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Blog Archives

Danaqa Ltd

What does Danaqa Ltd Do?

 

Danaqa is dedicated to providing market access to producers of high quality outputs in developing countries.  Our focus on this, relates through a range of different channels.  Firstly, and most outward facing, through our boutique and online shop Danaqa World Chic - showcasing the best case outputs from women producers.  Secondly, our products that are best suited to a wider audience, we promote through business to business channels. Finally, we carry out project management, consultancy and advisory services to help market access.  This final channel we call Danaqa Ltd.

 

Danaqa Ltd is focused on multi-stakeholder engagement processes that improve incomes and market access to small-scale producers. Our work has a gender focus and we are interested in all elements of value chains from inputs (through finance, access to improved technology and more), through to production (of Agriculture outputs or manufactured items) and marketing.  We believe in engagement with producers, enabling innovation that is driven by smallholder farmers, small enterprises.

 

Danaqa Ltd utilises the experiences of our staff in international development, research for development and multistakeholder engagement.  These experiences, merged with our knowledge of marketing and promotion within the UK and european markets of high quality outputs creates a unique experience base for adding value to small producers.

 

What Type of programmes do we run?

 

Research for development programmes - where Danaqa Ltd can contribute to the overall learning on how to best enable vulnerable communities to access market and improve income.

Facilitation of multi-stakeholder processes - where dialogue between a wide variety of actors needs facilitation and assistance

Project management - where larger market access programmes and research for development programmes require overall direction, management and skills.

 

For a detailed breakdown of the projects Danaqa Ltd is currently implementing or information on how to partner or engage with us contact This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Danaqa out and about

Clutch

A Beautiful Pink Clutch - Clutched at the Danaqa shop!

Bus and Purple

London Bus meets beautiful larger leather and amethyst clutch

Seed and Gold

Gold and Black Seed (and leather jacket!) a perfect combination

 

Red bag - b/W

A red bag in black and white

Chunk necklace

Bold necklace - stunning result!

Artwork at Danaqa

If you wander into the Danaqa boutique you will notice something different on our walls.  We still have our wonderful wooden mannequins showcasing our lovely pieces, and our amazing stretched leather mirrors – but joining them is a small series of art produced by the wonderfully talented Aida Muluneh.  We have decided to begin showcasing art by Aida, because it fits so wonderfully with the story and message that Danaqa is trying to push.

The Stubborn Island

As with all of the things that we sell, Aida’s work is first and foremost beautiful.  She is an amazingly talented photographer and artist who merges wonderfully haunting images with a positive, vibrant flare.  Her work showcases the contrasts of life in Ethiopia, the mixture between amazing colour and the occasionally dull necessity of survival.  When we decided that we wanted to fill the walls of our boutique with art – the beauty of the work was our main focus.  The quality of the work is reflected by the fact that Aida has collections of her images can be found in permanent collections in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art and the Museum of Biblical Art in the United State

So Long a Letter

Aida’s work, as with all of our other products, has something more than beauty.  Aida’s work has the story.  Aida explores Ethiopia through, identity, personal journey and family nostalgia after a 30-year absence. Aida is a strong and talented woman who helps others through her work.  And, for Danaqa, she makes beautiful pieces that will leave you pleasantly surprised!

We have the Olympic Spirit – cheering on the world!

There has been plenty of negative coverage of the Olympics – yes, we may have also moaned a little bit.  There are plenty of un-Olympic things about the Olympics.* There are plenty of more efficient ways the money could have been spent, and I am sure that there are lots of other places that many people would have preferred that amount of money to be spent. HOWEVER…

It is here, the money has been spent, moaning isn’t going to stop it.

Smile. Embrace. Enjoy.


We are going to embrace the Olympic spirit and hope to soak up as much of the multiculturalism, amazing athletic feats and lovely stories of success and bravery that we can over the next month.  The great thing about the Olympics – for me – is that they are a showcase of the world and all of the wonderful different people that make it up.


The world of sport will feature favourites in long distance running from eastern Africa, sprinting from the Caribbean, weightlifting from Iran and cycling from Britain.  This mixture of favourites reflects beautifully what is wonderful about the world.  Different people will excel from different places, because they are all basically starting with a level playing field and excelling at what their talent and hard work allows them to.  Athletes are not going to succeed or fail because of who they are friends with, or the text message votes in a popularity contest. This spirit, of a level playing field, hard work and talent succeeding, is so often lacking in other pursuits and at other times.

 

This is the Olympic spirit and we will be cheering on people from all over the world and are very grateful that our home will be host to people from all over the world.  This Olympic spirit we embrace at Danaqa.  We aim to provide people, with amazing talent, from all over the world a fair playing field and with an opportunity to compete.  We encourage the underdog and (like the Olympics – but on a much small scale) provide the platform for them to compete, show the world their talent.

 

A lot has been made about how this is a great opportunity for London to show of all that is good about itself.  I couldn’t agree more – this is a great opportunity for a wonderful city to show off its own multiculturalism, to show off its fairness and to show how amazing things can happen when the right principles and foundations are provided.

Enjoy –and if you are in London come and see what a Danaqa Olympic experience feels like – we are based in Notting Hill.

 

*one last little moan – the only one major issue with the Olympics that I still have is the over-pandering to corporate sponsors for an event that promotes ‘fairplay’ and a level playing field – the pandering is done because of financial commitments, but surely the £10 billion in financing the UK government put in dwarfs any of the other sponsors and means ownership over them really lies with UK taxpayers not five or six corporations.

Demoralising news when running a small business

Ho hum, recession.

Ho hum, banks.

Ho hum, bailouts.

Ho hum, tax evasion.

All of the above is not cheery news for anyone. Running a small business, it is demoralising.

You read “Recession strikes back” – I read, nobody is using their Amex this month – what is wrong with the government PR person? Let’s push good news, low interest rates anyone?

 

You read “Dodgy banks caught cheating” – I think about the £50 billion in free money the bank of England has just pumped into the UK economy (via banks) to help ‘small businesses’.  Help ‘small businesses’ by giving free money to banks. Thanks.

If you were to ask the 4.6 million small businesses in the UK how they would like the £50 billion distributed, through Barclays would be 95th on the list.

Here’s a not demoralising thing – “we have £50 billion we are giving away to help small businesses and our economy – we are going to GIVE £10,000 to EVERY small business in the UK, please spend it on promotions, and things to really help your businesses… thanks” .

Yes, I think giving each small business (who employ 14 million Britons) £10,000 is a much better way of boosting the economy, than providing banks that do things like this with money.

 

We are bailing out RBS to help the British economy” – Here’s a better idea. Don’t spend £45 billion on RBS shares; instead give EVERY SINGLE PERSON WHO LIVES IN THE UK £1,000 (according to this – the actual cash cost so far of the banking crisis is actually £123.93bn – or £2,500 per person in the UK).  Give everyone £1,000 on the condition they have to spend it, within a year, on something they want. ive it as vouchers that all businesses can redeem.

