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How Fikay Eco Fashion Grew from a University Start-up to an International Social Enterprise

Mon, 17 February 2014

Thank God for socially conscious consumers like yourselves and companies like Shell who invest back into the community and believe in the power of ideas.
Fikay Eco fashion is a simple idea. You buy one ethically made, recycled bag or related product and we will donate up to 50 bricks to building projects in producing communities. We pay a fair, competitive wage to local villagers who create our bag out of upcycled materials. Not only do they get a fair, reasonable wage but they also have the opportunity to learn valuable skills that permit them to have a sustainable, effective way to get out of poverty. Our vision is that every child should have the opportunity to study, and their parents should have the opportunity to earn a living wage.
 
Fikay started from my university dorm room and £600 student overdraft and has grown to a company that’s helping educate some of the world’s most vulnerable children in South East Asia (and soon Africa), and turning over £4000 per month. We’ve grown significantly from the days when Fikay almost got me evicted from my dorms because I was receiving too many large boxes and was not allowed to run a business from rented accommodation. You can now buy Fikay products in four countries and in 23 locations.
 
It’s an exciting time for social enterprise in the UK and I’m excited to be part of it. Since winning a Shell LiveWIRE Grand Ideas Award in March 2013 I have made a film! It’s amazing how much of a difference £1000 can make. We decided to make a film about our supply chain to help consumers feel in touch with our producers and mission. When you’re sharing an idea with someone, its vitally important that they get it and I think video is far more effective to do this. You would be surprised how far £1000 will go, for me it bought me:
Flights to Vietnam and land travel to Cambodia
Hotels
Food
Beer
A small HD camera
A professional film crew  
A Sky News reporter to produce the video
Circulation of a three part online mini-series about my business and all the footage to use as I please
Interviews with 20 of the people our company has directly impacted
Footage of the school we have been supporting
Free PR on a website with 170 billion sales (more than Amazon and Ebay Combined) – Alibaba.com!
 
How on earth did my £1000 go that far? 
The answer is simple, partnership, strategic planning, and a bit of luck. I met the Alibaba.com marketing team at one of their events and I was initially late to their IoD event in London so I climbed over a flock of business people to the far left side of the room. When I sat down I apologised and the lady next to me commented on how lovely my bag was.  
 
I said with a cheeky grin, “Aaah really.  I make these, well design them and source production of some of them through Alibaba.com actually!” This was the start of a beautiful partnership, through which Fikay has been featured on many sites and even appeared in the Evening Standard.
 
Alibaba.com uses successful businesses like Fikay that are having a positive impact in society to showcase how people could realise their entrepreneurial dream with a bit of determination and passion. 
 
I guess it was lucky that I met Kit from the Alibaba.com team when I did – he’s a great guy and little did I know that the trip I had been planning for quite a while would be filmed and turned into such a good marketing piece for me as a start-up brand.
 
Fikay has gone from strength to strength but only thanks to people like you.  Without your votes and purchases and social media support, Fikay would not be possible. Please continue to help us change people’s lives and let’s make a stand and be the  #causenotaffect generation. I believe that every single human being on this planet is faced with a choice every day: will I be the cause of something great? There are stacks of social problems that need addressing and who says you can’t profit from helping the planet. If I could leave you with anything today I would say, “I started a business at university while studying full time – so can you, just believe in yourself”. 

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