Friday, September 28, 2012

some girls wander by mistake

by frédérik

And some girls, and guys, wander on purpose. You'll recall a post not to long ago featuring Nomadic State of Mind, a bohemian little company devoted to making eco- and socially-conscious rope sandals and other fun stuff. My kind of company! As promised, here's an interview with Chris Anderson, self-described "Entropy Engineer," to get a peek behind the internet veil...

What is a nomadic state of mind, and how is it a response to what you refer to in your website as a “wealth addicted society?”
Let me start by saying that a nomadic state of mind is one who values adventure, the dream of far away places, and one who may travel with no particular place to go.  The really intriguing part of being nomadic in today's world is that anybody who has the internet can travel to nearly anywhere they want. Personally, I  like to travel, but sometimes late at night I will get on google earth pick a place in the world that I know nothing about, and start virtually going there.  Sometimes its followed up with a trip I think it is most important (atleast for me) to get outside the comfort zone and experience life through different people and different places; often material posessions are not needed and forgotten about and life simplifies--especially when you travel on small budget, which is often really fun and challenging. To be clear, a nomadic state of mind is not a response to a wealth addicted society-- a wealth addicted society is just where it seems most of society is these days. 
"Flower Flop"

How has sandalmaking influenced the evolution of the small Nicaraguan community you work with? What has been the biggest change in the community since you first started working with them?
If sandal making could influence the evolution of small communities, I think we would replicate it everywhere. The biggest change in the community I work with is that a sense of pride has come with this sandal trade we created--making  sandals is much easier than farm work, and we have created a stable income for a few folks for the last decade. After overcoming the hurdles of doing business in a different country, we began making less mistakes-- getting more dialed in with all levels of the business, makes for stability.  And work stability means constant income (for our rope artists), and constant income means family security, and family security means community stability. 
We built it up slowly, with no help from the investment bankers of the world. I just kept putting everything back into the company. Somewhere along the line I started getting a paycheck too... I think that was about year 7. 
It has been really neat watching Nicaragua change over the past 10 years.  I have seen it change from the wild west, to the wilder west, and back to the wild west.  I once picked up a hitchiking police officer, if that isn't something you don't see every day! 
You begin with eco-friendly materials and you have a process to reuse waste to minimize the ecological impact of making the sandals...and then? How do you make a rope sandal?
And then....people walk the planet in comfortable footwear with a smile.  I smile more because we are using our scraps, which turn into dollars and jobs; and barely anything goes to the landfill-- and if we can do our part to not add to the landfills of the world, then i am super happy.
There is nearly an hour of labor and love into every pair of sandals-- we use a heat welding process which creates the perfect bond.  Really what makes for inspiration (or at least speaking for myself) is how happy these sandals make some people.  They are definitely not for everyone, but some people really take to them.  I have been told stories of how our sandals brought people together: like the guy who met his wife- he talked to her because he wanted to know where she got her sandals, a few years later they got married.  We made them a special color combination sandal for their wedding!  Or when someone has just seen these sandals for the first time, and their eyes get really big and the the look of awe comes over them reminiscent of childhood on Christmas day.  We get many emails about how people love the sandals—that’s what makes me smile and continue to venture further.

Rope Art Placemats

What's a typical day for you and your associates at Nomadic State of Mind?
“Your typical city involved in a typical daydream / Hang it up and see what tomorrow brings (GD)”  In my life, nothing is typical.
I might spend all day and night on the computer working on budgeting, or maybe it is sales calls, working on a new sandal design, traveling to the next big festival, or perhaps taking the day off and surfing. our staff here may spend the day packing sandals, answering the phones, or taking part of the day to do some yoga, or whatever might be fun in their book- work hard play harder!
I'd say the first half or more of the last decade I was consumed in making this business work – work was the main priority... then one day I (re)woke up and remembered that life is far better perceived by living and work is only an access to living--and living can be anything you want it to be. I have always believed in creating my own reality and the job I created allows me to do different things all the time, meet interesting and wonderful people, and hopefully bring about some smiles.

In addition to sandals, you also offer t-shirts and hoodies, jewelry made from sustainable wood, hammocks, rope do you decide what products to offer? How do you turn ideas into reality?
A lot of luck! We attempt to look at what fits a nomadic lifestyle the best, see if we can make the best of the best, and start there. We have learned a lot through the years, and our biggest learning experience-- which fits into my original plan for the company--is how to do one thing and be the best at it. A lot of times when we come out with new things it stems from a random meeting. If I find someone I click with on many levels I am more in tune to do business with them. Our t-shirts kind of stemmed from the need to have more of a cash flow during the winter months (it wasn't until a few years later I found some customers who had summer when we were having winter).  I thought I could develop a t-shirt line that epitomized the nomadic lifestyle, so I started digging into my black/white negatives that I had taken through the years of traveling, and I found some great photos and manifested them into a t-shirt! I wanted to push forward that positive vibe, mixed with a little humor.  Really, who hasn't pushed a VW bus before if they owned one?

Ceramic Elephant Art Knob

What does the future hold for Nomadic State of Mind?
Hopefully a lot of fun!  I have a lot of self-imposed rules for our company when it comes to sourcing; looking through the whole cycle of the product from start to finish, analyzing the environmental and social impact of our product, and if I feel it corresponds with our core values, then we try it.  I have had numerous side projects for nomadic that got dumped because of one reason or another- sometimes it is as simple as lack of space. We make an affordable product and we keep our costs down by maintaining a very small location.  
I like designing sandals, so most likely there will be lots of new styles in the future.  I really like making people smile, so I'd say the future hopefully holds a lot of smiles, peace, love, and good times.

There you go. Many thanks to Chris for doing the interview. There's more to come from the fun and smiley folk of Nomadic State of Mind, so stay tuned.

Oh, and bonus points to you if you recognize the reference in this post's title. :)

Disclaimer: Images used from under fair use for illustrative purposes only.


Mica said...

Lovely interview, so nice to hear someone who is really behind the company and enthusiastic about it :)

Frederik Sisa said...

Hear, hear! :)

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