When we look down at our jewelry, we’re ashamed to notice something missing… a cause. We were missing a reminder of noble heritage, and purpose. We were lucky to come across The Base Project
, and thrilled when the products arrived at our door. TBP is a “socially motivated” fashion brand, selling jewelry in the US that is handmade by artisans in the developing world.
We caught up with with Co-Founder, Chris Akin, and found out a little bit more about this inspiring company:
Emily&Abigail: First and foremost, what an honorable and creative concept to raise awareness and funding in societies that need it. Is this your first venture as a charitable entrepreneur?
Chris Akin: Yes, The Base Project is Doug and my first Social Enterprise.
E&A: Was this project inspired by a trip, or was it something that you had prior interest in?
C: It was inspired by our desire to merge our interest in business with our interest in philanthropy. The Base Project is a convergence of the best aspects of business and the social change that we want to see in the world.
E&A: Tell us more about the formation of The Base Project, and how long you’ve been in business.
C: It all started over dinner one night between Doug and I in NYC. At the time we were both feeling a bit disenfranchised with aspects of our jobs in marketing and media. So, we decided to team up on an entrepreneurial venture that had social good built into the DNA of the company and focused in the fashion industry. The model we piloted with the bracelets is to produce a fashion item in the developing world, sell on the contemporary US fashion market, and then reinvest in development projects in the same producer communities. The inspiration was to find more meaning in our next career while maintaining the things we loved about our past work and volunteerism; like any social enterprise this is a convergence of the best attributes of for profit, non-profit, and government sectors.
Fittingly enough, our first line of bracelets were not part of our initial product test marketing. While we were test marketing a few designs, people kept resonating with one bracelet that I wore; given to me years earlier by a friend. At the time all I knew is that it came from Namibia and it was made from up-cycled plastic. So we decided to connect the dots…which led us to some of the oldest tribes in Africa. That initial dinner took place a little over 2 years ago.
E&A: Do you think celebrities, social media, or both can inspire others to purchase these bracelets and partake in your cause?
C: Definitely! Anyone and everyone can inspire others to wear our bracelets. Our tag line is ‘Wear Your Impact”, which applies equally to a student wearing our bracelets; a blogger telling our story to a larger audience; or a movie star inspiring others to support our cause of poverty alleviation. Of course if anyone out there knows Angeline Jolie (Namibia connection), I would love for her to wear her impact with a bracelet. J
E&A: What’s the coolest part about your job?
C: Traveling and working within Southern Africa.
E&A: Tell us something about your company that we don’t know from reading your website?
C: The people that work for The Base Project in the US are super passionate about their work and have a deep connection with the artisans in Africa. We started sharing stories of our employees within our social media channels because they express such inspiring reasons for working with us and connecting with the artisans on the ground.
E&A: If you had to pick a Disney cartoon character to represent your company, who would it be, and why?
C: That’s easy. Rafiki from the Lion King. ‘Rafiki’ means friend in Swahili, and he is both wise and playful.
E&A: Are you considering bringing your cause to other locations?
C: Yes. We already work in Ghana with the women of New Seed Orphanage who sew all of our packaging from remnant pieces of fabric. We are also exploring work with the San Bush Women of Namibia and Botswana, the oldest tribes in the world. In the long term we plan to work in many more developing countries in Africa and beyond.
Forewarning: These bracelets are so lightweight, and so smooth, that you’ll want to cover your whole arm in them. The stackability is unreal. Can’t wait to wear these out during Fashion Week!