January 16, 2010

the business of style: giving

If you stopped by last week, then you know that on Saturdays I'll be talking about the business of style, geared to people starting or wanting to start a new business. I often wished over the past decade of running my own design business that someone could've shared a few tips with me that I ended up learning the hard way. Today is about one of those big lessons.

via near proximity

I'm sure you're wondering why we're covering giving before business plans. There are a few reasons, and with what's just happened in Haiti, it seems like the perfect time to talk about it. Four years ago I had some pretty big ideas about giving and how it related to my business. Ironically my "big giving" experience ended up being one of the most painful lessons of my career, and so I hope that in some small way this post might be helpful to you.

In 2005 I had the good fortune to meet Agnes Chan, a UNICEF Ambassador for Japan. She was so inspiring, and by getting involved as a designer for her personal charity, Forget Yourself, I saw how she touched lives here and in the war-torn zones where she travels tirelessly to perform and help others. I was moved by her work and wanted to get more involved. Not long after that I was invited to attend the SKOLL Foundation's summit in Oxford, England where I had the opportunity to meet and hear from some of the world's greatest thinkers, the rock stars of social entrepreneurship, who gather and exchange ideas about how to solve the world's most pressing problems. That part was wonderful, but I had not met all the members of the small group I'd been invited to join until I arrived, and apparently they were less than thrilled to have a new member and made sure that my stay in Oxford felt like being trapped in the movie Mean Girls. According to friends I made in Oxford, political backstabbing in the world of non-profits is par for the course. But it seemed like such a very far distance to travel, not to mention the time devoted to countless meetings listening to the group leader talk about what he planned to accomplish--only to end up as a wash. Not surprisingly, this particular group I had joined with such high hopes, disbanded and I never heard from any of them again. I've thought many times about how the personal outlay that I made for plane tickets, train tickets, lodging and food might have been put to much better use by actually helping others who were in need.

Despite what happened, I still think it's wonderful when giving is part of the mission of a business; it becomes one of the reasons why you want to succeed and makes you feel happy to go to work. It's important to think about questions like how much you plan to give when your business takes off and who you want to give to. More importantly for those just starting out, how much can you afford to give while you're in the growing stages of your business? I learned the hard way that being involved with a noble cause does not always pan out and that sometimes the best way is to start very small and just keep building. Much like business.

Over the past few years I've heard many good things about Kiva, a micro-lending website that lets you lend money to impoverished entrepreneurs. One of the brilliant concepts about this plan is that when your loan is paid back (usually in 6-12 months) you're able to turn around and lend the same money again to help another entrepreneur. For as little as $25, you can help fulfill a microloan to an entrepreneur in an impoverished country. I find it inspiring that 82.51% of Kiva's loans have been made to women entrepreneurs and since one of my goals is to help alleviate poverty by empowering people around the world to become financially independent, especially women, I felt Kiva was a good fit.

I would love it if you would join Trust Your Style's Kiva Lending Team. When you join Kiva, you're free to lend to anyone that you like. Being a part of the Trust Your Style team, means you can review entrepreneurs Trust Your Style is lending to, but you're not obligated to lend to my choices. My first little loan of $25 has gone to Vista Al Mar/View of the Ocean Group (pictured above) in the Dominican Republic. Many in the group are recently emigrated to the Dominican Republic from Haiti. One of the group members, Ana, is taking her third loan, after having successfully repaid her previous loans. She plans to use this loan to invest in her clothing sales business. The Vista Al Mar Team has raised 94% of their funds--I know we can help them reach their goal!

Before I sign off, I want to announce that the winner of the 250 free business cards give-away from last week's Business of Style post. It was really difficult to pick a winner because all of your reasons were so inspiring! I loved all of your answers so much that anyone who didn't win will automatically be entered in next Saturday's give-away, so please check back. The winner this week was Marissa, and this is why she wanted to win the cards:

My name is Marissa and I am an aspiring Eco-friendly, Charity promoting and serving, fashion designer. I have recently graduated from a very expensive school that I am paying off myself which gives me little room for business cards. In the future I plan to incorporate my dreams and goals to improve the fashion world, because we all know that us girls need our fashion and I want that to be a good thing for everyone including our planet. I could really use these cards and would really appreciate a consideration. I have been working two jobs and going to school for 3 years full time...I need to find a job soon and these cards could really help me. As you know the job market is extremely difficult and looking very professional is profoundly important. I can guarantee that you will not regret helping me!


LenkaLovee said...

what a great,helpful post!! thanks for you insight and warning about being cautious about the organizaiotions you get involved with! i've heard of this KIVA organization before and great respect and admire what they do! i will consider joining you in loaning money for business loans... i just started a new job so i want to see how my pay adjustment is going to effect me financially! :)
love your blog! :O)

Kitty M said...

Mary Jo wow what a thought provoking post! Have only just discovered your fab blog and this has really made me think. I have an (almost) 3 year old micro recruitment company and admittedly it has been an uphill trudge at times but like you said it can be really motivational to think that future profits could go to benefit others. Thanks for sharing xxx

Rock N Revolution said...

Amazing post! We should all get involved!

Mary Jo from TrustYourStyle said...

Thanks Lenka! I would be thrilled if you joined my team. I understand about $ being tight for people these days and love that just $25 can make a difference and it comes back after it's repaid so it can be loaned over and over!


Mary Jo from TrustYourStyle said...

Thanks so much Kitty for stopping by! I admire what you do and will click over to find out more.


Mary Jo from TrustYourStyle said...

Aw Cece, thanks for stopping by--you are the best!


MarissaoftheSea said...

YAY! Thank you sooo much Mary Jo! Your work is truly inspiring and I am so appreciative :))).

Now I just have to come up with an amazing logo! Pressure is on!

Love xox

Char said...


Miss Eve said...

It was so interesting to read your story...I heard about Kiva and I will definitely think about to joining your team :-)

Have a lovely Sunday dear Mary Jo, cheers: Evi

Treacle said...

Congratulations to the winner! I can't wait to read the next post in this series. :-)

Federica said...

What a fantastic post Mari Jo.

Couture Carrie said...

Fantastic post!
Congrats to the winner!


Elie's Papel said...

Wonderful post! nowadays we need to help those who need it most and women are needing it very much especially in countries where they have no rights... ;)

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