Syria, Mali, Yemen, and Afghanistan. When these countries are mentioned, there are probably many things that come to mind. Here in the United States we mainly hear stories from these countries of war, crime, governmental instability, and worse. One thing that probably does not come to mind is e-commerce. One social enterprise is trying to change that.
Founders Edmund Le Brun and Flore de Taisne lived in Afghanistan for three years. During their stay they discovered the talented craftsmen and women who call Afghanistan home. These workers used local materials and traditional techniques to make high-quality items, such as glassware, jewelry, and woven goods. Unfortunately, the issues the country has faced have made it very difficult to get these products in front of an international audience.
Their solution to this this problem is ISHKAR. They started off selling three types of cufflinks made by Kabul jewelers. They sold more than ten times what they planned, and ended up giving these jewelers full-time work for five weeks. After the success of their initial website, they moved to Indiegogo. The reason they did this is because it is so expensive to ship goods out of Afghanistan. Crowdfunding enables them to get enough orders and money upfront to decrease the shipping cost.
The project has expanded to include craftsmen and women from Syria, Mali, and Yemen, in addition to Afghanistan. The product offerings have also expanded to far more than just cufflinks. You can buy items from drinking glasses, all the way to carpets designed by legendary architects such as Frank Gehry and the late Zaha Hadid. These rugs are woven by women in Afghanistan and 80% of the proceeds go to the non-governmental organization Arzu. The company has already beaten its £13,000 goal on Indiegogo by 156%. It is already off to a great start, but just imagine the good it can do as it develops further. Now if you’ll excuse me, I am going to go check my bank account and see if I can buy some gorgeous handblown glasses.