Please tell us more about how partnerships could be critical to the success of your Social Enterprise
SLE began its activities based on the needs of poor herders’, offering them income generating opportunities and building their capacity to improve their living standards. A close relationship with herder communities was created, and started to build mutual understanding and trust through a long slow process. In the beginning, there were almost no products to buy for the first two years because the herders did not trust that we would come back and continue working with them. To help build this initial trust we bought whatever they made, disregarding the quality, even though items were not good enough for market. Gradually, and with continued training for the herders, we instigated more and more quality controls for better and marketable wool products. This has helped raise the standards and marketability of the products we have today.
In order to maintain our conservation program efficiently, a good partnership was also developed with local government agencies, protected area administrations and related conservation organizations. Developing true partnerships with stakeholders requires continuous identification of their needs over time regarding different issues such as product development, community issues and conservation activities. Our long-term partnership commitment helps creates sustainability of the program.
In order to market SLE products worldwide, we have partnered with the Snow Leopard Trust, a US-based NGO. The Snow Leopard Trust has a larger capacity for marketing; they buy most of our products wholesale and then sell them to over 60 zoos and specialty stores in Europe and the United States.
We would like to learn more about how your initiative is financially supported. Please explain your business plan/revenue model
Our revenue model is simple: herders access their own raw materials; we train them to add value to these raw materials by making them into finished handicrafts (like rugs, slippers, etc); they sell the handicrafts for cash at a wholesale price they agree on; working with the Snow Leopard Trust we sell the products at market value worldwide with revenue returning to the program. Grant funds are often used for special projects, like brining all our coordinators together for a meeting.