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Why it is important to support sustainable, women-owned businesses

22 April 2016 12:00 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}



The world is changing the way it perceives products and services. More and more consumers like to know where the money they pay for a service or a product is going. 
With technology empowering end users and suppliers equally, many consumers prefer to buy from communities or known small time suppliers whose livelihoods can thus be empowered directly – instead of buying from big business. 
It is also about personal appeal – big business is plush, big and well stocked but it can make you feel impersonal. Many consumers are also somewhat unsure of where the money goes; bigger the company, more impersonal the appeal. If you have a concern, often you may end up talking to an answering machine or a customer support service based in some back office on the other side of the world. 


Catching on world over
Supporting sustainable business that keeps women in business and families looked after is a concept that is catching on all over the world. In Sri Lanka, many such relationships are growing and being incubated towards greater growth– there are women based rural communities that turn out food products and wearing apparel,which are easily purchased by consumers. There are many opportunities for organic, fresh and homemade produce that can find a ready-made market in the city. Places such as the Good Market enables end users and the suppliers of such services to come together to empower one another.
A successful story of a sustainable business that supports women comes from East Africa – Sseko Designs headed by Forkin Bohanan who believes that one purchase or even one company may not do much to change the world, but that social enterprises empower shoppers with the opportunity to make a purchase in a manner that aligns with values about women, work, and dignity. True to her cause, when women buy sandals turned out by the women in Africa for Sseko Designs, they are helping someone keep a family fed and children in school – these are powerful incentives that make female consumers in particular, feel good about the purchase. 
There are many stories like that all around the world.  The internet harnesses such stories to generate and support such ventures which fuel several initiatives aimed at adding value to females running their own businesses and their communities. For an example, buying from female headed households contribute towards the well being of families directly. 
Sustainable micro businesses that support women play a tremendous role albeit not strongly seen or felt. They support a structure that maybe outside the traditional hierarchy of  buying and selling, empowering the supplier and the end user. Technology has facilitated this process immensely by enabling both parties to make the connection.  Today, an aspiring female entrepreneur with a successful business idea and great business sense can just about reach any market on line. She does not necessarily need middlemen to market her products nor does she need big 
business support. 


Survival of small shops
When supermarkets and hypermarkets became all the rage, small time mom and pop type shops found themselves out of business. Yet, in communities where people preferred known faces, enjoyed the small talk, the regular fellowship and the community interaction that couldn’t be found in the large and sleek supermarkets, these small shops survived. They played a vital role in society, fulfilling a role only they could fulfill.
Today’s end users are market savvy when it comes to making a purchase and choosing a product or a service. They are no longer driven solely by price or other factors deemed relevant towards making a purchase in the traditional manner of thinking. They like to make responsible choices, which in turn can affect what they buy. They like to believe that making a simple purchase that might be taken for granted may indeed be important to someone who can use the money to 
feed a family.


Research findings
As research has always confirmed, women who successfully engage in a micro business typically bring the money back to feed the family or pay back loans faithfully – a powerful factor which has always been a driving motto for micro credit companies who don’t think twice about lending to women. 
You can be sure that the money thus lent ends up safely in the right place, without being washed down a tavern. Whether in Bangladesh, the home of micro credit concept Grameen, Sri Lanka or elsewhere, this powerful concept seems to have driven the concept of micro 
credit successfully.
So, next time you want to buy something, pause to think if you could make the purchase in a way that would make a difference in someone’s life.
(Nayomini Weerasooriya, a senior journalist, writer and a PR professional, can be contacted at [email protected])


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