When we are out in the world people often ask us how we got started. What made you get into this business? How did you put together your business model? It's a good conversation to revisit on World Fair Trade Day!
I started Kupendiza just as - and probably because - the internet began to make it super easy to connect and communicate with people in far flung places around the globe. Women - ordinary women - suddenly had the ability to talk in real time on our cell phones, make friends, and transact business across the distance.
Electronic banking now makes the exchange of money fast and inexpensive, compared to just a few years ago. Women everywhere are waking up to the new possibilities.
Our business partners are almost all social enterprises; all are woman-owned enterprises. Kupendiza products come from Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria, Guyana (South America), Mexico, and Maryland (right here in the good ol' USA).
We are in love with this concept of the social enterprise, the business model built on market-driven solutions to social challenges. So, when we met Pauline Muchina, the U.S. based partner of the African Women and Youth Initiative, we thought we could offer them the know-how to market their excellent products to first-world consumers.
As much as we loved their exquisitely rendered bags, handbags, pocketbooks, and purses, we knew that other women here - in DC, New York, even the Caribbean - would too! And of course we were right.
From the beginning we have bought directly from the women, at the prices they set. We do not white label; credit is always given to the artisan collective, if not always to individual artists (who can sometimes be shy about having their pictures online).
So, are we Fair Trade, you wonder? What other way is there to do things?
Happy World Fair Trade Day!