As concerns about the environment have grown, so have the demand for eco-friendly and sustainable products. One couple that’s all about creating a business that has a minimal effect on the environment is David Gandy and MarQuerite Hamden, founders of Ecowrist.
SB: How did you both meet?
David: We met in Amsterdam in 1999. Mutual friends of ours, Nicole and Glynis Terborg, convinced us to take a course called The Landmark Forum. We ended up becoming partners in the course and then partners in life.
SB: What inspired the creation of EcoWrist?
MarQuerite: We were traveling and found watches made with sustainable materials. We bought them and wore them every day when we got back to NY and everyone commented on how cool they were.
A light bulb went off and since I have a background in fashion and both David and I are performing artists and entrepreneurs, we decided to take the steps to create Afrocentric versions of the product.
We started with a couple of designs for wrist watches at first and Ecowrist grew organically with a collection each year that now consists of our signature wristwatches, pocket watches and sunglasses.
SB: What is the most important thing to remember when you are married to your business partner?
David: You are not going to agree on everything and it’s okay. Compromising and offering positive and honest feedback about something that your partner really is set on and giving them the room to develop it.
MarQuerite: I’d like to add that you discover each other’s strengths and weaknesses and with that knowledge you work to get the best out of each other and use that to benefit the company.
The positive effect is that it also benefits your marriage. Again, being straightforward, having integrity and leaving Ecowrist at the end of the day at the table/office, which is very hard. We work on that every day. Some days are better than others.
SB: What has been the most challenging part of your entrepreneurial journey so far? What is the most gratifying?
MarQuerite: Having the capital to help Ecowrist to further grow and getting it to the next level by funding a solid inventory, managing social media and affording the time to put into the company. But, raising three children and maintaining a relationship in the midst of it all has been quite challenging as well.
The most gratifying has been the love we receive for the products we design.This year marks our 10th anniversary! All of the love and support that we got from our customers, family, our tribe ( you know who you are) , and our team means the world to us! We could not have gotten this far without them (you).
David: The connections and relationships that come through Ecowrist are invaluable. Ujamaa and Umoja has been part of Ecowrist and one of our goals is to be a part of the movement to connect the Diaspora throughout the world.
We now see the fruits of our labor. The ideas and vision we had, has become a reality and is still continuing to manifest in a way that is much bigger then we hoped for and we are riding on that wave.
SB: In what ways do you both have similar entrepreneurial traits and in what ways are you different as entrepreneurs?
David: We both want to have passion about our career choices and really don’t want to work for anyone else.
I’d say that I’m a bit more spontaneous (not always good) while MarQuerite is a bit more detail oriented and processes information more thoroughly.
MarQuerite: We like to dive into something new and completely give it our all. If it works out, great! If not, we take that experience, cut our losses and proceed into a new direction.
We’re both competitive, have great negotiation skills, are people’s people, ambitious, fair, and have integrity with our work. I’m better with logistics and budget. David can stay calmer when there is a storm, and line the initial steps out.
SB: Why is it important for you to create products using sustainable material?
David: Why spend more money on developing raw resources, destroying the environment and contribute to more global warming (real news not alternate fact news) when everything has already been pretty much processed for us? It’s not just through their business where they think about using sustainable products and being environmentally friendly. They’ve even thought about making simple changes within their home too. From looking to replace their old toilet with something like the TOTO drake ii, to using energy efficient light bulbs around the house, every little bit helps in improving the environment. More people should be like this.
With minimal processing you save time, money and the environment.
MarQuerite: We have been incorporating a healthier lifestyle for over 15 years now through Organic nutrition, skincare, and much more. All of the research I do has turned me into a scholar.
There are so many toxins in our environment and most people don’t have a clue or don’t care. Wanting to be more knowledgeable and conscious to achieve and prioritize our well being is a priority for us but, not in this society.
It was only a natural step that followed with our business that we stayed on that path! Having the power to create a product that looks and feels great, and actually has a minimal impact on our environment is important to us. Having our children witness this will help them implement sustainability and an entrepreneurial mindset in their lives.
SB: What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs?
David: Stay the course and be open to being critiqued by folks who know better. Just make sure the critique is coming from love and not jealousy.
MarQuerite: Go for what you believe in, even if no one else sees it. Follow through, trust your instinct. Have integrity and honesty.
Find out more about Ecowrist from their website.
-Tony Oluwatoyin Lawson aka @thebusyafrican