Welcome to an incredibly refreshing conversation with Anna Yona - the founder & managing director of Wildling Shoes.
Gain valuable insights and advice on building a purpose-driven business from Anna, the CEO of Wildling. Discover the importance of intrinsic motivation, fostering a trust-based culture, and finding the right people who align with your purpose. Explore how to balance environmental sustainability and social justice while ensuring the success of your business. Don't miss this inspiring conversation on creating a meaningful and impactful company and combining purpose and profit.
Here is the original chat with Anna if you would like to listen. Or dive into the key points below.
How does Wildling Shoes approach the combination of purpose and profit in their business model?
Wildling Shoes started with a strong purpose—to solve health problems caused by poorly designed footwear. They identified the benefits of their product and received positive feedback from customers who experienced improved lifestyles and reduced pain. However, the company realized that their purpose extended beyond the product itself. They recognised the need to address the broader purpose of the business and its role in society.
What steps did Wildling Shoes take to define their purpose beyond the product?
After a couple of years of running the company, the founders took a step back to reflect on their purpose. They wanted to ensure that their work went beyond mere financial goals. They spent two weeks consciously thinking about their mission and the purpose of the business. During this period, they realized that a company could serve as a platform to create positive change. They identified Wildling Shoes as a means to move things that were important to them, such as tackling global challenges like climate change and social injustice.
How has Wildling Shoes evolved their purpose driven business and strategic approach over time?
Wildling Shoes has undergone a transformation in their purpose and strategic approach. Initially, they focused on developing an innovative product and building customer relationships. As they grew, they expanded their vision and understood the potential of their platform. They refined their purpose, gradually adopting a regenerative mindset and striving to act sustainably across their value chain. They initiated projects to source materials from regenerative sources, invested in solar energy for production facilities, and implemented a repair service for their products. Their ultimate goal is to recycle and compost shoes to minimise waste.
What is Wildling Shoes' purpose statement?
Wildling Shoes' purpose statement, recently developed and soon to be published, reflects their commitment to regeneration and the urgency for action. They see themselves as part of the generation responsible for making a positive impact. They believe in acting regeneratively on all levels, addressing ecological, social, and economic aspects. They aim to go beyond sustainability and strive for regenerative practices that repair and restore ecosystems.
How does Wildling Shoes approach financial objectives and strategic planning?
Wildling Shoes takes a unique approach to financial objectives and strategic planning. Rather than focusing solely on financial goals, they emphasise the value they create through their purpose-driven actions. While they maintain a liquidity plan and monitor financial factors, they prioritize purpose over profit. Their emphasis lies on using their financial means to make a meaningful impact, investing in the value chain, and growing the company sustainably.
How does Wildling Shoes balance profits and purpose?
Wildling Shoes views profits as a means to create value and drive positive change. They have been profitable from the start due to their organic growth and healthy margins. Their modest spending habits, remote work culture, and focus on customer relationships contribute to their financial stability. They allocate their profits towards growing the team, investing in company culture, and financing projects that align with their purpose, such as sourcing materials from regenerative projects and developing a repair service.
How does Wildling keep the values of freedom and autonomy running through its culture?
Wildling maintains the values of freedom and autonomy in its culture through several approaches. First, they have a clearly defined purpose and values that are established together with the team. These purpose and values serve as guiding principles for how the team members should act with each other and with partners. Additionally, each team has its own team commitment based on the values and purpose, allowing them to have a vision for their specific area. Wildling also emphasises the qualities they look for in people who want to join their team, ensuring a good fit and alignment with their values and purpose.
Wildling embraces a trust-based culture where they don't control working hours and allow remote work. They focus on results rather than micromanaging the process, fostering a sense of autonomy and flexibility. While they provide support for structure and deep work, they don't track hours but instead encourage intrinsic motivation. By nurturing meaning, autonomy, and developing people according to their strengths, Wildling creates an atmosphere where intrinsic motivation plays a significant role. This intrinsic motivation, in turn, helps keep the team happy, motivated, and actively contributing to the company's achievements.
