When Grandma helps... Interview with the creator of

2021-07-27 23:24:05 Jacek Magnuszewski

Some great ideas are born unexpectedly. One evening, Bernardo Carreira, a graduate of business universities in Portugal and the USA, was relaxing with his friends over a beer, when someone suggested making hemp shoes. Bernardo invited his ... grandmother to cooperate. Initially reluctant to cannabis, she quickly realized it wasn't drugs, and put her five decades of experience in the textile industry, into helping her grandson. This is how an unusual brand that produces ecological hemp shoes was created.


We are talking to the founder of the brand, Bernardo Carreira.

At first, this "crazy" idea confused me a bit, I talked to my grandmother who initially wanted to throw me out of the house. But when I imported some hemp fiber from France, my grandmother looked at it favorably. It's a really good fiber, she said. Suitable for shoes! And we bought more fiber. And we started making shoes.

What do you make soles of?

We make them from algae. Initially, we made them out of recycled rubber, but eventually we came to the conclusion that algae, which are very light, are an excellent material. We replaced synthetic plastic with organic plastic. It's not 100% natural, but we're close. We develop this algae plastic with an American company, and so we make the soles. So we're actually reversing the shoe-making process - the sole comes first. We have a partner company in the USA that produces plastic from algae.

Are you the first company in the world to make hemp shoes?

Certainly not. People have been using hemp to make shoes for 10 000 years, since about 8,000 BC (hence our company name). But we're the first to make hemp waterproof shoes. This is what our innovation is all about.

And what is this waterproofness made of? There is a lot of talk about PFC, which makes shoes waterproof, but it's not very ecological ...

That's true. We do not use Teflon. In the past, people used different types of wax to make shoes and clothes waterproof. So we do; we spray the fabric with a special wax that we have developed ourselves. And in the production process, we also add a waterproof membrane.

What is your grandmother doing at the company?

She knows more about everything, than we do - she looks at the product and says - „do this” and „do it like this” - I'm just passing her feedback to the production teams. Grandma looks at it all with her professional eye and advises us.

What do you think about the hemp shoes market? Isn't it a niche yet?

Surely. But I know hemp will stay with us forever now. A change in mentality is needed: people need to understand that cannabis is not just about smoking, there is so much more to it. We create a responsible product. We convince people to it. But people's attitudes won't change overnight. We have to work on it.

Do you consider yourself an innovator in the market?

(laughs) Of course I am. We put a lot of time and work into developing new products - if it's not an innovation, I don't know what could be.

What are your main markets?

The USA is a large market, including Germany and Japan. Our domestic market, like Portugal, is developing slowly. We also have one store in Poland, but I hope we will find something soon. But for us, Poland is still a virgin market.

What is the main strength of the cannabis market?

Definitely the resistance of hemp fibers and their eco-friendliness - this is what we try to emphasize in our message on social media.

And what does the social responsibility of your business look like? Are you an ethical producer?

Our product is 95% biodegradable, so with every pair of shoes sold, we plant a tree, the packaging is also ecological - even our plastic bags are made of corn. We are also transparent in the structures of our company - so yes, we are ethical.

Where do you produce?

We produce a little in Portugal and a little in China. Hemp fibers come from different countries: Canada, France, China, Portugal.

And where exactly this idea for the name of the company came from:

Good question. Mainly because 8,000,000 years ago people started using cannabis. So we wanted to emphasize that humanity has been dealing with cannabis for thousands of years.

And how big is your company now - how many people do you employ?

We are a small company. We employ 6 people. But we outsource a lot: coding, design, marketing.

How do you see your company's future? What's your vision?

We simply hope to conquer new markets, acquire new customers and expand our reach. But our vision and dream is to reach a position where people tell us - hey, you brought cannabis back to the world. In the form of shoes. Maybe clothing, too.

You released the hemp socks? What are your plans for that?

We focus on shoes. Of course, we think about complementary products, but shoes are the center of our offer.

What's your business background?

I studied business in the USA and Portugal, traveled the world, then returned to Portugal and started my business here.

Will you eventually go public?

Nobody has asked me about it yet. It's hard to say - we haven't figured out a way to convince people to cannabis and change their mentality yet. This is our priority for now.

Large global companies are introducing hemp footwear - are you not afraid of their competition?

It's good that they make hemp products because they increase awareness. But remember, these companies are just too big to fit into the cannabis market. So it's an adventure for them. They focus on plastic shoes, hemp is a little adventure for them. And we are strictly hemp.

We have skipped one generation in your family - Grandma is convinced. And what do your parents say to this idea?

My parents have their own lives - my father runs a company, my mother is a nurse, so my grandmother was the only one who had time for me. And that's how it turned out.

Overall, COVID slowed us down last year, humanly old shoes and clothes were enough, but we managed to overcome these obstacles. But of course we felt a slowdown.

What is the durability of your shoes?

Of course, it depends on the user - our shoes are more resistant than average, but they will not last forever. In any case, the reviews on Trust Pilot are positive!

How does the distribution of your shoes look like?

We have a store in Vienna, Lisbon, Berlin, we are now opening a store in Dublin - but the core of our business is still online business.

Thank you for the interview!

Thank you for reading this article.

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