When I am trying to recapitalise my business, who do I call in the treasury to negotiate the value of a Danaqa share?

 

Vodafone costs UK tax payer £6 billion in renegotiated deal with HMRC” – I didn’t know I could do this. Who do I call? I want to renogiate my tax bill.  I want to do what football clubs are doing, and just not pay any tax.  If I am a week late with my VAT payments I get a nasty letter… £6 billion? Yep, I want renegotiate my deal.

 

Here’s the reality of running a small business. I have been having trouble with people dumping rubbish outside of Danaqa – I called the council to complain (MANY times), wrote them a letter, told them it was costing my business customers. Someone came to visit. He told me “the business rates you pay are irrelevant, you do not actually have the right to a clean street in front of your shop.”

 

We don’t get to negotiate, we don’t actually get access to cash injections (unless you are willing to put personal guarantees next to loans), we don’t get bailout money or see the benefit of them.  Instead we pay tax and get by. When we do complain, we get told that we don’t even deserve a clean street.  Demoralising.

 

Here's some good news - For the rest of July 2012 we are offering a discount to the readers of our blog of 20%. Simply buy a product online and enter ‘SummerSaleBlog’ into the coupon box during the check out process. Not Demoralising!

Erm... Shudder!

I have a very good friend called Barry Malone, who is very good at drawing my attention to the ridiculous and the odd. Every time his twitter feed (@malonebarry) contains a *shudder* or an “Erm…” I look at the link. Barry is someone with a good eye for * shudders*, being, as he says on his Twitter profile, a Reuters journalist who specialises in covering Africa and Mena.

Recently Barry posted two tweets that I found particularly interesting:

1. “In which an Italian fashion journalist gives Nigeria's Goodluck Jonathan policy advice *shudder* http://www.vogue.it/en/uomo-vogue/people/2012/05/goodluck-jonathan (h/t @timcocks)”

2. “Erm... "It became clear that (the Assad regime's) priorities and values were completely at odds with those of Vogue"http://n.pr/LVARxP

Barry is a very dapper man, but not necessarily a fashionista, so when his “erms” and “shudders” are about fashion I find them particularly intriguing.

I appreciate the intention behind the Vogue Italia feature with Goodluck Jonathan.  “Our idea to dedicate a whole issue to Africa, but with a positive slant in order to convey an image of the continent that’s not all famine and death, but that is full of potential for growth and expansion toward new development initiatives”.

Now the *Shudder*… unfortunately the whole article reads as a lecture.  Franca Souzani expresses in the opening paragraph that the group from Vogue has just landed, and then throughout the piece lectures the President with titbits like – “You have amazing potential – just look at what happened in Brazil, or at how many European and American companies make their goods in China. Why can’t all this be done in Nigeria?” and “Why not build an African Rodeo Drive in Lagos or Abuja, with boutiques carrying both imported and Nigerian goods?”

The extent of the Presidents reflections in the piece are contained almost exclusively as interpretations of emotion such as “The President looks at his ministers with a satisfied smile and appears to agree with what I said.”  For more interpretation on the piece, simply read the comments at the bottom of the feature.

I encourage Vogue and their efforts at rebranding Africa, though the emphasis should be on helping Africa, to rebrand Africa (perhaps a guest editorial edition by an African who reflected the aspirations of the magazine would have been a better way of doing this… Note: Not Bono).

Unfortunately the piece simply reinforced a major problem with lots of well intentioned development efforts.  White man flies in, meets important person, provides generic advice from a ‘knowing’ position (I am sure they haven’t thought about building nice boutiques in Nigeria) and leaves.  At Danaqa we know, communities and designers don’t need advice, they need access to market.

Now the second tweet - about the Assad regime.  I don’t think this really needs comment, but I do think there is a link between the two; if expensive PRs tell you that a country just needs some help with its image, think twice about saying yes. You may end up looking silly.


For the rest of June and July 2012 we are offering a discount to the readers of our blog of 20%. Simply buy a product online and enter ‘SummerSaleBlog’ into the coupon box during the check out process.

What should I do – Shwop, Shop or Stop?

Marks and Spencer have a big campaign running about swapping/recycling clothes.  It is fun, being pushed in an innovative, fashionable way with help from the London College of Fashion – who are helping to run a ‘Shwop lab’.  Marks and Spencer have an overall aim of encouraging the recycling of as many clothes as they sell – 350 million units a year. Their scheme is really interesting - when you buy a new item, hand in an old one to be recycled (sold at an Oxfam outlet).

The overarching logic of this campaign is that the Fashion industry – and specifically the fast fashion industry – is destroying the world through the overproduction of unwanted clothing (a billion items thrown away a year in the UK). We can save the world a bit, by producing less unwanted (pecticide, herbicide, chemical dye used) clothing. I was at another event a few months ago where one speaker promoted stopping to buy anything at all for 6 months. Reuse, don’t consume was the key message.*

Let me play devils advocate for a bit (and please excuse any inaccuracy in the numbers below – I am (obviously) not a journalist).

The Unite union was making a fuss a few days ago about HSBC needlessly dismissing 3000 people from it workforce.  What would a union representing workers in garment factories, sales assistants in shops, and fashion designers say about a massive push to shwop?

According to this website over a billion people (or 1 in 6 people in the world) are employed in some way in the clothing, shoe or textile industries. I am sure if that billion people were to form a union they would probably focus on more important things like labour standards, but wouldn’t they also take exception to M&S;, Oxfam and the shwoping industry(!) –This example is interesting in that they are encouraging you to buy their new products and swap the old, but with the presumed end result that the item you swap will be resold at Oxfam stores.

If we get to the stage where we reduce by half everything we buy related to fashion, won’t that mean forced redundancies globally of 500 million people? What would this do for the global economy? Picture the headlines now “Marks and Spencer Shwop and boom in Oxfam shop sales leads to rioting in Dhaka”.

I know this argument is ridiculous (calm down!) – but the overall point is interesting. Are we facing a choice between the world, and peoples’ livelihoods - however abhorrent the conditions they work in?

Is a better answer to the problem to not recycle or swap, but better consumerism? Buy Fairtrade. Buy organic. Know the people who made the item and be happy with what you are doing.

* As an aside – in a discussion about independent retailers that someone came up with the statement “consumers need to start spending”.

Is the Olympic Spirit there?

It's 100 days to go until the Olympics – apart from ticketing fiascos and a lot of interesting Channel 4 documentaries – my main reflection on the build-up to the Olympics is that it has been very very British.

Moving back to the UK a year ago I was very excited about a few things -the massive culinary options available in London, going to wonderful museums, and the Olympics being the top of the list.  The move to London (after 6 years living overseas) was eased by the amazing multi-culturalism of the city and the melting pot feeling you get when walking around, eating out or going out to the shops.  However, the build-up to the Olympics has so far, highlighted all of the less open characteristics of the Olympics and Britain.

