February Friday the 13th, the superstitions are alive today and it seems it has arrived on my doorstep. Was not a great day for me, all negatives and I cant see any positives but I was determined to write-up an analysis today none the less. I have had the idea of organizing a Facebook group which would assist people who are in need of help and would like to get their voice heard on a larger scale not just when a media room feels it’s a good story to showcase. I have hesitated a lot because I haven’t tried hard enough to just start it because I don’t have any cases to bring to the forefront so the group would not have any content for members to work with. I bring up this point mainly because inaction is a very serious problem and especially with things that are worth doing it can cause stagnant waters without hope of a ripple effect. Charitable opportunities need to be taken advantage of when they arise and maybe with this podcast I can get some ideas and motivation to move ahead with my idea without fear. This podcast interview is done by Ken Coleman of Entreleadership a site where you are taught the principles to become a successful leader in business through various resources (Coaching, Videos, mastermind groups etc) and his interviewee is Barrett Ward founder and CEO of fashionable which is an organization that helps create sustainable business in Africa. He recently won a GQ award for his commitment to African citizens especially women to make a better life for themselves and get away from the dangerous sex trade. Lets hear what more he has to share on this and other topics in this 30minute podcast.
Here is the podcast link – https://www.entreleadership.com/podcasts/social-entrepreneur-barrett-ward-on-chan
- Fashionable What is it? – 4:19
(6:00) Why the focus on women in this cause
(8:21) Creating job opportunities that were sustainable
- Something that could be to something that should be – 10:27
(11:28) Women as an intelligent solution to extreme poverty
- Advise to people who want to become a double bottom line business – 13:01
- Timeline from 2010 launch to 2015 – 15:01
- Branding and Creating Relationships – 17:14
(18:22) Conscious Consumerism
(19:16) Importance of brand ambassadors
- Managing opportunity – 21:46
- GQ Leader of the year – 22:51
- What he learned from a leadership perspective – 24:38
- Final question, Words of encouragement – 26:3
Key Points taken
Fashionable What is it? – 4:19
It’s a social business, its mission is to create jobs for people in Africa, especially for women. This is done by helping them design beautiful products (scarfs, woven blankets, clutches, purses and wallets etc) that they then sell in the western hemisphere. At the core of fashionable the goal is to seriously address extreme poverty from the perspective of not only seeing it as a charitable case but offer a solution to the problem by providing economic stability to these people with jobs.
(6:00) Why the focus on women in this cause – Barret and his wife moved to Ethiopia in 2008 and while there they noticed, especially at night a lot of women roaming the streets. The reason for this was these girls were apart of the commercial sex trade, the couple were shocked at the amount of women involved that they had to do something. With help from the Mocha Club they engage a local group that was assisting in rehabilitating women. For a 6 month period they cover their living expenses, put them through rehabilitation and counselling and at the end offer job training. When you hear someone’s story you can really get a feel for what they are going through in this case Barret got a feel for what a prostitute was. But for these women they were not doing it for pleasure, one example was a of a woman who was doing just to get money to help her sister with breast cancer.
(8:21) Creating job opportunities that were sustainable – The challenge was set and Barret received the inspiration he needed through his wife who he went scarf buying with. While purchasing them he asked her do you think these are actually cool products or are you buying them only because they are from Africa? She responded that she actually thought they were cool products. This sparked the idea to market these products in the west and train women in Africa to make them, they started with scarfs and then increased the product line later on.
Something that could be to something that should be – 10:27
Tom Shoes has opened this opportunity for a lot of people to walk through and start-up double bottom line and triple bottom line companies. Also called social investing or impact investing where you not only into it to make a profit but to make a difference. Double bottom line is like Fashionable where they focus on people and profit and then there is triple bottom line who would focus on the people, the planet and making a profit like the body shop. For the business to reach as much people as it could they had to change from a non-profit to a for profit.
(11:28) Women as an intelligent solution to extreme poverty – In Africa 56% of the labor is done by women but only 10% is given to them as income and they only own 1% of the land. When this is flipped it over and you give a woman an opportunity, she will spend 90% of the money she earns on her family and her community, where as a man would spend only 30% to 40%. This means that investing in women would rapidly grow an economy and eradicate poverty.
