Business as we like it - Introducing the rad brains behind Duffle & Co

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Danny Pritchard from Duffle & Co talks doing good through business, spending his life savings on 100 leather bags and the trip through India that brought Duffle & Co to life...

We heard that you started Duffle & Co after seeing artisans in India struggle to earn a fair wage for their hard work. Can you tell us a little more about that fateful decision to spend your life savings on 100 bags? 

We weren't planning on starting a social enterprise - it just worked out that way. I was trying to avoid going to work for a corporate giant so went travelling. During my time in India I saw inequality, poverty yet also countless opportunities for people to support themselves. Coincidentally I then met some guys on the side of the road, learned how they made their bags and realised their craft was an opportunity. These guys used to work for big factories, but their factories closed and moved to china, leaving these skilled craftsman on the street with no job. Social enterprise is a bit of a buzzword now, but back then (three and a half years ago) it wasn't really a thing. Wewanted to connect them and their craft to NZ and the rest of the world, and in doing so provide them with a means to support themselves. 

So you just called your old friend Kai and went from there?

Kai  (co-founder of Duffle & Co) and I met in Europe on a Contiki tour when we were 18 and met up again in uni. We had already started a business in Dunedin so we were already on the same page. When it came to these leather bags, we scraped what money we had at the time together. This wasn't very much! I was on the last leg of my trip, coming back to NZ and I knew I could bunk at my parents house to save us some money. It's a good job too, as we spent every last penny! It's funny looking back as I have never been into fashion, nor bags, and knew nothing about online business. It started with having the bags under my bed to now, a few years later, where we have our own distribution centre and are supporting artisans in Nepal, India and Bali.

It's really cool to see a company making it so accessible for other companies to do good. Do you see this as the future of successful business?

I think that in 20 years time, good businesses won't have a negative environmental or social impact, but great businesses will be reversing the impacts - that's what customers want. Impact equates to profit for future businesses, if you look at businesses even now, 90% of board meetings have sustainability on their agenda. Businesses that are not sustainable or ethical are going to rot to make way for ones that lead with sustainable and ethical practices. 

At present, there is still a disconnect - we work with businesses wanting to do social good by providing them with bespoke corporate gifts and goods. When you tell the businesses we work with the price we offer for say, a hand stitched leather bag,  we often hear it does't fit in the budget and that's a challenge. We try create as much value for them as possible so they see the value in something long lasting and socially good, rather than something gimmicky.

With Duffle & Co, our goal is to work towards businesses not just slowing down impact but reversing it . When I googled the definition of sustainable business, essentially it means avoiding the depletion of resources to maintain a ecological balance.

Essentially, we are working towards reversing these negative impacts. Our products serve to empower people. For example, when we sell a bespoke product to another business, say a leather bag imprinted with the companies logo, we make sure they are aware of the impact their purchase is creating. Their product provides x many days of work, provides increase in staff moral conveying the good in the purchase, which begins a word of mouth ripple effect. We aim to make products timeless, so the logo is still going to be on the product in 40 years time - that's 40 years of marketing! It's really great for brand image.

How do you think we can work towards making sure companies with social purpose is the future of commerce, rather than the power balance being in large corporations?

It starts with the customer, and education. Seeing this today - 2/3 millennials these days think about the sustainable impacts of a product before they but it, and millennials don't want to work for a company that are not doing good. If we continue this global movement by advocating for sustainable and good businesses, this would continue to help businesses do good succeed, otherwise they won't survive. No one wants to work for them or buy their product.

We are seeing collaborations and connectivity online which helps drive this movement. The key thing is education and making sure people understand. Educating people how serious issues are is really the key - if people can understand the crisis we are in, and they continue to rally for change, then businesses have to adapt, otherwise they won't have a business. It all starts with people.

We all have a social responsibility - Duffle & Co (and other social enterprises) have a responsibility to educate the market and be influential in getting people behind it. This movement need leaders to get behind it and inspire people to make right decision. 

Not only are your products produced in a quality, environmental, ethical and community focused way - you also donate a percentage of the profits to the local community of New Zealand. How important is this positive impact in your business model? Is this something that you intentionally set out to do?