What are some rituals and habits Wildling practices to maintain the energy and ensure everyone understands and buys into the company's purpose?
Wildling focuses on three key factors to foster an atmosphere of intrinsic motivation, which contributes to the energy and alignment with the company's purpose. These factors are meaning, autonomy, and developing people according to their strengths. To create a sense of meaning, Wildling emphasizes setting goals that are meaningful and have a clear added value and benefit. This ensures that when the team reaches these goals, they have actually created value. Autonomy is a crucial aspect of Wildling's culture, where they trust their team members and focus on results rather than controlling working hours. This trust-based approach allows for flexibility and freedom in how work is approached. Wildling also emphasizes the development of individuals based on their strengths. They believe that strengths are not necessarily what one does best, but what one enjoys doing the most and gains energy from. By aligning tasks with individual strengths, they create a sense of fulfillment and continuous learning. These three factors, meaning, autonomy, and developing people's strengths, contribute to fostering intrinsic motivation within the team, which serves as a powerful driving force in maintaining energy and engagement. Additionally, Wildling embraces ideas and initiatives from the team, such as creating a garden, which further encourages a sense of ownership and shared purpose.
Is there something that Wildling has done that they would highly recommend to a young purpose-driven business, or something they would advise against based on their experience?
One thing Wildling highly recommends to a young purpose-driven business is being cautious and deliberate when involving investors. Anna expressed her happiness that talks with investors did not materialise about one and a half years into running the business. While those investors were not necessarily bad people, she believes that if they had become part of the team and had a say in the company's development, it would have stood in the way of their purpose and taken away motivation and fun. Her advice is to be careful in selecting investors who share the same purpose and values as the business. Finding investors who align with the company's purpose ensures that their involvement supports rather than hinders the mission. It's crucial to seek investors who genuinely understand and are committed to the purpose-driven aspect of the business.
By sharing this experience Anna highlights the importance of finding the right partners and investors who can support and enhance the purpose-driven mission of the business, rather than diluting or conflicting with it.
More about Anna Yona & Wildling Shoes
I first came across Anna & the Wildling story in the Business of Purpose community & was so inspired by their story that I asked to chat to her as part of our Business of Doing Good Business series.
She founded the sustainable minimal shoe brand together with her Israelian husband, Ran Yona, in 2015. After reading Middle Eastern Studies and English Literature at Tel Aviv University, she settled in Israel working in marketing and as a freelance translator plus journalist.
Anna and Ran Yona‘s three children grew up in Israel and ran around barefoot in their early years. When the family moved to Germany in 2013 the biggest challenge was to find shoes for the kids. There seemed to be no shoes that would meet the family’s requirements regarding freedom of movement, sustainable materials and fair production.
And just like that, the idea of Wildling Shoes was born - to pack freedom into a pair of shoes and to become a movement, a driver of change.
Wildling Shoes wants to play an important part in bringing people back into more direct contact with the environment, thereby promoting a more active lifestyle. Thanks to the thin, flexible sole on ethically produced minimal shoes, every step becomes a sensory experience. Unlike conventional shoes, the minimal shoe concept enables a natural gait, helping people to regain their enjoyment of being active. Wildling Shoes uses robust and long-lasting fabrics made of natural materials, and is committed to fair working conditions and environmental standards during the hand-crafted production in Portugal. As a movement Wildling causes a positive impact i.e. on where and how it sources its raw materials.
The financial power and the team capacities are used to support organizations that are actively working on rewilding our planet. The communication skills of the team, its transparency and enthusiasm create awareness, inspiring and encouraging others. Today, Wildling employs almost 200 people - most of them young parents working part time from home in a remote setting. Not only for the New Work environment Wildling Shoes has received several awards, including a prestigious German founders’ award in 2018 and the German Design Award in 2020.
PS the shoes are incredibly comfortable - from experience
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