NARRATOR: Luminaries– Talking to the Brightest Minds in Tech.
MICHAEL DELL: And my hope is that we come together to share more than technology, and expertise, and products, but that we share a vision of a future that is better than today. A vision of technology as the driver of human progress.
NARRATOR: Your hosts are Mark Schaefer and Douglas Karr.
MARK SCHAEFER: Welcome everyone, to another episode of Luminaries, where we talk to the brightest minds in tech. This is Mark Schaefer. I’m a consultant author and I teach at Rutgers University. And of course, here with my co-host the vivacious Douglas Karr. How are you, Doug?
DOUGLAS KARR: I am excited about the show, Mark.
MARK SCHAEFER: It’s a crazy show. It’s a crazy show. This is the first time in my life I am interviewing a former vampire. And I’ve got to just say, like when I was a kid, I just geeked out on vampires. So this is a special time for me. And when I say vampire, of course, I mean someone who played a vampire in the movies. And we’d like to welcome Nikki Reed to our show. How are you, Nikki?
NIKKI REED: Hi, guys. Thanks for having me. What a great intro.
MARK SCHAEFER: Well, you ain’t heard nothing yet. I’m not done yet. I’m just getting started. Hold me back, somebody. Nikki, you’re the first person we’ve interviewed on this show that has a Wikipedia entry, an album on iTunes, an entry on IMDB, and a fan club. We do not have a fan club on this show. We do have–
NIKKI REED: You do. You do. And I’m a member.
MARK SCHAEFER: No. Well, then you would be number two, because the other person is my mother.
NIKKI REED: Is your mom.
MARK SCHAEFER: And she rarely listens, if truth be told. So Nikki, it is so awesome to have you on the show. Nikki is an activist, a writer, singer, songwriter, an entrepreneur. And now you’re spinning used computer hardware into gold jewelry. So tell us a little bit about this. It’s amazing.
NIKKI REED: Thank you, guys. I– well, I want to say in my former life, I was an actress. But in another life I grew up writing and acting, and then found myself very interested in the creative process behind it all and producing and directing. And I think the natural progression here is that fashion has always been a part of my life because I love it, but also because of the industry I work in.
And I noticed that I was– you know, you’re always asked about the story behind what you’re wearing, every red carpet you’re on, every interview you do, people are very interested in who you’re wearing and why you’re wearing it and why you made that choice to wear it. And I found myself becoming more and more interested in wearing pieces that had a story behind them that I felt I could stand behind, that spoke to me. And a year and a half ago I was pregnant with my first child and I was home doing that good old Google search for things that I was looking for, because once you’re growing a human, you find yourself caring even more about the things that are going on in your body or what you’re eating or what you’re wearing.
And it’s funny that it takes being pregnant to do a real deep dive into that. But that’s a conversation for another day. I found myself unable to find a lot of the stuff that I was looking for. And I thought– I looked at my husband and I said, you know, I want to create a company and make these things, because I’m looking for them, I think other people are looking for them too. And my involvement in philanthropy and environmentalism and everything that we devote our lives to for the last decade or so has really come from my understanding of the interconnectedness of all of it.
It’s all connected, whether we’re talking about fashion or the environment, you know, fast fashion is one of the greatest contributors to the degradation of our planet. And I created this company with the intention of creating earth conscious products. And right after we launched I got a phone call from Dell. And I’m sure you guys know this already, but I consider Dell to be the most sustainable tech company in the world. I mean, they’re really leaders in this arena, and they really put their money where their mouth is. They’re walking the walk.
And I feel so grateful to not only know them and work with them, but to have the opportunity to be inspired by the way they conduct their business and their value system. And anyway, it’s informed a lot of the decisions we’ve made at BaYou With Love and our desire to not have to compromise in certain areas even when it’s difficult. I mean, running a small business that’s also fully sustainable is challenging. And so it’s been wonderful to have Dell to kind of lean on for support. And they’ve really supported us.
Anyway, I got a call from Dell saying, hey, we feel like you’re a voice in this world of sustainability, and we have a couple of ideas we want to run by you. And one of them is we’ve been extracting the precious metals from the motherboards of our recycled tech and we feel like there’s a real opportunity to do something cool here. What are your ideas? What do you think? And I said funny enough, I actually just launched a company that focuses on sustainable fashion. And we haven’t yet launched our jewelry category, but this is something that I want to do this year.
So I said, let’s do it now, let’s do it with this. And we– I think it was– don’t quote me on this, but maybe 8 or 10 weeks of discussing and designing and collaborating. And before you know it, we launched at CES. And we won the audience award at CES, which I’m proud to say– you know, for a number of reasons. First of all, it’s totally unexpected for us to win the audience award at something like CES. We’re talking about fashion and tech and marrying the two and how could that possibly appeal to that audience.
