• Monday, February 26, 2024
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Can fashion be inclusive? Small-scale trade can reach customers directly 

Small-scale trade

This GrowthView article is a continuation of our last article “Inclusive: how prosperity and growth go hand in hand”.

This second part, demonstrates with an anecdotal example of how small-trade can be inclusive, honest and bring in straight-forward income. What is that we value and how do we want to do business?

Life is not complicated – We just tend to make it complicated when we start looking at business ideas with the “investor lens” or with the “high-profit” lens. When you start small, and humble, you can only go upwards from there. Scaling becomes natural. This is why it is called organic growth.

A personal GrowthView anecdote on fashion trade from Colombia

The idea was simple. Find your local straw-hat supplier, start with a small-scale shipment of handmade, painted colourful summer hats (flowers, lemons, toucan birds) from Colombia and import them to sophisticated beach locations, who would love the uniqueness of a “tailormade” Colombian artisan hat.

As my family lives in Colombia it took us, to our surprise, only one day to do the phone calls to the local hat designers (WhatsApp direct contact), understand the material made out of local straw (videos) and the price (voice-notes) to have the agreed amount done and shipped by this summer; hand-made and painted in Colombia. This is an example of effective cross-border trade, where income can be made, if done correctly for all parties involved.

Knowing your local positioning and your assets is crucial. Donot sell your idea and sell your value-add so quickly. In this example, the hats are handmade in Colombia, and the requirement to have a local trusted partner makes the scaling possible & effective. Having a profit-sharing mechanism that is fair and transparent, is only possible at a smaller scale. This is why corporates have a lot to learn from peer-to-peer and social entrepreneurs.

This is a shorter value-chain where the local partner is accessing the final customer directly; as the values are the same between the partners and the middle-man.

Family and friend run-businesses can do cross-border trade.

“Organic Income opportunities are driven by us, as individuals, regardless of where we are based.”

You are creating a value-chain built on individuals and people partnerships, where each person benefits in his or her own way. First (1) increased revenue for the artist (manufacturer) as well as the local partner, (2) bringing life & colours from other cultures through ethnic and artisan artefacts (3) building inclusive trading hubs.

This small trade has an immediate economic impact and establishes a proof of concept for fashion industry to scale (in this example, Colombia); despite it being a first sample, each person receives direct revenue. This is how you achieve a social return on investment (ROI): is to know who will be your end beneficiary, who will you buy it from and in which market. Are you inclusive in your business partnerships?

People partnerships, making business uncomplicated?

Can we do more people partnerships in Nigeria, Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America?Why don’t we see more small trade to and from Africa or Latin America?

It starts with mutual trust between a buyer and seller.

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If we put behind our “intrinsic” way of over-complicating life, and go with our initial intuition – will people like these hats, and do I trust the person making them as well as my contact to send it? Then you will be surprised how trade can be made easier. Of course, we need to be cautious and do due-diligence, this is why it is called people partnerships.

These are trusted contacts, family or friends in which you do a social transaction with.

Know your local market and work with partners that care and are on ground – it will be efficient, trusting and sustainable. Small-scale trade is sustainable as they are based on our personal networks and connections, where we leverage our individual knowledge, know-how and people connections. Something corporates are looking to tap into through corporate partnerships; the same applies to us individuals with “People Partnerships”.

The demand is there and people love artisan, ethnic and authentic products. They also like having an impact and as human-beings, we are social – so we value goods that have meaning (or a story behind them).

I am a corporate or investor, why don’t I trust these ideas?

  • Payment trust | Firstly, trust in paying up-front half of the clothes, hats or artisan that you will buy.
  • Shipping trust | Lack of trust in the hats being shipped correctly. Distribution and logistical concerns, will I ever receive them?
  • Design trust | Lack of trust in customers or individuals liking the items.

Remember, the simple economy is demand and supply. The linking of the two is where each individual, with similar values for prosperity, impact and sustainable future can come together to create organically created networks of trade. Technology is the enabler.

Inclusive trade is built on partnerships between people that trust each other. Technology enables it and exclusivity contracts allow investors to scale it.

Key Take-aways:

  1. Partner with people, not with companies
  2. Trust your idea
  3. Do your social due-diligence
  4. Technology will help
  5. Know your value


Wehbe is passionate about helping others and fighting poverty & injustice. She is the founder of GrowthView. She writes from Zurich, Switzerland.  [email protected]

Cell: +41 79 950 4760