Good business creates change
This has been our philosophy from the start. As put by founder Michael Paratore,
"The only way I would do this business was if it was in an ethical manner, and it would make an impact. But I don’t think of myself as a social entrepreneur. For me, that’s just the way to do business.”
How do we make this happen?
When we found the village creating this particular shoe design, there was already an NGO there working to ensure the artisan cooperative members earned more money, in a more empowering method. Before the NGO began work with this group, craftsmen and women had been taking loans from moneylenders to buy leather to make the shoes, then selling the finished products to middlemen who didn't always pay enough to cover costs. It was creating a cycle of debt for the artisans and their families. We, and the nonprofit, work to change this system; the NGO also helps provide other forms of support, like facilitating group savings accounts.
The artisan cooperative
The NGO + Mohinders' market opportunity, have started to create change. A couple examples:
By providing raw materials, advance payments during the production process, and new channels for shoe sales, artisans and their families avoid a cycle of debt.
- Before, lenders would set un-workable loan rates, so that artisans accrued debt for the entire production process; then, the same lender would buy the finished product back, at a rate that almost never allowed the artisan to pay off his or her debt from materials.
- Now, the cooperative provides an artisan with the leather + materials needed, wages for food during the production process, and negotiates higher rates with direct buyers (like Mohinders).
Cooperative members have access to micro-savings groups.
- Before, any emergency or unexpected expense (medical, home repair, etc.) would force artisans to borrow money from lenders at exorbitant rates, which they would struggle to ever fully repay.
- Now, groups of women artisans form what are called Self Help Groups, where members pool savings into a fund used for loans among group members—interest rates are negotiated and reasonable.
The craftsmen and women who make shoes in this village have historically been among the lowest rung of society; they often weren't allowed to touch or make eye contact with higher-ranking residents. Since the cooperative was formed, artisans are making more money, working with international clients, and enjoying higher status within their community.
Women artisans, especially, have become more involved in the cooperative’s decision-making process than before, and have started to gain an elevated status within their community of craftspeople.
Thanks for reading, and for supporting the artisans who craft Mohinders.