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JOSH: Fair trade isn’t a new idea, but what you tend to see when visiting a fair trade retailer or show are generally giftable items made by artisans with not much marketing focus beyond the fair trade label. ZOE: You do have some fashion designers now venturing into fair trade but the result is typically high-end and priced outside the mainstream market. JOSH: Our purpose is driven by fair pricing and selling as many units as we can so that people are helped more and more. We intend to be the go to brand for women’s fair trade apparel and accessories in the U.S. ZOE: We are also eco-friendly, offering organic cottons and locally sourced materials as much as we can. For example, we have designer handbags that are made from vintage fabric, using actual Thailand tribal dresses. Is the clothing your own proprietary designs? ZOE: I am still honestly finding my look. It is a process that every designer goes through. They have to find what is significant to them. I am always aiming for clothes that any female would be comfortable wearing. You will see designers doing “ultra-sexy”; some are very “mod” and some focused on “boho chic.” I try to take aspects of each and blend them together, finding the juxtaposition that works. You will see in our Fall 2014 line a contrast of androgyny and ultra feminine. I’m really excited. Did you write a business plan? JOSH: We did write a formal business plan before starting. The weakest section was the marketing, and that is the area that we are most actively focused on improving. If you can’t take the time to write a business plan before starting, you are probably never going to find the time to do it. It wasn’t fun or easy. Zoe wanted to just get started but I knew the business plan was an important part of the calculated risk. Which is more important, making the world a better place or making a profit? JOSH: 4 All Humanity is a for-profit business by intention because we think a profit model is more sustainable. It is great to have a good cause, but the business needs to work for more reasons than just the cause. I think you make the world a better place first, but the business model has to also work. ZOE: It is a balancing act. If you go too extreme on either end, you are doing more harm than good. YOU ARE HELPING INCREASE THE WAGES OF THE WORKERS THAT MAKE YOUR PRODUCT UP TO THREE TIMES. THAT MUST BE EXTREMELY SATISFYING.

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ZOE: Without question, changing lives is the most important thing we do. It is much more important than the awards or anything else. JOSH: With the T-shirts for Education Project, our customers have helped send 50 orphans in Haiti to school. That has been a great project, really rewarding.

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Project cash flow for your business even when the picture isn’t pretty. Doing so has helped Josh and Zoe plan for non-peak sales months, a financial reality for their retail-based clothing business.

As business partners (and spouses), Josh and Zoe have disagreements on the direction of their business. They approach it as dispassionately as they can and try to be objective. Josh recommends a scale of 1 to 10. How strongly do you feel about your opinion? If your partner feels stronger about their position than you do, then reconsider. Zoe recommends giving a day or two before making a final decision. Sometimes the passion ebbs.

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Josh shares, “It is always going to rain, if you systemize the mowing, you’ll stay out of the weeds.” He is working on developing systems and standard positions for his business. As the business scales up, Josh and Zoe will need to be able to move away from the tactical work. Now that you have people that you are helping and you want to continue helping, do you feel extra pressure? JOSH: We have only been in business for a year but have already seen other fair trade companies come and go by making bad business decisions that have been too risky. We have to be careful that we make good decisions. If we fail we don’t just fail ourselves, we fail hundreds of individuals at our cooperatives. What is it going to take to get 4 All Humanity to the next level? JOSH: We need to improve our supply so that we can show our designs to boutiques when they are buying, which is typically six months before the season. That is one of our challenges, training the suppliers how the industry works. ZOE: We need to improve the consistency of our brand across all of our outlets and communicating a really strong story about who we are.

Profile for TK Business

TK Business Magazine Winter 2013  

Topeka's Business Magazine focusing on the business, professionals, owners and experts of Topeka, Kansas

TK Business Magazine Winter 2013  

Topeka's Business Magazine focusing on the business, professionals, owners and experts of Topeka, Kansas