Kate Mowbray
Sep 16 · 7 min read
Daphnée & her co-founder Jeanne

Don’t fear failure! Failure is good. We all make mistakes and they always teach you something. Accept the failure and understand it. Then, go back in the game stronger. The first business model of Mazonia wasn’t working. I had a long talk with my business partner and coach and we rethought all the business. It was scary to make such a drastic change, but we had to learn from our mistakes.


I had the pleasure to interview Daphnée Poupart-Lafarge. Following her studies, Daphnée embarked on a once in a lifetime road trip across Latin America. Three weeks into the trip, Daphnée discovered the beauty and craftsmanship of the Wayuu community, which led to the creation of her successful, ethical fashion brand — ‘Mazonia’.


Thank you for speaking with us Daphnée! Can you tell us a bit about what you do?

I’m a social entrepreneur, fighting to preserve the Amerindian culture. After graduating from Neoma Business School, I created Mazonia; an ethical brand of Colombian handcraft, with my co-founder Jeanne.

Jeanne is now living in Colombia, near the Wayuu communities. This proximity allows us to have perfect transparency on our fair-trade system.

My job is to make sure that everybody knows about this amazing handcraft, which is becoming increasingly threatened. Mazonia is still a start-up, and therefore I’m in charge of communication, sales, marketing, and finance; this is an amazing challenge! Everyday is different, and I meet so many different people! One day I will go to a meeting with a logistical partner, the other with a vegan blogger for an interview! Yesterday I wrote a newsletter and recorded a podcast, I just love being an entrepreneur.

Did your business school experience help get your business off the ground?

All those years at Neoma Business School were the perfect preparation to launch and manage Mazonia. Every day during those years I saw Neoma’s slogan “Undertake as a responsible leader” written in big letters in my building’s campus in Rouen.

And that’s exactly what I did! Neoma Business School taught me to dare, to not be afraid and to trust myself. For example, I had to do oral presentations in front of big classes all the time. Now I know how to speak confidently in front of perfect strangers. Because Neoma Business School is a management school! This means most of the school’s projects are done as a team. This was a mining stone to help create Mazonia. Now I know how to be organised, to work with Jeanne as a team, to manage the interns, to create a community spirit and to delegate to external partners.

My first experience as a leader began when I was elected to be responsible for the school radio: I raised money to buy a mixing studio, I recruited and managed 15 students, I created a launching campaign (slogan, flyers, goodies).

Six months before I started the Mazonia project, I was a major in entrepreneurship. During those five months, I had to prepare a business plan and a business model for a project that I chose with my peers. It was the best preparation for Mazonia because I knew exactly how to start.

Today, Neoma Business School is still a big part of the project. We work in the Paris campus’ co-working place, reserved for Neoma’s entrepreneurs!

You’ve worked across the globe, from Australia to Amsterdam, and studied in Tel Aviv and Paris, what took you to Latin America?

After gradating from Neoma Business School, I couldn’t see myself entering a 9 to 5 job in a big corporate environment where you have only have a tiny impact. I felt that I still wanted to discover the world and take the time to think about myself and my future.

A lot of my friends in school had been to South America during their exchange program; when I heard their testimonials with stars in their eyes, I knew that it would be the place to go!

In August 2017, I started a five-month road trip around South America. I found that the adventure is much more intense on your own. You have force yourself to talk to people and that creates amazing opportunities.

How did you come to form Mazonia and where did you get the idea from?

After only 3 weeks travelling across Colombia, I saw by accident the “mochilas Wayuu” : shoulder bags 100% handmade by the Wayuu communities living in the desert of La Guajira.

That’s when I fell in love with those bags, I knew that I wanted to dedicate my professional life to this handcraft and the Wayuu people. The funny thing is that during my road trip across Latin America, I wrote the business plan and the business model . All I wanted to do was focus on this brand-new project and I had to almost force myself to see touristic monuments, or to hike Peruvian mountains.

Launching Mazonia was like a drug for me; I worked all day in hostels in Colombia, Peru, Argentina and Brazil. For example, I surveyed all the tourists I met during my trip about the brand name. Mazonia won, obviously.

What single piece of advice would you offer undergraduate and post-graduate students who plan to start their own companies after completing their studies?

Don’t fear failure! Failure is good. We all make mistakes and they always teach you something. Accept the failure and understand it. Then, go back in the game stronger. The first business model of Mazonia wasn’t working. I had a long talk with my business partner and coach and we rethought all the business. It was scary to make such a drastic change, but we had to learn from our mistakes.

What are the biggest challenges you face as an entrepreneur?

The biggest challenge is probably managing your time.

Someone told me once: “This is not a sprint; this is a marathon. You have to be good in the long run, not the short!”

When you start a business, all your thoughts go into that business. You love it, you want to see more of it, and you can spend until 3 am working like crazy because the ideas coming to you don’t let you sleep.

So, little by little, you learn to force yourself to stop working, to schedule your tasks, to say NO to the new proposal or just go on holidays from time to time!

The other big challenge was and still is to finance yourself. When everything your business earns is directly reinvested you barely see a salary at the beginning of your entrepreneurial experience. You need to have savings, continue doing freelance work, or if you are lucky enough, have your family behind you. This is an important part that many entrepreneurs forget to include in their business plan.

Can you tell us how your company is making an important social impact?

The work we do at Mazonia is simple: We want to make a positive impact on our artisans’ lives. Jeanne is now living in Colombia and works directly with the Wayuu communities. This allows us to be in direct connection with all the weavers we work with. We support fair wages by paying them up to four times more than what they are usually paid in the local market.

We bring jobs in their own communities but carefully keep traditions alive and support non factory working conditions. All of these actions decrease the rural migration of young generations who flee poverty.

We help them to rescue the quality of weaving they used to have. There are big differences between Mazonia bags and the ones they sell in tourist markets.

Mochila bag

In your opinion, how is the Mazonia project countering the abuses of fast fashion?

Our model is very different from other fashion brands in general, and especially fast fashion brands. Normally, brands make a lot of stock of a new product they create, and then sell it online. We do it the other way around!

People pre-order before we produce it. Our artisans handcraft only what people want. It allows us to avoid mass production and excess waste. This system values the work of our artisans; they aren’t machines. People wait two months to receive their order.

This means they can appreciate how time consuming it is to create those bags. This is art, handmade by an artisan in the middle of the Guajira desert. Jeanne records each step of the process, so people back home have the privilege of following the evolution of the fabrication.

Can you tell us about your proudest moments during your business venture?

Last March, the national French TV challenge M6 chose for their programme about slow fashion. 3,8 million viewers watched it. We were staring at the back-end of our website, and witnessed the visitors go up from 30 to 7500 visitors in 2 minutes! Orders started pouring in and we were screaming with joy! It was an amazing experience to see the impact of such media.

Where do you hope to see Mazonia in 5 years’ time?

We are already planning on expanding the brand to other kind of Colombian handcrafts. On 21st of October 2019, we are launching a pre-order campaign for Colombian earrings handmade with vegetal ivory.

In five years, we hope to have our own shop and work in countries like Peru, Mexico and Guatemala.

Thank you for these insights!

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film, Sports and Tech. Authority Mag is devoted primarily to sharing interesting feature interviews of people who are authorities in their industry. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

Kate Mowbray

Written by

Interesting people, ideas and businesses

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film, Sports and Tech. Authority Mag is devoted primarily to sharing interesting feature interviews of people who are authorities in their industry. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

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