April 18, 2014

Delulah Winner

Thank you for participating in the Delulah Giveaway! I'm happy that Mona's story inspired so many of you. I hope you continue to check out her shop and follow along to see how it grows. I'm sure she is going to be huge! And now for the winner...

Sandy B.

Congratulations! Enjoy your Delulah treasures. We will be in touch soon. Don't forget to like Delulah on Facebook to stay up to date on her latest products, inspirations, and sales!

Far & Wide Collective

Far & Wide Collective is a transformative e-commerce platform for talented artisans from emerging countries. The company assists small businesses in places like Afghanistan, Kenya, and Uzbekistan reach international markets. While the craftspeople already possess the talent, Far & Wide Collective offers them a chance for lasting success through their e-commerce platform, business tools, production assistance, and more. Founder Hedvig Christine Alexander, experienced in international development, saw an opportunity to encourage businesses in the developing world. With her driving vision, she has partnered with over 30 business owners in 9 countries to share unique and beautiful products from all over the world. This is their story.

Far & Wide Collective
Hedwig Christine Alexander (center)
BB: Tell us about the spark that set off Far & Wide Collective (F&W)?

HCA: I started Far & Wide Collective because after almost a decade in Afghanistan I felt that the biggest obstacle to artisans and small craft businesses was access to international markets. This matters because the craft sector is the second largest employer, after agriculture, in most developing countries. It represents an opportunity for thousands — millions even — to earn a living and own their own business. Moreover, crafts are often made by women, who rank among the most vulnerable in many of these societies. Crafts do not usually require literacy or formal education, but rather concrete skills passed on from generation to generation. In even the most deeply conservative countries, craft production allows women to participate in the economy, empower themselves and lift their families out of poverty.

Despite exponentially growing demand, an abundance of artisans and a wealth of authentic, unique and handmade products, artisans in Afghanistan and other low-income countries have very limited access to markets beyond the local bazaars. Mainstream retailers worry that sourcing from emerging-market artisans is too risky. Online platforms that currently carry crafts such as etsy.com and notonthehighsreet.com tend to only work with producers who are computer literate, can read and write, can process credit card payments, and have access to reliable postal systems. This excludes most talented artisans in emerging markets.

BB: What is the business concept and how does F&W assist local craftspeople and their families?

HCA: Far & Wide Collective have addressed the market access problem by building a solid supply chain, which tackles challenges such as product design, logistics, content development, marketing and sales. We buy products from our partner artisans — taking the financial risk — and sell them online. The difference between the price we pay the artisans and charge online, is the cost of getting the product to market.

We are a new and small company, but we have a big vision. We think that the area of craft needs a more innovative approach. One of our initiatives to help artisans (most of who do not travel internationally) get a better sense of how to use their deep skills to create products that are in demand, is the Artisan Toolkit. It will be a richly illustrated business / crafts training manual accompanied by an audio version to artisans with no or low literacy rates. The first Artisan Toolkit will be launched in Afghanistan in September 2014.

Far & Wide Collective
Hedvig Alexander and Jemima Montagu with silk weaver Saleh Mohammad, Kabul, Afghanistan
BB: As a development worker, how did your experience help you grow F&W in Afghanistan?

HCA: My background has given me a good understanding of how crafts are produced and the challenges artisans face when they try to scale production and go to market. This allows us to plan and preempt problems with quality, logistics, design, etc.

BB: Why do you encourage support for local artisans in this way over a general charitable donation?

HCA: I believe that a business approach is much more sustainable. Charitable donations often come and go, but building a small business — what most economies are built on — makes a lasting impact and therefore changes peoples’ lives. When you buy a product at Far & Wide Collective you not only get something beautiful, you also make an investment in someone’s business — that is better than charity.

Far & Wide Collective
Shagufta Yousufzai and her popular studs
BB: How have you seen the effects of F&W up close? Can you provide a success story?

HCA: Shugufa Yousufzai (Afghanistan) makes beautiful studs. They were our best seller last holiday season. I met her nine years ago when she had just returned from living in Pakistan with her family during the Taliban period. She was 19 and shy. Today she runs her own business, has married the man of her own choice and has a child. She provides for her entire extended family. Business and economic empowerment can change and liberate women more than almost anything else.

Far & Wide Collective
Left: Uzbek pottery; Right: Afghan artisan
BB: Can you tell us where the money a consumer pays for a piece will go?

