to make changes to be sustainable, especially with fashion, because of the high cost or limited options. We want to challenge these preconceptions. Every Kind Bag recycles six plastic bottles and each bag is super stylish. They are 100% recycled as well as being recyclable.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
As you can see, I studied law, but am now the founder of Kind Bag, so not really! I believe it can help if you’re from outside the industry, because you’re bringing in different perspectives and ideas.
Have you faced any challenges along the way?
To tell you the truth, I face some sort of challenge on a daily basis. I still struggle with imposter syndrome. It’s not a bad thing, because it’s an opportunity to grow both as a young company and also personally. I thrive on learning and challenging myself to be the best I can be.
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
Having recycled over 1.5 million plastic bottles with Kind Bag in 2020, our first year of trading! It really is a dream come true and I am so grateful to everyone who’s joined our mission. Using Kind Bag means a lot more than just saving plastic bottles from landfill, it helps prevent the deterioration of our eco systems further and protects wildlife from consuming plastic. I can’t wait to see what 2021 has in store for the brand.
What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?
Trusting myself and my intuition. There are always people who will respond negatively to what you think or believe. It’s important to listen to a range of opinions, but as a small business owner, you have to be the one who is ultimately comfortable with the final decision.
How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?
I have never had a mentor or been a mentee, but I am really lucky to have a supportive team. It feels like we’re a mentor and mentee to each other on a daily basis. We have an open environment and value each other’s voice, which I believe is incredibly important.
If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Equality, what would it be?
My friends in their early 30s may not think that cleaning is a women’s job, but my parents’ or grandparents’ generation may do. It’s sometimes hard to ignore what you have been taught while you were growing up. There needs to be more women in positions of power, acting as positive role models for the younger generations. We learn by example.
If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?
Make sure you follow your instincts and don’t be afraid to take risks.
What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?
Growing Kind Bag further and spreading our mission across the world. With lots of new products launching this year, we’re hoping to reach those people who haven’t thought about introducing sustainable items to their wardrobe yet.
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