Well, it did. And what that says to me is that people care about this. And it also shows both of us– both Dell and BaYou– it shows both of us that if we want to create true sustainable change, pun intended, you have to do something that turns heads, something that’s never been done before, and you also have to create products for people that don’t ask them to compromise, whether that’s financially or if we’re just talking about luxury. Gold was such a beautiful way to get people to embrace making sustainable choices because it’s luxurious.
And for a long time– especially in the fashion arena, if we’re using recycled goods in fashion, you’re talking about recycled plastic and things like that, and I think that that is an interesting shift for people to get them to wrap their heads around buying recycled plastic. And I’m obviously a huge supporter of putting plastic back into your– recycled plastic back into your supply chain. But I can understand why in the fashion arena that’s been difficult for people to wrap their heads around. But gold was a perfect place to start the conversation because it felt comfortable for people, and also it was really intriguing, like, how can you create something beautiful from technology when we can’t see the obvious crossover?
So I’m really– I’m sorry I’m speaking so much. I haven’t even– I’m still in question number one. My apologies. But it’s been a really wonderful partnership. And I’m very grateful for Dell support.
MARK SCHAEFER: One of the interesting things, that I just love your explanation of this because I’ve actually been working on a new book and studying these trends in business now where businesses might get on to something that’s politically correct and make a big deal out of it. But I’ve been working with Dell for five or six years now, and one of the things they see about Dell is they just kind of quietly go about their business. They don’t really just– they don’t beat their chest about they’re doing things for the environment. They’re just doing it. And I really like that about them.
NIKKI REED: Well, I’ll beat their chest.
MARK SCHAEFER: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. But I think that’s one of the things that I love about them is that they really are, like you said, they walk the talk. And you have to do that in this world today, don’t you?
NIKKI REED: Yeah, I love that about Dell too. But I have to say, one thing that we’re all learning from this process is the importance of being vocal about the things that you’re doing for the environment, that you’re doing differently than any other company that’s out there. And to be totally transparent with you. And I’ve said this to Dell, they need to– they do need to speak about this more. And that’s one of the reasons why our partnership has been so successful, I think, for both companies, because when I look at people, especially– I don’t want to say that only young people care about the environment because that’s not true, but I will say that I feel a certain amount of energy surrounding individual involvement in things they’re passionate about amongst young people.
I do. I feel that energy. People– I think that this generation does really care about this because it’s part of their everyday routine and discussion. So when I look at young people and I say, hey, do you know that Dell uses mushroom grown foam for their encasing? Do you know that they use ocean plastics? Do you know that they use bamboo as part of their– I mean, when I bring these up to people and I say, I really believe they’re the most sustainable tech company in the world, people have their minds blown. And I want that to be– I want Dell to be the go to in this area.
And I see that that– I see that once we get the word out, I think– in an even more like second nature way, like once people hear Dell, and they go, oh, yeah, that’s the tech company that I want to work with it, and those are the products I want to use because they stand behind the things that I stand behind. I think that– I mean, it’s not possible for them to be even more successful because they’re like the largest company in the world.
But I think that you’ll see an even deeper emotional connection to their products, which is also why I’m so motivated to continue talking about this and our partnership and working together, because I do have people– this is all I talk about, whether it’s on social media or in my day to day life, this is all I– I live and breathe this. This is what I talk about. And so it gets me excited to be able to introduce Dell as a leader in this area.
DOUGLAS KARR: Well, and it’s so obvious how excited you are and your passion for this, Nikki. I’m curious. Was there an event or somebody that sparked this passion that you have for conservation?
NIKKI REED: Well, my husband and I met many, many years ago, over a decade ago. At this point now I think it’s maybe 15 years ago. And we kept in touch throughout the years because of our shared passion for animal rights and the environment. And I wasn’t necessarily as vocal about it 15 years ago because I was just a kid. But as I grew into– as I got older, as I discovered things about myself, as I traveled the world, as I found myself surrounded by like-minded individuals, I really do believe that it actually brought my husband and I together.
And that’s probably a huge part of what connects us. So I have to say that being in a household that talks about this all the time is definitely inspiring. And when you’re starting your own business and you’re living and breathing something as I said I am– I’m up at 6:00 AM and I’m going to bed at 2:00 in the morning, because not only am I a new mom, but I have this other baby, which is our company. And you have to have a very supportive household when you’re a new business owner because it’s your life. And everybody feels that.
