In an exclusive interview with HumanIPO, Teejana Beenessreesingh, founder of BeeJooS,speaks of the social enterprise's continued support for artisans, women entrepreneurship and local charities from the countries of sourcing.
HumanIPO: Tell us about BeeJoos
Beenessreesingh: BeeJooS serves as an online destination where ‘fashion meets travel’. We travel to the corners of the globe in search of one of a kind statement pieces, made by local artisans and emerging designers.
Does every accessory on sale in the African market qualify for sale on Beejoos?
Each accessory is handpicked to satisfy characteristics of unique craftsmanship, decadent provenance, and extraordinary aesthetics. In addition to showcasing the unique craftsmanship of artisans from across the world, we fulfill our social responsibilities towards these artisans' local communities and donate a percentage of revenues to the local charities that address the most pertinent, ground-level social and economic issues of these communities.
What is the main driver behind BeeJoos? Profit or supporting charities?
It is a social enterprise with a percentage of proceeds donated to charities in the countries of sourcing.
How many charities have you supported so far?
As for charities, the most important work we are doing right now is with a Richard Branson charity, ETC, where we are building the first girl's school in the Masai Mara. We are providing a channel to sell Masai bracelets and sales go entirely to the charity. One bracelet sold can keep a girl in school for one month.
What about the sales on your website, are people buying into the idea?
Yes, we have had considerable high orders (in both quantity and value). Our audience, mostly in the US, loves the concept of shopping the world via a portal.
Has the Internet been instrumental in selling your enterprise?
I think the Internet is primordial in the success of BeeJooS. Through the Web, we get to liaise with artisans and suppliers quickly and efficiently as well as reach huge markets and through social media and online marketing. It also enables us to get the message out to masses who are interested in getting involved in the philanthropic aspects of the project.
What have your travel experiences taught you?
In my senior year at MIT, I was set on studying abroad and decided to circumnavigate the world. I started from Mexico, went to Asia, Africa, Middle East, Europe and back to Miami. During my travels, I was most fascinated by the artisan women and children and fell in love with their craft.
It is well known that women are the drivers of growth in an economy. I wanted to find a way where these women could get more fair prices for their craft. Instead of being ripped off by big retailers who re-brand/white-mark their work, I wanted to enable these women to sustain themselves in a guaranteed way by providing a channel of sales. Myself born in Mauritius, I saw the boost in the economy through the initiatives the government took to focus on the small entrepreneurs.