It was actually an accumulation of lots of moments that drove us becoming less profit and more impact orientated. When we first started, social enterprise wasn't a thing, but we thought it was cool to help communities which is why we started in the first place. But then everything changed through our experiences - hearing the stories and seeing the impact has seen us move towards a social and impact driven business. We started hearing the stories and seeing the impact we could make. We had products in India and I had moved to Bali to run the business from there. As I met more craftsman that used to work for big companies but lost jobs to offshore factories, we started putting them together under one roof to work together. Helping people became the thing that drove our business. Now, we reinvest all profits back into the business so we can do better. 

What are your dreams for Duffle & Co in the future?

We want to create a world where making products that benefit people and the planet are the expectation and not the exception. In the present, there are so many other things we want to do, like grow hemp (the most sustainable and environmentally positive raw material in the world) and own the supply chain and create products from that. We also want to keep using Pinatex in our products as it's a great vegan substitute product made from pineapple leaf waste.

Lastly - one question we love to ask ... What are you reading/listening to right now?

Actually listening to the sequel of Sapiens - Homo Deus. I just finished Sapiens and kicked on. The ultimate thing for me is how nature, people and tech that can work in harmony so this is really interesting!

If you want to take a look at the beautiful range of quality leather bags, tees and duffle bags, head on over to their site here. We have our eye on this beauty.

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Travelling A Little More Consciously

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We are constantly looking for the next adventure, next destination, and for new experiences. We are the generation of explorers and adventure seekers.

For us, travel defines, educates and resets us like no other experience we can have within the confines of what is comfortable. As much as we take and get from travel, we only hope that in return we are good travellers - not only really experiencing a place and it's culture, but good at making sure our footprint doesn't leave a more permanent or destructive mark. 

Being a good traveler isn't always intuitive. Somethings, unfortunately, have to be learnt the hard way and boy, have we learnt the hard way. Just like everything, this is a learning process for us too - we haven't always got it right, but with each trip (and lighter pack strapped to our backs) we learn a little more about the impact (both positive and negative) we can have on the country we visit, and the ripple effect of seemingly small decisions and actions we take when we travel.

If you are anything like us, you tend to travel the more gritty places or places that are still developing economically. This leaves us in a position where we need to be especially mindful of the position you come from and how you might come across.

With our next destination on our minds, we thought it would be a good time to share our thoughts on how we have learnt to travel that little bit more consciously.

EAT YOUR WAY INTO A COMMUNITY

Food is one of the reasons we travel. Some of the best travel memories we have involve shared long dinners that go late into the night at a tiny little taverna overlooking the sea or a recipe shared in broken English with an old lady and her family down a backstreet in Morocco. Food is the cultural landscape of a place and there is no way to more quickly find the beating heart of a culture than it's food.

Whether it's stocking up on fresh food at the markets and buying direct from the growers, stopping at a little ma and pa run restaurant or buying from a street vendor, it's these interactions - especially where language is a barrier - that will let you into the culture. These interactions - the delicious, the spontaneous and the inclusive - also have a deeper importance. 

Aside from letting you into the world of those that live there, the money you supply to these restaurants, vendors and market growers goes directly back to them - the everyday people growing food for a living or cooking your dinner. This money funds education, healthcare, a standard of living and can be a vital source of income for a family.

On the contrary, dining at the fashionable places, big franchises or expat run is almost doing the opposite - money more often goes to people and companies that don't necessarily need it. They will always have customers who are happy to pay bigger prices. 

Next time you travel, challenge yourself to get out of your comfort zone. Seek out those side alley eateries, eat from street vendors, little produce stands, markets and step away from the crowds and what's beautiful and trendy. We can promise for your efforts you will be rewarded with richer experiences and authentic cuisine and in return, your money will make a direct difference for those who you buy your food from.

