Last week I had the pleasure of attending a Lund University-sponsored event in which recent graduates showcased their new ventures, while also sharing insight into their experiences launching a startup. One speaker presented his brilliant business, an alarm for handbags (far more impressive explained in his own words), then opened the floor for questions. Unsurprisingly, my first question related to where the item would be manufactured. He explained that they would be keeping production closer to home, in Poland, for convenience’s sake and so they would be able to visit the production sites frequently. I was impressed by his reasoning and commend him for making such responsible decisions for what promises to be a complex item to produce on a mass scale.
His answer got me thinking, however, about how likely it is that businesses that keep production within Europe tend to do it in one of a few countries, namely the Baltic states, Poland, or Albania’s Balkan neighbors, Romania and Bulgaria. We’re often asked by others, „why Albania?“ With so many other countries to choose from, why go with one that so many are so unfamiliar with?
The answer to this question is of course multi-fold, and deals primarily with our connection to the country: co-founder Stavri and tech guru Blerta come from the country, and co-founder Maria is married to her Albanian sweetheart. But our reasoning goes far past those personal ties. We chose Albania because it’s a country worth investing in; our seamstresses are women whose stories we want to help write a new chapter in.
According the Migration Policy Institute, more than 25% of the entire population of Albania -and 35% of the labor force- lives abroad. „Albanians view migration as both an individual and a family survival strategy. Moving abroad is seen as an investment in the future, creating opportunities for a second generation of ‚migrants’—their children.“
So what happens when citizens head abroad, and their children gain an education in a foreign country? One inevitable result is brain drain. Future leaders, changemakers, social innovators implement the lessons they’ve learned outside of Albania.
We know that our social business venture is small and only in its infancy, but our sincere hope is that we can show other European businesses that Albania should be added to that list of nearby countries to invest in and to create jobs in. We also hope that as we create jobs ourselves in a rural community, we will see ripple effects that someday stretch even further and touch the region as well. By boosting the economies and social capital of our seamstresses, we’re also investing in their children, a generation that will one day be in charge of the community, perhaps the region…and maybe even the country.
You can learn more about the fair trade workshop that we’ve created in Blinisht, Albania by watching the video on our Indiegogo campaign site. There are just 9 days left to buy our organic baby clothes and to support our push for transprency in the fashion industry. Take a peek and spread the word! /Stef