The knowledgeable and passionate Jop Blom founded a most surprising poverty fighting item. His fair fashion bracelet Shake The World, which shines light on the lack of decent work and proper work conditions for African women, has become a national sensation. His goal reaches over a nine digit sales number, with the purpose to positively affect hundreds of women. While some might accuse him to apply celebrities to promote his scaling social enterprise, a sense of admiration is acceptable. Shake the World’s voice travels far and wide with a maintained clear message, even in the face of glitter-and-glimmer backers of the cause. Some remarkable backers of his initiative are Desmond Tutu, Lilianne Ploumen and a surprising line-up of names. Now in the BENISI scaling program Jop is challenged to look deeper to the continuity and scalability of his business. In other words: Jop, does it really sell?
What kind of effect does Shake the World have on you personally?
It took me by surprise. I ultimately started with the Millennium Development Goals in mind, I now see local African grandmothers helped with medical aid, children going to school and fridges introduced in households. I’ve been very lucky to see the outcome and prove that my personal dream is making the world a bit better. The bracelet combines this message and my personal mission – I want to make the world a better place. To fight poverty with trade and profit, this rides along with linking business to development. An elemental character I see resonated in the Impact Hub Amsterdam and the BENISI program.
In terms of your scaling ambition, is there a European or global ambition of Shake the World?
To very varying degrees. Germany is an interesting case because the business model of working with an agent for the concept is introduced for their local market. Finding the right people and representatives is a major challenge. An issue which is echoed by my fellow participants. I find the global scale quite interesting. Investments are necessary to make this initiative take off. Momentarily the UK, France, EU, and global sales are our main channels in sight. The variety represented in online sales is gathered into one ‘target country’ for us, clearly the largest.
“That was then, based on a different way in thinking how to make an impact.”
What is it like to be a Law and Economic MSc working with fashion?
I wouldn’t go that far that both fields are unlikely to cooperate. The fashion thing comes up a lot because it’s more popular to talk about, yet social entrepreneurship has a lot to conquer in the field of social narrative. From an economics and marketing perspective the item evokes a whole lot of intentional, smart crafted emotions, I think. The main challenge is to deliver my purpose, currently with a zero percent marketing budget. So far four hundred and fifty thousand bracelets are sold, the implications of this are of serious proportions. Delivering a direct return on positive social impact locally. There is clearly more than a fashion bracelet at stake here.
So it’s possible to be an entrepreneur and make a positive impact on society?
I attended a trade mission in South Africa during the World Cup. A major thought provoker hit me while I wondered: “Did you ever think of making a Wuppie fair-trade?”. A fair-trade incentive, locally produced, one hundred and forty thousand pieces, involving over five hundred local partners. ‘That’s when you make a real difference.’ That was then, based on a different way in thinking how to make an impact. Funding and grants are pretty much dried out completely nowadays. I emphasise, again, the need of a solid business model.
“The Shake the World bracelet is less tangible and needs other ways of selling, to be of worth.”
I guess part of your job is to observe markets to find a business model that drives sales.
The bracelet is a nice-to-have, still makes a one-on-one impact. Now there is no profit margin actually, therefore it is a non-sustainable business. It took me seven years to build Shake The World, a journey without a clear destination. But I learned that every sold bracelet still matters. The next phase of my journey is the BENISI program to adapt Shake the World to be interesting for investments and an international implementation. With both a profit and social output on the bottom line.
What have you sold today?
I still believe in my product. This year is tough with lower sales than expected. Consequences now reach to the personal level where I had to make some sacrifices. I will not go into detail, but the longing for a more obvious need-to-have product instead of the bracelet sometimes crosses my mind. More like a nice solar panel or something clear and a scalable product with obvious direct positive impact. The Shake the World bracelet is less tangible and needs other ways of selling, to be of worth.
“..we measure the actual SROI. If you see the line of expectations while talking about your desired effect in Africa and your overall cause the level of excitement declines.”
How do you deal with that?
Actually this brand already proved scalable. Not through distributors, but by means of so called shaker agents. My concept of cooperation, win-win partnerships, as a chameleon from humanity worker to convince CEOs that they personally have the influence to improve the lives of hundreds African female workers, is exportable to places like London, New York and Paris. Everybody chooses his or her own path, some need a little push in the positive direction.
This journey to make Shake the World ‘the most likeable social brand of the world’ started a long time ago. Currently we measure the actual SROI. If you see the line of expectations while talking about your desired effect in Africa and your overall cause the level of excitement declines. For example, I am totally up to this, enthusiasm dims already if I speak to relatives, imagine talking to partners and finally the corporate community. I need proof of our social return in data to back up and create even more value for the brand.
“Shakers like Desmond Tutu, to national film actors believe in the combination of fighting poverty through business. That increasingly goes for our local NGOs who deliver the actual impact to the workers as well.”
Is it hard to get the international market interested in implementing responsibility into their profit bottom line? I am sure there’s something that you are thinking of from a social entrepreneurial point of view?
The program showed me already that there’s a challenge in telling your local narrative in a new place. Maybe we should highlight the simplicity of the bracelet. It makes you feel good, look good and do good. This is how we ‘shake the world’. Fellow participants see language and the culture of the new customers as a hard thing to tackle. The Shake the World brands message is clear to understand in any country. Fortunately an issue I do not have to face while scaling. I do face a challenge in making the movement more profitable. We are based on a even one-third split of revenue over our involved industry partners, movement creators and resellers. Note, the last chain with resellers is rewarded a three hundred percent share, in most other business models. Through the Impact Hub’s scaling support and with help from the other entrepreneurs and available coaches, I expect to make Shake the World more interesting for the international market.
How do you feel about celebrities backing your brand and more of these kinds of marketing tools?
Most stakeholders, even customers are trapped in day-to-day short-term issues. We need to find ways to communicate our values. Having an opportunistic mindset is a good start. Celebrities are the shakers of the movement. As long as this fits the promise for Shake The World bracelets: look good, do good, feel good. This so called brand key, a tool available for all kind of social entrepreneurial initiatives, enabled a complete worldwide movement.
Do you think it would be an interesting proposition to let someone else choose his or her own adventure while still contributing to Shake the World?
For the promotion of our movement we use not so much A stars, but preferable upcoming celebrities filled with dreams. Their goals may not be totally in line with ours but the overall wish loads the bracelet with common shared intentions. Shakers like Desmond Tutu, to national film actors believe in the combination of fighting poverty through business. That increasingly goes for our local NGOs who deliver the actual impact to the workers as well.