Buna was created to encourage people to begin repeatedly questioning where the products and services they are buying come from, how they were made and how their price is structured. Živa Lopatič provides interesting insights on where BUNA’s social innovation stand.



Intro question: What is the social innovation ZADRUGA BUNA z.o.o. about?

Ensuring freshness, price transparency, revealing the origin of products and environmental responsibility are four key elements of the Buna concept.

Each Buna product is accompanied by the information about its origin. Raw materials and products used in preparation of Buna come from the Fair-Trade system or are made ​​in accordance with its principles. We aim for the shortest possible trade chain between the grower, the producer and the consumer in order to guarantee freshness of our products.  By revealing the details of our price structure, we ensure transparency to our customers. Buna users will be able to adjust their price by reusing the packaging of Buna, joining us and the people we work with in environmental responsibility.


Why did you (or your partners) start this social innovation?

Buna was created to encourage people to begin repeatedly questioning where the products and services they are buying come from, how they were made and how their price is structured. The thing we wish to buy in itself often represents just one element of the final product and accordingly represents a small fraction within the price we pay for it. Share of raw coffee price in the total price of coffee is a prime example. Since we often like to re-affirm our existing consumption patterns and everyday comfort we are usually not prepared to try out and choose alternative products, even though they could mean a better long-term choice for the environment, the producers and us. The projects we are preparing within Buna cooperative address these challenges.


How did you come up with the idea? Was a creative or collaborative process involved?

Before Cooperative BUNA was founded, the founders were giving lectures about Fair Trade system and used coffee industry as an example. But soon we realized it was not enough to just speak about it, so we started a cooperative to show that alternative way of making business is possible and lucrative.


What were you afraid of at the beginning and how (if at all) did you overcome your fear?

There was no fear, when we started the cooperative, because none of the founders was at that point dependent on the success of the cooperative. But today we are.


What were the beginnings of the social innovation? (i.e. how did you build your initiative, business, NGO from zero?).

Firstly, we established the cooperative and made a crowdfunding campaign, because we needed funds for investing in the first roasting machine. The campaign made us think about what we want to achieve, and we put everything into words, videos, messages and pictures.


How did you attract public attention to the issue you wanted to tackle and make others believe in your purpose and potential? 

Mostly we used our lectures and the channels of communication we were already using before – one of the founders is a global educator, one is an owner of a café and one is the leader of Fair trade movement in Slovenia. So, we were able to present our idea to each of our communities, to the media and also on social media and website.


How did you make sure that your idea actually fits the needs of the users?

We do not follow the needs of the users, we try to change their habits – our first aim was to make them drink better quality coffee (also from known origin and organic), then we made them decrease their waste and we also constantly remind them that their purchase decisions matter. And to make purchase decisions easier for our users, we try to offer them products made in accordance with BUNA concept.


How did you raise the money for your idea and what is your advice for others considering DYI fundraising?

We tried raising money with crowdfunding campaign, but it was not successful in itself. But it was a consequence of the campaign that we were offered a personal loan from one of our supporters. We continue to raise money for investments through personal loans and also through the activities of the cooperative. We find it hard to raise money otherwise, so we recommend finding your own way.


How did you scale your social innovation and what tips for scaling could you share?

We haven’t yet made an analysis on how many people do we reach, but at this point is enough to make our business viable. We believe that the most important thing for reaching users is the quality of the product, which speaks for itself. And other important thing is giving a lot of energy into explaining and educating users, so that they know, what they are buying and why the products are different.


How do you change the whole system?

We change habits of users and build strong community, which in time will affect the whole system. It will take a lot of time, but we have seen it happen before.


What it the one advice you can give to an aspiring social innovator, a member of the Social Innovation Academy, with only two things at the moment: a big heart and a willingness to do something?

If they believe their idea is good enough, they have to persist and find a way to make it work. There is no one way to do it. We believe that each social innovator finds his or her own way. But we know that it is easier to work together or at least find like-minded people in your community and support each other.

Interviewed by Maja Novak

Živa Lopatič is co-founder of Cooperative BUNA. Živa has been working in communication, leadership and planning. Today she runs the only Fair Trade store in Slovenia, 3MUHE. She is in constant contact with Fair Trade producers and buyers.

Web: www.buna.si
Facebook: @BUNA

Twitter: @zadrugabuna
Instagram: @zadrugabuna

YouTube: Zadruga Buna

Would you like to learn more from other inspiring social innovators?

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