I'm in Nairobi, Kenya, visiting my partners and one of the things I've been thinking a lot about is impact. How do you measure your impact? In the car on the way home from a meeting, my business partner, Isabell said to me, “I don't think you realize the impact you've made here.” I normally shy away from talking much about the impact our business has had on the lives of our artisan partners because I genuinely don't want to give the impression that we are a charity. Anything that is underwritten by donations creates dependency and that is not what we are doing. But when Isabell said that to me (for the second time), I asked her to tell me more. She went on to explain that I am her biggest jewelry customer and have allowed her, in four years, to go from outsourcing production to investing in equipment and employing over a dozen people in-house. That means she can guarantee a salary to her employees that has allowed them to move out of Kibera (a neighborhood known as one of the largest slums in Africa) and into homes near the workshop, a neighborhood with tons of resources like running water, electricity, better schools, etc. This stopped me completely because that is a really big deal. For anyone who has been to Kibera…or Googled Kibera…moving into a different neighborhood is a huge life change.
Isabell went on to express that there are other fair trade companies that work with brass workers in Kibera and have been working with them for over a decade…and those artisans are still living in Kibera. In fact, some of them have approached Isabell in search of work.
Some companies believe the way to be successful is to scale for volume, which can be good, but I am a big believer that growth has to be meaningful and sustainable for it to benefit anyone long term. And my partners agree. We work very closely together to look at the projected sales goals for the year and then work backwards to see what the capacity to produce will need to be…and then see if hiring someone new makes sense. We never want to get into a position where someone has to be laid off because of over-estimating sales. That's why I do a lot of waitlist sign ups and pre-orders. Getting a sense for how many people are interested in a product really helps us to not be wasteful of materials as well as helping us to take care of all people involved.
I say all of this because I think it's important for you to know the positive impact your purchases are having on the lives of the people who make your AA pieces. I think that's why we're here in the end. As my dad says, you have the choice with every interaction to leave someone better off or worse off - why not choose to be a blessing? Your support and your purchases are a blessing! Thank you!