As Hannah Warren headed to Maheshwar, India, intending to photograph female weavers wearing their sarees she made a surprising discovery. Despite their impressive skills, none of the weavers were wearing (or even owned) one of their beautiful, hand-woven creations. Typically, as they do not have the funds, weavers in Maheshwar rely on acquiring the fine silk materials from a middle man. This means every saree created must be sold in order to survive. In an effort to bridge this gap of inequality Hannah decided to set up Jhoole, a mission-motivated clothing company designed to help artisans attain economic independence and the first business to assume the title of “Humanitarian Enterprise”.
“Business is a game, let’s still have fun growing profit and business and help community along the way.” Hannah
Jhoole produces comfortable, made-to-order clothing using a combination of high-tech machines and traditional Indian techniques ensuring minimum environmental impact and distributes both wholesale and direct to consumer. Jhoole currently employs over one hundred artisans, giving priority to widows and single mothers. By providing artisans with a good living wage, family health insurance and scholarships for their children, Jhoole helps break the chronic cycle of poverty, creating a deep and lasting change in their community.
“I soon realised how addictive philanthropic work was. It is scientifically proven that when people become engaged in a philanthropic mission that connects them to something greater, it will make them happier in the long term.” Hannah
In a non-profit company it is not always clear where profits are being distributed so Hannah and her team set out to create a new business model. Jhoole is the first business to assume the title, legal framework and certification mark of “Humanitarian Enterprise”. There are no shareholders, wages are capped and 100% of profits (known as “Social Shares”) are reinvested into programs to benefit the local community at large. To date, Jhoole has sponsored monthly living allowances, medical supplies and other items for twenty-five elderly women in need, as well as funded free IT workshops for disadvantaged girls.
Jhoole has set out to inspire entrepreneurs, create greater public awareness of the social enterprise spectrum and spread the humanitarian model. This year they are focused on certifying a handful of pioneering Humanitarian Enterprises and will continue to refine the model before automatizing the application process and opening it to other organisations in 2015-2016.
Jhoole’s hardest task when starting out was raising capital. Hannah and the team want to help other budding Humanitarian Enterprises by providing micro loans to get them on their feet. They will continue in their dedication to generate social shares, grow in size and employ more local artisans. They are also developing an educational program to help employees become agents of positive change in Maheshwar, by deciding where and how profits should be re-invested. Employees will become a part of the democratic process which will promote systems thinking, consensus building, project planning and creative problem solving.
Jhoole is an incredible example of how a small team of people are using business as a tool for positive change by redirecting wealth to the public as opposed to an elite few. Not only have they provided economic independence to the people of Maheshwar but they have built and designed a new model of business and are looking to help finance other humanitarian enterprises in the future. What the Jhoole team have achieved so far is truly inspiring and we look forward to seeing what the future holds for them.
Visit www.jhoole.org to read more about Jhoole’s story and take a look at their online shop.