Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A BrandAID for third-world artisans

There are many crafters and artisans in the under-developed world, but very few people get to see their work. What is missing for these artisans is a way into the global marketplace, many are cut from the the technology or the transportation that can help to sell their art. That is why many social business are springing up to give these artisans an global market. We learned of a new one today based in Canada called BrandAID.

From the Globe and Mail, writer Diane Jermyn interviews one of the BrandAid founders Tony Pigott. The Globe and Mail also has a great video that sums up the entire piece.

“Don't be confused,” says Tony Pigott, who is also president and chief executive officer of JWT, a communications and advertising agency in Toronto. “We're still in the startup stage, but BrandAID is a for-profit business, just one with a social conscience. Making a profit is essential to our future sustainability.”

With hooks like ‘Poverty needs marketing,' BrandAID uses disruptive ideas to attract attention and recruit investors. “There's a huge market for beautiful artisan goods, such as fashion, art and decor, but there's also a huge barrier for the artisans,” says Mr. Pigott. “They have no name, no brand.”

BrandAID makes money by selling the works – which have been pre-purchased at the artisans' asking price – online, at events and to major retailers. Profit is shared between the artisan partners, investors and the BrandAID Foundation. The artisans receive 35 per cent of the profit from the sale of the art, with 10 per cent of that amount channelled back to the artisans' community through the foundation.

Being market driven is not only important to investors but also to the artisans themselves, who want to do business, not ask for a handout, says Mr. Pigott.

He established BrandAID in 2008 with co-founders Cameron Brohman, a development expert who lived in Haiti for 25 years, New York film maker David Belle and Academy Award-winning Canadian screenwriter, producer and director Paul Haggis. Josh Brolin and Diane Lane are among the Hollywood celebrities who have helped spread the word about BrandAID.

Two Haitian communities served as tests for the business model: Croix de Bouquets, with its metal artists, and Jacmel and its papier mâché crafters. Today the focus in Haiti is on rebuilding those communities, which were hit hard by the recent earthquake.

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