A founder explains how earlier failures and a whole lot of patience made her current venture possible.
In the fast-paced world of technology, you are often encouraged to reveal your big idea as soon as possible. In my 20-plus years as an entrepreneur, I’ve learned that moving too quickly is almost as dangerous. Now, more than ever, timing is everything.
In the late 1990s, I set out to launch a for-profit company called Envolved. The venture encouraged group giving to support non-profits over the Internet, a novel idea at the time. Social networking was in its early stages, and crowdsourcing was almost nonexistent. The concept of Envolved was so fresh that it required the support of technology not yet readily available. When the dot com bubble burst, so did my foray into social giving.
Little did I know, Envolved was just a stepping stone for things to come. A few years prior, in 1995 and 1996, I lived and worked in Vietnam. The dichotomy of the experience was eye-opening: While I reveled in the discovery of beautiful artisanal products, I was appalled by the ugly underbelly of human trafficking and sweatshop labor. Determined to help impact the lives of these artisans, I founded Lulan Artisans, a company dedicated to partnering with different cooperatives to create design-forward products at fair wages.
Through these efforts, I uncovered a pent-up demand for artisanal goods in the broader consumer market. Faux-artisanal goods lined storefronts of mainstream retailers. The mass-produced knock-offs were a far cry from true artisanal craftsmanship. I envisioned creating an online community that directly connected the real artisans with a larger audience. I wanted to help these makers promote and share not only their handcrafted products, but their personal stories.
At this time, photo sharing was just gaining traction: Instagram had recently launched, while Facebook’s photo albums grew in popularity. I knew that if people were this excited about sharing images with each other, they would love the ability to share experiences through video. Not only could this feature engage a community, video could help to show, not just tell, the stories of the artisan products. Despite my enthusiasm to propel this project into production, I recognized that the landscape was not quite ready. Video sharing companies such as Vine weren’t out in the market yet. And so, I waited.
Just as I predicted, consumer behavior shifted, and now, it’s hard to imagine our social media existence without video. By September 2013, my waiting period had come to an end, and wevebuilt.com went live. As the world witnesses a movement toward slow production and socially conscious brands, time is finally on our side.
In a video we just released, “The Story of WE’VE: Artful Products, Sustainable Support.”, we show how artisans are trained to tell their own stories. The three-minute film goes behind the lens to highlight the videographers who train the artisans to share their own stories of the making process.
Would your business have succeeded if you’d launched in five or ten years ago?
About the guest blogger: Eve Blossom (@eveblossom) is the founder of WE’VE and Lulan Artisans. She has 25 years’ experience in design, early-stage tech firms, international business, nonprofit and social ventures. She has spoken at TED and is an Aspen Institute Liberty Fellow. Lulan Artisans was a finalist in the INDEX: Award 2011.