World of Good
Fostering an economy based on social and economic justice, World of Good, launched by co-founders Priya Haji and Siddharth Sanghvi -- just after they graduated from University of California Berkeley Business School -- features unique gifts and handcrafts from artisan communities around the world. By selling through an ever-expanding distribution network of retailers nationwide, they are building a whole new economy based on Fair Trade. Ten percent of their profits get funneled to their sister non-profit organization, The World of Good Development Organization, which helps support artisan communities and works to strengthen international fair wage standards.
"Our aim is to make it easy to help customers make a good choice -- not to buy more, but to buy differently," explains Priya. "They can expect quality, convenience and style -- yet the products can be made in a way that actually helps the people who make them. Right now, our products are women's accessories and housewares. As World of Good grows, our aim is to make the choice for people-positive products easy to find in every category of daily life. We want every human-made product to be a tool of relationship and empowerment for the person who crafted it. Imagine every product not as a material thing but as a bridge of connection and transformation."
Priya's economic vision parallels her innovative approach to structuring her business. World of Good is actually two intertwined yet financially and operationally separate organizations. The for-profit World of Good features beautiful and interesting handcrafted products from artisan communities worldwide. The non-profit World of Good Development Organization focuses on building strategies to substantially improve economic and social conditions for millions of artisans and their families around the world by funding health and education programs. This hybrid for-profit and non-profit brainchild draws inspiration from its founders' global travels and youthful idealism tempered by a pragmatic zest and passion for social enterprise.
"My mom is from India and my dad from Tanzania, and both overcame significant obstacles to be together and come to the United States. I was fortunate to excel in school with the support of my family and friends -- and in the process, I developed a passion for understanding how our economy functions: consumer consumption, the trade deficit, international economic development and the challenges of harnessing trade for change. When I have traveled around the world to different communities of women who look just like me (Mexico, India, Thailand) and when I look into their eyes, I connect with the same aspiration for learning, desire for a good life, a healthier community and world. I knew that my own best contribution to the world was to join together with these other amazing women entrepreneurs and build a bigger, life-changing market-access channel."
In order to build this market access, the company sources about 80 percent of its products directly from the artisan groups, mostly women, residing in 34 countries. Like other members of the Fair Trade Federation, World of Good pays a 50 percent deposit on all orders, builds long-term business relationships and provides market and design feedback so that groups remain globally competitive in the Western market. With sales growth in the triple digits each year in contrast to the national giftware growth of only three percent, World of Good is starting to make an impact with respect to making it easier for customers to find ethically sourced products.
"One of the things we realized from the very beginning was that products had to be high quality and fashion forward or customers wouldn't buy them -- regardless of the mission," admits Priya. "I am not sure if we have transformed global issues into an opportunity," replies Priya, relating to the Fair Trade movement. "Rather, we have taken the global issue of changing trade practices as a commitment and constraint into our business. Our customers who want to take this constraint and commitment into their own lives form our core customer group -- the people who will guide us, exchange ideas with us, help us creatively build this vision."
Funded by grants and individual donations, the non-profit World of Good Development Organization has also created a revolutionary Web-based tool called the Fair Wage Guide to help strengthen international wage standards. In essence, artisan communities worldwide can calculate a fair wage for their products. "The mission between the organizations is the same: Create a way for customers in the US to make choices that directly alleviate poverty in developing countries around the world," says Priya. "But, the business and the non-profit are intentionally separate because they have very different roles within this common mission. They have independent leadership and work autonomously with collaboration."
Before the Internet, their business model would have been challenging at best. Now co-founder Siddharth Sanghvi takes the lead on technology. "We often work with artisan groups through the Internet, designing products, communicating on micro-finance and managing payments without spending the money to travel there," explains Priya. "We are also able to maintain a live, current catalog on the Internet to support our customers at all times. We work with products that are handmade in limited quantities so the selection is ever-changing, and our technology infrastructure allows us to be flexible at a very low cost. The non-profit's Fair Wage Guide allows us to help artisans do real-time pricing to see how their wages compare at any moment in time in 89 countries with real, current economic data."
Echoing the power not of commerce but of the customers who purchase the products or services companies make, Priya concludes simply: "We do not have to do anything extraordinary. Just change our ordinary purchase choices. It is our choices that can change the lives of millions."
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