First person: Entrepreneurs on early lessons in the field — Keyne and Kirsten Monson of Elevita
Keyne and Kirsten Monson founded Elevita in May 2010 to help artisans in developing countries find a greater world market for their products.
Dowser: What’s something concrete and tangible you’ve learned in the last three months?
Kirsten Monson: In the last three months, we have learned that anything is possible! Who would have thought that in such a short time we could create a viable business plan, achieve nonprofit status, raise thousands of dollars, design and launch a website, and make contacts with dozens of needy artisans around the globe? But we have learned from our artisans that it is entirely possibly to make something beautiful out of virtually nothing, and that is exactly what we have done with Elevita. Perhaps the women of Sandur, India, best demonstrate this principle: These women, though living in somewhat primitive conditions, have learned to make beautiful beads from the tree resin that is indigenous to their region. With these beads they make impressive jewelry to supplement the income of their families. By their industry, and with a little help gaining access to markets, these women truly create something out of nothing.
What is a mistake or mishap you’ve learned from?
Elevita is intent on paying fair wages to all its artisans. We have learned from our experiences visiting various artisans’ workshops that it is important to make sure the fair wages permeate all levels of production — not just the final product. For example, a fabric artisan may be paid a fair wage for his decorative work, but were those who actually harvested the cotton equally well-paid? Elevita is striving to ensure that its purchases benefit workers at every level.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Photo courtesy of konashen.com