L’Objectif de Lélia

The story of how the “The Salt of the Earth” led me to an epiphany.

Before the aforementioned epiphany I was suffering from a deep existential crisis. I kept questioning myself about the meaning of my existence, I couldn’t accept the fact that I was just another one. And I was really embarrassed about not knowing how to use my potential and what should I do next. But that was until I watch the amazing work of Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, the documentary “The salt of the earth”, which tells the story of Sebastião and Lélia Salgado and summarizes their artistic work.

But before further explanation on how a single documentary led me out of my dilemma I must explain how all this got started. Ever since I was a kid I was taught to believe everything was within my reach, that I could accomplish any goal or win any challenge if only I made enough effort. My mother was severe, yet as I grew older I understood she was just telling me to be bold and persevering. So I’ve never feared failure and my dreams were always the biggest.

As a young girl I used to have fun pretending I was an important person giving interviews on talk shows about something big I accomplished. And as I did not have any talent or true calling I kept it to myself, as a secret. But it all changed once I started volunteering at Junior Enterprise Movement and had the opportunity to manage a small business. In this volunteer program I was able to meet and work with people that were just like me…People who were willing to struggle to meet a goal, who believed in themselves and mainly people who were proud to say out loud that they do have big dreams, that they want to change the world!

And then I’ve found my true calling: entrepreneurship!!! And I noticed that it is such a life changer. Entrepreneurship philosophy enables you to inspire others while being inspired, it makes you realize that each person can change someone else’s perspective, that we can all be transformation agents working for a purpose…Besides, it also teaches you how to be a problem solver, motivating you to always question the status quo: Could this be different? Could it be better?

And that’s exactly what happened to me, by questioning my daily life I came up with an idea of an incremental innovation that could fill a gap in the market. But somehow I was not excited about it, actually, it felt meaningless. The reason was that I was not considering the problem my product is proposed to solve as a big problem, it did not seem challenging. I kept thinking: Isn’t there in the world a greater and more concerning problem I could figure out a solution? That would be more rewarding!

So after watching “HUMAN”, a film by Yann Arthus-Bertrand, my existential crisis surfaced. As entrepreneurship taught me to identify problems and act towards their solution when I heard several testimonies of really scary and big problems, problems people are honestly urging for resolution, and I couldn’t think of anything to help them I instantly felt powerless, weak. It’s true that philanthropy has helped countless people around the world, yet I do not recognize it as a solution but as a palliative treatment. Moreover, I believe in Michael Porter’s speech: “Business profits from solving social problems.” but unfortunately an idea of a profitable social business is not so easy to have, at least it never occured to me. In such manner I was always refusing my friend’s advices on how to solve my dilemma.

In this way I was stuck with many unanswered questions and unmotivated to build my own business, even knowing that this initiative could bring me money. In truth I was not willing to put a lot of effort into building a product people don’t really need. I thought I would only serve the market as a influence to consumerism, and it did not felt as a important achievement. As Pepe Mujica said: “Either you’re happy with very little, free of all extra luggage, because you have happiness inside you, or you don’t get anywhere! I am not advocating poverty. I am advocating sobriety. But since we have invented a consumer society, the economy must constantly grow. If it fails to increase, it’s a tragedy! We have invented a mountain of superfluous needs. Shopping for new, discarding the old…That’s a waste of our lives! Because when I buy something, or when you do, you are not paying with money, you are paying with the hours of life you had to spend to earn that money. The difference is that life is the only thing money can’t buy. Life only gets shorter. And it is pitiful to waste one’s life to lose freedom.”

Source: http://epocanegocios.globo.com/Inspiracao/Vida/noticia/2013/05/vida-simples-de-pepe-mujica-presidente-do-uruguai.html

And suddenly I heard the life story of Sebastião and Lélia Salgado and it changed my perspective. Firstly, I finally understood the art concept within Photography. As I am going to work with it, it was crucial for me to see how a couple of artist express the world and humanity using photos. I realized that each person will capture the human relationships around them in a unique way, simply because it’s different points of view being demonstrated. Photos are a powerful tool to portray the everyday life and we can communicate our viewpoint through it and register our moments for eternity. And this is a good message to be spread, so I added this purpose to what once was only a product.

Secondly, I comprehended that great work don’t come overnight, it requires a lot of study and experience. “Genesis”, the most rewarded work from Sebastião Salgado was idealized after more than 30 years of career as photographer. And, for me, Genesis itself is not as spectacular as the combination and sequence of all works he created. By analyzing them I got the message that our society is now sick but it was not always like that, and maybe we can rebuild things as they were in genesis.

Lastly, when I was admiring their initiative “Instituto Terra”, where they recovered a land once devastated by cattle ranching into a rainforest with wild animals, I got inspired and I saw that money can turn amazing things possible once we know how to use it. And that was my great epiphany. No one was forcing me to serve consumerism. I could use my earnings to finance my social enterprises, working for a better society. I guess that is what really matters.

And that was how L’Objectif was born, not as a product but as a purpose and a cause. In French l’objectif means lens (camera lens) but it also means aim, goal. So it gives the notion of the individual’s perspective and goal. And I named this article as L’Objectif de Lélia to make a tribute to Lélia Salgado, Sebastião’s wife. I did it not just because I am a feminist, or because Lélia is a mother (target market for L’Objectif), but cause I saw in her the two major values I want to cultivate in my company: empathy and altruism.

Source: http://revistamarieclaire.globo.com/Comportamento/noticia/2014/03/eu-nao-ando-atras-de-ninguem-afirma-mulher-de-sebastiao-salgado.html

Thus, I’ve created this blog to write about this project and share my experiences in building a Startup. This was the first text, about L’Objectif conception and how it took almost two months to turn an idea into a purpose worths working for. I will better explain about L’Objectif and the events of this journey in the forthcoming texts, hoping somehow this blog helps in someone else’s epiphany.

(Apologies for my non-native english and any possible mistake)