Over the past few months, the government, the Royal family and all of the advertising around the Olympics have been pushing Britain, Pride in Britain, British flags, get behind ‘our’ guys and the wonders of Britain.  We will show the world all that is great about British culture.  For me, this is the wrong way of thinking.

Surely the main benefit of hosting athletes from over 100 countries is not in the promotion of our culture to those visitors, but the massive opportunity we have to learn about the other 100+ countries. The way this should be promoted is that this is London’s and the UK’s chance to learn about other cultures, being bought to us, rather than our chance to teach them.

The summer of 2012 – where open mindedness should happen.

You can ‘get behind’ our athletes, of course. But the wonderful thing about the Olympics is the level playing field of sport.  The fact that the stars will be from small Caribbean islands, mountainous east Africa, Russia, Asia, South America – athletes will win because of talent and hard work and the Olympics is their open opportunity.   The Olympics aren’t about how great the host country is, but about how the world is a wonderful place, full of different people good at different things, from different cultures that we can all learn from.  London is a great city for this, because it can showcase so much that is great about the world coming together. The key piece of information for me that should be promoted is that every country competing in the Olympics has a resident in London. That is great!

All the British flags, and the insistence of promoting Britain (and the main massive corporate sponsors) above anything else, seems to me to be a confused interpretation of the Olympic spirit – the Olympics is not about distinguishing between us and them, our greatness your weakness.

To me the Olympics seem less and less about the underdog, the small players, choice and democracy and more about the promotion of confused messages of corporate culture, big companies, and an opportunity for the tourist board of countries rich enough to host the games to promote themselves. Let’s have more about the greatness of the world in the last 100 days before the games, and really make this summer 'the summer of open mindedness!'

One place this summer where we will be celebrating the world, a level playing field and open mindedness is at Danaqa – we work in 8 different developing countries from around the world and exclusively with small women’s led businesses

If you are big, is doing a little enough?

If you are really big and do a little, is that better than being really small and doing a lot?

The following is a blog commenting on a piece by Lucy Siegle in The Observer about H&M; and if it is really the home of Ethical Fashion.  It is a very well written piece that offers a balanced view on a major issue.  All quotes are from the article.

The facts:

H&M; is the second largest clothing retailer in the world – “And now, in an audacious move, H&M; is positioning itself as the ethical solution”.

H&M; has 2,500 stores, and employs 94,000 people, there are hundreds of thousands more who work in the different factories that make their clothes – 400,000 had seen “a series of groundbreaking short films, including one on fire safety” -  “H&M; has invested in 100 people in CSR, 75 of whom are auditors”. So that is 0.1% of their own workforce in CSR and 0.02%  of all the people who they have some access to (or one CSR employee for every 4,940 people).

So, the question is how is H&M; positioning itself as ‘the ethical solution’ – well… “To that end Thursday also sees the launch of the new Conscious Collection, with pieces made from eco-fibres ranging from organic cotton and recycled plastic bottles to Tencel (derived from plant cellulose) and a glamorous adjunct of "eco" pieces including a silky hemp, pieces that have been worn by celebrities on the red carpet (coincidentally this is a similar idea to the Green Carpet Challenge I (Lucy Siegle) co-founded with Livia Firth in order to up the profile of sustainable style).”

Now – my (cynical) feeling is that H&M; are doing just about enough to appease a few, to encourage one or two more shoppers to pop in and producing just enough CSR material to sprout some good PR. The amount of ‘ethical’ required was probably enough to satisfy all of their celebrities that they would not be embarrassed by attaching their names to H&M.;

We can agree that a company as big as H&M; becoming slightly more ethical can have a massive impact.  They are trying recycle more, be more organic and use some nice trendy materials which are better for the environment than the worst case alternative.

However, on major ‘ethical’ issues they will take no responsibility.  Their supply chain process makes it easy for this.

This is Helena Helmersson, head of sustainability – quoted in the article “'Can you guarantee labour conditions? Can you guarantee zero chemicals?' Of course we cannot when we're such a huge company operating in very challenging conditions. What I can say is that we do the very best we can with a lot of resources and a clear direction of what we're supposed to do. We're working really hard.” And “Yes, I worry about (being the subject of a sweated labour expose) sometimes. I lived in Dhaka for two years. You see how things happen down the chain in a country like Bangladesh. Remember that H&M; does not own any factories itself. We are to some extent dependent on the suppliers — it is impossible to be in full control.”

So – from H&M; – they are trying and are doing something, making some improvement. They are becoming more ‘sustainable’ in their sourcing. But if H&M; is the ethical solution, it is a small solution to the absolute worst that a company can be.  Is there still every chance that the organic cotton clothes are made in horrendous large factories with really poor conditions for all? Yes. Is H&M; small improvement probably having a much bigger global impact than all of work Danaqa is trying to do. Definitely yes. Could H&M; do much much more. Absolutely. Step one, consider ‘ethical’ to include people. At Danaqa people are the first consideration of being ethical, at H&M; they are the last.

If you want a real ethical solution (you celebrities too) follow some of Ms Siegles other advice – “small brands, swapping, vintage, knitting” (for more of her advice go through the articles in her 'Guardian' bio). I would add to please consider where something is made, who made it, and how. Not all manufacturing is bad, not all ‘new’ things are bad, a lot of peoples livelihoods is in manufacturing - we don't need to stop buying, just buy better.

Is 7.6% organic enough for you as an ethical solution, or are people, labour and provenance more/equally as important.

New Zimbabwe Bags at Danaqa - Blog by 'My Burnt Orange'

Below are exerts from a blog by "My Burnt Orange" about new arrivals to Danaqa's bag range.  Please read the full  piece here: http://myburntorange.wordpress.com/2012/04/04/that-shop-with-the-great-leather-bags/

 

That shop with the great leather bags!

"If you have read through my “about” page, you would have picked up that “we” do a bit of work in the ethical fashion, or ethical business industry. I say “we”, because it is never about me, it is about the wonderfully creative women (and men) who work tirelessly to produce some of the most fabulous items to enter through the doors of some of London’s luxury retailers. Oh and don’t worry if you do not know about this one yet, you will soon enough because this Notting Hill based gem is one to watch, right next to that famous “blue door“.

Danaqa and the other blue door

I am talking about Danaqa World Chic, which within a few months of opening its doors, has quickly established itself as “that shop with the great leather bags” in Notthing Hill, and believe me, you will be pleasantly surprised by what they have to offer. What I love most about Danaqa is their dedication to working mostly with women led businesses in developing countries across Asia and Africa. Their latest additions (part of the project that has kept me busy) are from two wonderful ladies based in Zimbabwe who have designed specifically for the Danaqa brand; a jeweller, whose passion and vision is to create wearable art, and a leather handbag designer whose creations are mostly inspired by traditional art, culture and materials that are locally available."

 

Visit myburntorange.wordpress.com for more - and read the full article at the link above.

 

Have a great Easter weekend - Danaqa team!

Come On... Vogue?

