Here at ShippingEasy, we get really close to our customers. Whether it’s a late night with support trying to get batch shipments out the door before the weekend or sharing tips & tricks to save time, we’re lucky enough to be on a first name basis. Because we’re so inspired by our many amazing customers, we feel the need to share their remarkable stories…this one is about Shopping for a Change.
1) What is Shopping for a Change and how did you come up with this business idea?
Three simultaneous events led to the creation of Shopping for a Change®. Five years ago, as I was approaching the age of 50, I felt a stronger need than ever to contribute to society, and really wanted to do so on a global scale. During that same year, our son’s seventh-grade class was entrenched in a philanthropic project, interwoven through their entire curriculum. The inspiration and education we all gained from that experience reached beyond the classroom and began to seep into our family’s lives.
During winter break 2008- 2009, our family traveled to The Galapagos Islands and Peru. We witnessed first hand, vast hunger and poverty which stood in sharp contrast with the innate beauty of these regions. Noticing the wealth of artistic talent passed down through generations, we knew given the right circumstances, this could be their means to a better life.
Realizing, but for an accident of birth, it could have been me living under similar conditions, I arrived home no longer the same person as before I left. Both as a mother and artist I connected strongly with what I saw. I learned many women were the sole providers for their families, and had been affected by atrocities such as illness, spousal abuse, war, unemployment, and death. Sadly, their situations were not unique, as similar circumstances exist throughout the world.
Shopping for a Change® (SFAC) was developed to empower these talented artisans, predominantly women, and their impoverished communities, with means to transform their standards of living in economically sustainable ways. In addition to paying the artisans up front for their creations, our nonprofit organization splits the net proceeds from our customers’ purchases in two ways: we fund Community Improvement Projects abroad with a focus on clean water, health care, and education; and provide the consumer the ability to direct net proceeds to the U.S. based nonprofit organization of their choice at checkout.
2) How do you find the incredible artisans you work with?
I am asked this all of the time. We find our groups in various ways. Some I have heard about over the years or seen some of their works in other places so I search them out. Often, I find myself reading an article about a country, an non-governmental organization (NGO), or a newsworthy event around the world, and as I am reading, something will catch my attention and lead me elsewhere via the internet, and before you know it, I am 6 degrees away from the original article but have discovered another group with whom to potentially work. As our presence has developed over the years we are often approached by groups themselves or representatives of groups. I always take a look at what they are producing and gather information about the people that are producing them. But like any other store owner, so to speak, I have to develop a look and feel for SFAC, so customers have an idea of the types of things they may find when they visit us online or at one of our live events. Unfortunately not everyone that approaches us, do we end up partnering with.
3) What charities and community development projects have you chosen to work with and why?
Our first community improvement project followed our first year in business. We helped to fund a water project for some of our artisans in Swaziland that brought clean water to their community of over 400 people that had never before had clean water. We partnered with a few other organizations including Unicef to fund this project.
Our second project was to have a focus on education. We learned that the classrooms in Kenya where some of our other artisans’ children attended school, had 80 students to one teacher, and that we had the ability to fund a teacher for a year, bringing the classroom size down to 40 students per teacher (which by American standards is still high). We thought that by doing this we could provide a better learning environment for these children. We even got to meet the teacher and some of his students via a video that was sent to us.
Our third project aided artisans that live along the Amazon in Ecuador, where one of their biggest challenges is malnutrition. Working with the organization that employs these artisans, we developed and funded a 6 month nutritional program that is educating them on good nutrition, training them on organic gardening and helping them set up community gardens with geographically and nutritionally appropriate plants to grow. Their training is now almost completed.
Our fourth project was to provide funding for 2 preschools for ages 3-6 year old children of some of our artisans in Bangladesh. By attending preschool these children have a head start on their education and then enter primary school with an advantage. The schools were just inaugurated on February 8th, with their first day of school on February 9th, 2015. We’re not sure who are more excited, we or the children attending the preschools.
You also asked about how we choose the U.S. based charities we have on our website to which our customers can direct a portion of the net proceeds from their purchases to go. Some of the nonprofits listed sign up as partners with us, whereby they promote our partnership on their website and encourage their supporters to shop our site in exchange for the opportunity for their supporters and the general public to direct a portion of our net proceeds to them when they shop with us. It’s a win-win scenario. Any nonprofit that is U.S. based can be part of this program. Also included in this list are a group of U.S. based nonprofit organizations that reflect our overall focus on women, children, health, education and economic development, and they are selected annually by our board of directors.Amongst this group we select health oriented organizations that offer support that is non specific to certain diseases or ailments, such as Ronald McDonald House and Shriner’s Hospital to name a couple.
4) How has ShippingEasy helped your business?
Wow, where do I begin? In December of 2013 I received the Jefferson Award for Public Service and an interview I gave aired on TV and radio several times. We were slammed with orders and I am the one who packs and ships everything. I put in several 14 hour days and was thrilled when the holidays were over and every packaged had arrived to the correct person. It was exhausting and stressful. I think it was late August or early September the following year when I was cold called by someone from ShippingEasy. I was happy to do a trial to see how it might work for us, especially since I expected another busy holiday season and knew we had some press exposure coming up again. After fumbling my way through a few orders/shipments I began to get the hang of it and braved exploring other tabs on the app to get the bigger picture of what ShippingEasy could really do. By the time Xmas rolled around I had everything down pat, and all my systems in place to stage, pack and ship multiple orders by myself. I NEVER could have completed the task at hand without losing my mind this past holiday season, if it hadn’t been for ShippingEasy. Though we have a global presence with both our artisans and customers worldwide, we are still a small, all volunteer organization, whereby I still wear many of the hats. We’ve had wonderful support from people like yourselves who either have discounted or donated their services or applications to us, helping to make it all possible. We are currently working with over 40 artisan groups from 28 countries (though this changes from time to time), and touch the lives of over 2500 artisans. We greatly appreciate the support you have given us through discounting your product to us. We could never afford to do it otherwise.