Categorized | Social Entrepreneur

Shop here. Give there

Shop here. Give there

Ami & Amisha

“Shop here. Give there.” This catchy tag line for online jewelry and accessories retailer, Les Amis, very cleverly summarizes the mission of the company: to bolster the concept of responsible luxury.

In French, Les Amis means “friends.” The company is aptly titled, as Les Amis’ founders, Ami Doshi and Amisha Patel, are longtime friends living in Dallas, Texas (how appropriate that they are also both “Amis!”). Inspired by a growing movement toward social entrepreneurship, Doshi and Patel set out to harness the untapped energy of the luxury retail market. They embarked on a mission to create an opportunity for high-end customers to positively impact the world around them, believing that these consumers would jump at the chance to have a more fulfilling shopping experience if they knew their dollars were creating a positive impact around the world.

Each brought to the table a unique perspective. Doshi has professional experience in the finance and high-end retail industries. She is also a global citizen. Patel previously made her mark in the technology field and has dedicated much of her life to volunteering. What they had in common was a love for travel and fashion, specifically the art of accessorizing. Building off this shared passion, the two found a synergy in their independent strengths, and their business was born.

Shop here. Give thereGreatly inspired by TOMS Shoes, Les Amis accomplishes their desire to give back in two unique ways. First, the company makes a10% donation of all net profits to The Global Fund for Children, a cause dear to both founders. In addition, all the products featured on the site are handmade and sourced from artisans of countries all over the world (India, Singapore, Thailand, to name a few). Entrepreneurs in their own right, Les Amis helps these local businesses introduce their products to a global market.

Here, the ladies share what they’ve learned from their own shoestring venture:

Can you explain the “Shop here. Give there.” concept?

“Shop here” for beautiful things from around the world that are hard to find domestically. And “give there” to the grantees in the many countries that The Global Fund for Children supports. We want every purchase from our site to remind our customers to find ways to pay it forward; to look good and do good at the same time.

How did you choose The Global Fund for Children to be your beneficiary?

We wanted to support an organization that was large enough in terms of resources and infrastructure to make a measurable impact, but small enough where our partnership wouldn’t end up supporting only the organization’s operating expenses. The Global Fund for Children’s model is inspiring and transparent and we strongly share their belief in the power of community-based organizations to address community problems in a sustainable way. We were impressed that they do not allow their partners to earmark their contributions to any specific country, program or grantee because they felt their priority should be to align their resources where the greatest needs were, and not be restricted by the motivations of their donors or partners. The GFC works in many countries, but instead of spreading their own resources across all these organizations, they partner with strong, well-established, local grantees to the communities they work in. This ensures better communication and a higher chance of success in those communities. We were also very impressed by their choice of partners and how they were eager to work with small businesses to help them grow as well. They have been extremely supportive and a great partner as we launch a business that supports social change.

Les Amis also works with small businesses and helps them grow. Tell us about how you choose your designers for the site?

When choosing designers we first and foremost make sure the product is fabulous and of excellent quality. We have an international focus as our aim is to present our customers with up-and-coming designers from different countries. Also very important to us is that the designers have company-wide policies on social responsibility. We strongly prefer to work with designers that share our attitude and passion towards this concept.

What is the best advice you never got?

Don’t be afraid to say to yourself, or to your team, “I don’t know.” When we first started the business, the learning curve was very steep and there was so much to assimilate in a very short amount of time. We learned quickly that honesty was the best way to gain trust and credibility – not just with each other, but with our whole team. As a result, we’ve built a great sense of camaraderie and trust between us now.

What is the one thing that you did right?

To always trust our intuition about people and the business strategy. We spent a great deal of time honing and creating our vision, which enabled us to formulate our overall business strategy and plan of execution. We incorporated a timeline and we took personal accountability for each of the milestones we needed to reach. By doing this, we were able to leverage our respective strengths and prior work expertise.

What was the biggest transition you had to make?

The biggest transition we both had to make was learning new skill sets while balancing work and family. It is easy to underestimate the amount of work required to start up a business especially when you’re building a business based on a personal passion (in our case, the art of accessorizing and jewelry). We lulled ourselves into a sense of security in the very early stages because it was exciting to talk about a business idea that excited us both; however, we learned quickly that our business acumen had to rival our personal passion in order to build a sustainable and hopefully successful business.

Shop here. Give thereWhat can you tell other potential social entrepreneurs who are deciding to make a difference?

Be true to your vision and believe completely in your mission. Always remember the larger picture. Be humble, yet passionate. Love what you do and work really hard at it!

What book(s) have you read that others should read?

We were very inspired by Start Something that Matters, by TOMS Shoes founder, Blake Mycoskie. He shares his story, his modest beginnings and how he managed to create not just an amazing product, but also an amazing concept. It has inspired so many people to start their own “something that matters,” in small and big ways.

“Love your work, work for what you love, and change the world – all at the same time.” Blake Mycoskie, Start Something That Matters

http://shoplesamis.com :: facebook.com/shoplesamis :: @shoplesamis ::

Please also visit this site to learn more about The Global Fund for Children:

http://www.globalfundforchildren.org/

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