Of Business Models & Innovative Projects

Hard to admit but empirical evidence shows that I haven’t blogged in March at all! Don’t ask me why. Let’s just say that I am becoming more convinced that time is not linear and runs exponentially on occasion, like this past March?

In that exponentially elapsed period I have been mostly in a learning and thinking mode developing my knowledge and my ideas about innovative business models and what is needed to develop radically different ones. I will be writing more about some of the stops along my journey in the past few weeks. But for now I’d like to report on one project that I came across with an intriguing business model.


The vision of this project is helping developing world artisans bridge the markets divide by providing world-class “micro marketing” enabling global e-commerce for the branded artisans. The business plan is based on a three-way partnership between a for-profit operation, the BRANDAID Project, a non-profit operation, the BRANDAID Foundation, and an international culture organization, UNESCO.

The combination of these three distinct elements is somewhat of a novelty in the public-private partnerships arena.

The Concept

In a recent event at the Spokes club in Toronto on April 9th, Tony Piggot, CEO of JWT Canada and co-founder of BRANDAID Project explained the concept of the venture. Leveraging UNESCO’s Award of Excellence for Handicrafts (previously knows as Seal of Excellence) for identifying artisans of the highest quality, BRANDAID Project supplies a complete branding service including a micro-site and e-commerce platform, to such artisans. The project purchases selected artisan collections at asking price. It offers them with healthy mark-up in select North American markets appreciative of the artistic value and developmental objectives of the project. 35% of the profits flow back to the artisans community: 25% directly to the producing artisans and 10% to the BRANDAID Foundation, who invests back into the artisans communities

Where is it at now

The first brand “Croix des Bouquets” is from Haiti and the first collection has already been purchased. BRANDAID has already been launched in California with sponsorship from Dior and Vanity Fair magazine in an event attended by Director Paul Haggis (an early investor in the project), Hollywood stars Diane Lane and Josh Brolin (who are patrons of the project), and many film celebrities including Charlize Theron. Apparently, all displayed pieces were sold out in less than three hours.

BRANDAID Project is continuing to raise investments, in order to expand its activities to other countries in Latin America, Africa and the Middle East. As of the Toronto event of April 9th there were only 4 investment units of US$ 25,000 each left. The project is looking into some gallery space in New York

My Take

I liked the premise of this project, so I have been advising BRANDAID on its web site development and hosting contracts as well as on the operational logistics (e-commerce platform, order management, and fulfillment). What I find promising is the potential for expanding the vision of the project to create a complete ecosystem around each of the branded artisans in the developing country by engaging and where necessary training graphics designers, web developers, hosting companies etc. If this can be scaled properly, it could not only become a sustainable venture, but also achieve some of the things that my friends in the Toronto betterment movement aspire to achieve.


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