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April 12, 2020 7 min read

Every great project starts with a first idea, every great journey with one first step. EMERALD BERLIN advanced from being just one spicy little idea to a seasoned social Start-up in only a short amount of time. What, who, how, why – learn all there is about EMERALD BERLIN in this short story on the EB-Odyssee. A true tale of joy, hard work and trust in a common vision.


Big statements, good causes

The penny really started dropping in 2016 soon after Barbara, who already had a professional background working in the fashion and lifestyle industry for nearly a decade, first heard the slogan of the soon-to-be-President of the United States Donald Trump. “At that time the Make America Great Again-Slogan was everywhere”, not least on shirts and basecaps. Barbara knew that the slogan was around for decades. That a presidential candidate could simply recycle it and make it “his” slogan, that was remarkable to her.

 This phenomenon, that a piece of rhetoric could spread throughout and permeate the whole world at the speed of light, this made Barbara think. “At that time, I became aware once again of how powerful textiles can be and how far messages can be spread through them.” Just one obvious question remained: how could this incredible power of such statements actually be used for something good and positive? Some more weeks passed but the initial idea stayed with her wherever she went.

How the Idea came up

Around Christmas 2016 – Trump had just been elected into the White House – Barbara found the last piece of the puzzle. Or rather, it found her. When she received a letter from a charitable organisation she had been donating to on a monthly basis for ten years, she was finally able to put the pieces together. When she opened this letter which also contained a small note written by the godchild she had supported for so long several thoughts crossed her mind:

“The letter started with DEAR SPONSOR - "Sponsor”, I thought... And although that might be a good description, it somehow didn’t feel right to me. Somehow wrong. Somehow meaningless.”

Why did it feel so weird to her? Because, as she describes it later on her blog, she was “completely missing the connection” to the project she had supported for so long. She wrote: “I was never in the country of his origin. I don’t know his life circumstances and I have no other relation to the organisation. I also chose the sponsorship model because I knew it from the media. Not because I believed that it was ‘my model’.” Don’t get it wrong. Barbara wasn’t questioning her support for the organisation but rather she felt that something important was missing.

She started asking her friends about their feelings towards their donations and she found out that almost none of them were donating money on a regular base to a charity. But why is that? All of them have really good jobs, most of them don’t have kids, a house or even a car. She found out, that most of them just lack the connection to the topic. They had no Idea where to inform themselves. Every time they started giving, they stopped again after a short period of time as it was just not convenient to them. Or do you know what most of the NGOs really do and can you name at least 10 of the more than 600.000 operating NGOs that exist in Germany alone?

Sustainable, what else?

From there on out the goal was pretty clear: telling real stories, establishing real connections, giving easy excess to the often really hard topics, building real relationships between charities and those that support them. “We need to think marketing for charities in a completely new way. Marketing has changed so much during the last 10 years. We need to make these new Marketing channels available for charities as well”. That`s why EMERALD BERLIN was founded to be a mediator between non-governmental organisations and influencers on social media.

As we all know, social media, especially Instagram, is built for visible content. That’s were fashion came back into the game again. Barbara needed a visible tool to transport these messages and to provide the right content to work with Influencers from all fields. That’s why she decided to start her marketing platform by building a lifestyle brand that was built around NGO topics. And one thing was for sure: all the textiles EMERALD BERLIN would use as a canvas for spreading awareness had to be 100% sustainable. Why? Because in Barbara’s mind “anything else would not represent our vision properly. Sustainability had to be our first priority”. 

For Barbara it was clear that even if the lifestyle brand was the biggest part at the beginning EMERALD BERLIN should function differently than any common fashion brand. EMERALD BERLIN was therefor built as a social awareness platform, a network, where you can actually inform yourself on social issues and where you can find a topic which interests you quickly and easily and which you can support – not only financially, but also and even more with your very own voice. As EMERALD BERLIN was founded in July 2018 Barbara’s dream came true.

Just another fashion label?

