Goals, products and Just Fair Trade
So it’s week 5 of this internship and it has so far been an interesting experience. It feels as if the internship has now come a full circle. Thinking back to week one, I remember setting goals and talking about what we wanted to achieve towards the last couple of weeks. The goals I set, in hindsight, were perhaps a tad naïve and did reveal my lack of experience. I had high expectations; such as meeting firms like John Lewis and Waitrose.
Through this process I have found how difficult it is even to contact or get a reply from these firms, let alone arrange a meeting with them! Instead I set my goals a bit lower and contacted the handful of ethical/handmade businesses I could find in Leicester – which was also a difficult task to complete successfully. This was shown by the reply rate; out of these firms, only one replied. But, the meeting with them perhaps proved more useful than a meeting with a more established business.
The atmosphere was much more informal than I had expected. In my mind, I had an image of an Apprentice boardroom or a Dragons Den grilling. But, when I think about it, this probably wouldn’t have been that useful. Instead we just had a conversation about ethical, handmade products in general. They were more than happy to answer any questions I had on what products they look for, how other social enterprises operate and what they liked or didn’t like about our products. In fact, we asked more questions than they did! So overall, the experience was amazing as the advice they gave us was invaluable.
Collecting market research is difficult, it’s hard to even find people who you would say are your target audience and then it’s difficult trying to pinpoint what questions to ask them. But, I realised, that it doesn’t matter so much what our target audience want- we don’t have to worry about that so much. It is important for our website and thinking about who we tailor our products to. But what is more important is what these stores look for. We could create products which are perfect for our target audience but, for whatever reason, the store doesn’t want to purchase them. This is what we learnt at this store; there are reasons (besides the look, price and feel of the product) why businesses don’t want to buy products. And this was the reason why I think the visit was so useful.
Visiting Just Fair Trade was also the first time I have ever visited a store which sells solely ethical and handmade products. This may sound shocking but, to be fair, I’m sure it is a statement which is true for most people. We’ve all visited places like Waitrose and John Lewis – which sells ethical products but we haven’t visited stores selling JUST ethical/handmade products. It was an eye-opening experience, to say the least. This short trip managed to destroy pretty much all the pre-conceptions I have about such products. I have always implicitly assumed that if it does have these qualities then it will be a couple of pounds more expensive and, simultaneously, of an inferior quality to other potential items. The objects in the store we visited were actually priced reasonably. To be fair they were still “expensive” but when you think about who the money is going to and how they were created, they were cheap. The example which I have been telling everyone is one of these candles selling, for about £9. Bear in mind that this candle was of a fairly decent size, about 8 inches tall. Some people may wince when they see the price this was selling at but if it was instead a Yankee Candle, I feel like more people would, hypothetically, would have been prepared to buy it! But when you hear about the inspiring backstory that is so often behind these products and when you realise the positive effect you are having when you purchase this candle, it becomes cheap in comparison. That’s not even mentioning the amazing skill and time it takes to handcraft an item of such delicacy and, as a result, the unique design of it.
In summary, the most important lesson that I did learn from meeting the owners of Just Fair Trade was, in fact, that ethical products can easily hold their own against the big name and more expensive alternatives.
Kishan is a Chakra ’16 Intern working with Arushi.
The views expressed on this blog are those of the Chakra Intern