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Maxine Bédat    

Sustainability Brand Strategist & Entrepreneur

Maxine (Kaye) Bédat is the co-founder of Zady.com, a shopping platform and lifestyle destination for the next generation of consumers who care about the origins of the items they purchase. What Whole Foods has done for the organic food movement, ZADY will do for sourced products. ZADY is amongst the first online retailers to seamlessly integrate commerce, rich media content and social media to provide customers with a dynamic shopping experience. On Zady, customers can learn about the conscious consumer movement and purchase beautiful goods that were created with craftsmanship and artisanship – qualities that have been sacrificed in a world of cheap prices and fast production.

With a background in diplomacy and the United Nations, in 2010 while in law school, Maxine established The Bootstrap Project, an organization dedicated to changing the lives of artisans in developing countries. The origin of The Bootstrap Project began one year earlier, when Maxine was clerking in Tanzania for the United Nation’s International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, the court that prosecutes those responsible for the genocide. Maxine used her free time in Africa to explore, hoping to deepen her understanding of economic development. On one excursion, she went to the country of Swaziland. There, she came across Thembenkile, a local craftswoman who made beautiful, meticulously carved wooden dishes. Thembenkile told Maxine how she learned the craft from her father who in turn had learned it from his. She told the story of her family and five grown children: only two had jobs, none were following the family trade, all were living in the city. Maxine asked why she was not passing down her unique skills. “No one will buy my things,” she said. “My people can only pay for plastic that comes to us from far away, so my kids don’t have a reason to learn.” From this encounter, The Bootstrap Project was born.

Since then, The Bootstrap Project has become a platform for enterprising artisans to learn new skills, expand their businesses, share their customs and traditions, and revive the world’s most beautiful crafts. Five percent of proceeds from every sale on Zady.com and ZADY’s iPad application benefits The Bootstrap Project. Maxine received her Juris Doctorate degree with honors from Columbia Law School. She lives in New York City with her husband Stéphane.

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Speech Topics


Stop Talking & Start Listening: The Importance of Participatory Commerce

The Business Case for Sustainability

Millennials, a generation of digital natives that sees business, not government, as the driver of change, is fast becoming the dominant consumer in the retail landscape. Old ways of doing business that lack transparency or read as inauthentic will not survive in this new world. The food industry has picked up on this fundamental shift in consumer behavior and has created billion dollar businesses out of it. From this speech, you will learn the issues that the millenials care about and what your company can do to integrate sustainability into its core and thrive in this new environment.

An Inconvenient Suit: The True Cost of Fast Fashion

As Millenials, we have been given the task of serving as stewards of the environment and as the first truly global generation, we must act as true global citizens. As a generation, we have made great strides in revolutionizing the food industry and demanding organic options from Whole Foods to Wallmart. On the other end, our selfie obsession has led us to consume endless amounts of fast fashion that’s ephemeral, lasting only a couple of washes. This fad has left us with a serious case of keeping up with the Jones’.

Maxine Bédat takes a fascinating dive into the world behind your t-shirt. In this speech, become enlightened on the global health, environmental and economic issues surrounding its birth on the cotton field, its journey getting dyed through the use of toxic chemicals and the labor issues surrounding its making. Finally, learn where that t-shirt goes and the surprising impact it has when thrown in the garbage or donation pile. From this journey, you’ll learn the powerful role that you play as a consumer and be empowered by how your decisions can have a huge impact on our health, economy, environment and the world.

Stop Talking & Start Listening: The Importance of Participatory Commerce

Traditionally, branding has been a one-way communication stream. Successful brands -- from Coca-Cola to Coco Chanel -- have spent huge sums of money creating ad campaigns of polar bears or models in exotic locales. The aim of these campaigns was to dictate to audiences what was cool. And not so long ago (think Mad Men era) there were far fewer channels of communication. Everyone sat around reading one of a few newspapers or watching a handful of television stations. As a result, these expensive campaigns placed in one of these channels had guaranteed exposure. Today, that kind of guarantee doesn't exist.

The rise of the internet, and more importantly, the ubiquity of the smartphone, has shattered this traditional system. The advertising playbook has expanded from television, radio and print to also include banner ads, mobile ads, Facebook and streaming content, just to name just a few.

The impact of the smartphone has turned the consumer of brand building into their own brands: through every Instagram image she captures, message she sends through Twitter or post she pins on Pinterest, each individual creates a story, a brand about themselves to share with the outside world. What does this have to do with traditional brands? Everything. This key note presentation gives the whys and how’s of the new two-pay participatory commerce that this generation

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