Maxine Bédat

Ambassador

Maxine (Kaye) Bédat is the co-founder of Zady.com, a shopping platform and lifestyle destination for consumers who care about the origins of the items they purchase. 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, Bédat 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 she was clerking in Tanzania for the United Nation’s International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, the court that prosecutes those responsible for the genocide. Bédat used her free time in Africa to explore, and on a trip to Swaziland, she came across Thembenkile, a local craftswoman who made beautiful, meticulously carved wooden dishes. Thembenkile told Bédat 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. Bédat asked why she was not passing down her unique skills. “No one will buy my things,” Thembenkile 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 app benefits The Bootstrap Project. Bédat received her Juris Doctorate degree with honors from Columbia Law School. She lives in New York City with her husband Stéphane.

Forest canopy - photo by Sergio Izquierdo

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