These days there are many ways in which one can “do good” beyond direct volunteering or even writing checks to our favorite charity. Over the last generation, many businesses have combined excellent products with a broader social mission. The strategies of helping others while creating a sustainable business models vary. In some cases, these ventures will use for profit activities to generate contributions for charitable activities. Other businesses will tap into the skills and abilities of disadvantaged or marginalized communities, harnessing their gifts to earn much needed income. In all of these cases, consumers can feel energized knowing that dollars devoted to these products are helping individuals who need a lift up.
Over the years, I’ve connected with non-profits promoting the work of African artisans. The Global Goods Partners serves as a portal of interesting, affordable items produced by individual artisans around the world. For some time, I volunteered with Eco-Africa Social Ventures. Started by Janice Ashby, a true force of nature, Eco-Africa established two crafting communities for women in Zimbabwe. The women created unimaginably beautiful papers, cards and other gift and paper products, to be sold in markets in America and Europe. In the unstable, and hyper inflationary economy in Zimbabwe, product sales provided much-needed income so that the women would support their families.
More recently, I’ve become an avid fan of the “Rain” Stores, selling bath and personal products created in South Africa. Rain has a number of international stores, including one in the posh Rockefeller Center Complex. The soaps, salts, clothing products and the rest are fashioned by artisans in South Africa. The items are made of the highest quality products and include many herbal and specialty organics found on the African continent. Beyond the soaps, lotions, and oils, the store includes nifty accessories, along with robes, quilts, and unusual gifts.
I love to venture into the stores during my lunch hour. The store draws me in with innovative, visually pleasing, and uplifting window displays. The store is welcoming…..open, spacious, and modern. And the staff are always eager to help me prepare a beautiful gift (for myself, or others!).
I highly recommend that you visit the New York Store (or any other one, for that matter). You’ll be glad you did!