The answer is always the same… “We need marketplace access.” We work with Freedom Businesses – companies that have a focus on combatting slavery and human-trafficking. This answer is often given in response to the question, “What do you need most as a Freedom Business?” Marketplace access is a consistent, ongoing need for all companies, Freedom Businesses and BAM companies are no different.
What this question does not take into account is whether that market access is for retail, wholesale, white labelling, production only, or any other creative way to enter the general market. What we have found is that marketplace access is really a coded way to say, “We need money and therefore we need sales.”
The reality is that Freedom Businesses do need a market: real markets that are based on quality products and not just the marketing of the brand’s story or relying on ‘sympathy purchases’. While it is important to relay that story with dignity and deep purpose, the story should not take the lead over the product. The product needs to be able to stand on its own merit, with a real market, if the business is to truly succeed.
As the Founder of a social enterprise that partners with Freedom Businesses and other social enterprises in the production process, I understand this struggle firsthand. We too struggle to carve out our market share and grow it daily. On average, I receive thirty applications each month from social enterprises (some of which are Freedom Businesses) who ask Trading Hope to carry their products or use their production facilities. This monthly inundation brought me to a realization: the current landscape of market access for social enterprises was just not working.
There is a great burden and unrealistic expectation put on the shoulders of most social enterprises. Social enterprises are usually responsible for the entire commerce cycle; from inspiration, to design, to production, to marketing, to market development, to customer satisfaction and everything in between, the social enterprise is responsible for every detail. The culture of conscious consumerism has demanded this from our social and freedom entrepreneurs, but it is not a realistic market structure.
From this current landscape we see many social enterprises cheering each other on from behind the scenes, but remaing incapable of formally capitalizing on their shared goals in the market. Each enterprise has worked extremely hard to develop a brand and to create a loyal customer base. They are working constantly to grow that base and to decrease their customer acquisition cost while increasing their visibility to new customer segments.
But what if the customers came to you? What if you had a shared marketplace, and a dedicated ecommerce store within that marketplace? What if you could “hire” sales representatives at the touch of a button? What if your wholesale collection was instantly visible to a slew of conscious purchasers?
What if you didn’t have to do the entire cycle of commerce by yourself?
Our newest startup, The Foundry Marketplace will do all of that and so much more. It was built by social entrepreneurs for social entrepreneurs. It is the missing link to so many potentially incredible business stories. Not just the stories behind the brand, but the stories of struggle and triumph and changed communities because a business found its marketplace and ran all the way to success.
by Michelle McDonald Pride
Michelle McDonald Pride is the Founder of Trading Hope and The Foundry Marketplace. After leaving a career in private wealth management, she began working with impact driven businesses around the world. She is on a mission to show the world that business can be profitable and transformational at the same time.