GLOW – Give, Live, Own it, Wear it
Category: Poverty Reduction
Event: Global Social Business Competition 2012
Team: Raffaello Starace, Christian Schnitzler, Berenice Synnove Gjonnes, Sahil Rathore Rajvansh, Michaela Hohlemeier
Even though most individuals living in countries with high purchasing power are to some extent aware of the poor living conditions of underprivileged communities, in many cases this is not followed by action. GLOW believes that on one hand most people have an innate will to contribute to the reduction of poverty, but that the limited connection between wealthy and underprivileged people restrains people from engaging in social actions. This will and the awareness of people can only be turned into action through the inspiration created by a strong personal connection and through clear visibility of the explicit change the action brings along.
The garment industry is a high-margin business with a very broad consumer base. Given this,GLOW has spotted the opportunity to sell fashionable, trendy, high quality “social” t-shirts, devolving revenues to support children and their families in underprivileged communities of India. By purchasing a t-shirt, the consumer will finance the provision of basic services or goods to one Indian child. Through a close cooperation with local NGOs having fundamental knowledge about these communities, we will be able to create a real impact. The actual cause(s) supported will be determined after consultations with the local NGOs and further analysis of cost-feasibility and impact. Possible support measures could be the payment of tuition fees, the supply of purified water or food, as well as medical care, e.g. visits to qualified doctors.
The social impact will also be achieved by inspiring our customers to engage in social actions themselves through the creation of a personal connection with the child supported. With the purchase of the t-shirt the customer will be shown through the means of pictures (received with the t-shirt), blogs and RSS feeds what concrete impact he is making to the corresponding child receiving the benefits. The design of the t-shirts will also be selected after a design-making competition among underprivileged children in India. As a member of the GLOW community – including all purchasers of the t-shirts, supported children and their families – the customer will feel personally involved in a network dedicated to poverty reduction.
The social impact created will be evaluated according to defined KPIs that aim to measure GLOW’sadherence to its vision, mission and values.
The vision of GLOW is to become the social business that awakens the innate desire within the global community to make a tangible difference.
This vision reflects GLOW’s core objectives for the future and constitutes the fundamental basis for the existence of GLOW. It explains GLOW’s purpose and the areas it operates in, highlighting that GLOW wishes to expand to become a social business with a global reach.
GLOW’s mission consists of three elements which it will use to achieve its vision.
GLOW will sell trendy, fashionable, high-quality t-shirts to provide underprivileged communities in developing countries with products and services that improve their quality of life. By selling t-shirts, GLOW will be able to pool the revenues from its business to support underprivileged communities in developing countries.
GLOW also believes in empowering the underprivileged communities with which it is involved. GLOW will outsource its manufacturing activities to local partners in India, while ensuring that the production process is fair-trade.
Furthermore, GLOW will raise awareness among the global community by creating a personal connection between customers and the supported communities. This connection will be a major contribution to achieve GLOW’s vision, as it will inspire people to engage in social action.
GLOW’s main values are innovation, creativity, high ethical standards, excellence, and ambition. These values are the basis to help GLOW leverage its social impact on underprivileged communities.
Given the commitment embedded in the vision, mission and values, the KPIs used to value GLOW’ssocial impact will be the following:
- The number of t-shirts purchased per year
- The number of repeat customers compared to customer base
- The number of children supported per year
- The value of the total help to one underprivileged community
- The profit margin before contributions
- Visits on the GLOW blog per month
- Visits on the GLOW website per month
- Number of subscribers to the GLOW RSS feed
- Number of followers on social networks
- Number of times mentioned in media (raise awareness)
GLOW will cover all of its costs with the revenues generated through the sale of t-shirts. The operations will be run to ensure a minimization of costs without compromising the quality of the product.
The initial design will be developed by engaging the children of the supported community in a design competition. It will then be refined by young freelance designers. The fee paid to the designers will be reduced as the publicity achieved through GLOW’s website, as well as the satisfaction to contribute to a social cause will equal out the lower compensation.
The manufacturing activities and the printing process will be run by fair-trade partners located in the underprivileged communities in India GLOW aims to help, thus keeping production costs low while supporting the local garment industry. An optimal solution would be if the garment producer could also execute all printing activities. Furthermore, a make-to-order approach will be used in order to minimize stocks and the costs associated with them.
Transport will be an important cost driver, but it can be minimized by choosing shipping over air freight and by sending multiple orders in one bulk. Moreover, customer will have to pay a shipping fee which partially covers costs.
- Storage and distribution:
At the early stage of the venture, the orders will be stored in private storages before being sent to the final consumer. Once a critical volume of orders is reached through the expansion of the business, the storage and the distribution can be outsourced to external storage companies.
