Pretty much from the moment I started thinking about +Black as a business concept, I knew that as well as being inclusive in its’ scope, it would have be altruistic in its’ ambitions.
What does that mean? For me, it means that there is a social element to building a business that is as necessary as making returns for investors.
As I’ve said before, the market for +Black is most likely to be from those women who find themselves in the process of lifestyle change and needing to adapt their style requirements either temporarily or permanently. The kind of lifestyle changes we’re talking here are not generally ‘abnormal’ so much as incredibly ‘normal’ – who doesn’t deal with ageing, have periods of ill-health, struggles with weight and so on? There’s a lot of it about: ten million women undergoing such change, right now, and more to come. So, the first aim of +Black is to provide products that make disruptive lifestyle change, personally unwelcome or not, easier and allow its customers to feel good about themselves in the process.
OK, we design and/or source thoughtful and high quality products of ‘Style for Inspiring Women … plusBlack’ to a growing female demographic that does not inspire the mainstream ready-to-wear (RTW) outlets.
On top of this, we want the +Black brand to appeal not only to those with aspirations to quality lifestyles but those aware of life’s realities and who will positively seek out a business with our approach. My conviction is that, like me, when bad things happens to you, if you can, you want to help others. Yes, clearly it would be ideal if we all spotted that life sucks sometimes before it got personal but it’s never too late is it? Trying to convince people that bad stuff happens to us all before it gets personal is actually really hard work – respect to all you campaigners out there! Maybe it’s just easier to find them afterwards and appeal to their newly awakened, and heart-felt, social justice sensibilities when reality has hit home?
I think my kind of women would rather give their custom to an altruistic enterprise than an equivalent High Street retailer (online or not) given product quality/price comparability. Buy great stuff that you really want and give to others less fortunate than yourself. No brainer, isn’t it?
Some companies already do this, for example arts organisations add on a donation element at checkout or some celebrity/business does a charity product line with a % donated to a named charity. In the disability area, Trabasack is a social enterprise:
The Trabasack is lap desk and travel bag with a firm flat tray surface on one side and a removable bean bag cushion on the other. The bag section has enough space to carry daily essentials. Easy to carry and to place on your lap when you need it. Use it as a lap desk for working, eating or playing wherever you are … As we are a social enterprise, our aim is to provide products that promote social inclusion. We also aim to donate 10% of our profits to charities and assist other social enterprises whenever possible. We do this through co-promotions and donations. We also obtain services from other social enterprises whenever possible.
I would need to think how best to structure it but my ambitions are more personal in that I would want to help make a difference to an individual, for instance, funding power wheelchairs, personal goals, gifting product, financing things other disabled people are struggling to get. My own illness is, as yet, undiagnosed which means I have no affiliation to particular charities which is actually quite isolating. I tend to relate to individuals and that’s what I would want +Black to be all about. As ever, comments and thoughts are all welcomed.