The UBUNTU Made team has been blown away by the story of LOVE that's currently weaving its way across the globe. We recently had the opportunity to travel to London, where American Eagle Outfitters is prepping to launch LOVE in a whole new city. Below is a 24 hour inside look at the day and life of a LOVE takeover with the UBUNTU Made team:
Stepping off the EuroStar train at Charing Cross Station, our heads still buzzing from last weeks LOVE fest in Paris during Paris Fashion Week. We take our cab to Covent Garden where we settle into our hotel, freshen up and hit the streets. Our first stop is to The Harp, a nearby pub where we meet with local London entrepreneur and good friend Paul Lindley.
Paul is a Britt raised in Zambia who launched and recently sold the organic baby food brand, Ella's Kitchen. UBUNTU Made recently partnered with Paul through his new venture, The Key is E, alongside Sudanese hip-hop artist and once child soldier, Emmanuel Jal. When we arrive at the pub Paul has our frothy pints of English Ales ready to drink and his LOVE bracelet securely tied around his right wrist. The three of us share some laughs and catch up over the wild ride this LOVE bracelet has taken us the past 2 months. Pint number 2 is ordered as we dig deep into the difficult realities of social enterprise in Africa and how he can assist us as we grow. Paul highlights his latest social enterprise conference in the Caymens where he shared the LOVE bracelet story while on a panel with Sir Richard Branson and how there is a need for more products that create this type of sustainable impact for communities in Africa while providing customers with meaningful and stylish products.
We then down the last few drops of our ales, snap a sweet Instagram moment #ales&LOVE and head off to catch Emmanuel Jal in concert at the Jazz Cafe in Camden Town.
Chrissie and I arrive to a packed house of what appears to be both Britts and Africans. Juliani, the Kenyan born and bred hip hop artist is finishing his act, his black arms waving through the air and long braids swooshing across the stage. Juliani's performance ends as dramatically as Emmanuel's begins, both artists powerful agents of change who use their talents of song and dance to share the stories of their homeland and the need to empower Africa. We dance late into the night and head back to our hotel in Covent Garden.
The following morning we wake early and prep for the big day. We have back to back meetings and all of them spread across different areas of London. One would think that you would be tired of a work companion after 3 weeks on the road from New York to Paris and now London Surprisingly it is not so when traveling with the bright eyed, full of energy and always ready to rock Chrissie Lam. I continue to be surprised by her ability to step into each day with a freshness that ignites an excitement about the possibilities with whoever we engage.
And so it is with this freshness that we hail our first cab of the day and head to Whole Foods Market UK headquarters on High Street Kensington. We grab a quick bite and a coffee as we meet with Michael Weber, Whole Foods Market Executive Coordinator of Purchasing & Distribution. In true Whole Foods Market form Michael has become a good friend the past few years as we share our core values of purpose, team work, love for what we do and desire to fulfill the missions of our companies to better our world. Like much of our conversation the previous evening with Paul Lindley, Michael is passionate about the opportunities products like the LOVE bracelet create as we brainstorm on ways to bring similar UBUNTU Made products to Whole Foods UK.
After our meeting at Whole Foods Market, Chrissie and I head to the underground where we take the tube across town for our lunch meeting with Sir Michael Hastings at the House of Lords. We return above ground with Big Ben's towering shadow overhead reminding us we are doing business in London. We both laugh at how surreal the moment as we make our way to the House of Lords. After stumbling our way through multiple security check points we are greeted by the smiling Lord Hastings and Paul Payne, Executive Director of The Key is E. Our eyes and mouths wide open as we are given a tour from sacred chamber to sacred chamber. I was reminded of the power that walked these hallways, the words that were said, decisions that were made determining the fate of millions, including the founding of the United States and of Kenya. I thought about the strength of men like William Wilberforce, his faith and resolve to end slavery in the UK.
Beyond inspired, the four of us ventured into the Lords common area where we sat for tea. Lord Hastings being a journalist in his previous life quickly dove into rapid fire mode asking open ended questions prying out of me my motivations for this work, why LOVE and the question of all questions of the day, "I'm curious, how do you live your life?" It was one of the most inspiring meetings I have ever had and Lord Hastings curiosity and desire to promote the intersection of entrepreneurship, faith and purpose reminded me of the tremendous support we have behind us as we walk this uncharted journey.
After a few photos with Lord Hastings and Paul Payne, we head across town for our first American Eagle Outfitters location of the trip. We arrive at Stratford and hustle through Westfield Mall in search of the American Eagle store. From a distance we see what appears to be two hands in the shape of a heart. As we get closer neither of us could believe what we saw, a gigantic blow up of a #loveisproject Instagram photo with two hands in the shape of heart, both wrists stacked with LOVE bracelets and overhead with the quote, "Hey London! What does LOVE mean to you?" I think if it would have been appropriate Chrissie and I would have run around the entire mall like two hyperactive dogs freaking out that they just got two new bones!
It's hard to explain what it felt like to see this kind of display. After months of working on this project, Chrissie's travels across 35 countries, mobilizing our Kenya team to hire hundreds of Maasai in the Kenyan wilderness, endless logistics to pull this order off...it left us overwhelmed, our minds racing with thankfulness, our hearts bursting with love for the countless people who made this project a possibility and the countless souls who shared their definitions of what LOVE means to them.
After connecting with the AE team at the store and Chrissie doing what she does best, sharing the LOVE with the people and collecting their LOVE stories, we headed to The River Cafe for a much needed quiet dinner. We selected our wine, ordered our food, leaned forward and cheers-ed to LOVE! May LOVE lead our lives, may it permeate our relationships, may it fill our days and remind us that it is what we all need and are blessed to give.