Roxanna Faithful keeps the faith with her environmentalist principles
Ecuador-born Roxanna Faithful came of age surrounded by nature’s lush bounty as well as her fellow South Americans’ passion for protecting the Earth from outside forces. Her journey to a career as a conscientious marketing professional took her from Guayaquil, to South Carolina, to university studies in southern California to Tampa, where she combined her passions for marketing, the environment and fashion into Copacabana Beachwear.
However, her desire to do more for the planet brought her back to southern California and University of California Irvine to complete her MS in marketing. Now permanently based in Orange County, she continues to build what began as a family business (launched with Faithful working from her garage while raising a baby) into a truly global enterprise. Recently, Copacabana Beachwear was selected to be one of the sponsors for one of the biggest swimwear pageants, Miss Bikini USA, taking place this July 2021 in Miami during Miami Swim Week. A fitness clothing line is also in the works, which she says will blend motifs and functionality inspired by fitness and the beach. This firm is also on the lookout for more brand ambassadors who would like to spread the word and share their amazing adventures while wearing Copacabana designs.
While Faithful had already made her mark through her specialization in social media and digital platform marketing, generating an international following for Copacabana Beachwear, she had the clout to move on to a high-profile fashion brand or a non-profit position. Instead, she opted to apply her skills in a more down-to-earth way. While she continues to generate excitement among fashionistas at Copacabana Beachwear, she is working with Gizmogo (a buy-back company that buys used or broken consumer electronics) to help its management find a definitive voice to connect tech savvy consumers and the general public with messaging about direct ways to give back to the community and environment.
Lucire Rouge: Copacabana Beachwear was doing well and getting a ton of press as you were for building it from the ground up in Tampa, Florida as its CEO. What drew you back to southern California, besides finishing your master’s at UC Irvine?
Roxanna Faithful: While Florida is a great place to operate a swimwear and beachwear company, I decided to return to California, not only for the beautiful, less humid weather but also because there were more business opportunities all around. Furthermore, in California there are more opportunities to get involved in environmental causes, which I have been very connected with since childhood. [Once re-established in California,] I joined up with several organizations, including the Ocean Foundation. I also participated in and later organized several beach clean-up events with my beachwear company.
To the average person, Copacabana and Gizmogo seem like completely different companies in non-related industries. How do you explain the similarities?
Copacabana and Gizmogo are both based on corporate social responsibility, and have a similar mission to give back to communities in an environmentally sound way. That common interest is still there. I will apply my marketing background to my understanding of what Gizmogo wants to accomplish through social media and digital media, and I can advise them on what they need to do to reach the public and accomplish those goals. Because I know a lot of influencers through running Copacabana as well as friends in lifestyle-focused public relations companies who will commit to environmental causes, I can make introductions and devise ways everybody can help each other get shared messages about making a difference in the environment.
How are your Ecuadorian roots an asset to Gizmogo, especially with so much of the global environmental movement originating from Latin America?
Growing up in Ecuador, I was very in touch with water, and my country has one of the best ecosystem hubs in the form of the Galapagos Island. The natural ecosystems and geography of the mainland are spectacular as well, and being exposed to them regularly gave me an interesting perspective on the need to protect the environment, especially with the ocean tying things all together. With Gizmogo, meanwhile, I wanted to become active in developing the initiative to get tablets and other essential learning supplies to the children and communities who need them.
How do you see your current position at Gizmogo an extension of your post-university education as well as your professional journey?
I started my first company while I was young, and did not have all the experience necessary that I wish I had on the operational side of running a business. As the company grew, the social media side I had cultivated was growing and doing really well, but found I needed to develop my experience in operations more. As a marketing expert on the tech side, I want to move forward to help companies with already great operational foundations because I could learn from them while helping them build their marketing in social media and digital media to reach more people.
Why did positioning yourself at Gizmogo keep you moving forward professionally?
I know Gizmogo’s leaders interested in working with somebody who understood their initiatives, the mission to remove e-waste from landfills and preventing waste from ending up there in the first place. CEO James Wang has been involved in these initiatives involving the reduction of e-waste, and did a lot of homework. He gave me a green light to operate and do what is necessary to focus on the environmental objectives as well as grow the company as a whole.
How are you differentiating Gizmogo from other companies purchasing used and broken electronics internally and externally?
