Photo: Katrine wearing our CAMILLE messenger in black.
My name is Katrine Lee Larsen, and my mission is to leave the planet even greener than it is today for the generations to come. That’s why I’ve started my swimwear brand Copenhagen Cartel.
Why did you start Copenhagen Cartel?
Copenhagen Cartel began as a passion project parallel to my full-time job. The idea came when I moved to Bali in 2016 and experienced how the beaches were flooded with litter and plastic that was washed ashore. When I returned to Denmark I couldn’t get the plastic problem out of my head, and I decided to do something about it. So I started making swimwear from recycled plastic.
Have you experienced kindness on your journey as an entrepreneur?
Since I founded Copenhagen Cartel, I’ve more or less only met kindness from other people. I feel there is a larger degree of openness, transparency and friendliness when it comes to green initiatives like mine. The elbows aren’t as sharp as in other lines of business I’ve been part of. I think it comes down to the fact that we’re all fighting for something bigger than merely revenue: the climate.
People I don’t know have offered to help me with everything from free content to sharing their networks. It’s given me a huge motivation to experience that so many people share my values and want to engage with my mission.
Do you think about paying it forward?
Yes, very much! I didn’t start Copenhagen Cartel to sell a lot of bikinis - that’s just a means to an end. We donate up to 10% of our revenue to the Danish environmental organisation, Plastic Change, on behalf of our customers we save baby sea turtles, and we support plastic collection in Indonesia.
At Kintobe we believe that you can’t build a good thing on your own. We’re better together, and diversity makes us stronger. What’s your take on this?
I believe that we’re stronger together, and that together we lift each other up. That’s been my philosophy long before I started Copenhagen Cartel. Once, a group of students asked me if there was a deeper strategic meaning behind supporting so many different charity projects instead of just one? I laughed! The truth is, I just have a hard time saying no to people who want to collaborate if we share the same values and I can feel their hearts.
You’re a rare breed, a female entrepreneur. Have you experienced prejudices from your surroundings?
When you run a business that’s based on “soft values” and emotions you sometimes meet people who think it’s not serious enough, that you should just focus on profit and unit economics. The financial side should be in focus, but for me it’s just one of many nuances you need to embrace as a business. I’ve been asked to suppress my “soft values” and not show emotions, but that’s not who I am and not how I want to run my business.
How do you define kindness?
Kindness is unconditional, it’s done with a good heart and out of free will. That’s why kindness is such a beautiful concept.
What does carry kindness mean to you?
I believe in karma and I believe that small everyday acts make a difference. Whether you help an old lady across the street, collect waste from nature or embrace a friend in need - it’s the sum of it all that really matters. To be met with kindness from strangers, friends and family can change a bad day to a good and to me, that is what it’s all about: good days!
Has kindness played a part in defining you in your private life?
When I moved to Bali, I’d just come out of a long relationship, I felt fragile and needed to find myself again. The incredible kindness I met from both locals and expats was overwhelming, and apart from enjoying Bali’s fantastic nature and culture I found my passion, Copenhagen Cartel. I believe that the immense kindness I met in Bali helped me open my eyes and my heart so I was able to found my business and make it what it is today. In the beginning I had my production in Bali and I supported local environmental projects. I really wanted to give back to the island that had given me so much.
How can we get better at caring for the environment?
Shop consciously! There are so many amazing sustainable brands out there, that you can easily find eco-friendly alternatives to traditional products. Even though buying a sustainable bikini might seem like a drop in the bucket, you’re making yourself heard as a consumer when you put your money where your values are.
Brands and companies need to make sustainability a natural part of their business end to end.
Finally, it would be a big help if the government would make it more advantageous to start a green business.