Women of the Year 2021: Obakki Founder Treana Peake Uses Design to Drive Social Impact
From Olympic athletes and tech startup founders to social impact champions and business changemakers, our inaugural 2021 Women of the Year guide features 37 impressive leaders who are making a difference, both individually and as a collective. They’ve all navigated incredible obstacles to get to where they are (often on an uneven playing field) and yet, despite this, have still managed to summit their industries and change Canada—and the world around them—for the better. In our series of one-on-one interviews, get to know each honouree a little better: their values, mission, lessons learned, and the other women that inspire them in their own lives.
What is your elevator pitch to the world?
Treana Peake: Make an impact! I founded Obakki to be a purpose-led lifestyle brand where good design and modern philanthropy could merge, and to date, we’ve helped over 3.5 million people.
What was the impetus to starting your company or brand?
Treana Peake: An act of kindness set me on a philanthropic path when I was only eight years old, when an envelope of money was anonymously slipped under my family’s front door each year during the holiday season. For my mother and I, that envelope was everything when we had nothing. It also motivated my mission to give back and was the original catalyst that eventually led to the formation of the Obakki Foundation, the non-profit that is connected to my brand, Obakki.
What excites you most about the work that you are doing?
Treana Peake: I love connecting with people and being able to invest in the power of potential. Through our Obakki artisan programs I’m able to create lasting relationships with talented makers all over the globe, and it’s these connections that excite me and keep me going.
Where do you think you have made the most impact in your company and community?
Treana Peake: Through the Obakki Foundation we have been able to drill over 3,500 clean water wells in Africa, and we’re just getting started.
What kind of problems are you trying to solve?
Treana Peake: At the Obakki Foundation we are focused on very basic problems like access to clean drinking water.
What are you doing that no one else is doing?
Treana Peake: We have truly found a way to merge design and philanthropy in a genuine, results-driven way.
Was there ever a turning point in your career that fundamentally changed your business for the better?
Treana Peake: It was actually COVID that gave us the space to begin our company’s shift towards working with artisan groups around the globe to create our collection of homewares and lifestyle products. At Obakki, 50 percent of our artisan partnerships are purpose-driven—we work with them on a deeper level through the Obakki Foundation to ensure they have an opportunity to grow a sustainable business without doing any damage to communities or the environment.
What have you learned about yourself as you’ve built your company?
Treana Peake: I’ve learned that I have an incredibly strong, supportive family that are always there cheering me on.
What has been the most challenging part of building your business?
Treana Peake: I love being out in the field looking for new artisan partners around the globe and checking in on our Obakki Foundation programs. For me, the balance of wanting to be on the road and needing to be at home has been a true balancing act.
What questions do you think all leaders should ask themselves before building a company?
Treana Peake: What kind of impact do you want to create with your company or business? We live in a time where consumers want more from the companies they choose to support, and as business leaders we can prioritize impact and mission alongside growth and the bottom line in a way that we’ve never been able to before.
In your experience, what has proven to make for a great brand experience?
Treana Peake: Authenticity above all else. Consumers have stronger values than ever, and just the simple act of being honest about how you run your business is the first step towards creating an amazing brand experience for your customers.
What is the mission of your brand? The bigger picture?
Treana Peake: To provide our customers with access to high-quality products that give back to communities around the globe.
How do you define success? What does it mean to you?
Treana Peake: For me, success is not about money, it’s about the genuine change that we’ve been able to create and the lives we’ve been able to touch.
What is one lesson that you hope people will learn or walk away with when engaging with your brand or from your work?
Treana Peake: That every consumer has the power to create an impact with their purchase.
If you could go back and give yourself advice what would it be?
Treana Peake: Don’t be afraid to trust your judgment and to shake things up, even when it seems daunting.
Who is a woman in the community that you admire?
Treana Peake: We work with an incredible artisan and seamstress named Judith in Uganda. A survivor of terrible trauma, Judith first began sewing as a way to keep herself active and engaged after years of suffering.
Now that she has found her passion, Judith wants to help other women who have suffered similar trauma heal. Her goal is to start a program to train other women as seamstresses and to eventually then employ them as her own business grows.
Her focus and dedication have had an enormous impact on her recovery, and now in the lives of other women. I am inspired by her story, and the story of countless others that I meet on a daily basis through the work that we do. These strong women give me motivation to do more and to do better for my (global) community.