HCA: Any revenues made immediately gets reinvested in buying more inventory from existing or new partner artisans, marketing and improving our supply chain in order to grow the business.

Far & Wide Collective | Bangles & Bungalows http://banglesandbungalows.blogspot.com
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BB: You suggest there is a strong beauty and authenticity in products made in a traditional way. You also mentioned that products tell a compelling story. Can you describe one such story?

HCA: Most of our products are unique and authentic in the way they are made. They are compelling because someone spent a significant amount of time crafting them — a jali tray form Afghanistan takes 17 hours to make, our new Mexican embroidery can take two months to produce, our embroidered Pakistani clutches take weeks. The more products are sold the bigger these small companies grow, supporting communities and the families in them — while at the same time reviving and preserving ancient traditions and culture.

Far & Wide Collective

BB: What do you hope for the future of these artisans? What results have you seen already?

HCA: I hope that we can grow Far & Wide Collective to a point where we can work with a large number of artisans worldwide. So far many of our artisan partners have been able to grow their businesses, improve their life quality and send their children to school.

For an in depth look at Far & Wide, their artisans, and how they apply their mission, watch this video:

To learn more and purchase their amazing products, visit Far & Wide Collective or like them on Facebook to stay in touch!

April 17, 2014

Tips to Pack Light

This is the final post in a limited series by Madison Aki on getting organized. Hope you enjoyed it! 

My husband does summer sales and the fact that I have to pack up my life for four months in a suitcase might make me a kind of expert. Okay, not really, but I have learned a few tips that might make packing easier for you.

Roll Your Clothes

I am sure you have seen it all before, but the difference between folding and rolling is astounding. You can fit so much more in your suitcase if you roll up your clothes and stack them like a pyramid.


If you can fit all of your clothes into a carry-on, you will end up saving $35 bucks from not having to check a bag. If you really need to, you can buy your liquids once you have reached your destination, but travel size is easy to do. Make sure it’s all in a clear plastic bag together so you can quickly pull it out and send it through security. 

Mix & Match 

Choose clothing items that you can wear more than once. I will usually pack two pairs of jeans (dark and colored) and then a few tops that can go with either pair. Limit your shoes to one flat, one pump and workout shoes, and wear one of those while traveling.

Don’t Over Do It 

Let’s face it. Women sometimes are known to over pack. There’s always that chance that you will need it, right? Wrong! If you really need something that bad that you forgot, like deodorant or a toothbrush, you can go to the drugstore and get it. It’s better to pack light than to lug around way too much and not need half of it. Be very picky with what you take and you’ll be golden! 

Clean It Up

Whenever I come home from a trip, my suitcase tends to hang out on the floor for days…okay weeks. After you wipe it clean, (you would be surprised what kind of crumbs and grains of sand can get in there), store it on a high shelf in your closet or under your bed…or in your garage, or wherever you keep it. Just make sure you put it away as soon as you do your laundry.

I hope your summer is full of fun vacations and traveling! And I hope even more that these travel tips will help you pack light and have a great time.

This post was written by Madison on behalf of Garage Envy, a garage organization and storage company in St. Louis.

April 16, 2014

Wish List Wednesdays

What I want, need, and love this week…

1. Thomas Plates - Cyclamen: This china is modern and pretty with just the right amount of pink. It would be easy to create multiple tablescapes by contrasting with another bright and pastel like yellow and blush or kelly green and mint.

2. Ruby Mint Seafan Towel: This was featured on Domaine as their product of the day yesterday. A large luxurious towel makes wiping off at the beach so much more relaxing.

3. Marni Tote: Make a statement with this tote exclusively illustrated by Katja Schwalenberg.

4. Madeline Weinrib Hot Pink Suzani Floor Pillow: Stitched with suede piping and mother-of-pearl buttons, this fresh and folkloric pillow is inspired by vintage finds on Weinrib's travels.

5. Rachel Zoe Elliot Heels: Channel your inner 70s fashionista with these chunky black heels.

6. IRO Watercolor Tee: Not your average tee, this watercolor print takes the cake.

7. Madewell Zip Pouchette in Calf Hair: Love this cute clutch from Madewell. The interior has built in pockets for cards and money making it ultra easy to keep your things organized.

8. Ted Baker Embellished Neck Playsuit: Simple and elegant. I wish this came as a pantsuit though!

See anything you want, love, or need?

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