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Pick up a handmade village craft in your local store and you may be rewarded with a warm fuzzy feeling that you’ve helped a poor villager in a remote location. After all, you’ve created demand for his craft. Surely, he’ll be rewarded accordingly.

“¦Right?

Look a little closer and you’ll see a very different story.

How much of the money you spend really makes it to the maker or artisan who created the item? Let’s see – the store will take a cut, so will the wholesaler, and don’t forget the agents who source the crafts directly from the villages. In the end, the maker – arguably the most important person in this process is left with next to nothing, sometimes getting under 10% of the final sale price.

Elevyn changes all that.

Through the help of local partners, Elevyn helps to connect poor artisans and villagers directly to customers around the world. The result? By cutting out all the middle men and their bottom lines, the maker now gets close to 85% of the final sale price.

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You may have heard of Etsy, a community specialized in selling hand-made items directly on the internet. Think of Elevyn as Etsy for the poor. Elevyn stocks everything from belts, baskets, and jewelry to coasters, music instruments, and key chains. All beautifully handcrafted by village artisans.

Sustainable Development

Both Kiva and Elevyn works on the basis of sustainable charity i.e. engaging in charitable activities which help these people lift themselves out from poverty in the long run.

Kiva works on the basis of microloans helping small business owners in poor countries. Elevyn picks up where Kiva leaves off by connecting these people to the world and giving them a pool of demand which would otherwise have never existed for these villagers.

Engaging the community

On top of direct contributions to the maker, a certain portion (around 5%) is also donated to a charitable cause, ranging from tree planting to women’s groups.

Elevyn also organizes artisans so they can get together to achieve greater economies of scale and specialization as well as raise awareness about the value of the goods they produce. Working with field partners to help out with the orders and dealings on the internet, Elevyn is also committed to capacity building in terms of electricity and internet access via satellite in these villages.

Yes you can make a difference

People get jaded when the money they donate goes into a giant fund, never knowing who they helped and what their impact truly was.  Elevyn offers complete transparency where you will be able to see where all the money goes to the exact cent when you make a purchase. You will also be able to see how much money any particular villager has made in real time, and the impact your purchase had on their life.

Thinking of giving someone a truly meaningful gift for the holidays? I can’t think of a better place to start.

  1. Mike Tee
    December 16, 2008 at 12:00 pm

    Hi James! Wow that's a great concept.
    The biggest challenge is communicating the idea to a huge group of people that will make the whole ecosystem work...

  2. Friedbeef
    December 15, 2008 at 10:50 pm

    I think that's an excellent idea. The tricky bit would be how to easily communicate this concept to buyers so that it becomes incredibly simple for them to comprehend and appreciate.

  3. james
    December 15, 2008 at 4:58 am

    I came up with an idea about a year ago, and although it is complex, I am certain it would work. But first I will spill some of my thoughts.

    As a species we have one major problem that ties into every other problem that we have; distribution of resources. Economics, is the study of how resources are distributed within a society. In today's case this means the global society. Government is not capable of taking care of economic problems and almost any attempt has ended with little to no gain. On the other hand, a free market in it's current definition is incapable of fixing our problems, as anyone could see just by watching the news or strolling through the ghetto. We face poverty were education is absent, pollution because of corporate greed, starvation were people lack the tools to grow or raise food, war when there is ignorance, and the list goes on. The simple fact of the matter is that unless we change our direction as a species, we will parish. With the advent of the information age we are finally capable of tapping into the single most important resource that we all share, IDEAS.

    Step #1 Open a single store that would be similar to a Super Wal-Mart in that it would not be particular to a single type of durable or non durable goods. We will refer to this new store as "ConsumerSmart" (CS). This store can NOT be opened using borrowed money or money generated by selling shares. Both will drastically decrease efficiency and destroy the long term goal of the project.

    Step#2 Issue all new patrons that enter CS with a card that can be scanned to track all purchases made at the checkout. These purchases can be stored in a database were all equations will take place. By placing a booth within the first entrance and requiring the patron to show his or her card (a system similar to Sam's Club) it will be much easier to control theft thus improving returns. If a patron were to steal from the store his/her card would be confiscated ensuring the thief would not be back again.

    Step#3 On the patron/cardholder's birthday 100 percent of the profits made from their purchases at CS will be sent back to the patron. This means that only 1/365ths of all profits will be withdrawn from the main account in a single day. This is because birthdays are generally random and spread out across every day of the year. Profits are considered to be any money left over after overhead is accounted for. Since the store will not have investors or shareholders this means that all profits will go back to the patron. This is a double edged advantage for this type of store in that it will attract larger numbers of patrons which will drive down operation costs.

    Step#4 Use the money in the main account to open another store and repeat steps #1 and 2# until there is enough money to either buy out or build a power plant. Using the same mathematical principles, and database system, the CS brand would then be able to offer power to consumers within the system and to those outside of it. This will encourage more people to shop at CS and switch to CS power to bump up their returns.

    Step#5 Just as Walmart and Kroger have their own brands of goods, so will CS. By offering patrons an opportunity to purchase these goods it will further "bump" up the patrons returns. For example; the CS brand purchases a bakery and then ships those products to the CS store. If a patron purchased a CS brand of bread then they would get 100 percent of the profits made from the sale on that bread(profits from the bakery) and 100 percent of the profits made at the store. Any profits made from outside sales would simply be but back into the main account for further investment.

    Step#6 At this point the CS brand could start expanding in every direction and sector of the economy including (but not limited to) banking/finance, communications, industrial, mining/logging, real estate, services, construction and the list goes on. Just imagine paying all of your bills including your mortgage knowing that all profits will be coming back to you on your birthday??!

    Step#7 After an undecided amount, a cap will be placed on the return. The patron will have to "vote" on were the rest of the money goes, via the Internet, or a kiosk located at the store. It should be divided up in such a way, that a percentage would go to local, state, and global projects. It is very possible to set the system up so that areas with a larger population of impoverished people are able to send more of that money to local projects thus improving many of the local problems. For example: a stronger police force to fight crime, and better education to help those people get out of poverty. On each level there would be several projects to choose from. In order for a project to be put on the list it will be voted on. This will help to avoid things like fleecing. Global projects could include such things as zero CO2 pollution and funding for space programs and exploration. The possibilities are endless.

    Thank you for reading, and please tell me your own thoughts.

  4. James Yeang
    December 8, 2008 at 6:39 pm

    That's good to hear :) Since you understand and appreciate the value Etsy brings, do spread the word about Elevyn, and help some people as well!

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