A caveat: I am not a fashionista, and have no background in fashion and it slightly scares me – at Danaqa, I have the key experience of working with small businesses in developing countries, the fashion and design is down to more creative people.

 

This week has been fashion week in New York, and the fun of the fashion circus comes to London this weekend.

London Fashion Week

There are some ethical fashion shows – The Good Fashion Show, for example – that we will visit, and we will try to generally keep up with the trends, movers and shakers for Autumn/Winter 2012.  We are definitely not anti-fashion, and make sure to communicate what is on-trend to our designers.

In the future we would love to be fully involved in these festivities. It is very much a dream of ours at Danaqa to be able to show off Acushula Scarves, Mela Bags and T&H; Jewellery at the different fashion week events.  When we are more involved in fashion weeks, I am not sure how I would explain to the wonderful designers in Sri Lanka and Ethiopia about sending me samples for Autumn and Winter 2012, in time for February 2012.

T&H Design

All of our suppliers are based in the countries we source from – not in London, Milan or New York.  Ethiopia has three seasons – short rain, long rain and dry.  The temperature changes by a few degrees during these seasons.  Sri Lanka has two seasons, monsoon and non-monsoon, the temperature only changes by a few degrees during these times.  Translating to designers in Ethiopia and Sri Lanka about the need for alterations and changes to colour, design and material use for Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter is quite challenging, but our designers are receptive to this – one of the advantages of Hollywood films being everywhere is that even in a country that is never cold, there is a basic understanding of the cold.

The issue I can see arising for us is that for Fashion week we will have to be skipping seasons

The conversation will have to go something like –

-          “Salem, can you send me through samples for the thickest scarves, in wintery tone – think of Christmas time, please”

-          “Oh ok, when will you want them delivered to you and how many? David, you do know it is December right? We won’t be able to have them ready before Christmas”

-          “Yes Salem I know, send the samples soon please, make them creative and lovely, they are for fashion week!”

-          “Oh great! And when would you want the rest of the order?”

-          “Umm, in eight or nine months please”

-          “Right… David, you English people are very strange”

We are.

A Brief Guide to Gifting!

Valentine’s day is coming up, one of the biggest gifting days of the year.  We all know that the search for the perfect gift can be a stressful one – especially for men.

I have managed to mess up a few gifts during the 8 years or so Nadia and I have been a couple. Below are a few snippets of our experiences in gifting and some of the helpful advice Nadia has given me during that time.

Nadia has promised not to hold back on her honesty about the quality of my gifting!

Listen and Observe

David – Right, let’s start this off on a real positive.  So for Christmas I bought you a Pachacuti hat (ethical and beautiful!) – I knew you wanted a winter hat, knew you were looking for them online, knew you liked the brand, Boom. Great present.  Explain why exactly?

Nadia – First of all – listen and observe.  What things does she say that she likes? What does she show an interest in?  A great gift doesn’t have to be an original idea by you.  It can be based on a series of observations that you have made. You can do this whilst still surprising her. You can be more original than showing her something, asking her if she likes it then returning to buy the specific thing.  Use observations and listen to what she has said, then show that you are a great listener by surprising her with that product!

Take a foundation, or an idea that you know she/he wants and then build on it – it will be a great gift because you are getting her something she wants, not something she was necessarily expecting from you AND you are showing you are a good listener.

Red Bag with Bracelet

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remember who you are buying a gift for.

David – When Nadia and I spent our first Christmas together, I knew that she was in love with a great bag from Barefoot – all beautiful handwoven cotton and useful.  I had been nice and observant and knew that she wanted one, but also knew that she felt she couldn’t justify buying it herself.  It was a great present… EXCEPT the fact that I bought her a bright pink one.  I guess I was blinded by smugness.

Nadia – Yes, the bag that I wanted, but bright pink was not necessarily my colour!

I would recommend that you do your homework before you go out.  Make sure you have a good understanding of the colours, the size, the style of the person that you are gifting to.  As with David’s example above, great gift, wrong colour equals not the perfect gift.  If he would have calmed down, and had a look at my wardrobe he could have easily worked out that browns and blues in the bag would have been a lot more appropriate.  If you are going to surprise me, make sure I can use the gift with my wardrobe (or living space) /or be prepared to buy me a whole new wardrobe (or living space) to complement that gift!

Twins Multistrand

 

 

 

 

 

What gift for when!

David – I think one of the things that I haven’t quite figured out is how to gift differently based on the different occasions that come up in a year.  Is a Christmas gift different to a birthday gift to an anniversary gift to a Valentine’s gift? It is a bit confusing.  Nadia - help!


Nadia – Different occasions have different meanings to people.  This needs to be taken into account when choosing a gift.  For me, anniversaries are about buying gifts that fit with the popular theme for that year. Example: Leather for the 3rd anniversary, gold for the 25th, paper for the 1st – and expressing your love by being creative within that theme.

Birthdays and Christmas are often a time for getting an item that you need or want, but that are on a scale that is beyond what you might normally buy for yourself.  You generally have a list of things you want for Christmas.

Occasions like Valentine’s often have no strings attached.  These days offer the purest form of gifting, just based on buying something really special for someone (without necessarily being expensive) that some real thought has gone into.   Particularly for Valentine’s Day it is about love, celebrating a relationship and a time for a guy (or girl) to be a bit more ‘cheesy’ with the gift they give.

My ideal gift for Valentine’s day would be something that I would not necessarily choose to buy for myself, but is an interesting reflection of what that person (you – David!) think of my style and myself.

In Summary

David – Ok then Nadia, sum it up for us, it is Valentine’s day after all (with a few obvious products from Danaqa please!)

Nadia –

  1. A great gift involves listening and observing, get her (him) something that you have seen them show an interest in, but that still is a surprise.

If she has walked into Danaqa and said how much she loves the bags – and touched, picked up one (like this one) then drop in and buy it for her without her knowing!

  1. Colours, styles and sizes really matter – if you can show that you have paid attention to the style/look of the person, this is a bonus

This gorgeous scarf would go great with someone who wears a lot of blues/navy

  1. Make sure your gift matches the day. If it is your silver wedding anniversary, do not buy a wooden sculpture

Instead buy this beautiful necklace with silver features!

The UK's Business Environment

The following blog is not about the beautiful world of Ethical fashion, it is about starting and  running a small business - we will return to writing about Danaqa and our lovely suppliers next time!

 

The government's Red Tape Challenge is currently focusing on creating new business models and the barriers entrepreneurs face. On the 12th of January2012, 10 Downing Street is carrying out a webchat about the barriers facing small businesses and entrepreneurs – so whilst the following is not about a new business model, it includes some thoughts on barriers and difficulties faced by entrepreneurs in establishing any business in the UK.

 

In Ethiopia (my last country of residence) there is a lot of bureaucracy and headache involved in establishing a business.  Many of my best friends would tell me  their stories of sitting for hours or days in different Government Ministries waiting to get the right signature from the right person; they would tell me about arguing with banks about foreign exchange and money transfers; and they would complain about the infrastructure and the difficulty of moving things around.   I would talk with those same Ethiopian entrepreneurs about establishing Danaqa in the UK and the (comparative) ease and simplicity with which I would establish my business empire!

