Categorized | Social Entrepreneur

Social Entrepreneur Christine Hutchison of five ACCESSORIES

Christine Hutchison

Name of Social Enterprise? Five ACCESSORIES

Who is the person? What is their background? The person behind five ACCESSORIES is Christine Hutchison. Prior to starting five ACCESSORIES, she spent 14 years in the financial services industry, with her BSBA from the University of Florida. She has also spent the last ten years mentoring inner street kids in Chicago. Christine is actively involved with our StreetWise vendors. Each week she goes there bringing training workshops to them. She does this willingly and from the heart. She supports the most challenging clients, helping them and teaching them how to become self-sufficient. It is one thing to choose a charity and give money to it, but it is quite another to give of yourself. This is what Christine does. And she gives a portion of sales to them as well.

What is your product or service? Our product is fairly traded and eco-friendly handbags and accessories that give back to charity.

Date officially launched? March 2006.

What came about that made them help in social change? Why was this social venture created?

I Made Kichen, a Balinese man

She was inspired to start five on her honeymoon in Bali where she met I Made Kichen, a Balinese man, who told her the story of how as a young boy an American couple supported him $5.00 per month enabling him to finish his education. The impact on his life has lasted to this day as he encourages his children and others to finish their schooling. That small act of kindness is the inspiration behind five ACCESSORIES and its mission: to empower and deliver a sustainable living to workers and their communities through the sale of eco-friendly, fair trade and locally made products.

How many years and how many people has this person helped? How many people need help?

It has been five years and the community of workers in Bali has grown from 4 to 15, in Cambodia the company has grown from 5 to 50 in just over four years. This is just a small portion of the population that has been helped. There are so many more that need a living wage just to feed and clothe their families, plus send their children to school. In Chicago, street vendors at are learning new skills and earning a wage that keeps them off the street, but so many more homeless need help especially in this economy.

Could others help you and how? Yes, of course. People could help by telling businesses, schools and corporations about five’s products. Companies and schools could consider purchasing customized picture frames or handbags/wallets with their logos for corporate gifts, graduation, sport teams etc. Green retailers could open wholesale accounts with us. If people would simply share with their friends and colleagues to help spread the word, five ACCESSORIES could very well become the national eco-friendly brand Christine desires it to be. Word of mouth is the best advertising.

What free online or offline tools do you use? Christine reads fair trade and fashion blogs to stay abreast to the ever changing eco-fashion world. Christine is adept at recruiting interns to offset the cost of hiring employees. She has used over 30 interns to date. Bartering services/products is another way she reduces costs. We also use social media to build an online following of supporters.

How many people are currently working, including employees (freelancers or independent contractors for specific projects)? Five ACCESSORIES employs 6 part-time employees and a crew of college interns.

Do you tweet, facebook fan page, myspace friend or use any other social media to get the word out?

Yes, here they are:

What is the best advice you never got?

The best advice was to find a similar company that has already paved the way. Research how they are doing it. No need to re-invent the wheel if you know something is working.

What is the one thing that you did right?

The one thing done right is to give five ACCESSORIES a socially conscious heart. Offering fair trade, eco-friendly handbags and accessories that support and give back to the local people – that is what five is all about.

What was the biggest transition you had to make (i.e. new skill set, habits, abilities, focus)

Knowing the retail market has been our biggest business transition.

What can you tell other potential social entrepreneurs who are deciding to make a difference?

Remain true to your passion. If your desire to help people is your passion, then you can and will make a difference. Create your own legacy and leave a positive impact for future generations by working hard and loving people. Then you will truly love what you do.

What book(s) have you read that others should read? Half The Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas D.Kristof & Sheryl WuDunn and Artisans and Fair Trade: Crafting Development by Mary A. Littrell & Marsha A. Dickson.

By Christine Hutchison and Theresa Gould (Marketing Assistant), five ACCESSORIES

Interviewee: Christine Hutchison, founder five ACCESSORIES

Contact info: Andersonville Galleria, 5247 N. Clark St., Chicago, IL 60640|312-504-FIVE(3483)

Website: Email: [email protected]

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