Small business in the spotlight - Fikay Fashion
The ethical fashion brand aiming to alleviate
extreme poverty in South East Asia
Graduates Aaron Jones and Karlo Baker started their ethical fashion brand to alleviate the extreme poverty they saw when travelling in South East Asia.
What inspired your business?
Aaron Jones: It started as a concept about four and a half years ago. I was travelling in Southeast Asia and was overwhelmed by the poverty there. It got me thinking 'what can I do to help these kids in Cambodia?' The whole thing is just so messed up, half of the population lives on less than two dollars a day.
What was your lightbulb moment?
AJ: I was angry and really, really upset [about the poverty in Cambodia], but I am used to talking about this tough subject now. One day we got talking about the issues there and how the parents needed jobs. If we gave the parents jobs and got the children to stay in school we could really help a community. We started looking at ways to get sewing machines to local women.
What products do you make?
KB: We make anything from small wallets upwards and we do wash bags, make-up bags, a whole range of bags, all quite uniquely made. We don't focus on mass production, there are actually real people involved. What we strive for is for people to understand our story and the real people behind it.
How did you manage to launch the business as a student?
AJ: I started the company at university with a £600 student overdraft. I got evicted from my dorm room for getting so many deliveries. Then I decided I had to get an office. I would say, if you have an idea that you think could be the next business to change the world, just give it a go.
What have been your proudest moments with the business so far?
KB: You could talk about product ranges, new collaborations or gaining access to new markets, but I think the real highlight is when you can see that you are selling a product and it really makes a difference. It happens every time someone buys one of our products. That really drives me and makes me passionate about what we do. The more we sell the bigger the impact is.
AJ: Last summer when we went to Cambodia, Alibaba sponsored the trip and made a three part series documentary about it. And seeing the happy faces of the kids when we got there – that is what it is all about.
What advice do you have for budding fashion entrepreneurs?
KB: Don't protect your designs – share them with everyone and more ideas will come your way. So often as entrepreneurs you can get so het up about protecting the ideas you have that you don’t execute them well.
AJ: We live in a sharing economy and nobody knows your ideas as well as you do. Look for collaboration and you will find opportunities to grow.
The above interview by Kitty Dann first published on theguardian.com in Jan, 2015.