 

My optimism was definitely misplaced.  My optimism was probably ill-informed.

 

The UK ranks 21st in The Economist Magazine’s ‘Business Environment’ ranking – and has become a worse environment over the past four years. This has little to do with recession – as other countries also facing recessions such as Ireland, ranks above the UK, and Spain’s rating has improved over the past four years.

 

There are many barriers that entrepreneurs and small businesses face during start up, and I am sure that the Red Tape Challenge will deal with many of them.   For me, one area that the government and the private sector could work together to improve, is to simplify costs and reduce them by eliminating the hidden, small costs from almost every aspect of running a business.   By this I do not mean large things – like rent, staff salaries etc – it is up to the business to manage those.  I mean small costs, which are sold as being insignificant, but for a small business add up, waste time and create frustration.

 

Insurance and Alarms

 

I will use my experiences with our alarm company (and insurance company) as a good illustration of the ways that the private sector adds on hidden costs throughout their ‘service provision’.

 

We run a shop and wanted to insure its contents.  Simple.  Google, a bit of reading and some good research can find the ideal insurance company with the ideal quote.  To get a property insured you need an alarm.  That is completely understandable.

 

I don’t know much about alarms, so was in a situation of having to trust – to a certain extent – the insurance company and their recommended alarm company.  The Alarm was installed £800 + pounds later, and the insurance fully paid for (for another large amount of money).  This could have been a good deal, and is at least an amount of money that can be researched and budgeted for.

 

We are a new, small business so I look at every penny that comes in and out of our business.  I noticed that as a 300 sq foot shop with one phone and an internet connection we had very, very high phone bills - £65 a month of premium calls, which I was not making.  On investigation the £65 premium calls were being made from the alarm, to the alarm company… three times a day (at least) at 75 pence a call.  This would be another £700+ of damage to our company’s accounts and take my full ‘insurance/alarm’ bill close to £3000 for the first year.  I had not signed up to these calls so I called and complained.

 

“It is the fault of your phone company” – the alarm company said – if you pay for a transfer to BT it will be less.  So I called the phone company.

“No it won’t” said phone company – and BT agreed.  So I called back to the alarm company.

“Well sir, I am sorry – we can change the system to one that won’t charge you an unannounced fee of £700 per year, for a one-off fee of £300 plus installation.”

Could I just cancel the calls?  Take the risk that the alarm had stopped working.  No.  My insurance would be void. The cost of changing to a different alarm company – probably about £700.

 

Sigh.

The point is that 74p a call is not a large amount of money in itself, and is the type of small transaction that a large company would not notice.  This, however, is not what I signed up for with the alarm company, I was not told about it in my discussions with them, and the money was taken in a hidden way – without invoicing or warning.  With so much going on in running a business, I simply could have paid the phone bill every month without noticing.   More importantly, I should be able to pay my phone bill every month without concern.

Most of the service sector businesses that we have worked with in establishing Danaqa have tried similar – if less blatant – exercises in getting an extra pound or so out of us.  Recurring charges, premium phone lines and invoices for unneeded products are the norm. Filtering through them is difficult.

 

It is not easy running a small business in the UK.

 

Business rates and Taxes and assistance from the state

 

In our business plan I had accounted for paying business rates – the business equivalent of council tax. I knew the business rates would be high, considering the type of business we wanted to establish.

 

Danaqa occupies a 300 sq ft shop space. It is about 3m x 7.5m – or very small! It is not on a main high-street. We pay over £10,000 in business rates – not our rateable value, or our rent, this is additional actually money.  That is a large amount for a small business, but we had accounted for it.  It was in our business plan.

I did not know that the £10,000 would not include waste collection, the police responding to my expensive alarm or many other services.

 

Small businesses in Kensington and Chelsea, London have to pay for every bag of rubbish collected in addition to their rates.  The cost per bag is relatively low (similar to a premium rate phone call!), but it is an extra thing to consider and an extra cost.  In the last two months, I have put rubbish out about 8 or 9 times.  It has not been collected at all 6 times – leaving piles of uncollected rubbish outside our shop for days on end. If this was included in our £10,000 that would be annoying, but the fact that we pay additional money for each of those uncollected bags is maddening.

Sigh.

It is not easy running a small business in the UK

 

Feeling under attack

 

There is so much positive about London, the UK and doing business here.  I would not swap my problems with my friends in Ethiopia.  That would be ridiculous.

However, every aspect of trying to run a business here has a whole range of additional (and often unseen/unexplained) fees, add ons, costs and expenses.  £17 for a money transfer, £26 in duty fees, 74p per call three times a day for the alarm, £150 ‘service contracts’, ‘necessary’ upgrades for £29.99, safeguard your information on products for £60, advice from our highly trained experts whenever you like for £74.99.  A lot of these come in the form of invoices or phone calls telling you that you HAVE to take them. Having a new business is like having a new baby – you want to make sure it is safe, so when someone with ‘knowledge’ tells you that you are being reckless not to buy something, your instinct is to buy it.

 

Saying no to everything is hard and there are lot of those you cannot say ‘no’ to, you have to pay (for example - not paying the alarm company would void our insurance). These costs and add ons create a feeling for a small business that you are under attack.  The feeling of being under attack is heightened by the lack of relief from anyone, especially the state.

 

The state/council plays the same game as private suppliers - 74p per bag of recycled waste, £30 for the police to respond to your alarm, £240 to register your trademark, £85 to register your business with us (it is fun to pay for the privilege to be taxed).  And all of this in addition to the duty, VAT, PAYE, income tax, and rates (which are fine, you can plan for those).

 

The most embarrassing part of The Economists Business Environments rating for the UK is that on when looking at the government role in helping businesses - by looking at different regulations and government schemes –  the UK ranks 29th out of 58 countries measured, behind Indonesia, South Africa, Estonia and Thailand.

 

Instead of providing real relief to start-up businesses and real guidance in how to navigate through the arena of vulture-like service providers, the State runs schemes like ‘Start-Up Britain’ which is nothing more than a glorified voucher scheme and marketing tool for service providers and large businesses to begin a relationship with you (“Register for Free to get your free copy of the Start-up Guide and a £5 Brightword Voucher” “Sponsored by Virgin media”).

 

Unfortunately even when some potentially positive comes up – it is a bit of a let down. The British government has a system for ‘small business rates relief’ something that will really ease the business environment for small/start-up businesses. Reducing the 10,000 pounds to help the little guys is great. I was genuinely excited about this and I called, sat on the phone, got transferred around, and finally found out that our business did indeed qualify for the relief.  My discount? £40 spread over the year (or a multiplier of .0035 of my rates). To put this in perspective, let me tell you that I pay £40 every quarter in addition to my rates for my council to collect my rubbish.

