Tulsi Crafts…A Beautiful Business Changing Lives in Bangladesh
Beautiful Businesses do things with passion. It’s not about the profit, the fast buck and squeezing the margins. Its about more than that. Beautiful Businesses are people-orientated….they put people before profit. This beautiful business is one built upon passion and a desire to change lives; this is Tulsi Crafts.
Image: Tulsi Crafts
Based in Rotterdam in the Netherlands, Tulsi Crafts was formed in January 2013. It is an online store owned and run by Margot Lieftinck with her partner Tony Nelis. Tulsi Crafts sell a range of beautiful fairly traded products made in Bangladesh from repurposed, recycled or natural materials. The collection includes bags, scarves, phone and laptop sleeves, exquisite blankets and incredibly eye-catching jewellery.
In the nicest possible way Tulsi Crafts feels like a vehicle for a deeper endeavour. A business which is something more. It’s an enterprise with a passion to help empower and support poor producers, communities and families of Bangladesh.
Tulsi Crafts was formed from experience. Bangladesh one of the poorest countries in the world, as well as one of the most susceptible to poverty, disease and natural disasters such as flooding. The impacts of globalisation are clear to see in a country like Bangladesh. A low wage economy attracts its fair share of business looking to exploit poverty and poor regulation. Some industries such as the textile industry are of major importance exporting $18billion of goods per year. Contrast this with a average wage of $37 per month, working 6 days a week for 10 or more hours a day in poor conditions. Margot and partner Tony travelled to Bangladesh on a number of occasions and began to understand the challenges many faced. Doing something about it and attempting to help, aid and support, came naturally to them. This is the background to Tulsi Crafts. Margot takes up the story…
The background….The idea for Tulsi Crafts developed after a visit to Bangladesh in August 2012. My partner Tony Nelis is a board member of the Dutch NGO Stichting Niketan which works with handicapped children. He’s also an architect and designed a daycare centre for the NGO. He went there to assist with the building works.
Market Research and understanding…I decided to go along and as I wanted to do something useful there, I was asked by the NGO to do some market research for their vocational training centre. In Dhaka you can find many fair trade stores, selling handmade items and textiles made in the rest of the country. I visited most of these stores in Dhaka to check if the NGO would be able to sell their products.
Image: Kantha sari scarf
The Realisation of Creativity and Craft….As I visited all these fair trade stores in Dhaka I was surprised by the quality of the products they sold and wondered why I never came across anything like this in The Netherlands. I decided these beautiful products I’d seen in Dhaka would be very suitable to be sold here in the western world as well. So I decided to just go for it. I was ready for a new challenge work-wise and wanted to do something useful. I’d met so many inspiring people in Bangladesh and also so many people who could use a chance.
Margot committed herself and gave up her day job. She started working on setting up Tulsi Crafts, visiting Bangladesh to find partners to work with. At home they started designing and building an online store, while in Bangladesh their products were being produced. In autumn 2012 all their products had arrived in Rotterdam and the online store went live.
Image: Kantha blanket from Tulsi Crafts
Fairly Traded…Products with Stories to tell
Tulsi Crafts products have all been made in a fair way. “Fair” means the women who make the products are able to generate a fair income with their dignified work which in turn enables them to provide for their families. They also get the opportunity to educate themselves and become proud entrepreneurs. Proud entrepreneurs go on to be self sufficient and so from basic foundations, the virtuous circle increases. Margot also hopes that customers will eventually think more about the clothes they wear and begin to ask questions about where, for instance, their t-shirt is made, who made it and do they have a decent, happy life ? After all real people are behind everything we buy! Imagine the power behind knowing the story of a blanket or a scarf you might buy from Tulsi Crafts? Take for example the wonderful sari blankets and scarves Tulsi Crafts sells. They are made by a company called Basha based in Dhaka. Through dignified work, Basha provides a sustainable livelihood for women at risk and survivors of trafficking. Women gain job skills and the opportunity to develop into leaders and entrepreneurs in a healthy, healing environment. The slums of Dhaka are bursting with talent such as skilled tailors, printers and embroiderers. These women have little status and live in extreme poverty. They are often forced into work they would not choose for themselves, and many are unemployed. To help them build better life, now Basha is training a number of them to turn their talent to jewellery and beautiful Kantha throws and bedspreads.
Changing Lives…One by One
Margot hopes Tulsi Crafts will make a change. She says that if she’s able to change the life of one woman in Bangladesh, should would be happy.
I can change small things, I know that. As changing small things is the only thing I can do, that’s where I’ve started. There are so many people in Bangladesh and so many huge, incomprehensible problems, it’s easy to feel defeated by knowing you can’t change those on your own. But instead I’ve seen what having a dignified job can do to one woman’s life, and that of her children. That’s enough real change for me to want to do this. What we try to do is to create awareness, and if many people change many small things, together we can change big things…
For more information on the Beautiful Business Tulsi Crafts and their product range, check out the website http://www.tulsicrafts.nl/en/