But why an awareness platform? Why not a donation platform? Isn’t it about supporting the NGOs financially so they can do their work? Sure it is. But you can really only help if you know about the problem and the project. It’s not enough for young people to only know that people out their have serious problems. We really want to understand what is going on, where the problem comes from and what exactly we can do about it. We want to inform ourselves and that’s exactly where the work of EMERALD BERLIN starts.

AWARENESS is the core of the whole concept. Barbara stated back in these days what exactly was so awesome about linking fashion with NGO’s and charity-projects:

“As our statements can be carried around visibly, everyone who wears our products becomes a multiplier for the messages of the organisations. Or don’t you think it’s pretty cool that you can always tell a nice and interesting story when someone asks you about your shirt or sweater instead of just naming the brand you got it from? I love that!!”

Working with influencers and content creators on social-media to spread positive messages and heighten awareness for social, political and ecological issues – especially among young adults – is one of the mayor ingredients of the success-story EMERALD BERLIN was about to become. Barbara said it best:

“We are always very grateful and enthusiastic about each and every individual who wants to support us with their voice. We know that this is not normal, not a matter of course, not self-evident.”

It might therefore be a good time and place to thank all of those wonderful people that have made an impact, helped us grow, transmitted our message and became part of our family. You know who you are and we love you for that. Thank you so much!

Teamwork makes the dream work

In the first year and a half of the project Barbara was working on her own, doing a thousand things at once, not least handling the communication on social media channels and staying in contact with customers and manufacturers but also looking for the right investor to fund her start-up. As you can imagine, finding the right partner is always hard. And if you only believe the numbers, it’s even harder for a woman, a so called solopreneur, a person with an migration background and someone who’s aim was it to not earn as much money as possible no matter what but to do something that actually can help to make the world a better place.

To archive this goal, she included a lot of her friends in helping her out with different tasks. Just to name some, Sebastian did the IT-part, developed website- and shop-pages, and there was Michi who supported Barbara by creating some of the most beautiful designs which gave EMERALD BERLIN it’s very unique flavour. Thomas did a great Job by helping her to prepare all the details for investors and she was quite sad as he decided to go back to a corporate job. Barbara was so incredibly grateful for all they’ve done to make the dream come true when she wrote “Thanks a lot. You are the best!”

But all together they made it happen. They not only survived the hardest time of every start up, they also found an amazing partner to continue the journey. Impact Collective. EMERALD BERLIN grew from a tiny seed into a strong plant with solid roots. And with growth and increasing responsibilities new teammates had to be found.

Today Katja, Vanessa, Kim, Ben and Marc are beside Barbara proud members of the EMERALD-family and give it all they got to make sure that Barbara`s initial idea never stops growing. Next to a million other tasks Katja became Barbara’s partner, co-founder and the CFO of the company, Vanessa and Kim took over most of the collections and cooperation’s with a whole bunch of different Influencers and NGO’s who make EMERALD BERLIN so special.

Our amazing intern Ben is managing social media, he builds landing pages and he keeps an eye on the schedule making sure that everyone on the team is always on the same page. Part of that is briefing the editor in the team, Marc, for all the upcoming events, collaborations and launch-dates of new collections. Writing blog-articles, creating captions for social-media, editing and revising content on the webpage became his responsibility.

Back to the future

For the future EMERALD BERLIN is broadening the horizon. Not only is the team conceptualizing more and more awareness-collections and building even stronger ties with NGO’s but they also develop completely new marketing-ideas for such organisations while consulting a variety of organisations which are looking for a new, fresh start in terms of finding and engaging new target groups.

We are currently working on our step up to the next level to help even more projects to become visible to as many people as possible. Stay tuned. We can promise you, it won’t be boring!

If you’d like to find out more about the work EMERALD BERLIN has done in the last years then visit our website and look at our project-page. And to all the supporters, friends, customers and followers: thank you for everything. Without you we’d have accomplished nothing. Keep on sharing our stories, follow us on Instagram, tell your friends and family about us and “Wear a better message”!


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