Founder Story: JOJI Bags
I recently had the pleasure of interviewing the lovely Co-founder of JOJI Bags, Amy Logan. Her and her mother (so rad, right?!) started this beautiful company that helps women in Guatemala work for a textile cooperative to create a sustainable income for them, as well as education scholarships for their families and access to health care and clean water. Wow, just wow.
Here's a look inside the beauty that is JOJI:
Where did you get the inspiration to start your business?
The inspiration for JOJI Bags came from a volunteer service trip to Guatemala in 2008. My mom and I fell in love with everything about Guatemala - the culture, the art, and most importantly, the people. Specifically, a small group of women weavers that captured our hearts and left us feeling called to make a difference beyond just volunteer hours. We began going back each year following that trip and after brainstorming ways in which we could empower the women and help provide for their families, the JOJI model was born and the weaving cooperative began.
Why did you want giving back to be a part of it?
After meeting these women and hearing their stories, it was obvious that they were in extreme need. The business was born out of the desire to help provide them with financial, emotional, and professional support.
Was it easy for you to incorporate giving back?
Yep! For us, it was the center of our business and the reason for which we started in the first place so it was just about figuring out what would be most beneficial to the women beyond just financial support.
What is your biggest challenge with the giveback model/double bottom line model?
There are a couple challenges that come along with having a giveback model. For example, we constantly have to communicate and interact with people in a very different culture than what we're used to. Guatemalans view business very differently than we do so it took quite a bit of time to establish a strong sense of trust and communication that would work for both of us. And honestly, we're still trying to figure it all out!
Another challenge that comes along with the give back model is the importance of capturing the right audience. There are some women who absolutely love the story behind our products and want to support us because of our give-back model, while there are others who focus entirely on the quality of the product and may not even realize the work that went on behind making each bag. It's been a difficult road to try and find the perfect balance between the two and target women who believe in what we're doing but also love our products. It's tough to convince a woman that instead of another Marc Jacobs bag, she should invest in a brand she's never heard of. While telling our story continues to be one of the most difficult challenges, it's also been the most fun!
What opportunities have resulted from this giving business model that you think otherwise wouldn't have happened?
Being a part of the "give-back business community" has honestly been such a blessing in my life. It has led me to meet some incredibly inspiring people and become involved with other organizations and groups within the Costa Mesa area. It has allowed me to connect with other like-minded social entrepreneurs and focus on reaching a target audience made up of women I'd honestly love to be friends with! It has also brought about many more opportunities for PR and press about our story that otherwise wouldn't have happened.
How do you measure the success of your business?
Success for us goes beyond just sales - it branches out into measure how we're telling our story, how many women we are able to employ, how many children are provided educational scholarships, what types of resources we've been able to provide, etc. It all comes down to answering these questions: In what ways are we making a difference? How can we make more of an impact? How can we increase sales in order to meet our giving goals?
While JOJI Bags started out as an inspired social enterprise, it is so possible for all companies to start to embody some of this generosity. It all starts with a passion, and goes from there!