#WomenInTech: Doing Business with a Social Conscious with BioConnect’s Bianca Lopes
I recently sat down with Bianca Lopes, Vice President of Strategic Marketing and Global Alliances at BioConnect, and Co-Founder of fashion line Ezzy Lynn. We talked about creating a socially conscious business, the wage gap, and the ongoing challenges of growing a company.
Bianca: We realized that we wanted to put our passion and devotion into something, but there had to be greater meaning behind it. When we started, we actually all had corporate jobs – I was working at a bank, my two friends and co-founders were working in sales. We were all making money. But we wanted to create a business that did something more for the world.
So we established Ezzy Lynn. Our business is not just about the end product. The envelopes we ship in are made in Stratford out of recycled materials, we pay people well for the work they do, and we partner with the WWF. We’ve had over 150 animal adoptions.
Could we have made more money if we just imported from anywhere, and didn’t pay fair wages? For sure. But there’s more to life than that.
Menaka: In addition to Ezzy Lynn, you’re Vice President of Strategic Marketing and Global Alliances at BioConnect. Is it challenging balancing the two? What’s been the hardest part?
Bianca: Fundamentally, I don’t really believe in balance. I believe that life is constantly changing, sometimes it’s all about work, sometimes it’s all about family or something else.
So we figure out what works best for us, and we can all keep up with multiple competing demands. At Ezzy Lynn we have regular strategy sessions, but a lot of it is now self-fueled. And we have a growing customer base that keeps us inspired and charged.
BioConnect is operating in a very new space, so the biggest challenge I see is really awareness, of communicating what we’re doing. Our vision is pretty bold, which is why I’m so excited about what I do. We want to enable everyone in the world to be themselves instead of carrying around cards and keys to prove who they are. We have taken a fundamentally different approach to biometrics: it’s a platform that enables technology to verify the real identity of people, using their eyes, voice, face, and so on.
BioConnect will also enable digital, financial and social inclusion for those who don’t have “identities” like a driver license. Think of a homeless person who can’t access healthcare if they don’t have a health card. They won’t be exclude with BioConnect.
Menaka: You and your partners at Ezzy Lynn launched a 50 drinks campaign a while back. Can you tell me what that is, and why you wanted to do that?
Bianca: 50 drinks was our way of making sure that we kept reaching out to mentors. There’s a lot of people in your network, or in your network’s network, who can share expertise, which is so important when you’re growing a business. You never know what someone knows, or who they might know.
So 50 drinks was our way of holding ourselves accountable to learning from other people. We literally had drinks with 50 people and asked them questions and then just listened.
Menaka: You recently wrote an article, Let’s Talk about the Reality of Working Women, which discusses the wage gap. You’ve obviously thought a lot about this issue – what’s the best way to change things?
Bianca: Well I don’t have an option to not think about it. My reality is that I’m often the only woman in the boardroom. And so if I don’t talk about it, who will?
I wrote that article about something quite personal that happened at work: when I asked for a raise, someone asked if I needed the money to buy more shoes, because I didn’t have children and a family to support. And I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s heard something as audaciously ridiculous as that. It’s irritating. It was awful. I thought about quitting. I thought about how this organization, or the system that we’re operating in, just doesn’t get me.
So, I guess the reason why I shared that is because we need to define reality. That’s the beginning of how we change this. We need to talk about what it’s like so that people know, so that we can start really addressing these issues. Let’s talk about it so we can build change. If I don’t push myself and the system, though my eyes, I’m agreeing with it.
Menaka: What’s something that you wished you’d known ten years ago?
Bianca: I think it’s being self-aware. Every year, for the last 6 years now, I take a whole day to myself where my phone’s off, everything’s off, and I take time for reflection. I break my goals down into 6 verticals for the year; personal growth, finance, family, business, and so on, whatever is important that year. I still ask myself the question, what do I want to be when I grow up? I decide what I want to focus on for the next few months. And I really wish I’d started doing that younger, because it affects the actions I take. I don’t take a step now without sort of knowing the one that will come after. The vision board enables me to put the energy out to the universe and hold myself accountable to it. It’s an actual board inside of my closet, I see it every day! No escape.
And one other thing is to just be relentless. That means knowing people are going to say no to you, knowing that some people won’t believe in your ideas. Be okay with that. Just be relentless in your pursuit of things you want to do anyways.