THINK TWICE ABOUT WHAT YOUR MONEY SUPPORTS

I remember a conversation I had with a marine biologist in Mexico. I was so excited to see the release of the baby turtles into the sea from a turtle sanctuary on the beach and I was telling her how I planned to go that night. I watched her face drop as she explained to me that these turtles are far less likely to live because they were already exhausted from wriggling the day away in a bucket, rather than running straight to sea when they hatch. I was gutted as this was something I was desperate to see, but decided in the end that as long as tourist money was involved, the practice would continue. 

Instead, you can make a massive difference in encouraging positive eco and animal tourism. Invest in tourism and activities that will positively affect the environment and animals affected. Guided tours to wetlands, jungle hikes, night rainforest tours and treehutt eco stays are all cool ways you can invest in positive eco tourism - a little research might make the world of difference for the future of tourism in that part of the country.

REDUCING YOUR WASTE IS EASY!

A few things we have discovered will reduce your waste include really simple things like eating in and bringing your own metal straw and reusable bag that can easily be folded up into a tiny little bag.

The single biggest impact thing we have started doing is buying a quality water filter bottle that filters any water to save us from buying various plastic bottles of water each day. I can personally recommend the Fill-2-Pure brand and never had any trouble filling up the bottle from any tap. Most accomodation these days have free filter water so a reusable drink bottle is good, but for times when this isn't a thing, using a filter bottle means you can use water from a tap just about anywhere. Just prepare for a few 'oh god that does person know they are going to die drinking tap water' looks from other travellers!

Making a place better than when you found it is a nice way to give back too ... a few pieces of rubbish picked up on your morning beach run will give you karma brownie points for when you inevitably accidentally wake up your fellow travellers after a few too many margaritas! 

BE GENEROUS

Let me explain a situation I once found myself watching in Central America. Two tiny kids, bare feet, scruffy - they should have been at school but instead walked around the makeshift tourist resorts selling fruit. They had these little bunches of these jelly like fruits that you crack open and suck the sweet juice out of. 

I watched these kids talking with a young travelling couple who were staying at the same place as us, and after a discussion, the kids leave and the couple come back beaming with the fruit. Still beaming, they explained that the kids wanted 30 Cordoba, but they bargained them down to 10 Cordoba. To put that into context, that was around 10 pence for them.

I felt sick listening to this conversation. 10p was nothing to them, but to these kids probably the difference between a full belly that night or not. And this is not the first time I have witnessed miserly travellers. Heated fights over $1, refusal to tip because 'they don't believe in tipping' and practically walking over starving people begging to get to a fancy resturant - I have seen it all and they never fail to make me feel a deep sense of shame for my fellow travellers. 

This doesn't mean that I have not been here myself but I am learning that being in the position to give in a discreet and respectful way is one of the greatest privileges as a traveller.

So buy a little bit extra of whatever you are eating and give it to people who have nothing to eat, be generous with your time, buy things from desperate sellers, buy the pumpkin seeds off the toothless old lady who everybody else ignores and pay a little extra. Tip the mum and young daughter duo who are selling coconuts from a street stall late in the night. Do it in a polite, respectful and humble way and it will be a pleasure that can't be rivalled, especially when you keep your little moments of generosity just to yourself. 

SMALL THINGS DO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

All those small things you are already doing - using reef friendly sunblock, learning little pockets of language to communicate, getting away from the guidebooks and having your own adventure and respecting people not to take photos where inappropriate all really do make a difference.

It is a privilege to travel and experience other cultures, places and people and being conscious of the small things can mean that your visit may enrich a community in some small way rather than just enriching your life. Every plastic bag you avoid, every extra effort you make to say thank you and please in the native language and cover up respectfully is noticed and appreciated.

These are just a small few things we have personally noticed can make a difference when you travel, especially when travelling to countries that are still developing economically. If you are thinking about your next trip, we encourage you to take the plunge and book those flights! Just promise us you will give us tips on the places your travels take you! 

Intentions for 2018 to actually keep

Intentions for 2018 to actually keep

A month into the New Year and our resolutions to stretch every morning at 5.30 am have already disappeared under the covers of a comfy bed. Instead of expecting ourselves to meet unrealistic goals, we thought we would share ideas for intentions for an incredible 2018 from real people who actually live and do cool little things every day that make a difference - people who just so happen to be our best friends!

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