I’m working seven days a week right now. I mean, I don’t know the last time– well, actually I do. It was Sunday. We took our first family day in a very long time and we went up to visit this animal rescue that I’ve been working with for three plus years. And I’ve never actually met the girl in person, so it was so wonderful to meet Caitlin who runs this rescue in person and connect on this. But before Sunday, I can’t remember the last time we had a family day because he and I are both working on our separate companies. And start-ups are hard. There’s nothing glamorous about that.
MARK SCHAEFER: I am here to testify.
NIKKI REED: You know.
MARK SCHAEFER: So Nikki, tell us a little bit about the company. You started out by saying that you’ve been into this for a while. You didn’t really have a jewelry offering for your company, so this sort of paved the way for the conversations with Dell. But tell us a little bit, what does your company do? Is it basically all sustainable types of products? Is that sort of the theme of the thing that you have on your site?
NIKKI REED: We carry limited, but a few, beauty products, as well as some apparel and focusing heavily on jewelry right now until we continue to expand. But one thing that’s really important for us at BaYou is using ourselves as a sort of platform for other brands that have similar goals or a similar mission. And part of launching BaYou was not just creating our own products, it was curating, it was highlighting female founded companies that focus on US production, that focus on sustainability, that focus on ethical production, or chemical reproduction.
Part of what I view my social media for or my– currently I donate my social media once a week as well, and I’ve been doing that for a couple of years now for carbon pricing just to raise awareness surrounding carbon pricing, which you would think would be a really unsexy topic, but I feel like there are ways of making it appealing for people. And part of what I feel my job is on this planet is using my platform as a channel or a voice for other companies in the same way or similarly to what Dell has done with me. And I’m a believer in companies not acting as islands. No matter how big or small you are, I’m a believer in companies coming together and allowing this support system to inspire growth and create growth and opportunities for other companies.
So when people ask me, like, how– having a sustainable company is already really difficult and starting one on your own is really difficult, how have you been able to manage this? I have to be fully transparent when I say there was a tremendous amount of support, whether it was resources or just lending guidance, there was a tremendous amount of support from Dell. And I want to be able to be that support system for other companies. So that’s a huge priority over at BaYou as well. So if you’re on the website and you’re navigating it, you’ll see that it’s not just BaYou products we carry, it’s other– we carry other companies, home goods, skincare, apparel.
We’re also working on– this whole year is focused, not just on jewelry and our partnership with Dell, but some other partnerships where we can highlight the great work that other companies are doing.
MARK SCHAEFER: That’s so cool. It’s almost like you’re an online maker’s market, you’re curating the goods that you believe in. That’s pretty interesting.
NIKKI REED: Thanks. Yeah, that’s a good way of putting it, an online maker’s market. I’ll take that.
MARK SCHAEFER: Take it. Copyright 2018, Mark Schaefer.
DOUGLAS KARR: Well, another term that I love on the site is that socially conscious sales and products. I’m curious, Nikki. I’m fascinated by creatives, and of course, you’re one of them. But this is a kind of a twofold piece where there’s a problem and then there’s, of course, a creative solution. What’s the process that you go through to create your products or are inspired to create your products?
NIKKI REED: Sleepless nights. That’s the process. No. I mean, yes. There’s so much truth to that. But I– it’s an interesting question you’re asking because it is difficult to jump back and forth between being creative and then also running a business. So I have to wear multiple hats. And I founded this company with a really wonderful young woman by the name of Morgan Bogle, who had her own sustainable and ethical cruelty free bag line. And that’s how we met.
She asked me many years ago to kind of come on board and do her a favor, because like Dell, she approached me with an understanding that I was a voice in that arena, and she said, hey, would you do me a favor? We’re a tiny little company, but would you help get the word out? And I designed a collection of bags for her company, which was called Freedom of Animals. And this was many years ago. And I looked at Morgan one day and I said, my dream is to go beyond bags and have a sort of like umbrella company that housed all kinds of things and all kinds of products and didn’t just stick to one thing but really brought together other designers and other companies.
And it sounded like a crazy idea at the time, but Morgan was like, I’m all in. I’m going to help you with your company. So Morgan was a great source of help and inspiration. And since then, we’ve grown beyond just us. And we have a team. It’s a very small team, but it’s a really wonderful team. And it’s all women. I mean, we don’t hate men by any means, but somehow we found ourselves– we love men, we welcome men, we want their input, and guidance and support, but we happen to just be a group of young women.
So our tech support, she’s a young woman. Director of operations is a young woman. And then there’s two of us on the ground in Los Angeles. And then Morgan is on the East Coast. So we are kind of– we’re all over the place. And I that’s also a really fascinating part of starting a company in this day and age, is that people can work remotely. So you’ve got young entrepreneurs who are all environmentally conscious and really excited about this movement, who can all work remotely from their laptops wherever they are and be a real force behind this. So we’re a small team of five. And we have big dreams.
