You know how most of us have these ideas and plans that just keep coming back to us but it never seems feasible to actually start doing them? How every now and then you decide that you want to quit your job and pursue your secret dream to become a dolphin trainer? People often ask me how I did it: giving up my career in diplomacy to start a responsible slipper manufacturing company. Usually quickly followed by the question: Whyyyy??!
The how question
After 3 years of Economic Diplomacy in Shanghai opportunity came knocking. A job for my trailing husband. Running a responsible manufacturing company in Siem Reap, Cambodia. As with all life-changing decisions, we thought this one through thoroughly for at least 15 minutes before jumping at the opportunity. My employer gave me a generous 3-year sabbatical and off we went with a 3-year old toddler and an 8 month old baby.
It’s easy to see a straight and logical path from quitting my job to starting KOW Lifestyle. In hindsight! In reality, I wrote several business plans, most of which didn’t even have anything to do with slippers or garment. I seriously doubted the choices I had made on a very regular basis, a particularly often recurring one being the fact that I spend our life’s savings on WOOLLEN SLIPPERS! But we are still here. And each year we are growing, improving. I learn new things every day. Because, well, building a brand while dealing with the challenges of running a responsible manufacturing company at the same time is not exactly something they line you up for when you’re studying Arts and Cultures in University! But hey, learning by doing is actually all you’ve got when you start a business in a foreign country.
The why question
After 3 years of dealing with businesses in China as a diplomat and hearing about the abuse in manufacturing and the challenges of controlling the supply chain, I set out to prove something: it is not hard to keep checks on the supply chain, if it is connected to the brand. Simple as that. Now, obviously, handling production yourself is nowhere near simple, and there are days I envy the brands that simply place an order with a Vietnamese factory and focus all their attention on sales and marketing. But my goal was never to just develop a new brand: I wanted to show that it is possible to have it all. And with all, I mean ALL: fair wages, a healthy and safe working environment, zero-corruption, and while I was at it, as much fun at work and the best possible work-life balance for all our staff. Because, why not?!
That’s the plan. And in this blog we will be updating you regularly about our experiences: the successes, the failures, the good and the bad in the world of fairtrade slippermaking! Hope you will enjoy it and we’re looking forward to your feedback!