We are very much a business. We are also very much a social project.
And these two things are not always easily combined without encountering difficult emotions and confusion about how to exist and carry out what our vision is. I think we can all relate to ambivalent feelings and emotions when it comes to mixing a cocktail of caring and money, right? I am not quite sure why it's so difficult to understand these two phenomena together but I guess some of the difficulty comes from the hardcore capitalistic market structure where money/profit is the big brother who has to be served first at the table - and that doesn't sit well with caring for the people involved in your business.
Having a business and running it by the 'laws' of the market (I am referring to mark ups, value chain structure etc, read a bit here) and wanting to care for the social aspect of why we got ourselves in to this hot mess business in the first place does not always make sense.
And I am not sure that a qualified business angel would say that we have a very good business because we don't make enough profit. Let me give you an example from my colleague Mette on the - "that is totally unrealistic-guy!? 🤯🤯." as she named him.
Mette is doing her PhD on fashion and circular economy and was attending a course where she proposed Pura Utz' business model as an alternative organization form that does not excel in maintaining good profits in the value chain due to the social impact through higher wage payment in our production. This example made a guy react (loudly and strongly) with - "So the business owner should sacrifice profit? THAT IS TOTALLY UNREALISTIC!!" Mette told me this story and I was like - "UPS! 🥲".
Maybe he is right, maybe he is wrong. Maybe it's both. Reality is that the majority of tears that Bernabela and I shed are because of the stress and strains of financially staying afloat and being able to live up to our promise of enabling a fulltime income and safe space for our team. We have made this promise with our formalised contracts but more importantly it is our entire mission and purpose with the business for us personally. The commitment goes beyond a contract because it is super personal. We know everyone in our team, we are together every day, we share meals, laughter, tears and ups and downs. And that is what the safe space is about - feeling good, appreciated and acknowledged as a human being, for all of us.
In official lingo our big WHY is : Empowering women in Guatemala to grow their self-worth by providing for themselves and investing in their futures.
Translated to everyday life what does this even mean? It means that the women in our team work mega hard every day with creating unique and beautiful designs that you buy and love. All the while being paid well, having colleagues that treat you well, maybe become the breadwinner of your family, experiencing being respected for your work (and then hopefully never settle for less) and start to have dreams for yourself and your future.
BUT LET'S KEEP IT HONEST, it all comes down to the transaction. No product you love - no impact! No hard working women who come to the workshop everyday - no product!
Everything around this transaction is all the love, attention, patience and perseverance that our entire team puts into everything we do everyday. So where am I getting with all of this?
Does it make sense? Hmm.. not always. Not because we don't love what we do, but because the way that the world works and the history of colonisation and capitalism is heavy and real.
We don't have a very grandios idea of saving lives in Pura Utz. The bottom line is to generate an income through a product that hopefully many will want to consume so that we can provide more work opportunities for artisans in Guatemala.
I guess that is it...? and then all the amor we do it with. But that is hard to mix in with the hard numbers <33
If you are interested in reading a bit about how our business is structured and our impact measurements, I'll leave you the link to our Impact Report here.