DOUGLAS KARR: Did we lose Mark?
NIKKI REED: I’m here.
DOUGLAS KARR: Oh, oh. Mark, are you there?
MARK SCHAEFER: Sorry. We’ll edit that part out.
DOUGLAS KARR: No worries. No worries.
NIKKI REED: Where’d you go?
MARK SCHAEFER: I was coughing, so I muted myself.
NIKKI REED: Oh.
MARK SCHAEFER: It was the agony of mute. So here we go. I love your story, Nikki. It’s so inspiring to see how there are so many ways to create businesses these days. And I love the way you’re collaborating and working remotely and finding all these exciting and passionate partners. If you and I were having this conversation five years from now, and you are looking back and you said, oh, yeah, Mark Schaefer, yeah, I remember you. You were the one that had the fan club of one.
And what would have happened in those five years? If you look back, where– would you be creating new lines of products with more recycled products? What’s the vision for you? Where are you heading with this ultimately?
NIKKI REED: I sort of see– my dream for BaYou would be to be the sort of like one stop shop, all online, DTC, that’s like a slightly more attainable version of a sustainable group. I see BaYou as an online marketplace, an area where you can, not only find products that speak to you but also be a part of a community of people that want to talk about and educate each other on the importance of this movement that means so very much to me. So I see BaYou as more than just like an online store.
I’d like to expand and become a sort of media outlet. And my heart has always been in writing. I mean, that’s why– you’ll laugh, but like Instagram can’t even hold what I want to write. I’m constantly being told by Instagram, like, you’ve reached your limit. Stop. Twitter has never worked with me because, what can you have? Like 100 characters? I don’t even know how to talk– you can hear me right now. I don’t even know if one sentence of mine is less than 100 characters. I don’t know what that means.
And I– for years I’ve written columns or blogs for other magazines. I wrote a couple of pieces for Glamour and I wrote a weekly column or a bi-weekly column for Elle. And it’s all because I have this desire to communicate with people, to learn from them, and then to write with them or for them. And, I don’t know, I’m a curious person by nature. And I would love for BaYou to be a place for other curious people to come if they want to talk about or learn about environmentally conscious products, and also new, cool, innovative companies that are emerging. And BaYou can just be one component of those.
DOUGLAS KARR: That’s incredible. Well, Nikki, you’re inspiring, not just, obviously, for an entrepreneur, but you had mentioned before that you’re working with female leaders in the space. Mark and I are both passionate about that. We both have amazing daughters that are just skyrocketing.
MARK SCHAEFER: Amazing. Amazing.
DOUGLAS KARR: Absolutely.
NIKKI REED: I don’t doubt it.
DOUGLAS KARR: And one of the things that I also read about you that I really want you to share with everybody is that you’re inspiring women and girls globally with Connecther. Can you share more about the organization and the Girls Impact the World Film Festival?
NIKKI REED: Oh, absolutely. I would love to. I would love to. So my husband started his foundation, which is the Ian Somerhalder Foundation, I think about eight years ago. And when we got together– it was kind of a natural progression and I ended up very involved with the foundation, actually because of Connecther. So the Ian Somerhalder Foundation sponsors in a word, the I-S word, the is word, which talks about how– well, one of the things that we focus on with that word, although we’re expanding now, is films that focus on women’s issues and environmental issues and the overlap.
So this film festival has been such a special part of our life and such a wonderful thing for the foundation to be a part of, because, again, talking about not acting as islands, this is an area that Ian’s foundation doesn’t necessarily focus on, but what a wonderful gift it is to be able to sort of cross-pollinate in this sense and cross-promote and highlight the wonderful work that Connecther is doing to empower young women and support young women around the globe and really highlight issues that are so very relevant and not talked about enough.
And it’s an amazing thing for us to be able to be a part of in something we’re really truly passionate about. And we’re actually in the middle of talking about– I meant to bring it up today and I will, again, Dell is incredibly supportive of that whole theme. So as I talk about Connecther with Dell and the work that the Ian Somerhalder Foundation is doing with Connecther, Dell has been really supportive and talked about their involvement in all of this as well. So again, the idea of bringing all of us together, whether it’s BaYou or Dell or Connecther or my husband’s foundation, the Ian Somerhalder Foundation.
I love this idea of everybody– this idea of togetherness, everyone coming together, because we can all help each other in some capacity, we can all lean on each other in some capacity. And what you’re not doing, we might be doing. And what they’re not doing, someone else might be doing. And so when we come together, we’re that much more powerful and impactful.
