Stray East: Bringing ethically-sourced home furnishings from India to Europe and the US
For the founders of Stray East, a brand selling handcraftedhome furnishingsproduced in the Indian town of Pushkar, Rajasthan, giving back to the communities that inspired the brandmeans as much asbusiness success.
we feel if we are taking something out of the country, then we should also give back, explained co-founder Elly Smith. Theentrepreneursensured theypartnered with a supplier committed to ethical practices, and donate a percentage of all profits to children’s charities across India.
Business Advice caught up with Smith to find out more about the brand’s ethical supply chain, as well what the duo’s dream high street partnerships could look like.
Who are you and what’s your business?
We are Martyn White and Elly Smith, co-founders of Stray East.
Earlier this year we set off on a three-month trip exploring India. Whilst there we met our now-supplier, who runs a work-from-home scheme for local women in his town of Pushkar, Rajasthan based around textiles and crafts.
He provides the women with sewing machines so they can make and create the beautiful home furnishing and dcor items we sell from the safety of their homes.
We now have an online store and website, and attend various markets and events around the South of England, selling cushion covers, throws, poufs and prints.
How long have you been around for?
We have been around for five and a half months so still quite new.
What makes you different and why should people take notice?
What makes us different is how we source our products. We never would have started the website if we hadn’t met our manufacturer who creates these products in an ethical and responsible way.
We also give back a percentage of our profits to children’s charities across India as well, so have make the conscious decision not to compromise our conscience for the sake of a lower price and larger profits.
Why did you choose to donate profits to children’s charities in India?
We feel if we are taking something out of the country we should also give back. We were both very affected by how some children (and adults) live in India, but also knew the best thing to do was to wait, do our research and find a charity/organisation that was putting donations to good use.
How have you been able to grow the business since foundation?
We started with social media, building a subscriber list and in the first few months some paid advertising to help us get going. We focused on paid social media ads, as they gave us a lot more options when it came to visuals and one of our main selling points are the colours and unique designs and patterns of our products.
We also create blog posts which we share on social media to help drive traffic back to our website and boost our SEO.
Then, we got involved with markets in and around Wiltshire and Somerset, where we were based at the time, to get some local interest as well.
Take a look at our guide to setting up a market stall, featuring Stray East co-founder Martyn White
What are the main aims of your social media strategy?
Our main aims when it comes to social media is brand awareness, but also to build a consistent and loyal following.
We do use hashtags to generate new likes and reach new viewers, especially on Instagram, but we are most interested in building a following that stays with us and consistently clicks through to our website rather than just one-off engagement in a single picture.
We have also paid attention to how people interact with our content on each platform, so post slightly differently across the ones we use (Instagram, Twitter and Facebook).
What’s your biggest achievement to date?
There have been a couple and since we are still new, we’re still hitting the small ones.
One thing we are particularly proud of is that we have now had international customers both in Europe and the USA. This tells us that our message and products are high enough quality and unique enough for people to want to wait those extra few days or pay that bit more shipping for the products.
What setbacks have you had along the way?
Restocking. We didn’t plan for what might happen when a few products sell out really quickly, while others take more time. For example, some of our cushion covers sold out straight away, but the heavier, warmer blankets took a lot longer to sell as we started in May.
Praseeda Nair is the editorial director of Business Advice, and its sister publication for growing businesses, Real Business. She's an impassioned advocate for women in leadership, and likes to profile business owners, advisors and experts in the field of entrepreneurship and management.
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