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In Conversation with Marie
Cudennec - Goldfinger Factory

Marie Cudennec

Last month we had the pleasure of meeting the lovely Marie Cudennec, CEO and Co-Founder
of social enterprise Goldfinger Factory. We caught up to find out all about the amazing
work being done at Goldfinger and their considered approach to sustainability for people
and planet.

Can you tell us a little about yourself and Goldfinger Factory?

I'm half French and half Chinese. I was born in Singapore, grew up in Paris, Jakarta, Hong
Kong and Miami before landing in the UK for university. It was a lot of urban living and it
gave me a deep appreciation and commitment to nature, being outdoors and my yoga
practice.

Goldfinger Factory is a design-led social enterprise at the base of the Trellick Tower that
creates sustainable, high-quality furniture and interiors for restaurants, hotels as well as
residential and other commercial spaces, with a teaching academy, where we share our
skills in traditional craftsmanship and sustainable design.

Marie Cudennec

What inspired you to start a social enterprise?

I grew up in Hong Kong, a city that is highly polluted and where the problem of waste is in
your face. I remember a moment when I was 8 years old and seeing a fridge floating in
the ocean and thinking "something's not right here" and it was so obvious that we humans
are causing damage to our beautiful planet.

When I first moved to London, I was working in luxury marketing, and feeling out of
integrity with the resource-intensiveness of that world. And so in 2013, my co-founder
and I felt called to create a social enterprise that would bring together craftsmanship,
community and sustainability to create impact. The intersection of luxury and social enterprise
is what really excites me.

Can you tell us about the community workshops and training courses you offer?

The Goldfinger Academy is the education arm of Goldfinger Factory and exists to inspire
and educate people to make a positive impact through sustainable design and
craftsmanship. The Goldfinger Academy aims to transform all who walk through its doors
by giving them the skills and confidence to work with wood and metal, by increasing their
wellbeing and inspiring them to bring beauty and sustainability to interior spaces
everywhere.

The Academy transcends ages, incomes, talents as we deliver on our mission of training
and connecting the community's future makers and creatives. All our programmes are
guided by circular economy principles and promote an inclusive and healthier community.

The Goldfinger Academy offers courses in sustainable woodworking, craft and zero-waste
principles to educate people of all ages and backgrounds, from curious beginners to
aspiring artisans.

This includes fee-paying woodworking and craft workshops for corporates and individuals,
as well as funded places for people in our community and an apprenticeship programme
for young NEETs (young people Not in Education, Employment or Training).

Marie Cudennec

How does your café and People's Kitchen support the local community?

Our Community Cafe was always part of the vision for Goldfinger Factory. We run it as a
food incubation platform, where we support local chefs and food entrepreneurs with
subsidised rent to run their restaurant there - serving delicious, homemade, affordable
food in our café everyday. We were really fortunate to meet Panella, a Sicilian street
food enterprise, that's captured the love of the community. There is a huge queue out of
the door everyday. In exchange for this incubation service, they host our monthly
People's Kitchen which is a community feast cooked from surplus food, for local
residents, who wouldn't otherwise have this opportunity to come and enjoy a warm
nutritious restaurant-quality meal at zero cost.

How is Goldfinger Factory committed to making sustainability more than just a buzzword?

When we started in 2013, sustainability was not a buzzword. We based our business on
the triple bottom line model, through which we measure our economic, environmental
and social value in all our activities. For us, sustainability is not just about the planet, it
is also about people. It isn't a thing you do, but a lifestyle and framework that guides
every decision you make both personally and professionally. We developed a framework
for what sustainability means to us called the Gold(finger) Standard to explain what we
mean by sustainability. One of its tenets, for example, is the selection criteria for the
materials we use in our furniture and builds. The first criterion we look at is the distance
the material has had to travel; we champion local suppliers. We have been using British
woods for many years but have recently started sourcing wood from trees that have
been felled for safety reasons around London - this wood couldn't be more local!

Marie Cudennec

What advice would you give to someone starting up their own business?

Get a good CFO, because numbers are everything. There are many experts wanting to
do pro bono work for social enterprises, we found ours through a brilliant network called
Business in the Community.

Can you walk us through a day in your life?

No day is the same - that is the joy of being an entrepreneur. I try to start my day with
a short yoga and meditation practice, then bounce on my rebounder and do some hula
hooping, cycle to work along the canal with my dog Teddy who runs alongside me.
I arrive at Goldfinger Factory where I have a series of internal meetings with various
members of my fabulous team, meet lots of new clients and prospects all over London,
and finish my day with a vigorous (and sweaty) yoga practice at my local studio - my
little haven of peace. I come home for dinner with my wonderful partner. We often cook
together, which is one of the best ways to unwind.

How do you make your clothes work for you and your busy lifestyle?

Being comfortable in what I wear is always key. I try to find that balance between looking
smart for client meetings and wearing clothes that aren't too delicate or fragile, suitable
for a workshop environment with dust, wood and sharp objects everywhere. I love to
wear natural, organic fabrics like cotton, linen and silk. As I cycle everywhere, I need to
have good range of motion and breathable fabrics so as not to get too sweaty.

What are your go-to wardrobe staples?

Sustainably sourced leather trainers, a good pair of jeans and a blue cotton shirt.

And finally...
If I wasn't running Goldfinger Factory... I would be a flying trapeze artist.
The best thing about my job... is the constant learning...
My day isn't complete until... I've practiced yoga.
Words to live by... The power of "and", you can have it all.
My ideal breakfast... I'm a big fan of intermittent fasting so tend to go without breakfast on workdays. But I love my food so if I'm eating, it would be eggs and kimchi on buttered homemade bread topped with lots of fresh herbs like coriander or parsley.
My favourite London hangout... Pearl & Groove on the Portobello Road! It is the best cake shop in the world in my opinion. They make all their cakes from ground almonds and make a fine matcha latte! This place is heaven on earth for me.

Shop the full collection here >
Photography by Jutta Klee @juttakleephotography
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