Buy the Change, The Story Exchange,Your Name: Shanan Bunzendahl & Kari Hughes

Business Name: Buy The Change, a provider of handmade products made by women in the developing world

Type of Business: Clothing & Accessories/E-Commerce/Home & Housewares/Social Enterprise

Business Location: Michigan, United States

Twitter @buythechangeusa

Reason for starting
Kari and I founded Buy The Change to increase economic and educational opportunities for women in the developing world through the sale of their fairly traded, handmade products in the American marketplace. Our in home Trunk Shows bring groups of compassionate people together to learn about the importance of fair trade, discuss the issues women and girls face in the developing world, and create change by promoting and selling the fair trade products made by these women. We are linking caring customers with enterprising artisans; empowering these at-risk women with all the possibilities that income creates. Because we are also aware of the issues faced by many local individuals in our own community, a portion of the profits from every show is donated to a local non-profit organization.

How do you define success?
Success is celebrated every time we are able to support a woman’s work and provide her a fair and living wage by buying her handcrafted items, and she is then able to feed, clothe, and send her daughters to school. Success is when her daughters grow up and can enjoy the privileges of being educated. “Schooling not only can be a precursor for women and girls to stand up to the injustices they witness, it can also help foster economic growth and stability.” ~Half the Sky Movement. Success is when we speak about the importance of fair trade and we are able to help people make the connection between their every day purchases and what that might mean for the quality of life for another person, another family, another generation.

Biggest Success
We’ve grown our business to the point of being able to buy consistent, large quantities of fairly-traded, women-made, hand-crafted goods from artisan groups in Guatemala, Uganda, India, Afghanistan, and Cambodia. We’ve become a reliable customer and provide a steady source of income to the women artisans we work with.

What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?
We’ve found our top challenge to be learning how to run a business. There are just so many things we didn’t know that we didn’t know. Luckily, there are many online resources, webinars, blogs, and community workshops at the local universities to help entrepreneurs develop their skills and knowledge. Above all, the understanding and support we provide to each other has been the biggest help in addressing our challenges.

Who is your most important role model?
Sheryl WuDunn and Nicholas Kristof, authors of Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. They tell the shocking truth about how women and girls are treated in the developing world, and highlight the potential that lies in empowering women. Their book inspired us to take action; to do what we could from where we stood.