• World Biz Magazine

INTERVIEW: ANNA M ANDERSON - CEO OF MIADONNA & CO



Anna-Mieke Anderson is the Founder and active CEO of MiaDonna & Company and the Founder of The Greener Diamond Foundation. She is a dedicated, single mother of 2, an avid philanthropist and successful entrepreneur. When Anna-Mieke learned the truth behind the conflict origin of her earth-mined diamond in 2005, she committed herself to finding a conflict-free option for fine jewelry. Fueled by a mother’s passion for helping children, she has built a globally admired, ethical fine jewelry company that continues to push boundaries to create a socially responsible diamond trade. Not only did she grow a business, she pioneered an industry. Anna-Mieke has devoted her life to creating diamonds in a laboratory that are superior to earth-mined diamonds in every way, all while helping children caught in the middle of the unethical harvesting of mined diamonds. Anna-Mieke has made history by becoming a visionary in the new era of the diamond industry. Her dedication to creating gem quality lab-grown diamonds, even before the technology was available, has been recognized by industry authorities and organizations. ​She personally leads relief missions to diamond mining regions through The Greener Diamond to ensure a better future for communities living in poverty due to diamond mining. Though a native of New Zealand, Anna-Mieke spent her childhood in Australia and moved to the United States when she was 19. She currently resides in Portland, Oregon where she runs MiaDonna & Company. ​She is now internationally recognized as a humanitarian, activist and business leader who works tirelessly to inspire other young women to embrace their authentic, feminine selves and follow their entrepreneurial spirit.

"We make truly conflict-free jewelry using 100% recycled metals and lab-grown diamonds and gemstones, which are optically, physically and chemically identical to their earth-mined equivalents. ​"

What is MiaDonna? ​ MiaDonna pioneered the lab-grown diamond industry to ​offer consumers beautiful, ethical and affordable fine jewelry that helps free innocent children oppressed by the active conflict diamond mining industry.​ We make truly conflict-free jewelry using 100% recycled metals and lab-grown diamonds and gemstones, which are optically, physically and chemically identical to their earth-mined equivalents. The Greener Diamond is MiaDonna’s foundation. Every MiaDonna purchase passionately funds projects to repair the lives and land negatively impacted by the mining industry. ​ What sets you apart from others in your industry? I came into this industry as an activist. In 2005, I discovered I had most likely purchased a conflict diamond and to make things right in my own mind, I began sponsoring a 7-year-old-boy in Liberia, Africa named Ponpon. Through our letters, I got a first-hand look at the terror of growing up in a mining community. I knew there had to be a better way to offer beautiful fine jewelry that didn’t come at the expense of humanity and the earth. Consequently, I developed a foundation first company that puts equal importance on people, the planet and profits. "MiaDonna and The Greener Diamond work together as a social enterprise. We have created a grassroots system where the diamond consumer directly supports the diamond miner." ​ ​Tell us about the Green Diamond Foundation​. MiaDonna and The Greener Diamond work together as a social enterprise. We have created a grassroots system where the diamond consumer directly supports the diamond miner. We created the program but the real heroes are the people purchasing our products, which then allows us to fund our foundation. I make regular visits to diamond mining communities in West Africa and take the time to sit with the locals to truly understand how we can best help. By developing our own educational, vocational and agricultural projects, we empower people to live a life free of mining or relying on aid, something the earth-mined diamond industry should have done decades ago. Your definition of conflict diamond extends beyond the industry standard, please educate us on this? The legal definition of a conflict diamond set forth by the Kimberley Process is a: "​rough diamond mined in an area controlled by insurgent forces and used to fund war." The main problem is that this definition is too narrow. This means someone could have been enslaved, tortured, raped, beaten, or killed to mine that diamond and it is marketed to the public as a conflict-FREE diamond because it didn’t directly fund war. This doesn’t even touch on the environmental destruction. The MiaDonna definition of a conflict diamond is any diamond that is unsustainable, thereby having a negative impact on the environment, society, and/or economy. ​"The legal definition of a conflict diamond set forth by the Kimberley Process is a: "​rough diamond mined in an area controlled by insurgent forces and used to fund war. The main problem is that this definition is too narrow​. ​This means someone could have been enslaved, tortured, raped, beaten, or killed to mine that diamond and it is marketed to the public as a conflict-FREE diamond because it didn’t directly fund war."


