Jaron and Laura from Artisan & Fox
Artisan and Fox is a business that focuses on connecting artisans in rural villages across the world with the online marketplace. They are able to share their stories in a way that allows you to actually #knowyourartisan and it’s with this in a world full of the latest Pandora, Karen Walker, Stolen Girlfriends Club that being able to tell the story behind the person who made your clothing and jewellery that I personally find to be incredibly empowering.
I was lucky enough to have both Jaron and Laura sit down and answer the questions I ponder when I want to know more about a brand then meets the eye. Learn more about why Artisan and Fox was started, alongside some of the hardest things they’ve had to overcome and the number one book they recommend you should read below.
This one’s an eye-opener. I hope you love it as much as I do.
What made you start Artisan & Fox?
Artisan & Fox was started after a chance meeting that we had with artisans in the Himalayas. We realised that many Nepali artisans were struggling to get fair prices for their beautiful craftsmanship - they either had to work through extortionate middlemen to sell online, or be pressured into peddling low-quality tourist trinkets on the roadside as tourists tend to haggle.
We saw an opportunity to help artisans move up the value chain - focusing on producing quality craftsmanship at fair prices by selling to international audiences.
What is something others wouldn't know about starting a business that you think they should?
If you wish to start a social business, be sure to truly understand the issue before starting a company. Often people start a business for a problem they don't understand. So apprentice with your problem first to build up your understanding of the problem you are trying to solve. For example, if you wish to 'build an app for farmers in Southeast Asia', first you take a step back. It would be silly if you have neither farmed, nor if you have never been to Asia (which part of Asia?). We can't build an impactful organisation if we do not know the people we want to help the problem we want to change.
What has been the most challenging thing you have uncovered since the beginning?
Scaling at large. Because we try to adapt to each artisan community we work with, there is a specific need within each community that we have to adapt to on a needs-based basis. We are unable to simply 'plug' each artisan into the global market because each micro-business faces different obstacles.
Some obstacles are cultural (women not being able to work freely or some communities are discriminated against), while some obstacles are financial (some do not have bank accounts so we have to assist with that) or legal (the Syrian women refugees we work with do not have the legal right to incorporate a co-operative).
Within the ethical fashion community, there's a big question that we ask which is 'who made my clothes?'. In the scope of Artisan & Fox, what are the criteria you require to decide what artisans to stock?
Our founding member Laura has been working with Fashion Revolution's #whomademyclothes campaign for the past year. We adopt the hashtag #knowyourartisan in a similar vein to inspire mindfulness in consumers behind the things that we buy.
For Artisan & Fox, we have specific artisan partnership guidelines that we share with potential partners. Only if artisans agree to our guidelines on ethics, transparency, and commitment to sustainability, would they be onboarded onto our platform.
Best piece of advice you have ever received?
Keep it about the work.
Sometimes the journey gets tough, with unexpected surprises and delays, but as long as we remember our purpose and the mission behind our work - our journey to empowering artisans becomes fulfilling and purposeful.
One tip you'd give to others who are wanting to start their own business?
Do not start a business simply because you wish to be an entrepreneur or social entrepreneur.
Entrepreneurship should not be the end-goal, it should be the means to a goal.
Your goal should be to solve a problem in society, be it a commercial issue or a social problem. So find something you are passionate about, a problem that you care about, and start from that point.
If your desire is to simply build a successful company, you will find that when the going gets tough - you will question your purpose and why you even started in the first place.
Where do you envision Artisan & Fox in the future?
We envision Artisan & Fox as a global leader in ethical retail. We want to transform the way global retail companies view ethics, transparency and sustainability. We want to inspire the human connection between consumers and their makers.
What or who inspires you to do what you do on a daily basis?
Our artisan partners around the world, and the beautiful stories behind their crafts.
We recently returned from Lebanon from an upcoming project with Syrian women refugees, and we are excited to be working on a new collection of Syrian embroidery-infused scarves. The women are remarkable people to collaborate with!
Do you have a morning routine? If so what is it you do to set yourself up for the day ahead?
Practice mindfulness. Many of us on the team try to practice mindfulness continuously - be it attending yoga sessions today, or enjoying a cup of Himalayan tea at the office. It's also in line with what we're trying to do with Artisan & Fox, to inspire mindfulness in people about the provenance of the things that they buy.
One book everyone should read? Why?
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. While it is a simple book, it reminds us of what are the things in life that truly matter: human connection, friendship and purpose. The 'Fox' in Artisan & Fox was also inspired by the story of the taming of the fox in the book.
Are there any other Movers & Shakers our there in your world that you think people should know about?
We’re big fans of similar social enterprises in this space – Coopita which works with craftsmen in Asia, and ISHKAR which works with artisans in war-affected areas! Check them out!
& there you have it Changemakers, another Beyond the Brand interview done and dusted. These interviews have become something I really look forward to when it comes to learning more about such incredible mindfull brands doing great things. I hope you are enjoying them too!