MARK SCHAEFER: I love that. And if there are people out there listening today, and they’re inspired by your message, and they say, wow, what Nikki is doing is really amazing. What can an individual do just to get started? There’s so much work that needs to be done. And we do have the ability today to connect and collaborate. What advice would you give to some person out there in our audience who said, you know, I want to start doing something around the environment too?
NIKKI REED: Well, part of what my husband and I focus on with our platforms is always giving people action items and opportunities to get involved. So for the most part, when we post about things that are meaningful to us, we create a space for people to also participate in a meaningful way, whether that’s a discussion, or whether that’s a link that they can click on to learn more or be a part of something. We try our best to include that. So I think, if it’s just like an overall, where can I go? And how can I get involved?
Following either of us on social media is a great way because we’re constantly talking about the things that we’re involved in. If you love the work that we’re doing at the Ian Somerhalder Foundation, get involved, you can donate, it can be $1 donation, or you can be a part of– we have youth volunteer days, and we have other ways for people to get involved. If you love the work that Connecther is doing, there are endless opportunities there as well. And if you’re an animal lover, I probably talk about that on a daily basis, so whether it’s the work that we’re doing at ISF and giving out emergency medical grants for animals, and you can be a part of that story, or other rescues that I work with.
I highlight their work all the time, whether it’s products that you want to have in your life or wear on your body or put on your skin. We have a plethora– we have more options than you’ll know what to do with over at bayouwithlove.com. And like I said, for us, it’s about sort of creating this global community that’s conscious. People ask me all the time, what are you? In this day and age, what is your label?
Like, are you this? Are you that? Are you all of these things? What are you? And I find that to be really funny because I think that labeling ourselves is just one thing– is limiting, like, why do you have to just be this? Why not just consider yourself a conscious individual? And that doesn’t mean that you have to do everything right. If you believe in the environment, and you believe in bettering our future for our children, or now– actually, not our future. Now.
It doesn’t mean that you have to do everything perfect. And I think that’s the one bit of feedback that I see from everybody all the time, is like, well, if we can’t be that thing and wear that label or that badge of honor, then we just won’t do anything at all. Like, for a long time people were sensitive about the vegan topic, which is why I don’t use the word vegan, while I love the word and I have great appreciation for the word, I don’t use the word vegan. For the most part, when I speak I use words like plant-based or cruelty free or giving people options, because I’m a believer that Meatless Mondays are also really impactful.
You don’t have to be vegan to make a difference. You can just reduce. Do one thing. Do one thing a week. Do one thing a day. When you turn on your water in the morning to brush your teeth, you don’t have to let your water run the whole time you’re brushing your teeth. When you go to the supermarket, you don’t have to individually bag every single piece of fruit that goes into your cart, you can bring reusable bags. And that doesn’t make you a hippy, it doesn’t make you crunchy, it doesn’t make you a tree hugger, it doesn’t make you any of those labels that people associate all these things with. It just makes you a conscious human being.
And that same person that might bring reusable bags to the grocery store might drive a gas guzzling car, does that make them a bad person? No, it makes them human and it makes them– they’re evolving. We’re all evolving all the time. There’s no such thing as you’re perfect and I’m not, or they’re doing it the right way and I’m doing it the wrong way. It’s all about all of us just coming together and saying, hey, if we did one little thing, that still counts.
And I think for a long time we were kind of, as a community, creating this great divide. Everything is so polarizing. We live in a world that’s so polarizing. And I just– my biggest message is encouraging everyone to just try, and also, as controversial as this sounds, don’t beat yourself up in areas where you’re not doing it the, quote, unquote, “right way.” Just be a part of something.
DOUGLAS KARR: Beautiful.
MARK SCHAEFER: Well, Nikki, thank you so much for your time today. This has been–
NIKKI REED: Thank you, guys.
MARK SCHAEFER: –amazingly inspiring. And I, for one, am grateful you made it through all your vampire adventures to do what you’re doing today. And I’m–
NIKKI REED: Thank you, guys.
MARK SCHAEFER: –so happy for you. So you can reach Nikki at BaYouwithLove, and BaYou that’s B-A-Y-O-U like the swamps in Louisiana, bayouwithlove.com. We’ll be putting links in the show notes on this show which you will be able to find at Luminaries on DellTechnologies.com. This is Mark Schaefer and Doug Karr. We thank you so much for listening. We never take you for granted. Thank you so much for listening to Luminaries, where we talk to the greatest minds in tech.
NARRATOR: Luminaries– Talking to the Brightest Minds in Tech. A podcast series from Dell Technologies.