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Name: Kari Hughes

Business: Buy The Change

Industry: Apparel & Accessories

Location: Detroit, Michigan, U.S.

Reason for starting: We started Buy The Change to give talented, hardworking, women artisans access to the American marketplace. Building any business requires customers. We serve as an active link between artisan and customer by purchasing products at fair prices, retailing them in the U.S. and then reinvesting our profits in purchasing more.

We design and curate products that are handcrafted by women in the developing world. This necklace is made by women living in the slums of Kolkata in conjunction with an organization named Kiran Sicial Enterprise. We believe that the foundation of health and wellness is having enough of the basic needs in life, enough food, safe housing, access to medical care and access to education. When women earn an ongoing living wage, these things are possible. Giving our partner artisans access to the American marketplace makes this possible.

Related: Read about another Apparel and Accessories Entrepreneur here. 

How do you define success? We define success by having a positive effect on everyone involved with our company including artisans, employees and customers.

We would like to continue growing to connect with and empower women around the world, but we would also like to develop a program for women in transition in our own community. We would love to teach women here about product and business development. We can also create more jobs as we grow, both in our home office and through our affiliate program.

Biggest Success: We have traveled around the world to meet and develop relationships with our partner artisans and the social enterprise and non-profit organizations we work with. On a trip to Cambodia we visited with Srey Oun, who was blinded and disfigured in an acid attack many years ago. Srey Oun crochets bags using only her sense of touch. She is able to support herself, her daughter and her elderly mother with her earnings and send her daughter to school. We are humbled to purchase her products and proud to tell her story of resilience to our customers.

Related: Quick Take: Women Making Strides in Business 

What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it? Our top challenge is staying focused through the ups and downs of business-building on our end, figuring out the best ways to let potential customers know what we do and why. We spend time every week learning about how to do our jobs better and more successfully. We reach out whenever we can to find influencers in our market that can help us grow our customer base. Every time we sell a product, it means we can purchase another one from another woman struggling to have enough. We take that challenge and responsibility very seriously

Who is your most important role model? There are so many people doing amazing work in this area. I have been most inspired by Nicholas Kristof and his amazing ability to tell stories of struggle and empowerment.


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Edited by The Story Exchange