How To Build a Socially Responsible Brand
These days, being an entrepreneur means so much more than just making a profit. Great entrepreneurs have a vision for their company, and everything they do is a baby step toward reaching a larger goal.
For many entrepreneurs, this means working towards something that’s greater than themselves…something that will make a positive impact in the world they live in! This is where socially responsible branding comes into play, or the act of businesses giving back in hopes of implementing positive change.
We are so inspired by the many entrepreneurs out there who are working to make an impact in the lives of others, that we decided to chat with one of these amazing entrepreneurs herself! Read along as we ask Elisabeth Huijskens, co-founder of Trades of Hope, all of our questions about building a socially responsible brand.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and why you decided to start Trades of Hope!
I grew up in a house of entrepreneurs, dreamers, and adventurers. By the age of 4, I had lived on 3 different continents; and by the time I was a teenager, multiple international businesses and organizations were successfully fabricated into reality by my parents. When I was 14 years old and needed money, instead of finding a job, I created one as a portrait and wedding photographer. Business has always been a foundational pillar in my life.
A second pillar was structured when I was 5 years old and my mom founded a nonprofit orphanage and school in Haiti: mission. I stepped off a plane and onto a tarmac in Haiti for the first time at 8 years old. I felt the dirt cake my feet, the trash-covered street odor fill my lungs, and the relationships I made with the kids and employees at the orphanage take hold of my heart irrevocably. The experience felt like listening to a song for the first time and realizing it had always been my favorite. To help those who are in desperate situations and in developing communities became a responsibility I could not shake.
By the time I was 15 years old, I was consumed by a constant state of tension: I felt too overwhelmed by the poverty my friends faced in Haiti, and when I was in the United States I was helpless to do anything constructive to help.
I decided to co-found Trades of Hope when I was 15 years old because it was a very real opportunity for me, and for others who felt a desire to help those who are far away, to empower the people I loved in Haiti and in other countries around the world, even more so while I was home in America! This opened doors to create change and to bring light into dark places without being away from home, allowing the work to be long-term, on-going, and consistent.
What is the mission behind Trades of Hope?
Trades of Hope sells an exclusive line of fashion accessories and home décor ethically made by women around the world to create sustainable businesses and end poverty. We believe that job opportunities and education will empower generations to rise out of poverty and keep it a thing of the past. To accomplish this, Trades of Hope partners with artisans (80% women, 20% men) in over 16 different countries to create jobs. Poverty puts women around the world in heartbreaking realities that, when I try to fathom, overwhelm me with horror and a passion to take action. These women are strong, smart, talented, and capable. They don’t want charity. They want an opportunity to show the world what they’ve got and to become the heroes of their own stories. That’s the mission of Trades of Hope.
What do you believe sets your brand apart from others?
Business strategy, styled fashion, and passion for social and economic equality are all beautiful facets to life individually; but Trades of Hope uniquely weaves the three together into a beautiful and fun lifestyle! We love business, fashion, and ending poverty by partnering in business with inspiring artisan women around the world and wearing accessories that make us feel amazing!
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Happy #internationalwomensday! We're so honored to partner with such strong, incredible women all over the world. These are amazing artists and business women who are shattering the glass ceiling and stepping into freedom. In honor of today, tag a woman that you think is amazing and let her know why! 💪❤️
What role does social media play in your marketing strategy?
Trades of Hope is a relational company. We value our relationships with our artisan partners, our relationships within our office Home Team, and our relationships with our Compassionate Entrepreneurs (who socially sell our fashion accessories and home décor to create a larger marketplace for our artisans’ work). Social media has revolutionized communications and marketing, evolving advertisements into conversations and relationships. The way social media brings the world together is so perfect for us in our international work. Our marketing looks a lot less like advertising and a lot more like storytelling. Instantly, we can share with our followers (who we view as our friends) stories about our stunning products or updates on our artisan friends on the other side of the world!
