Elevator Pitch: The Nightingale Collective

Elevator Pitch is a regular feature on Lifehacker where we profile startups and new companies and pick their brains for entrepreneurial advice. This week, we’re talking with Alissa Nightingale, founder of The Nightingale Collective.

In 128 words or less, explain your business idea.

The Nightingale Collective was born on a trip to Nepal. It was evident that local artisans had incredible talent but were not supported for their work or had access to new markets. We wanted to bridge the gap between talent and opportunity and provide a platform for responsible commerce.

When sourcing our products we ensure the artisans, who are often women, receive fair wages, positive working environments and are supported by community development programs that improve the lives of their families and wider community. This includes community health programs in Guatemala, literacy courses for women in Afghanistan and contributing to building schools in Kenya.

We want to highlight that ethics and style do not need to be mutually exclusive.

What strategies are you using to grow and finance your idea?

The Nightingale Collective is currently self-funded although we do plan for external investors in our growth strategy. As our focus is around slow (handmade) not fast (mass produced) fashion we want to scale sustainably so our core mission of supporting women artisans isn’t compromised. We aim to partner with investors who are inspired by our approach, can add value to our business model and realise it may not be ‘business as usual.’

What’s the biggest challenge facing your business?

As we largely work with developing communities there have been some logistical challenges. Australia is a new market for many of the artisan groups we collaborate with; this has meant at times we have incurred delays or higher distribution costs.

Our partners also operate in remote areas like Guatemala where technology and Internet access isn’t always readily available or reliable. This is in stark contrast to Australia where we are connected 24/7 across numerous devices! So we have to factor in more lead-time to allow for delays in communication. But we also think this can be a nice reminder to not let technology consume every aspect of our lives.

How do you differentiate your business from your competitors?

Essentially we are an online fashion accessories retailer, what differentiates us is our focus around ethical fashion, not fast fashion. While profit is important it is not our core focus. Rather our aim is to provide sustainable employment for women artisans, promote ethical production methods and play, even if a small role, in poverty reduction.

We largely source our products through international non-profits who are closely connected to women artisan groups. We believe these organisations are most aware of the challenges faced by women artisans and can tailor social development programs to provide further support.

The Nightingale Collective also encourages a more conscious consumer. One who knows where the product is made, the stories behind the people who made it and how their purchase can provide a meaningful impact.

What one phone, tablet or PC application could you not live without?

The Squarespace Commerce App – allows instant order notifications and processing through my iPhone.

What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve ever received?

“The biggest difference between the person who lives his or her dreams and the person who aspires is the decision to convert that first spark of motivation into immediate action.”

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