 

 

Solutions – Save us money, make things simple.

 

My opinion is that small businesses and start-ups need cash savings through relief/reductions and improved simplicity more than they need injections of capital through the finance sector.  Greater access to loans is good, but this will result in the payment of high interest rates, and generally help large businesses – banks – in the end – AND come with their own fees, set-up costs, admin fees and renewal fees. VAT relief; PAYE relief for new jobs; business rates relief measured over months/years (that isn’t an insulting £40 – or .35%), would all be very welcome as a genuine, encouraging cash saving.

 

Small businesses need simplicity. Service providers get so much out of small businesses because of the little, extra, unseen complicated and unnecessary bits.  The state should do everything possible to simplify the way that businesses are quoted to and make quotes.  The government and councils should stop charging these small add-ons themselves, I understand this is a good way to cover the cost of providing the states services, What is the point of my business rates, tax contributions, and other larger transfers if not to help cover the cost of my business to the state.  The combination of high rates and all of the extra costs is not satisfactory at all.

 

Simplifying the service sector is a real way that would make starting a business easier.

 

There are two schemes/initiatives that I have come across that are excellent and provide meaningful relief for investors and help simplify the process of running a business.  The EIS (Enterprise Investment Scheme) scheme is great, and should draw helpful investment (rather than encouraging borrowing) into small businesses.  It does this by providing income tax relief for investors in small businesses and options to defer capital gains tax if invested in small businesses.

 

One of the main reasons that the EIS is good, is because it is simple – comparing it to the ‘small business rates relief’ program – the EIS scheme provides 20% tax write-off incentives to investors in qualified businesses, whereas the small business rates relief uses complicated multipliers dependent on rateable value of properties – and results in a .35% saving.

 

BusinessLinks is a superb website that is my first resource when I am trying to navigate governance requirements for our business.  It works well because it makes things simple.  Both are great, simple and good for business.  More of these types of initiatives would be very welcome.

 

Doing a little is only doing a little, and surely a real effort to improve the UK’s “Business Environment” rating – we should be top 5 at least – would be a real way to help the economy, help employers, help employment and help small businesses survive.  My one plea – make it simpler. Please.

Aspirations for 2012

New Year’s resolutions – they are always broken.  New Year’s Aspirations are something that we can work towards.  As a company we have always promised to be aspirational in the way that we plan, sell and operate.  So, what are our aspirations for 2012?


More awareness, more communication – introducing the Prius.  We made a few presumptions when we were establishing Danaqa that we had to quickly revise.  One of those was that the UK had a relatively established ‘ethical’ retail industry. The other was that the UK public was being persuaded to alter its purchasing habits to being more ‘ethical’.

 

The UKs ethical retail industry is developing, but I feel it is doing so from a very low position. There is an effort by retailers to source more ‘organic’ or fairtrade, but this is mostly being done as a small range within large expanses of non-fairtrade, non-eco.  Doing a little is only doing a little.  Companies that are making a genuine effort are almost all small boutiques or online outlets trying to find a space in the market. For me, the attitude of the majority of large retailers in the UK is to treat ‘ethical’ as a CSR project, rather than a potentially lucrative product line.*

 

I feel that what the ethical fashion movement needs is its Prius.


The Prius has become a status symbol for the upper-middle classes.  A similar ‘must have’ to Mulberry bags, the iPad or thick rimmed glasses. It is a must have and not a unique or original purchase, but a clear indicator of class, wealth and a good understanding of the times.  It is also very positive, because it has created this status whilst promoting its ‘goodness’.  It is low emissions, good for the world (or at least better for the world) and aspirational in its aims as a product.  Importantly, it has created a market for competitors and innovation in the market. It has created a scramble for the best designed, best ‘for the world’, eco cars amongst all of the largest car manufacturers.  The Prius is exactly what the ethical fashion industry needs.  I hope that Danaqa – or someone similar to Danaqa - can introduce a ‘Prius’ in 2012.  I feel as though we are very close to achieving this in the local area around Danaqa’s boutique with our leather handbags (especially this one), but that is a small area, and a small dent.


What will it take to turn our Large Bag with Ring into a Prius (beyond a catchier name!)?


Large Ring Bag

Quality and an increase in awareness -  The most important aspect for the ethical retail industry in finding its Prius is quality. High, recognisable quality is vital to anything being successful, but for an industry with a stigma for “tat” being associated with it, this is even more important. If the quality is there in a product, then the next step has to be communicating the product – and creating an awareness of the ‘something more’ an ethical product provides the owner. We need to communicate to a large audience that products like ours are available to everyone, and are of a high quality, are made the right way and are beautiful.

 

So at Danaqa we have New Years Aspirations.  Our aspiration for 2012 is to find a Prius, in the form of a handbag.

*Note: You cannot blame them for this – looking at what happen over the Christmas period, with the desperation among the public for “SALES – 70% or more off” – it is fairly clear that retail customers are most concerned about the idea they are getting a deal than anything at all to do with heritage or even quality of the products they are buying.

Reflections on 2011

2011 will always be for me the year that I really took a risk.  My life before 2011 had been full of little risks – moving to Sri Lanka to follow a girl, taking work assignments in dangerous areas, lying on a beach with my pale skin wearing only factor 12 sunscreen – these are all small risks.  2011 was a big risk.  In 2011 Nadia and I packed up our comfortable lives, which we had spent 7 years working towards, in Ethiopia and moved to London to set up a business.


I had spent most of 2010 working on the business plan and fundraising for Danaqa, but it was only when we arrived at Bole International Airport with our one-way tickets to London that the seriousness of what we were about to do struck.  We were giving up comforts, consistency and reliability (in Ethiopia of all places), for uncertainty and risk in London.  No, that last sentence was not a joke. We wanted to set up a business - a retail business - that was trying to introduce something new to London, in the middle of the biggest recession of our lives.


Now we have been in London for 8 months, and Danaqa World Chic has been open at our little boutique on Westbourne Park Road for 5 months.  Was the risk that big?  Was the gamble worth it (so far)?


Sometimes ignorance really is bliss.  We were trying to do something with a very high level of difficulty, which I really didn’t properly comprehend at the time. I had no idea how difficult ‘the system’ makes establishing businesses in the UK, or some of the obstacles that present themselves in the early stages (more on that in a later blog!). And whilst nothing is certain, perhaps because of optimism or ignorance, we have proved that it is possible to do something positive, even in this ‘economic climate’.  I have learnt more in 5 months than I had in 10 years and even if nothing else comes out of 2011, I have tried.


Everyone involved with Danaqa has tried to do something different and something very positive.  We have committed to being Ethical and Luxurious. Everyone involved with Danaqa has looked at a possibility and decided that to be bold was better than to be meek.  We decided we wanted to open a boutique for Danaqa, rather than just try out our idea online, because that was the bold thing to do.  We wanted to sell high value, high quality products, because that was the bold thing to do.  We wanted to establish a brand and a concept with longevity and an aspirational plan that focused on the future, because that was the bold thing to do.


