At Khushi Kantha, we’re proud to be a social enterprise and we view ‘sustainability’ as multi-dimensional.
That’s why our social enterprise goals focus on generating ongoing incomes for the mothers we’re partnering with, strengthening the fabric of their wider communities, and employing circular principles in our production, promoting a shift from take-make-waste to reclaim-repurpose-reuse.
It’s been brilliant to have had our efforts recognised this year!
On the 19th of May – exactly one year after we closed the crowdfunding campaign that funded our first ever collection we won the ‘Mission Possible’ Award for the UK’s best social enterprise at the Small Awards….and our impact measurement approach was also shortlisted for Social Enterprise UK’s ‘Prove It’ award and PWC’s ‘Building Public Trust’ award.
In March this year, we published our first ever Impact Report, which set out five goals we wanted to achieve in 2022. As the year draws to a close, I thought it was about time to assess how we’re doing against them…
Goal One: Expand our product range beyond Happy Blankets
We’ve now expanded our product range to include tote bags, pouch bags, cushion covers, scarves, wall hangings, doll bedding and bunting!
Check out our shop to see what we have available for immediate dispatch from my little flat in London….and if you don’t see an embroidery option and colour combination that you like, you can place a bespoke order, which includes the option to add personalised embroidery to any option. My daughters Opi and Mahi love using their personalised tote bags for nursery!
And we love to be challenged….so if you have an idea of something you’d like us to make for you, which we don’t currently offer, please get in touch!
While our most signature ‘Happy Blankets’ remain by far our most popular item, it has been brilliant to be able to respond to the requests of potential customers who love our ethos and aesthetic, but don’t need any of our blankets in their lives.
Sales of our new products have been mixed, and I’m not sure we’ll include any more wall hangings or cushion covers in our next production run, but it was exciting to completely sell out of pouch bags in the run-up to Christmas 🙂
Goal Two: Fairtrade certification
We were officially accepted into the British Association of Fairtrade Shops and Suppliers (BAFTs) in April this year.
We are so honoured to be part of the global Fairtrade movement. You can learn more about how we uphold the ten principles of Fair Trade here.
Goal Three: Exploring wholesale opportunities
“I am very impressed by all that you have done and all that you are doing. What a wonderful initiative!”
Before we joined BAFTS, we were selling our Happy Blankets and other products through our website, in-person markets and pop-up shops, and sustainability-focused online marketplaces, like Yodomo and Social Supermarket.
We have been so chuffed to develop our first wholesale relationships!
Fairtrade at St Michael’s in Oxford not only ordered some of our blankets, but also commissioned us to make 200 of our re-usable vintage sari gift bags for them to use as packaging for their fair-trade jewellery.
Fair and Fabulous in Newcastle Emlyn, Wales now stock our dolly bedding and wall hangings, and BeehIve in Oxfordshire offer some of our reversible, multi-purpose baby blankets.
Go check them out if you’re in the vicinity!
If you have any ideas of other shops that you think would be a good fit for us, please comment below….
Goal Four: Tracking our Impacts against our Theory of Change
I’d planned to be working on our second Impact Report by now…..
However, I didn’t anticipate being awarded a full scholarship from the fashion brand Chanel to study for a part-time Masters in Sustainability Leadership at Cambridge!
For my first assignment, I’ve been exploring how Khushi Kantha can build on our existing multi-dimensional measurement system to incorporate reporting against the Sustainable Development Goals.
I try my best to communicate how we’re doing everything we can to put the substance into sustainability (for example, through our comprehensive Ethical Policy, and sharing our journey through this blog) but I’m constantly aware that we’re operating in a competitive marketplace. Pretty much every other organisation out there has a bigger marketing budget than us – and indeed, dedicated team members focused on marketing. So I’m always trying to think of how we can differentiate ourselves as a non-profit who puts our social enterprise mission at the core of every decision we make.
Once I’ve completed my assignment, and we’ve reflected as a team on what the findings and recommendations mean for us, we’ll update our impact measurement approach, and collect data according to the revised approach….so watch this space!
Goal Five: Figuring out a roadmap to achieve Net Zero
I have to confess that we haven’t managed to make any progress on this one in 2022.
I was hoping that we’d be able to build on our comprehensive mapping of our carbon footprint to figure out how we can make further carbon savings in our production and distribution approach – and how we can support customers to maximise the life of our products.
Our lovely volunteer Clare – who led the process of calculating our carbon footprint (right down to understanding how much carbon was used to make the ink that we use with our branded stamp!) has researched and published a blogpost on ‘washing with a clean conscience’. But I’ve been focusing all my time and energy on trying to build a financially sustainable model.
I find the concept of ‘net zero’ a bit confusing to get my head around – in terms of what we actually need to do to get there! But I’ve met some incredible people through my Master’s – including lots of people with expertise in this area, and I’m looking forward to learning from them in 2023….
My Master’s scholarship is part of Chanel’s broader sustainability partnership with the University of Cambridge, and I’m really excited to start a mentoring relationship with one of their team in the New Year 🙂
I’m hoping my new mentor can help us with our wholesale strategy, and other ideas we have for building up our customer base, like securing grant funding to upgrade our website.
Our lovely web development guru Rony and I have tried our best, but we know it’s not quite good enough!
I’m conscious that the website doesn’t function as smoothly as it should – which means we’re losing potential customers. And people who know what they’re talking about on the marketing front (unlike me!) have gently suggested that the ‘look and feel’ doesn’t quite measure up to what our target customers expect.
While our ultimate aim is to build a financially self-sustaining enterprise, right now our cashflow isn’t strong enough for us to be able to fund this work ourselves. If you have any suggestions of grant opportunities, please get in touch!
One of our values as an organisation is ‘reframing the narrative’. We want to turn the words ‘Made in Bangladesh’ into a statement of pride and happiness, rather than relying on ‘pity purchases’. At the moment, I feel like I’m letting down the mothers who hand-make our exquisitely crafted products, through my somewhat clueless attempts at marketing!
We want to grow our customer base so we can be confident of selling enough every month to shift from paying the mothers we partner with a piece-rate to offering monthly salaries, with associated benefits, like health insurance and pension contributions.
My fifteen years’ experience of working with communities like the village in North-West Bangladesh where our operations are based has taught me that it’s reliability of income that really enables families to make the kinds of decisions that can break the transmission of poverty from one generation to the next….like being able to invest in their children’s education, rather than having to send them out to work.
Have you enjoyed this blogpost, and would you like to keep updated on our journey to build a sustainable business model, creating ongoing opportunities for mothers in Bangladesh to provide for their children with dignity?
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