In a nutshell, what does Market without Borders do?
We are the world’s first online marketplace with payment tech for fashion artisans who don’t have bank accounts. If you don’t have a bank account, you can’t trade online, and are completely cut off from the global marketplace. Most fashion workers in developing countries don’t have bank accounts, and this especially effects women.
We enable fashion artisans to bring their products direct to the international marketplace. Starting in Kenya, our makers are selling to customers in the UK and US, and getting paid straight to their mobile phones. They don’t need internet, or a smart phone, or a middle man, or a bank. All they need is creative talent and a Nokia phone.
How does Market without Borders help local artisans?
It connects them direct to the global marketplace. We remove the middlemen, so they get to keep the majority of the sale price. This means they get a significant increase in income – both increase in unit price and amount of units sold. It also gives them more time to design and make products – if they are selling online, they are not spending most of the week travelling to and sitting in market stalls to sell their goods. We also enable collaborations between international designers and artisans, so artisans are expanding their product range and learning new design skills as they work with us. As our artisans grow their businesses, they hire more people at fair wages and so it goes on.
Most artisans are women and poverty especially effects women. Building the income of women has been proven to be the fastest way to elleviate poverty in a community – it goes straight to their kid’s food and education, i.e. social mobility. Our tech is designed so that all you need to set up and run a shop with us is the most simple mobile phone. We want to be accessible to everyone.
We also use transaction data to build our artisan’s credit and enable them to access financial services, save and grow.
How do you discover local makers?
We have set up relationships with bodies that are already working with artisans, including UNHCR, World Vision, and local NGO’s and artisan dealers. We also in contact with lots of individual artisans and artisan groups and collectives. Our Kenya lead, Lea Oneko is an amazing designer and collaborator who is German/Kenyan, studied design at RCA and speaks Swahili, German, French and English. She has deep connections to both Kenyan artisan communities and the international design world.
What motivated you to create this platform?
One day a friend introduced me on Facebook to a group of LGBT refugees who had fled violence in Uganda and were living in Nairobi. One of them, Henry, was a bag-maker and he had trained his friends to make bags. They had started a business to support themselves.
I wanted to buy a bag from Henry. However, I was in London, and to do so I had to go into the Western Union office in the city to pay for it. I suggested to the refugees that I set them up an Etsy shop so people in the UK could easily shop from them. But when I went to do so, I discovered it wasn’t possible. As they didn’t have a bank account, they couldn’t access the payment systems that Etsy, or any online shop, required.
I realised that if I could help solve this problem for these guys, I might be able to do it for many people. The idea for an online marketplace with payments tech for the 2 billion people without bank accounts was born.
Where do you see Market without Borders in five years time?
I see us as a a global marketplace with sellers from across the world, selling a wide range of products.