Now that’s what I call a business model — Lily’s ethical trade plan

Model-turned-entrepreneur Lily Cole is hoping to leave the catwalk behind for a more worthwhile pursuit.

Cole was in Dublin and spoke on stage to the Financial Times’ Matt Garrahan about her latest venture, Impossible. Her foray into the world of small business has been largely positive and she praised the “very generous” start-up community.

“I’ve probably got more friends now in tech than in fashion because it’s taken over so much of my life in the last three years and I find it a very welcoming environment.

“It’s such an innovative space filled with people trying to come up with new ideas and realities.

“It’s a really hard thing to try and do, to have a start-up and I take my hat off to all the different start-ups I see here. Because there’s so much risk and it is so difficult, I feel like it is a very generous community.”

She describes Impossible as “e-commerce meets product journalism”.

“It’s a community of people who buy into their philosophy and help each other by giving objects, giving skills, giving services,” said Cole. “Every time someone gives, someone receives.”

The social giving network is already more successful than Cole anticipated. “We have a very global community; 73 countries signed up over the last year which is not something we necessarily foresaw or planned, but it meant that a lot of the trade is online.”

Although the majority of transactions are services and advice which can be shared easily online, Cole is keen for the community to share physical items when possible and free ourselves from our dependence on money. “There is arguably an abundance of skills, services, time and even more resources. We’ve become so dependant as societies on money we lose the medium by which to exchange things.”

Impossible is not a charitable organisation, instead Cole describes it as “a social business”.

“I’m a big supporter of a lot of charities but I think that ultimately this is very powerful and it’s more sustainable.

“The main idea that I’m excited by is creating a platform that will exist in parallel to Impossible where people will be able to buy physical objects and get physical objects.”

The objects being traded, however, must meet certain criteria as Cole wishes to “create positive social environments”.

“We will only sell products that have powerful stories behind them.

“There’s a huge number of companies in that space, everything from the jewellery made from guns taken off the streets and melted down, to this designer Eden that I’m wearing. They get all their clothes manufactured in Africa to support trade.”

Cole believes her start-up will be a success, not because of her fame but because of the idea behind it.

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