A millisecond after deciding to open my own women’s shoe shop specialising in longer shoes, I realised I also wanted to create a business that had “giving back” embedded in its DNA. Not just at tax time, not just for a particular event or on a special day or for one particular product … but 24/7 on every item sold in-store or online.
It took me three years and in April 2015, after three wonderful and extremely happy years in business, I became a not-just-for-profit. That term has no legal standing, by the way. It’s my way of describing that while I am a sole trader who is here to make a profit like any successful business, I also believe in giving back so a portion of every sale will be donated to an amazing charity.
Finding that charity took some time. I had two broad criteria: women and Africa. Women, because if you support women you inevitably support the whole community, and Africa, because I have lived, worked and travelled in this amazing continent and know how much need there is and how a little (by our standards) can go a very, very long way. I chose Microloan Foundation Australia. Their voluntary board raises funds here in Australia that, less their humble expenses, are used to give loans to women in the Mulanje region of Malawi, nearly 2,000 women. The average loan is about $50 and is repaid with interest in four months. And then it’s loaned again. And again. And again.
I was extremely fortunate to be allowed to visit some of the women in the region who benefit from such loans with my darling mum in late December 2014. We spent a day with the dynamic Agnes Kasuma, one of the Regional Managers with Microloan Foundation UK (the parent charity; the Australian charity just fundraises), and were able to hear the stories from some of the women in the Dodo lending group. Click here to meet some of these amazing businesswomen.
I believe, with all my heart, that nobody can do everything and everybody can do something. With that in mind, I developed an initiative called Shop, Share, Care and everyone can do one, two or three of all these things! Here’s how it works: SHOP at The Shoe Garden, in-store or online, and a portion of every item sold will be donated to Microloan Foundation Australia by me every month. So if you:
Spend up to $49 on an item, 25c to 50c will be donated
Spend $50 to $99, 50c to $1 will be donated
Spend $100 to $149, $1 to $2 will be donated
Spend $150 to $199, $1.50 to $3 will be donated
Spend $200 to $249, $2 to $4 will be donated
And spend $250 or more on an item and $2.50 to $5 will be donated.
Please know that my prices will NOT increase as a result of this initiative. This is my choice to make a donation and I have actually included it in my budget as an expense (albeit a tax deductible one) called “Giving Back”. It’s done before tax on each item sold, rather than the total amount.
This has to be sustainable so I have tied my donation to my sales. In slower months, it might not be so much; in busier months, it will be much higher but in this way it’s sustainable for me to do this for the long term.
At the end of every month, I will produce a report from my Point of Sale software on every item sold and calculate the associated donation and by midway through the following month, transfer the funds of my donation. A tally can be found here, which is pretty exciting!
So you can SHOP or you can SHARE. Perhaps you would like to share your own donation with Microloan Foundation Australia which can be done here. While I was a Fundraising Manager in another life, I am not theirs. I’m a proud shoe shop owner these days and I’m simply a donor who saw for myself the work they do and was very impressed. Because together we can do so much more, if you would like to make a donation and mention The Shoe Garden (SG) when you do, the charity will let me know and I will share the amount, along with my own monthly donation, on my monthly tally. You may prefer to be anonymous or shout it from the roof tops (or least, be named in my monthly tally). If any businesses choose to do this, I will happily promote them in a post on my Facebook page. Remember, if you choose to donate, just add SG after your surname and/or send a confirming email to charity chair, Brian Keen, at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
So SHOP, SHARE or you can CARE. This is a big one. No action, no change, has ever happened without people caring first. So learn a bit more about these amazing women by exploring the charity’s website, “like” their Facebook page and sign up for their newsletter. They will love it that you care, too.
“I don’t have to beg my husband for money anymore. Now he comes to me.” Dorothy, Chair of the Dodo lending group