This article was originally written and published by Partners of the Americas here.
Name: Kath Lestina
Current title/profession: Owner at Lestina Design LLC
Current hometown: Delafield, Wisconsin
Areas of expertise: Marketing, design, community development
Name of project: Farmer-to-Farmer Caribbean Region
Location of the project: Colombia
Organization that sent the volunteer: Partners of the Americas
In March 2018, Kathleen (Kath) Lestina, a business owner and designer from the United States, traveled to Zen Naturals' headquarters in Cali, Colombia as a Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) volunteer. The company's Zue Beauty line is a brand of quinoa-based natural cosmetics that emphasizes sustainable, ethical manufacturing and fair trade in order to improve the lives of quinoa farming communities in Colombia. Through Zue’s Give-Back program, customers are empowered to donate to Colombian organizations, contributing to the company’s two central goals: providing high-quality natural skincare products and generating social and environmental change.
F2F volunteers have been integral to the growth of Zue, as several agricultural and technical volunteers have helped train indigenous farmers to harvest quinoa. Other F2F volunteers have assisted with marketing, branding, and digital media. The purpose of Kath’s visit, the most recent F2F-Zen Naturals partnership, was to assist Zue’s public relations team in preparation for expansion to the United States.
Upon her arrival in Cali, Kath met with executives from Zue to discuss pertinent topics such as the effect of cultural differences on business practices, potential U.S. stores for expansion, and the overall goals of the company. During her time in Colombia, Kath critiqued Zue’s social media platforms, suggested strategies to draw attention to the Zue Give-Back program, and offered methods to increase customer satisfaction, loyalty, and retention.
Due to her 25 years of experience, Kath was able to offer valuable recommendations to the Zue team. She explained the importance of packaging, suggesting that shipped products should include a personalized note thanking the customer for empowering Colombian farmers. Kath also suggested changes to the company’s website and social media platforms, which are currently being implemented to make them stronger and more engaging in order to drive e-commerce sales. One particularly crucial contribution was Kath’s creation of response templates to positive and negative customer feedback. By thanking customers for their feedback and maintaining timely, helpful communication, Zue can ensure customer loyalty.
Kath’s experience as a volunteer with F2F was one of collaboration and open discussion between herself and the team in Colombia. She brought a new and valuable perspective to the office, engaging in a true professional exchange that resulted in improved public relations practices for the U.S. beauty market, and, by extension, empowered Colombian communities.