A bit more detail from FAQs : )
What drove you to set up the business?
The industry of ethical business is growing. We were inspired by a number of influential publications, events and work placements to set up Origin the way it is. Whether it was working for ‘false corporates’ claiming to believe in their corporate social responsibility, studying the development aid sector in the last fifty years, exploring ways of change in Needs Assessments with local people in African villages, or attending courses run by Humanitarian Aid training organisations, we wanted Origin to stand for cultures working together through business means and market forces, making that work for a social impact. Hopefully a large one in time.
How do you create the sweatshirts?
The concept is that artisanal fabrics are brought back from specific tribes in Africa. They are hand woven and represent a piece of that tribe’s history and culture. We pay a good price for the locals to make them, and in time intend to make this a lucrative market for these artisans. These beautiful fabrics then adorn our organic sweatshirts, which are supplied by the best and most responsible supplier of ethical organic clothing we could find (at an expectedly higher cost), Rapanui. These pieces of hand-woven African history are brought together with our organic branding labels by Zimbabwean talent Nomi and her team to produce the signature Origin sweatshirt.
So where does the money actually go?
Once the pieces are purchased, imported, brought together and branded, the entire product costs us £25 to make. Then 100% of the profit goes straight into the budget for the development projects that have been designed and critiqued already by our expert panel of advisors. The projects are based in the same tribes from which the beautiful hand woven fabrics originated.
We already have many ideas, structures and partners in Sub-Saharan Africa, and the principles within which Origin works means this money is not being lost or buying something that will gather dust in the corner. It is not going into the hands of the corrupt officials, but straight into the project that the Origin community can read about on the website and know that this is the way that modern business can be conducted.
How does the business succeed without any profit?
So far, we have personally invested £12,000 in Origin. We won’t be taking any wage from this business until the concept is proven, the business is established and, even when that happens (fingers crossed), that wage will be for one of us and it will be a ‘fit for sector’ wage. That means there will be no increasing wage if the business becomes more lucrative. An increase in profit will translate to more money for development projects. In addition to this, we will also reinvest the money that we initially injected into the business to continue to create new products and grow the brand.
Can you be a not-for-profit and a business?
Companies like Origin embody the concept that people want to buy things that mean something; something that goes beyond that physical product.
It seems the ‘us vs them’ wave crashing across the world at the moment is giving birth to an increasingly conscious population, who want to stand for something more collaborative, collective and basically kinder.
We are generating funds for development projects from people who buy their sweatshirts knowing not only that the sweatshirt has an interesting back story, but that all the money beyond the ‘cost-to-make’ price is going to a good cause in communities where extreme need is an understatement. To further that part, rather than scaremongering with pictures of ill health in deprived communities, we’d rather lead with a more positive and proactive marketing strategy.
We are passionate that very different cultures, built upon often destructive histories, are coming together and collaborating to produce a world in which there genuinely will be less suffering as a result of responsible business growth.
Every time someone buys a sweatshirt, the Origin community grows and the ethical business movement succeeds that little bit more.