Breathe Love interview series with Kalkidan Legesse

By September 24, 2021No Comments

Tell us a little bit about Sanchos.  What is Sanchos and where  did the name come from?
Sanchos is a sustainable retailer.  So, we specialise in putting together curating brands that are made with people and planet in mind.  We are based in Exeter but we serve the entire UK through our web store.  It started for so many different reasons, but I think one of the ones that probably is most prominent is because, you know, a few years ago, people would say things like, you know, I don’t know where to start, I don’t know what to do, you know, what choice do I have when it came to environmental consumption and what we wanted from Sanchos was a place where people could trust that it was made in a mindful way for the environment and also very created, you know, we’re really proud of our little business.  The name Sanchos is actually my, my name.  So that’s my…some of my family call me.  It’s my home name, my house name, but, you know, my aunty would call me. 

What has been the biggest inspiration for the work that you do and share?
I’m inspired by a ton of things.  You mentioned The Right Project.  I think that’s really exciting.  I’ve seen the fashion revolution really developed over the past few years and that’s super exciting.  I think I’m inspired by anyone who is or any organisation that is driving change, that makes the world more equal, greener, safer. I’m inspired by the action of trying and doing it. 

What personally inspires you?
I’m a heuristic.  It’s how I see the world.  I can’t separate the consequences with my actions from the rewards that I gained from them like those two things aren’t separate to me like I’ll give you an example.  We’ve been asked to produce quite a lot of ads recently, Instagram ads.  We never thought we would become influencers, but you know, there’s a big market and people will pay good money for social advertising, but a lot of those people will just want you to greenwash and they want you to blackwash their brand and that has put me in quite a big dilemma recently because the money that we’re being paid or offered is significant for us.  It’s not so small.  We could turn it down, the consequences of promoting companies that are causing harm, you know, aren’t worth us getting paid..  So, there are layers to that, right?  I can’t cope with the thought that like, I’m doing something that’s in my interest, but might harm someone else.  Particularly if that other person has less power than me.  

For people that are starting their own businesses, is there any advice that you could offer?
I think it would depend on their needs.  I’m the type of person who needs like specific paths or suggestions or feedback.  If you have appropriate planning and you are driven by real need, then you’ll be successful.  I think businesses need to create value, right.  I think it’s important in 2021 that they create value for multiple stakeholders, for the environment, for me, for everyone.

It’s a lot of pressure particularly if you’re just starting out to know everything and the truth is there’s only one way to get practice and that’s by doing something.  Just start and train.

Are there any books that you recommend that you’ve been reading recently?  These can be personal or business-related.
I’ve been reading Home Body by Rupi Kaur. There’s so much healing in it.  She captures so much of the kind of experience of the very recent past, you know.  It’s not hard to relate to every single page of that book of poetry and somehow, she speaks to like, you know, so many. I’m enjoying that. 

Can you share with us a proud moment of yours?
I’m really proud of our team.  We didn’t have much, to begin with and everything we’ve built has been through our willingness to kind of try and learn and, you know, expose ourselves and succeed and fail. Everyone’s just doing a really fantastic job.

I’m just super proud of us, I love when people around me thrive and I think we’ve just got this an amazing team at the moment. 

I’m proud of our little community internally within our organisation as well as externally through our customers and stakeholders and suppliers and everybody else. 

I don’t have much of personal life, unfortunately.  I am trying to start a flower garden.  That’s one of my wishes for this year.  I’m launching a new company.  It’s a fashion tech business called Shwap.  I think it’s really powerful can make a really big difference in fashion, in fashion waste in particular and I’m just proud of myself because I’ve had to really learn everything to get it to where it is. The technological side of it is an industry.  I knew nothing of it.  It’s not an easy industry to know about, like it’s very cliquey, closed circles of knowledge and influence.  I’ve had to build networks. I’m really excited to get to a point where we can kind of just show people what it is.

During these times that we’re experiencing as a collective, in what ways do you see the importance of community, you know, in terms of business and your support network?
During the summer (2020) of protests for Black Lives Matter, I hosted an event in the city and I did it because my heart was broken but I was really sensitive at that time.  I was really struggling and there were some people who came to that event, the all lives matter crowd. People who have publicly expressed racism and bigotry, but who are quite antagonistic. My customers protected me.  They were physical bodyguards for that event. I hope that we give back to the community that we belong to because it supports us really.

What will you never take for granted?
I worry that I might be someone who takes things for granted too frequently. My partner is like a rock. He’s really kind and loving and nurturing.  I’ve got like a super supportive family. I think those human connections with your loved ones are the most important ones you can have…It’s knowing that you have a space in someone’s heart, I think that’s the only thing you need really in life and it’s important to nurture those relationships and care for them. 

What sparks joy in your life?
I’m easy to spark up which is a good thing.  I love business.  I love it because you can imagine something and then do it which is amazing…I’m also partial to a sunny day and bird song and a nice walk. I love that as well.  

Rest the palms of your hands on your heart centre and take a little breath. Is there anything that comes from the heart that you’d love to share with us?
We all have a really deep power inside of us and that’s our divinity and it can do anything, anything that you hope.

“We all have a really deep power inside of us and that’s our divinity and it can do anything, anything that you hope.”

Kalkidan Legesse is the founder of Shwap, for fashion brands who want to understand, optimise and monetise the lifespan of their clothing. She is the managing director of Sancho’s, which source affordable and sustainable fashion.

Kalkidan is awarded Drapers magazine 30 under 30, 2021 and winner of independent shop of the year by Holly & co.

Stay connected with Kalkidan:

This interview has been transcribed and taken from our Breathe Love audio series. To listen to Kalkidan’s full interview (recorded May 2021) in full, please click here

If you do read or listen to this interview don’t forget to subscribe, rate and share it with your community. Thank you.