2021 -- A Year of Change and Growth
It has been a crazy time to build a Fair Trade enterprise. The pandemic brought so many changes, heaped on top of the challenge of understanding this new business. As a result, two and a half years in, I feel very much like a newbie.
The past year has been challenging and ever-changing, but it has offered so many gifts. Here are some of the big ones:
The Marketplace has changed. When I bought Didi Bahini, almost all sales came through the Shopify website -- consumers and retailers simply ordered online. But that has changed drastically. The pandemic has pushed us all to use the internet in ways we couldn’t have imagined.
When trade shows were cancelled, small shops and boutiques were left without a way to meet with and buy from existing and new suppliers. From this challenge was born Faire, a wholesale marketplace that offers boutiques a way to stock their stores online. As a brand on Faire, I have had the opportunity to sell to customers I would probably never have reached.
Consumer shows and fairs also went online. Buy Good Feel Good had semi-annual sales in Toronto and LA. They moved online and now sell to consumers everywhere who are seeking Fair Trade and ethically-made products. Rosette Fair Trade is a Canadian online store that specializes in Fair Trade products.
In 2021, more than half my sales came through these new channels and I am always receiving invitations to join new websites. Online selling and shopping are growing stronger every day.
I can’t do it alone. I started out as a one-woman show – bookkeeper, designer, shipper, strategist, sales rep, lugger-of-heavy-boxes – I did it all. That works for a very small business. But small is not the way to serve my artisan partners and their families in Nepal. Scaling up requires systems and specialized talent.
I hired two marketing consultants who helped Didi Bahini move forward. Together we enhanced the SEO on the website so people can find it more easily. We created a brand strategy, established a consistent image, took great pictures to showcase our products and got serious about social media.
These marketers brought expertise to the business that I didn’t have and it has made a huge difference. I look forward to adding more people to the team because that’s how this business will grow.
It’s all about the social! Today, consumers want to know about the companies they deal with. It’s important to them to know the values and culture of the business; they want to engage. Social media enables businesses to show what’s behind the products and allows consumers to know who they’re dealing with.
So, Didi Bahini posts regularly to Facebook and Instagram. We also placed advertising on these platforms during the Christmas season to let even more people know about our brand and our products. Which leads me to…
Business development stands on the shoulders of personal development. I’m an introvert -- more of a “liker” than a “poster.” This is where I feel most comfortable in the business – tweaking the website, jazzing up product descriptions, checking inventory levels….
But that is not what the business needs. It needs to draw attention to itself, be more visible in the world. If people don’t know about the products and the business behind them, how can they buy?
So, the mantra for Didi Bahini (and Margaret) for 2022: Be seen and take up space. Consistently post to social media, write blog posts, send out newsletters, pick up the phone to call customers and colleagues. As Margaret stretches, so will the business.
This new year is going to be full of change, collaboration and communication. The goal is always to bring to North American stores and consumers the beautiful jewelry and accessories handcrafted by artisans in Nepal. As the business continues to grow, challenges will always emerge. And that’s what keeps it interesting!
Thank you for your interest in Didi Bahini. It means a lot to me and to my artisan partners.