Danaqa has received some great publicity and will continue to do so, we have met some great customers, and in our small way we are already starting to introduce some of the attitudinal changes that are important to us.  We have also, already, made a massive difference to the incomes, confidence and aspirations of our amazing designers, craftsmen and companies we work with.  Many things about the way Danaqa is run have changed since the original business plan, but our ‘Ethical Commitments’ have not.  I am very proud of that.


On reflection the risk that we took when opening Danaqa was bigger than I understood when I was sitting in my office in Addis Ababa writing the business plan.  Also, on reflection we were being bolder with our principles and methodologies than I fully understood. However, the gamble and boldness is definitely worth it, and the last year has been a fantastic adventure.


In 2012 we will continue to be bold at Danaqa and we hope that it continues to pay off and that we continue to surprise.


Over the next two weeks we will publish a short series about our plans for 2012, our experiences in starting our business over the past 6 months and some comments on the current business environment.


Happy New Year

Questions raised at Danaqa after one month

Below are some answers to some questions raised by people visiting our shop (vol 1):


For those of you who enjoyed our thoughts and musings prior to our opening, we should apologise.  Since we received the keys for 282 Westbourne Park Road (Notting Hill Gate/Ladbroke Grove – W11 1EH) nearly two months ago, it has been all go for us with painting, fitting out the shop, creating enticing display windows and for the last five weeks – selling beautiful handmade, ethical treasurers.

Since opening, I have spent a lot of time looking out the window, trying to telepathically draw the window shoppers into our shop, and when the lovely shoppers have come in they have greeted me with either stoic British silence or long wonderful, enquiring questions.

Or they have walked in and asked me if “that is really the door” and “where is the bookshop?”

It has been difficult for me to resist from insisting that everyone who walks into the shop engage with me in a fifteen minute long conversation about why it is important that all of our products are handmade, sourced from women’s led businesses or community groups, and made in interesting developing countries.  For the first week or so, the quiet shoppers were ‘harassed’ as they walked around Danaqa as I explained every detail of every beaded bracelet and hand-sewn leather bag to them.

However, I am accepting the quiet-nature of many shoppers more now.  The stares I was receiving, as if I was some kind of weird lonely sociopath, whenever I welcomed someone into the shop helped with that. Some people just want to shop in peace, I understand.  For those of you who want peace and quiet when shopping in Danaqa, but maybe still want some information on the concept and products, I will answer some of the questions that have been raised by others in this blog space over the next couple of weeks.


How is selling goat skin bags ethical?

This is a very interesting question as a lot of literature about what constitutes ‘Ethical’ fashion highlights the importance of being ‘eco’ in what you wear and buy.  There are a number of lovely Ethical fashion companies that provide only ‘vegan’ products. This is a good stance to have and important.  Where Danaqa stands from an ‘eco’ perspective is covered in a previous blog.  However, when it comes to the use of animals in producing fashion products, I think the idea of how this can be done ethically is very important.

We have a large stock range from Ethiopia, and a lot of it is leather.  Ethiopia is a food insecure country. Is this combination ethical?  Is it ethical to have leather at all?

My opinion on this (and it is only an opinion) is that it is important in these situations to know the context of the country and the leather industry.  In Ethiopia and Rwanda (the source of our goatskin bags), animals are not bred or reared for their leather.  They are bred and reared as both household assets (not necessarily household pets, household assets are different!) and a source of food – in development speak – the leather is a bi-product.  The income that farmers can earn from selling on the hides and skins of their animals are a bonus that provide a supplement to the cash income of families living in difficult rural conditions.  In addition to this, in both Ethiopia and Rwanda the livestock is farmed by small holders, with small numbers of animals (in Ethiopia – a country of around 80 million people – 65% of the population earns a livelihood from livestock).  Additional cash income for farmers with few assets, which benefits a very large number of people, is why Danaqa selling goatskin bags from Rwanda, or sheepskin bags from Ethiopia is very ethical.

That is a one paragraph answer to a very complicated question.  Having lived around livestock researchers for four years, I understand there are water, land and other environmental issues surrounding livestock rearing.  All of this is difficult to weigh up in a ‘which is better’ way.  However, considering the vast number of people that rely on livestock as a valuable asset and source of income, sourcing leather from countries like Ethiopia and Rwanda is Ethical in my books.


Is that really the door with Julie Roberts and Hugh Grant and the funny welsh man?

Yes, but they are not in now… Please stop asking!

I will try to answer more commonly raised Danaqa related questions in the coming weeks

Ethical shopping makes you feel really good… you’ll be surprised!

What is ethical and fair about Danaqa?

What is ethical fashion/ethical retail? And how is Danaqa an ethical retail business? These questions come up a lot both when we tell people that Danaqa is an ethical retail business. The first question is also an ongoing discussion within the wider circles of ethical retail, and ethical fashion which is gaining greater presence in the fashion arena. Some say it is about paying fair prices, some say it is about responsible sourcing of materials, while others have other ethical principles in mind. To represent it some want to be able to give certification, while others say it is about being able to explain the particular ethics that have gone into producing an item.

This topic needs more discussion- not to prove which is right or wrong- but to help the wider public and customer base understand the many positive efforts that are going on and to be able to navigate through this new and exciting field of fashion. So we thought we would start by explaining why our company- and our products- are ethical.

Fair trade has lead the way

There is no doubt that the fair trade movement has developed a lot of energy and a ‘mainstream’ feel.  It has changed in the last 5-10 years from being a movement that gained popularity as a reaction to the vast profits high street coffee shops were making, to being an expected mark on most agricultural commodities imported into the EU.  Ben and Jerry’s jumped onto the fair trade mission by advertising that all of their stock is sourced using ‘fair trade’ principles, and they have a Coconutty Fair flavour of ice cream (and advertising campaign).   All of this is great.  Fair trade (at its essence) has very simple principles which are better for farmers in the developing world.  Fair trade is currently focused only on agricultural products (for example cocao, cotton etc)

Along with the fair trade movement, a new movement has also started to develop which is complementary, and possibly larger in its ambition and scope – ethical retailing.  Ethical retailing incorporates a range of different ideas, without having a set of defined principles – though there is a movement to create a set of principles/rules.  It remains to be seen how this can be done and what results it would bring.

A broader look at ethical retailing emerges

We have now seen an emergence of a broader field of ethical retail which encompasses Fair Trade and its principles, but also started to embrace other forms of ethics, and now has a major focus on the fashion arena. Currently one of the main features of ethical retail, often highlighted by bloggers and writers on the subject, is focus on ‘sustainable’ and eco-friendly principles in producing their goods.  Ethical fashion comprises designers working with and products made of organic materials and sustainably sourced natural resources. It helps us to feel more comfortable with the clothing and accessories we wear from an environmental impact perspective, although use of less pesticides and chemicals in treating materials also helps reduce negative impacts on farmers and communities as well.

