Cosânzeana: The needle, the girl and the magic thread.

Cosânzeana is a very dear friend of MBQ. Your products are in our shop and of course, your story. So, why the needle and the thread?

I grew up in a village by the age of 8. I spent all my holidays there by 18, the TV being more of a furniture piece than an entertainment center, before computers and mobiles. Sewing and knitting were ubiquitous in the life of the village. Women would gather up every evening around benches on the street, talking about their day while making something with their hands. This was rural Romania in the 80’s. I recently came to the realisation that Romanian women first knew how to sew and only after (if ever) to read and write.

Sewing is part of our identity, it is a language, a very creative one. The traditional motifs are hieroglyphics that tell us stories on clothes, pillow cases and towels. All the kids used to learn how to sew in primary school – boys and girls together. I posted a picture with the original sewing kit that we all used to have in the 80’s and (surprisingly) the first three people that commented in awe of remembrance were 3 men. Isn’t that beautiful?

How is it going? Defining moments? The biggest challenge? Would you change anything?

It’s going and growing great! Every time I say and think that a „for now” pops up into my mind. It feels too good to be true. But the statistics are a bit dreadful when it comes to start-ups and start-ups ran by women. Everything is a challenge and as long as it ends well it keeps me alive and motivated to overcome them one by one and sometimes more at the time. You can be sure an entrepreneur is never bored. I would not change anything from the past, but what I like about our business model is that it relies on change. I love coming up with new shapes and patterns, new sewing techniques and new products. This is the most fun part of the job. I did change my accountant this year.

What are your expectations regarding the social entrepreneurship for the next years?

You know, when I first learned about this way of doing business I thought to myself that this should be the only way to do business. Why? Any healthy company should be driven by the wish to make a positive change in the community, helping vulnerable people have jobs, reinvesting the profit, minimizing the impact over the environment. It’s really common sense! After all companies are made by people. Higher sales and profit don’t generate happiness. On the contrary. They break society into employees and employers, sellers and buyers, rich and poor, two opposite camps. This creates tension and tension is not a fertile soil for cooperation, harmony and personal growth. So I expect social entrepreneurship to gain terrain as more people understand this. Maybe we, the social entrepreneurs should be more vocal about it. I do believe I am happier than 90% of the entrepreneurs in Romania.

There is of course the issue about how the state could encourage this business model, but we have to be realistic. Our political class has problems far more basic than sustaining a new type of making business. We got our social enterprise accreditation last year but I want to give it up this month. It only makes things harder. There are 0 benefits, but quite a few obligations. I am making myself feel better by thinking that constant external support can be a trap. I learned that in Spain and Switzerland 50% of the salary expenses of social enterprises are supported by the state. How easy doing business would that be? Salaries are the largest expense a company has! Still I see a trap in this easiness. Hardship forces you/me/us to come up with better products, better marketing strategies, a more sound business overall, it forges a strong company. But to be honest I can only say this because I was lucky to get important financial help from private companies. Without it we wouldn’t have existed. Without support social economy will remain an eccentric way of doing business.

Do you see yourself as a designer? Is it handmade or handcrafted?

That is a very good question I ask myself from time to time – Am I a designer? I do design the majority of things to be designed at Cosanzeana: the products, the sewing patterns and a great deal of the package. I like all of them and people seem to like them too. I am not ready to put designer in my resume, as I don’t think I could design anything else but Cosanzeana products. What would be the difference between hand made and hand crafted? Sometimes it’s skill, some time it’s just time. I think hand made is just an earlier stage of hand crafted.

One thing you give up to become a social entrepreneurship…

Weekends on one hand and time wasting on the other. Time becomes even more valuable than it has always been. When you know that your work can help the income of the business grow you want to work as much as you can.