Tell us a little bit about what goes into planning your Instagram feed. Do you have a strategy/routine?
Our Trades of Hope home team is so big! We have a whole creative marketing and communications department, and in that department is our social media manager, Cassidy. She does so much more than just pick pretty, “Instagram-y” photos to post. Before she ever posted any photos or stories, she wrote down words that she felt fit our company’s values and line up with how she wants the experience of our feed to be. Here are some more of Cassidy’s insight: “As a company that stands for sisterhood, unity, and celebration, I want our Instagram to reflect those attributes. While planning the Instagram feed, I decide whether or not the photo will add to the culture of our feed, photos that promote community, joy, diversity, and purpose. This makes your followers feel like you have a consistent brand that is true to who the company is and makes them feel connected to the brand. Although this is the most important part in planning your feed, many other pieces contribute to having a reliable brand and gaining a larger following. For example: the quality of your photos, making sure your photos and captions reflect your target age, and watching the best times to post.”
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced starting your business?
The biggest challenge I have faced in co-founding Trades of Hope is trying balance work and rest. Being an entrepreneur means you can work anywhere at any time and have inspiration for your company strike at any moment. When there isn’t a boss over you to control how and when you try to get work done, there are many, many long nights of just trying to finish one more thing! (And there is always “one more thing” to do.) But rest is so important. It’s important to your work, your brand, and (most vitally) for your wellbeing! I used to think that leaving my laptop overnight in my office or turning off my phone would hurt Trades of Hope, but I’ve learned that by being disciplined with my time, my mind and clarity flourishes into efficiency and productivity. Work “emergencies” are rarely true emergencies. Making sure rest is a part of your life (and in the lives of those you work with) prevents a real health emergency later!
Just last week I was in Haiti spending time with some of our artisan partners, and, at one point, I found myself sitting next to a Haitian woman who was a manager over a whole operation in the artisan group. We talked about our businesses together, vented together as business women about some challenges we each face, and laughed together in the light of such a hopeful future ahead. She and I, similar in age, were born into very different circumstances. And while I don’t claim to understand every aspect of her life, I do know that we are both leaders in our companies, business savvy, and women putting action behind our words. I get to meet women like her regularly, these northern stars I look up to and aspire to be like more and more. Knowing them has been my greatest reward in co-founding Trades of Hope.
What tips do you have for someone looking to build a socially responsible brand?
My number one tip for someone interested in building a socially responsible brand is to always make decisions for the long-term good you can do, rather than the short-term gain for the brand. Social brands are sustainable brands, never taking short-cuts or the easy way out. A socially responsible brand always honors the people it partners with above all else. This means people won’t always realize or understand why things are done a seemingly more difficult way, but keeping your mission close to your heart and integrity crystal clear will make decisions that don’t end in instant gratification extremely easy!
Lastly, how can people become involved and support your mission?
There are three awesome ways everyone can directly support our mission to end poverty and enjoy our stunning line of ethically made fashion accessories and home décor!
Shopping! (How fun is that?!) By shopping our exclusive line of ethically made fashion accessories and home décor, you are adding beautiful pieces to your personal collection, you are giving a woman on the other side of the world business, perpetuating her consistent income that empowers her to raise herself, her family, and her community out of poverty.
Host a Trades of Hope party! Host a party filled with fashion and your friends for a Compassionate Entrepreneur and receive pieces from our line for free! By hosting a party, you are helping a Compassionate Entrepreneur grow the marketplace of our artisan partners’ products!
Join Trades of Hope as a Compassionate Entrepreneur! By becoming a Compassionate Entrepreneur, you are earning a flexible, purposeful source of income that benefits your needs while empowering a woman on the other side of the world to reach her goals as well! (And, come on, where else can you launch your own business for just $99?!) Compassionate Entrepreneurs are in a dignified business relationship with our artisan partners as they grow the marketplace for Trades of Hope products! It’s beautiful way to earn an income and make the world a better place according to your schedule!