Thursday, May 21, 2009

Are you a Social Entrepreneur?

On Tuesday I had the distinct pleasure of accompanying Rebecca to a Power Lunch hosted by the Rochester chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO). Rebecca was scheduled to speak on the topic of "UnWrapping the mystery of Social Entrepreneurship". After all, Kingdom Ventures (KVI) is a social entrepreneurship venture.

When one thinks of social entrepreneurship, one can easily think of non-profit enterprises that focus on providing charitable contributions to those who are disadvantaged. This is not what KVI is about. We don't believe in handouts; we believe in giving people the tools they need to survive. That means we don't give our suppliers donations; we give them opportunities to be economically self-sufficient.

Rebecca did a great job of explaining that concept as she spoke to the eager ladies around the table. It would be remiss of me not to mention some key points she touched on that stood out in my mind.

Despite the fact that profits are still important, social entrepreneurs do not only focus on the returns gained from financial investments; social entrepreneurs focus on the social ROI (Return on Investment) - the social impact of the investments made. Have the strategies employed really helped with making a difference in the lives of those intended? What is the social value the business has created?

Social entrepreneurs act boldly and see opportunities where many see lost causes. Innovation, persistence and continual adaptation help them to forge ahead to help those to whom they have made a commitment. Passion and dedication keep them pressing ahead whenever obstacles are placed in their way.

Because they are not aiming to create charities, market feedback is a must. Whether the supplier be producing coffee, jewelry, chocolate, whatever, they need to be able to produce quality products that can be sold in the markets they aim to penetrate. The social entrepreneur helps construct that link that provides information on what is necessary to help a product become and remain marketable.

Social entrepreneurs ensure they have a succession plan in place so that their businesses can continue to create social value after they are gone. They don't simply live in the now; they plan. They plan because short term fixes are not their intent; their intent is long term social development.

Do something good for someone today!


Monday, May 18, 2009

All About the People - Economics I

When Marita first created this blog, I thought “Why have a blog about Fair Trade Marketing on a site targeted at RETAIL customers?” Then I realized, in the Fair Trade movement, we ALL need to “market” Fair Trade because a large percentage of those around us don’t “get” it!

So, dear Retail Customer, most of the posts from Rebecca and I are aimed at giving YOU, our Fair Trade Retail Customer, tools that will make you a successful “cheerleader” (Marketer) for Fair Trade.

Last weekend, Rebecca wrote that you can choose to make a difference. I’m going to pick up on that theme and take it a bit further.

We all know that we’re in the midst of the most serious economic downturn in most of our lifetimes. With sincere apologies to those who are out of work, and those who have seen their savings evaporate, let me suggest that things are much worse in other parts of the world.

There are few people left who were of working age during the Great Depression, so there are few of us who remember what it was like before Unemployment Insurance, FDIC, Social Security, Medicare, and other social “safety nets” that we take for granted in the US.

But in most of the world’s poorest countries, there ARE no “safety nets”. While US newspapers run headlines like “Americans scaling back on vacations”, in other parts of the world the question is whether or not there will be any food today.

Fair Trade helps to address this issue by ensuring that those who work get a living wage for their work. For an organization to achieve (and maintain) Fair Trade certification, it must demonstrate that a process is in place to determine that living wage which will then serve as a “minimum wage” for all its workers.

Does this mean that Fair Trade goods cost more? Perhaps. The goal is to “trade justly”, not to "get mine". And besides, there is actually a “hidden” economic benefit to those of us in the developed world. I’ll delve into that in my next post. Until then - Trade Fair!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

All About the People - Choose to Make a Difference

Every day consciously or unconsciously we choose to “make a difference” in the lives of those who are close to our hearts. These thoughts-become-actions could take the form of a note of affirmation to your spouse or child greeting them on the bathroom mirror, a spontaneously-purchased macchiato for a co-worker, or simply delivering a “random act of kindness” to someone within your own community.

It is in this giving that we DO receive. It may come as a tender hug & kiss, an enthusiastic high-five, or an appreciative smile! All of these actions assist in building and maintaining relationships! But it does require something of each of us ~ a call to respond and to act!

Often in the hecticness of our lives we lose track that we are also residents of a much larger community ~ a global community! In our attempt to bring understanding to this concept, we as humans tend to “shrink our world” to a size we can comprehend. However, technology continually challenges us with the ever-expanding realization that we are all residents of a vibrant, diverse, colorful federation. Just as with living within our family and working communities, being residents of this global community has its accompanying social responsibility.

When we arrive at that place of acknowledging our residency and its corresponding responsibilities, most of us feel entirely overwhelmed! But if we can grasp that it is first and foremost “relationship”, it provides us with a framework on which everything is hung!

Previously we have spoken about “why (we) should care”. Through the establishment of its principles, Fair Trade assists in providing essential framework for implementing our social responsibility. Ulitilizing those principles, we at Kingdom Ventures, Inc. work to bring about economic empowerment to our suppliers through the vehicle of relationships. It is our heart to invest in the lives of others to bring hope, restore dignity, and plan for their economic sustainability.

As residents in this dynamic, diverse world-wide community, we each, at minimum, have one role to play. Economically it is the role of an educated and appreciative consumer! But it is not for your consumption alone. Catch the Fair Trade vision, invite others along on the live-changing journey, and together let us make it a priority to be deliberate in how we live, invest, shop ….and relate…in our global community!


Friday, May 1, 2009

Why should you care about Fair Trade?

The phrase "Fair Trade" is bounced around this blog quite a bit. In fact it's even in our name! But what exactly is Fair Trade? And why should you even care?

I think the Fair Trade Federation says it best with its nine principles of Fair Trade. You can read all about them here but to give you a quick summary, those practicing Fair Trade aim to:

  • Alleviate poverty and create social and economic opportunities

  • Create transparency and accountability at every stage of the trading chain

  • Assist producers in learning how to access new markets

  • Educate that Fair Trade can be a means towards improving living standards, health and education in many disadvantaged areas.

  • Ensure that producers are paid a fair wage for their work.

  • Support safe and healthy working conditions free from physical, psychological, sexual or verbal harassment.

  • Respect and support the UN convention on the Rights of the Child

  • Promote environmental sustainability

  • Celebrate cultural diversity

These principles are very important to us and are the driving force behind why we work so hard at developing and promoting KVI.

According to a paper written by Terrence H. Witkowski for the Journal of Marketing Theory and Practice in Fall 2005, despite promising trends, Fair Trade remains a relatively small industry, estimated at 0.01 percent of all world trade. This means there's a lot of room for growth - the industry is still characterized by networks of relatively small, non-profit organizations, rather than large profit making corporations.

We want to persuade you to join our cause and grow this industry. If perhaps not a retailer, as a consumer who makes the decision to buy Fair Trade.

Starting next week, in a feature entitled "All About the People" we will begin to show you our first hand accounts of how Fair Trade has made a difference in the lives of our suppliers. If you're going to choose to buy a fashionable piece or a unique gift why not let your purchase work two-fold - at keeping you trendy and helping someone earn a decent enough wage to support himself/herself and his/her family.