It’s been just under a year since we first covered the Atinga Project (AP) – a Buffalo based Benefit Corporation that retains the services of Rwandan artisan-shoemakers to make sandals fashioned out of recycled tires (see story here). Since that time, AP Project Manager Chris Way tells me that while he is pleased with sales, they are 62 pairs shy of their September goal of 300. In order to ramp up sales, and gain added retail exposure for the project, AP has taken up a temporary space inside The West Side Bazaar. The arrangement is a great fit for the business, which operates out of a small kiosk at the bazaar.
I came across the kiosk just the other day, when I stopped in to order a couple of Jamaican patties for lunch. I was surprised to see AP set up inside, but figured that this was the perfect place to get their name out there. It was nice to see that this great cause was getting some additional exposure, which should translate into amped up sales.
After all, the sandals are dynamite looking, and they are tough to boot. I picked up a couple of pairs, to check out the soles, which retain the original tire tread markings – a fun selling feature, and one that does a perfect job at explaining the history of the sandals.
After running across the new retail setup at the bazaar, I figured that it was time to ask Chris a few questions about the advancements made since first launching the eco-friendly, social conscious brand.
How has AP faired since the launch?
Within a year, I’ve watched The Atinga Project go from project/idea to an actual market-tested, customer-backed social business. After a very focused summer of sales, thanks to a fabulous opportunity to retail out of the West Side Bazaar (June 10 – Sept 30), our social enterprise is still rather small-scale… but from here there are many possibilities. We are intentionally waiting until we wrap up the sandal season and scale-back operations October to November to consult directly with the artisan-shoemakers on the team and together analyze the best steps forward, leading up to a concrete business plan for Spring 2016 forward.
For NOW… We are staying true to our original timeline set forth in late February, which stipulated that we will carry out business in the 3rd quarter of this year to the best of our ability for an intensive three months of sales to reach the ambitious 450 pair sold mark. From this, we would implement our D4D (see graphic below) and give 30% of those footwear sales (that’s 30% of everyone’s purchase during that time period) directly back to the artisan-shoemakers and women artisans who weave our recycled plastic shipping-carton strap baskets. All distributed evenly, all distributed at the beginning of September.
How have the sales helped the Rwandan men and women who are making the products?
Currently, the D4D (which is directly impacted with each purchase, each person who choose to walk in their shoes) is at $390 per artisan-household and women weavers. That means that collectively, local Buffalonians have essentially created a dividend/donation of $2,340 that will have direct impact on families and children in Rwanda.
Our goal is to reach $500 per artisan. Now that would be a game-changer! Many would be able to break the cycle of rent they are stuck in and invest in their own property. Others would have the best healthcare plan available in their country.
What is the near/distant future of the AP?
I won’t know until I hear directly from the artisan-shoemakers. I might be the driver of this, but they are the engine! The AP is truly in their hands. Myself and our small team of Houghton graduates/students and friends are just walking with them and learning together, with us in their shoes.
Along with stopping into the bazaar, people can also find the products online, right?
For now, those following us can expect online orders for the Atinga Keza and Atinga Trail (our top-sellers) to continue through the Fall, and likely, the winter months (we’ll be targeting warmer markets at that time, online at least). Here’s the (revamped) footwear page. The other styles will only be available as Spring 2016 pre-orders, and will require a custom-fit measurement.
Where else can people find you in coming month/s?
Our September dates outside of the bazaar are at the following venues (bold are in stone):
Friday Sept. 4th at Allen West (6-9pm)
Sunday Sept. 6th at Silo City (9am – 3/4pm)
Saturday Sept. 12th at The Foundry (11am – 3/4pm)
Sunday Sept. 13th at Canalside (9am – 5pm)
Saturday Sept. 19th at Hispanic Heritage Celebration Kleinhans (7pm)