Low-cost marketing strategies will be adopted. Socially conscious trend-setters (e.g. celebrities, policy makers) will be approached to promote GLOW’s products free of charge. Generally, advertising will be conducted entirely online especially taking advantage of the reach of different social networks, while avoiding costly traditional channels.
The set-up of the website will be outsourced to a web designer, but then will be for most parts managed internally.
GLOW t-shirts will be designed to target young (20-30 years old), educated, and trendy consumers living in urban areas, having a high level of social commitment and being willing to pay for a product supporting a social cause. Buyers are not only provided with high-quality items but they are also given the opportunity to spend their shopping money on a good cause. Moreover, buyers can get actively involved through joining a community, consisting of the children and their families, the customers, trend setters, and GLOW. In this context, they will be provided with updates about the impact or improvements generated for the children and their families, thus creating a strong relationship and personal connection between the customer and the child supported. That will also help to build awareness for the living situation of underprivileged families in India. In addition, we will clearly outline the whole fund raising process/ revenue flow to ensure that customers can see which portion of their money is spent for the child. The supported children and their families on the other hand will be provided with services and goods they otherwise could not or hardly access but which have a crucial impact on their lives (e.g. health or education). Lastly, the plan to cooperate with a local, certified (e.g. fair trade) garment producer creates an additional positive effect on local communities.
As could be seen from the competitor analysis, it is crucial to differentiate GLOW from the rest of the market in order to attract customers. We believe that a combination of the following characteristics of GLOW’s business model will allow us to do so:
- Funding transparency throughout the whole process: GLOW intends to clearly show on what the purchase revenues from each t-shirt will be spent throughout the whole process (tracker feature on website). That way, customers will be able to see how much of their money actually goes to the child supported and what is kept to finance the company.
- Creating real and visible impact: GLOW will closely work together with local NGOs, which have high expertise and fundamental knowledge about the needs of the underprivileged communities they are working in, helping it to define its support clearly. This also gives customers the possibility to see the actual impact for the child.
- Building a personal connection: In our opinion, a weakness of many companies raising money for social causes is the lack of clarity about the actual help delivered. GLOW instead intends to create a personal connection between the customer and the child supported and build a community consisting of the children and their families, the customers, and the company itself.
- Unique design: The above mentioned personal connection is among others created by the involvement of the children in the design process. Children are given the possibility to participate in a design “competition” taking place several times a year. The winning designs will then be refined by designers to create fashionable and trendy prints for our t-shirts and customers will be able to see who the “young artist” is.
- Double impact on community: Another standard we have set for our social business is that we want to produce the t-shirts locally, in the area where the communities we aim to help live. That wayGLOW will not only help the children but also plough back money into the local garment market. Due to the known problems of child labor and similar practices, we will only buy from a certified producer, e.g. labeled fair trade.
The idea to produce clothes to support a social cause is not totally new in the market, therefore a range of direct and indirect competitors exist.
Our most important direct competitors are CommonThreadz, Sevenly, This Shirt Helps, Yellow Bird Project, Wears My Shirt, and We are love. These are all non-profit or social businesses selling clothes to support mostly charities but also specific social causes. Funds are raised through the online sale of shirts, sweaters, and bracelets with or without special designs and through donations. Sometimes they offer the possibility to become part of a “loose” community. While the companies mentioned above can be seen as our main competitors regarding their business model and idea, we also take into consideration the big number of producers of charity t-shirts for specific events, e.g. for the victims of the Japan tsunami.
Moreover, all the major garment producers targeting the same high-quality, trendy, and fashionable consumers are to some extent also part of our competitive environment. The last group includes fashionable, high-quality shirts made by established designers/ brands sold at premium prices, stores for young people offering trendy shirts at low/medium prices, and online retailers offering trendy shirts at all price levels. As these are pure for-profit companies, social aspects are sometimes part of corporate social responsibility programs, e.g. through single initiatives for a specific cause, but these actions are completely independent from their actual business.
- Relatively low capital costs of production in garment industry
- High-margin industry
- Wide customer base
- Growing number of socially conscious customers
- Undeveloped social t-shirt sector in Europe
- Perception that GLOW is an NGO
- Complex regulatory system in India
- Inability to gain legitimacy within supported community
- Lack of transparency of partner NGOs
- Wide range of powerful competitors
- Quality t-shirt and trendy design
- Concrete and visible social impact
- Strong connection created with aidee
- Creation of GLOW community
- Cost transparency
- Partnership with local companies (suppliers, NGO)
- Large geographical distance between production site and customers
- No initial economies of scale due to small size
- Geographically spread customers
- No initial brand recognition
- Low marketing budget