Have you always been inclined towards ethical business? It all started when one child asked for help. I’ll never forget the day when Ponpon, the Liberian boy I was sponsoring, wrote to me, “​I had a great summer because only one of my classmates was killed.” I knew I had to do something. As a mother myself, I couldn’t let these children continue to suffer because of our love affair with diamonds. The earliest business plan of MiaDonna was simply to sell truly conflict-free fine jewelry so I could sponsor more children like Ponpon. ​ The jewelry industry is traditionally male-dominated in terms of leadership, is this changing? Yes it is changing, slowly. However, there is more work to be done. It's not just about being a woman in a leadership role, it's about being brave enough to lead with your feminine qualities. When I started in this industry, I figured I had to lead from a masculine point-of-view to succeed and fit in, but the day I was brave enough to find my own feminine voice in the male-dominated industry was the day I truly started succeeding. The most successful female leaders I admire lead with compassion and empathy. It’s those natural talents that we have been told to suppress, that actually benefit us in business. "When I started in this industry, I figured I had to lead from a masculine point-of-view to succeed and fit in, but the day I was brave enough to find my own feminine voice in the male-dominated industry was the day I truly started succeeding. The most successful female leaders I admire lead with compassion and empathy. It’s those natural talents that we have been told to suppress, that actually benefit us in business."

What personal attributes have made you a successful entrepreneur? I think it’s a combination of traits, but looking back I feel one of the biggest contributors to my success is asking curious questions to the right people. I came into this industry knowing nothing about diamonds. I had no support from a spouse or family. I had no money and no formal education on the subject. But what I had was passion for helping other people and that drove me to dig deeper. I educated myself. I cold called people. I spoke to anyone that would talk to me, then always asked who else I could talk to. I made it work by turning the rejection and the “no’s” into opportunity and “why’s”. I still work with some of the contacts I made in those early days. We now laugh at how persistent I was. What innovations have you put in place to enhance the customer experience? Innovation is one of MiaDonna’s core values. When I started the company I knew I was going to do things the exact opposite of what was being done. We launched our first website in 2006, long before the Amazons of the world made e-commerce the norm. People said no one would buy fine-jewelry from a website, but we are more than just a website, we are a full service jeweler who brings the store to the consumer. With our Home Try-On Program consumers can order 4 sample styles to try-on in the comfort of their home. We also make the process easy with free resizing and free 30-day returns. I’m excited about our future plans to incorporate technology to make the shopping process even easier and offer more personalization options for shoppers. ​​ "I feel one of the biggest contributors to my success is asking curious questions to the right people. I came into this industry knowing nothing about diamonds. I had no support from a spouse or family. I had no money and no formal education on the subject. But what I had was passion for helping other people and that drove me to dig deeper." ​​


What are the benefits of running a CSR-centric business like yours? Social Enterprise is a whole new way of thinking about business, and when successful, society reaps the benefits. When starting a social enterprise people often think you need to start a business and then add the philanthropic part, but I disagree; it’s the other way around. You need to identify a world issue that keeps you up at night, one that you’re passionate about solving. Then you can identify a product or service that aligns with that cause to be the funding source to right that wrong. The reason we’ve been successful with this model is because of our authenticity. We simply present the facts about our products, mission and story. Some people will love the idea and cause, some won’t. It’s not about persuading people, it’s about finding people who align with your vision. ​ ​How can readers support the work of MiaDonna and Greener Diamond? Consumers are the driving force behind the change we can make at The Greener Diamond. Their purchases have power. By choosing MiaDonna products made with recycled gold and lab-grown diamonds, they have stopped child labor, protected the environment and empowered sustainable change in diamond mining communities. Governments can help by putting policies in place to stop the importation of conflict natural materials. However, this is very hard to regulate and there will always be loopholes. So the responsibility falls on conscious consumers. We, as consumers, hold the greatest power to create change. The quality of businesses, industries, and products will be dictated by consumer trends. Every time we purchase a product we make a vote with our money. ​ Website: www.miadonna.com