This eco message is often combined with the concept of ‘slow’ fashion, which allows producers time to complete orders, without over pressurising suppliers to meet one-off orders instantly or risk losing contracts.

The ethical retail movement is very positive.

Danaqa’s ethical principles

Danaqa’s priorities build on both the current very positive fair trade and ethical retail movements.

We are very confident we fit 100% with fair trade principles - we pay very fair prices, often pay a large proportion of the money up-front on ordering the products and ensure that good working conditions are being carried out.  Many of our suppliers are members of their country’s fair trade organisations. We also are 100% confident that we fit with ethical principles that currently define ethical retail, however loosely they are defined.  We have tried to source ecologically sensitive products where possible (ALL of our packaging is recycled and 100% sustainable). Furthermore we are definitely not enforcing ‘fast fashion’ onto our suppliers.

But we have tried to do more as well. Danaqa is trying to add another ethical dimension- supporting wider development opportunities in countries where products are sourced!

Danaqa’s main ethical commitment is that we promise to leave as much of the value as possible in the countries and communities that we source from – and that we are determined to find communities and countries which are in need of economic/livelihoods impact.

Fair trade goods pay more to specific farmers, which is great, but they do not have any commitment to leaving more value with other non-farming parts of the economy, which are also necessary to support other livelihoods as well as wider economic development.  When you buy fair trade coffee the coffee farmer is normally receiving more money for the coffee than with non-fair trade coffee, but all of the other value adding – the roasting, packaging, etc is being done elsewhere. Arguing that farmers should get a larger proportion of the £2.00 spent on a cup of coffee is worthwhile, but whilst so much of the expensive value adding is going on somewhere else, the increase of the impact limited to one community in the developing country.

Some parts of value adding have to be done elsewhere - or you would have all of the Starbucks in the world in four or five coffee growing countries. But there is little reason why countries such as Colombia, Ethiopia and Indonesia couldn’t roast and package the coffee they grow.

How Danaqa is implementing its ethical principles

At Danaqa our packaging comes from Ethiopia, Sri Lanka and Nepal. The branding of Danaqa was done in Sri Lanka.  All of the products we import to the UK come as finished products. All of the design of the products is done in country, by local/resident designers. The website is built and maintained by an Ethiopian company...

Having this value added commitment - in addition to sticking with fair trade principles of fair pay, work conditions, upfront payments, no ‘fast fashion’, being eco-friendly where possible and finding poor/underexposed communities to source from  – is how we think we are an ethical retailer.  This commitment comes from a belief that it is best for countries and communities as a whole to develop a range of complimentary high-quality skills and have support industries developed within them.

Overcoming challenges

This is not the easy option for Danaqa, or any company and this is compounded for us by our selection of ‘difficult’ countries and communities.  We could source from relatively developed, large, cooperatives in South Africa, India, Indonesia, or China (which would undoubtedly have a very positive impact), but instead have made the decision that underexposed countries such as Ethiopia, Rwanda and Nepal deserve to also benefit from the full value we are leaving within the economies.  We have had to carry out a lot of business development within our countries, and at times have made our own lives more complicated than they have had to be.  All of this is worth it though, as we feel that as a company, we are adding to the already impressive achievements of ethical fashion and the fair trade industry.

Finally we are a source of “luxury” goods. The countries we are sourcing from have a reputation for being poor and a source of poor quality/cheap goods. This image affects our attitudes to them in many subliminal/subconscious ways. We want to change that image by showing that they are also a source of incredibly high quality goods produced with innovative design.

We hope you will be pleasantly surprised.

Danaqa is an inspirational luxury and unique lifestyle brand for those with a passion for fashionable, quality, bespoke personal and household accessories and a desire to help entrepreneurs from the developing world grow.

1.5 Tonnes of Danaqa

Setting up Danaqa has taken a lot of learning on the job. One of the areas we knew we would have to become familiar with in setting up Danaqa is international freighting. I don't think many companies are enthusiastic about dealing with freighting companies and customs in countries such as Ethiopia, Rwanda, Nepal and Sri Lanka, and I am sure that no company would want to deal with customs in all of those countries at exactly the same time.  However, this is the situation we found ourselves in, and we are having fun learning the intricacies of each of the different countries systems and companies.

As it happens, the speed of processing goods through customs and shipping from Rwanda and Sri lanka is about the same. This meant that Danaqa had one bumper arrival at our storage facility, and had lots of fun unpacking it all!

Here are some of the pictures of the arrival.  Don't forget, all of these products will be available to buy soon on this site.

Elephant Dung

The majority of the 39 boxes were made up of boxes... though the ones we imported are made from recycled Elephant dung

Stainless Steel Vase

Stainless Steel Tray

The heaviest boxes contained the beautiful handbeaten Stainless Steel trays and vases

The lightest boxes contained Batik Silk shawls

Kitenge 'Everything' bags

Goat Skin Bags

The bright Kitenge and goat skin bags are quite a contrast!

Boxes of Danaqa

1.5 tonnes of Danaqa...

Danaqa is an inspirational luxury and unique lifestyle brand for those with a passion for fashionable, quality, bespoke personal and household accessories and a desire to help entrepreneurs from the developing world grow.

Inspiring Ethiopia

As we anticipate the arrival of our Ethiopian products to London (after they get through customs in Ethiopia!) we thought we would share another photo blog with you. This collection of photos is of our last visit to two of our Ethiopian suppliers. Ethiopian crafts are always colourful and always inspiring!

The beads

Part of Salems Design bead collection

Making necklaces

Turning the beads into necklaces

The collection

A selection of necklaces awaiting approval

A place to work

A lovely place to work for the women of Salems Design

Danaqa cushions

At Sabahar - Danaqa stock fresh off the looms and sewing machines

A close up

Table runner, napkin and cushions in blue (available soon!)

In pink

Table runner and cushion in pink (bold is beautiful!)

The full collection of Danaqa's Ethiopian stock will be available very soon online and in our own store... we hope you'll be surprised!

Danaqa is an inspirational luxury and unique lifestyle brand for those with a passion for fashionable, quality, bespoke personal and household accessories and a desire to help entrepreneurs from the developing world grow.

Unwrapping Nepal

Today was a very exciting day for Danaqa. Our Nepali products, which have sat in storage for the past two weeks as we been finalising our plans in other parts of the world, were unwrapped today. They will be available to buy on this site in a few weeks.

The Nepali Shipment in Storage

The Nepali shipment on arrival

Brass Danaqa Logo

A handmade brass sign of the Danaqa logo – for our shopfront

Copper Vases

Two different designs of copper vases/candleholders

2000 Lokta paper bags – 100% sustainable bags

The selection of wooden ‘sandook’ boxes, copper vases and lokta bags

Look out for the full Danaqa World Chic selection very soon!

Danaqa is an inspirational luxury and unique lifestyle brand for those with a passion for fashionable, quality, bespoke personal and household accessories and a desire to help entrepreneurs from the developing world grow.

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