Advise to people who want to become a double bottom line business – 13:01
Create a business that gives jobs to the people you are trying to help! Barret could have easily had the manufacturing for the products done in china and then take 10% of the profits and give it as charity. But what he constantly heard from the ground is that the women wanted jobs, so they decided to do the manufacturing initially in Ethiopia. This brought them their first big challenge which was quality control, despite the products quality the retail market in America is highly demanding. So lesson one is if you going to start this kind of business and plan to sell to high demand markets budget some time to ensure the quality of your products are durable and could stand up to your competitors.
Timeline from 2010 launch to 2015 – 15:01
Light bulb went off in 2008, it took a significant year and a half of development to get the proper business model.
In 2010 they started as an online business and for a month and a half from mid October through November they sold over 4000 scarfs (fall into winter), so profits were going well. They then moved into the retail space and were invited to various fashion markets around the world, also they were introduced to big names in the industry such as Fred Segal, Whole Foods (A triple Bottom line business by the way). These perks change the trajectory of the business to be both an online and retail business, which Barret wanted.
Branding and Creating Relationships – 17:14
FashionABLE, if you notice the last four letters are capitalized and spell ABLE which is linked to, and named after the women who are creating the products that are sold. This helps people in the west identify with what they are wearing also the creator can now tell a story of what she is ABLE to do with their purchase. So each article of clothing comes with a tag and explains what she is able to do, for example one would say she is can afford to send her son to school because of your purchase. That simple addition makes people buy more than one of a product because it’s a gift with meaning, it tells a story.
(18:22) Conscious Consumerism – What sells things sometimes is the story that comes along with it, knowing why something was made and also knowing what impact you are making when purchasing a product is a very strong aspect in marketing. Barret wants a customer to see a product and say this is beautiful then when purchasing it see that it has a story going along with it and that connection seals the deal for a second purchase.
(19:16) Importance of brand ambassadors – Being from Nashville which is a huge entertainment city, he was able to link (through friends of friends) with a creative artist agent named Judy-ann Williams (Superconnector) who made the first connection to Minka Kelly. They took them to Ethiopia to get a first hand view and have that lead their decision. She became an ambassador right after, she went on the tonight show with them and even Questlove even tweeted their product.
Managing opportunity – 21:46
Do not start something that you can’t manage. Look at an opportunity, sketch out a business plan of what would it take not only financially but human resource and time wise. Then with all that information available ask yourself if you would have time to do it or will it contain strain on other things and everything will be weaker because of it.
GQ Leader of the year – 22:51
He was awarded a philanthropist award in the area of humanity. It was also the first social business to be recognized by them.
What he learned from a leadership perspective – 24:38
Getting better mentor-ship has proved to be very helpful in the development of the business and also helped identify what he does well and what resources are needed in which areas. Being able to share his problems and concerns to someone who can be able to relate and alleviate those fears into something positive is a plus.
Final question, Words of encouragement – 26:37
For Barret it was a moment of faith that started fashionable, but when he recaps what has happened over the period while running the business he notes the challenges he faced. When these challenges come around he just remembers why he started the business which was to help the women in Africa and it helps bring him back to a center and continues the work. He met up with Natalia Castillo the owner of escapada living and was amazed at her level headedness, she responded to most of his emotional challenges during conversation as if it was no big problem. The reason for this was she was accustomed to all those things because that’s a part of running a business so do not expect to have a trajectory that is easy all the time but instead to stay on mission and purpose. Evaluate every step you take based on your mission and purpose.
Those last words were very inspiring, because it’s very right, when you feel lost or frustrated go back to why you are doing this, whats the purpose. That will refuel your fire to push on with the work, what else was learnt was its very possible to make a business that is full of meaningful purpose in a non-profit way and still you can make money. Just don’t let be your only mission, solving the problem you are pursuing is. The interesting statistic of how women are the answer to solving poverty, as well as how a story can go a long way in connecting people to what they purchase. Double and triple bottom line businesses and how you can start one with right quality product in the right market. Selling products which people would be proud to buy and use this can turn into very radical branding for your business, you never know where opportunity will lie. Don’t start something you can’t manage without proper planning, acquire a good mentor to assess your strengths and weaknesses. Finally there are always ups and downs when running a business but once your eyes are on your vision you will overcome them, be strong. Thanks for all who are reading. See ya tomorrow.