Can the simple act of buying a new handbag change the world? Jaime Travis, Marnie Quinn, Amir Hoda and the team at TheOne08 believe it can. These Denver residents joined forces to start a new type of company, a benefit corporation, where the goal is for every purchase to support wildlife conservation and provide economic opportunity to the people of Il Ngwesi, Kenya.
“Our mission is to put planet, people, and purpose above profit,” explained Travis, a Stapleton resident. “We are not a non-profit [but] we have specified a benefit and we are required to meet it. ”
The idea for TheOne08 came to Hoda after he retired from a career in the handbag industry. He was able to travel and spent an extensive amount of time in Africa, where he fell in love with the people and wildlife. What if he used his knowledge and expertise to produce a new type of luxury handbag? One that would help the people and animals he had grown to love.
Hoda returned to the US and gathered a team to help him with his new idea. In March, he and Travis spent 18 days in Africa. They visited several countries and conservancies looking for the right partner community before deciding on Il Ngwesi. “The word Il Ngwesi translates to ‘the people of wildlife.’ Over twenty years ago the tribe made the decision to set aside a large portion of land and establish a conservancy,” said Travis. “Moreover, the leadership displayed a real commitment to empowering the women of the community.”
Il Ngwesi is unique because it is one of the few community-run conservancies. It is owned and run by the ancestral Maasai people who have inhabited the land for hundreds of years. Every sale will go towards helping its people and wildlife.
Designer Marnie Quinn carefully considered the details of materials, hardware, stitching and functionality in creating the product. She chose ethically sourced materials, including natural materials and vegan leather that do no harm to the environment. But the mission for TheOne08 spreads beyond creating a beautiful handbag. The product had to be desired as much for doing good as for looking good.
A requirement of TheOne8 benefit corporation is that a portion of all sales will go toward establishing a community-owned and operated manufacturing enterprise in Il Ngwesi. The community will build the facility themselves and it will be 100% owned by the people there.
TheOne08 has pledged to put at least 5% of all sales back in the community, but Hoda says they are planning to invest “substantially more than that. But we won’t be giving money in cash. We will purchase new equipment, transport it to Il Ngwesi, and bring in experts from Southeast Asia to train the people.” They will purchase equipment following the September Kickstarter campaign and hope to have the new facility up and running in 6 months.
Customers interested in purchasing handbags from TheOne08’s initial line, which will be produced in Vietnam, can only do so through their Kickstarter campaign, running now through September 27. The bags range in price from $98 to $298.
Factory ownership and jobs will provide a wage to the local people, along with education and opportunity. When the factory is finished, the people of Il Ngwesi will make the handbags and act as the supplier for TheOne08. But the company will also encourage them to go after other markets and produce other goods.
“Our goal is to continue this partnership in perpetuity. Ideally, we start in one village and expand as much as we can,” said Hoda, “ to other villages, to other countries, to other continents. Our pricing is set up so we can pay a premium to our workers and still make a profit . . . You can earn a profit and do good.”
Travis and the rest of TheOne08 team believe their products will resonate with consumers. “Millenials and the younger generations have brought conscious shopping to the forefront. They have grown up in a time where climate change, degradation of forests and wildlife is their reality.” TheOne08 team believes customers share their desire to help the Earth and its citizens. “We want to be coveted equally for the goods we produce and the good we do,” said Travis. For more information and a link to TheOne08’s Kickstarter, visit theone08.com