While there are other companies doing similar things to what we’re doing, buying old electronics off consumers for recycling purposes, most of them only donate a small amount of money to large charities of choice. What we’re actually doing is pinpointing small local charities and philanthropic operations and putting our energies towards them. Rather than just do payouts, we’re actively organizing clean-up and fundraising events with the various charities and interacting with the participants. We want to go beyond simply talking about environmental causes through our day-to-day business and recruit small teams of volunteers to go out and spread the word to their communities. We are sending some environmentally friendly parts of the old electronics we purchased from people to benefit the various individual organizations.
So you are taking that process and business model further …
Yes, and we’re doing more than just buy mobile phones and tablets … we buy all kinds of electronics including laptops, Iwatches, headphones, consoles, monitors and pretty much anything related to consumer technology. With tech, we buy it all, whether the goods are broken or used and obsolete. Some companies will take the phones they buy, fix them and resell them in other markets overseas. Instead of reselling the repaired phones, we will take the phones no longer working and sort out the working parts that can be reused for repairs.
How does the charity component of Gizmogo work?
We are planning to donate 15 per cent of the tablets and some of the computers we are getting to schools in developing regions in countries like Ecuador and México that need extra help getting learning tools that are even harder to access because of the pandemic.
As Gizmogo is a privately held company, I want to be clear we are not donating all of the usable electronics … just a percentage. While we used to sponsor other organizations’ philanthropic events, we are now focusing on doing our own events and environmental stewardship initiatives and promoting them through various social media channels. Some of the environmental initiatives Gizmogo is actively involved with include Plant a Tree and Beach Clean Ups, as well as donating 10 per cent of the profits to environmental charities.
Why is social responsibility such an important part of a business model, even for a start-up?
If you are growing a business, the more you give, the more you get. Therefore, if every company can do its part through its social responsibility objectives to help the environment, it will ultimately benefit future generations of consumers who will also have to live in that environment in the future. The fact is, we only have one Earth. Therefore, if every company could dedicate a minimum of money, time and energy [toward causes tied to the] planet, the general public will connect to that idea regardless of political party, nationality or personal preferences.
Why did you find CEO James Wang’s outlook and mission so inspiring?
James was shocked when he observed over time how much of the old electronics were being thrown into dumpsters, without any attempt to retrieve anything that could be recycled or repaired or used for repairs of other electronics. He really had the vision of exploring how all these devices, materials and components could be given a second life rather than be put into landfills where toxins like hydrochloric acid produced from improperly recycling e-waste could breach the land and ocean. He also learned through reports obtained in his ongoing research that the amount of waste has increased to 61,000,000 lbs/day since recycling e-waste became a common practice.
While it was important to have a sound business model, James wanted to put a lot of focus on the environmental aspects of running things his way and providing a solution rather than ignoring the environmental impact of simply disposing of old electronics.
Even with your work with Gizmogo, you are still very involved with Copacabana Beachwear’s continued growth and role in social responsibility. What does that entail?
I wanted my company to not only produce a brand, but also a community. By this, I mean creating clothing that will inspire people from all around the world to connect and share their experiences and adventures while wearing their Copacabana piece. Since the environmental aspect is also very important to us, we are currently swapping out most of our materials towards eco-friendly textiles, including recycled materials. Our customers are also a community in that they are supporting environmental and philanthropic causes when purchasing our designs. Part of the sales proceeds will go toward helping development communities and animal and ocean conservation. While all the pieces are currently designed in Orange County, Calif., we hope to shift a lot of the manufacturing to Ecuador, my native country.
In your personal life, you are focused on life–work balance, partially through fitness and nutrition. How does it make you a better executive?
I practise yoga, and believe that everything in life is about achieving balance. And achieving that balance is even more important … and challenging … as I am also a Mom. Trying to keep yourself healthy mentally and physically is important, but in order to be able to be successful in anything, there needs to be good organization when getting different parts of your life into balance. So I do try to organize my time and try to do yoga, or run and do other exercise at least two to three times a week. And that definitely helps me in everything.
Who were your greatest mentors for either career, and how are you mentoring the next generation of people moving forward?
My parents. They’ve always been very hard workers. My Mom and my Dad had their own businesses, so watching them, I knew I could start my own. Through the years, they went through all kinds of stuff and had to adapt in order to thrive, and this includes working out their companies’ relationship with the environment. Their commitment and persistence are things I definitely admire.