Jul 15, 2020
There’s something to be said for getting out and
experiencing the world - going and visiting different countries and
learning more about other cultures and communities. The more that
we can expand our horizons, the more we can learn to appreciate the
beauty of this world we live in and see other people through God’s
eyes. Today’s guest shares how her experience of living in six
different countries has shaped who she is today and why she started
her business. Deanna Cook is a global change maker and development
professional with extensive international experience in Asia,
Africa, Europe, and North America. Her latest project, LIYA
Collective, is a sustainable accessory brand of
minimalist pieces ethically made around the world. She loves yoga,
travel, spending time outdoors with her puppies, and all things
conscious living. My conversation with Deanna was such a breath of
fresh air. She encouraged and inspired me in so many ways, and I
know you’re going to love learning more about how her life and
2:11 - The Deanna 101
- Deanna has always been interested in the world
around her and learning about other countries and languages. When
she was a kid, she told people she wanted to be a lawyer for the
United Nations because she wanted to help people all around the
- When she went to university, she studied
international business in an interdisciplinary program where she
also learned French and Spanish as well as studying aboard in
Spain. After she graduated, she interned with a small nonprofit in
Canada that helped woman artisan groups around the world learn
- When the internship was over, Deanna moved to
Taiwan and taught English for a few years. She even learned
Mandarin, but knew she wanted to get back into the nonprofit space.
She moved to Tanzania and worked as a marketing and fundraising
coordinator for a small grassroots nonprofit that worked in the
local community to support children and families affected by
HIV/AIDs and poverty.
- Deanna also worked with small, sustainable
businesses in the community including a school program with the
nonprofit and some larger-scale environmental initiatives. At the
same time, she also experienced transformation in her personal life
that caused her to examine her purchasing habits and consumption
and how that all ties into a bigger global picture.
- Her experiences in Tanzania shaped the way Deanna
wanted to live and the brands she wanted to support. After working
for so long with nonprofits and schools, she started exploring how
business could be used to affect change in the world.
- Around that time, Deanna was offered an amazing
opportunity to work on an international development project in
Thailand. At the end of 2018, she left Tanzania and moved to
Bangkok to work with USAID on a project on education and
employability in STEM fields.
- In her free time, she also learned about
traditional Thai handicrafts and textiles. This was the beginning
of connecting the pieces that had shaped her life so far:
sustainable business, ethical products, and global supply chains.
She started to meet with production partners to co-create products
she wanted to see in her own life.
- When her USAID contract finished in mid-2019,
Deanna moved to Costa Rica with her partner who’d started a
teaching job there. Deanna continued working on the business that
would later become LIYA Collective. In April 2020, preorders for
LIYA Collective were launched for their first collection,
sustainably made, minimalist Thai silk scarves.
8:54 – Shaped by Your Surroundings
- Living aboard in many different places has helped
Deanna recognize the effects of the second-hand supply chain
industry. Our rapid consumption in America greatly impacts small
businesses owners in other places. Deanna tries to look at things
in more of a global context now.
- There are many conversations around waste and fast
fashion, but many people don’t consciously realize where things go
when they are thrown away. It’s easy to forget this when waste is
very out of sight, out of mind in our country.
- Deanna’s experiences traveling and living abroad
have framed the way she takes care of what she already owns and how
she disposes of things that may no longer serve her. She considers
whether she can hold on to things to reuse them, repurpose, or
re-wear them. She tries to buy locally from small businesses where
she is rather than ordering from Amazon and having it sent to
- Conscious consumerism doesn’t mean you shouldn’t
buy things. It’s saying to be aware of how you buy and the way you
dispose of things.
18:22 – Launching LIYA Collective
- Deanna carefully considered whether to launch
during Covid-19. The biggest reason for deciding to continue
forward with the launch was based on the fact that their production
partners in Thailand were counting on the order that had been in
preparation for an entire year.
- Deanna knew postponing or canceling the launch
would have left the partners in the supply chain without a
significant income they’d been counting on for so long.
- LIYA Collective launched a simple collection of one
design in three neutral colors. Deanna worked with the partners to
decide the right weave, silk, and colors of the scarf. The goal is
to create an accessory you can invest in that won’t go out of style
and can be worn for years to come in many different ways.
- In the future, Deanna is interested in warmer
textiles, hats, and handbags. Her big dreams also include expanding
partnerships to more countries.
27:50 - Getting to Know Our Guest
- Find out which country is Deanna’s favorite of the
ones she’s visited, whether she has any “usual” talents, something
that’s important to that she doesn’t get to talk about often, and
her answer to what it means to her to run a business with purpose
(pssst, spoiler alert, you don’t have to be perfect to do it).
- 10:51 - “When you live in other cultures, you’re
going to make mistakes, you’re not going to know what’s happening a
lot of the time, you might not understand the language right away.
I think that’s a beautiful thing to be able to listen and to learn
from others, and to come with an open mind.
- 16:00 – “It’s not a black and white thing and I am
far from perfect…it’s being conscious about what is coming into
your life, how you’re taking care of what’s already there, and what
happens after it leaves your home.”
- 17:49 – “I want customers to really love what
they’re buying, to erally take care of it and invest in pieces that
they’re going to treasure.”
- 26:37 - “I think this is a turning point where we
can reimagine what global partnerships might look like, even if we
have to do more work remotely.”
About Deanna Cook:
Deanna Cook is an experienced marketing and communications
professional with a diverse history in the social impact and
sustainability sectors. Originally from Canada, she’s spent the
better part of the past decade living around the globe, working on
a wide variety of projects from the World Cleanup Day environmental
campaign in Tanzania to multi-million dollar USAID initiatives in
education and employability in Thailand. As a freelancer, Deanna
has had the opportunity to work with a number of local, national,
and international changemakers and organizations, including
SheWorks!, CIVICUS, Gradian Health Systems, Personify, and
Earthing. She also founded an ethical fashion accessory brand, LIYA
Collective, and is passionate about emerging movements in wellness,
entrepreneurship, sustainability, and tech. In the digital
marketing realm, Deanna particularly specializes in the verticals
of social media, email marketing, and strategic communications,
with the goal of helping organizations streamline their messaging
and thus amplify their impact.
Connect with Deanna Cook & LIYA