Creating your own market place

It’s no secret that we believe that socially conscious business is the right thing to do. However, from a commercial and business perspective we also believe that it is the smart thing to do.

Richard in Haiti

Just a few years ago entrepreneurs around the world who dared to combine social cause with commercial activity were often locked out of the market place because they didn’t fit the cookie-cutter business model. That model is changing rapidly as consumers are becoming far more savvy and socially minded. Entrepreneurs are starting to say, Well if there is no place for me in the existing market I’ll just create my own’.

Last year I took a trip to Haiti and saw first-hand that reforestation and agriculture can play a key role in Haiti’s recovery. Since then Virgin Unite and others have become partners with Haiti in the sustainable reforestation effort in that beautiful country.

Image by Russell James

One of the people I was in Haiti with on that trip was my friend Russell James, one of the world’s greatest fashion photographers. He is best known for his photographs for brands like Victoria’s Secret (and occasionally known to have models hanging from the trees around my home on Necker Island!).

However, he also spends a great deal of his time in places like Haiti, Outback Australia and Asia using his photography skills to inspire people in other countries to take interest in the wonderful and diverse cultures of the world.

Image by Russell James
Image by Russell James
Image by Russell James

More than a decade ago Russell started his ‘awareness through art’ movement called Nomad Two Worlds  to bring focus to these diminishing and threatened cultures. Russell has now turned Nomad Two Worlds into a socially conscious business,, which partners with marginalised and indigenous communities to create and bring culturally inspired product directly to market. It’s a great example of how to create your own market place and make your business a force for good.

The business model for Nomad Two Worlds is actually quite simple. They recognise that these wonderful communities have an abundance of sustainable raw product, authentic stories and a great desire to be in true partnership.

Richard and Russell James

What Nomad Two Worlds and companies like them can provide in return is branding, networking and access to global markets. When you add superb raw product and branding know-how  to authenticity and sustainability, you have a win/win commercial opportunity.

Haiti has a long history of growing vetiver, a plant that produces a beautiful oil highly sort after by the fragrance industry. However, even though Haiti’s growing of vetiver has recovered, wholesale buyers were not giving Haiti fair attention.

Image by Russell James

So Nomad Two Worlds formed a partnership with Haitian vetiver suppliers and legendary fragrance blender Harry Frémont from the leading fragrance house Firmenich. They  decided to screw business as usual and create high quality, very competitive fragrances using Haitian vetiver, literally from the ground up.

The lesson is that the demand for the product was always there. The commercial opportunity just needed to be unlocked through some non-traditional thinking. They created their own product, brand and now their own market place. This is a case of "Doing good, doing well and coming out smelling very nicely in the process. As a small company Nomad Two Worlds will undoubtedly face many challenges from big players. However, I believe that entrepreneurship, innovation, sustainability and authenticity will give them a David versus Goliath advantage.

Have you ever thought of creating your own market place? At Virgin, we often do and often have. We’d love to hear your ideas on creating demand and your own market place.

Image by Russell James

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