Entrepreneurs who say: Screw it, let’s just do it

The new label Maiyet

Case study. Screw fashion as usual: The new label Maiyet

Fashion. Saving lives. The two tend to be polar opposites. But upscale label Maiyet hopes you fall in love with their designs first – and then continue to purchase them because of their mission to help local artisans sustain their own businesses.

“What we don’t do is produce pity products,” co-founder Paul van Zyl explains to Metro. “We design products that people will wear regardless of the cause.”

Maiyet (maiyet.com) scouts rare and unique artisanal items from around the world — like hand-woven cloth from Varanasi, India and hand-carved bone from Kenya — to use in their products. Then they use part of their profits to fund training programs to educate crafts men on how to make better quality products, and how to use their business to provide a stable source of income for their communities.

They also front the money to produce the goods so artisans don’t have to be stuck in high-interest loans. All of that is on top of making sure that people get paid fair wages.

Van Zyl’s background doesn’t exactly scream Carrie Bradshaw: He is the former executive secretary of South Africa’s post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission and And he never really worked in the fashion industry.

What drew him to the project was the idea that people don’t have to choose between doing well in business and doing good for the world. Van Zyl says the economic crisis has made people realize that there must be a better way to run their companies, and he believes strongly that there is a way for moral markets to exist.

“We believe in is trade and aid not trade versus aid,” he explained.

“We want these companies to be small and sustainable and to make beautiful products.”

Case study. Screw school as usual:
The Khan Academy

With 186 million views — more than Justin Bieber — the latest viral
YouTube smash features…school lessons about math, computer science and
the Greek debt crisis? Yup, thanks to Salman Khan.

In 2004, Khan
was a hedge fund manager tutoring his long-distance cousins with web
videos. “They told me they preferred me on YouTube than in person,” is
Khan’s catchphrase, a self-deprecating remark that’s the key to his
charm. The idea snowballed.

Eight years later, Khan Academy
(khanacademy.com) offers a combination of tutorial videos and an online
classroom for the community to talk through their questions. The
courses, which range from algebra to art history, are offered 24-hours a
day to anyone — student, teachers and parents.

Reinventing
school does not come cheap. “Obviously it costs millions of dollars –
about the budget of a medium-sized high school,” Khan says to Metro
World News.

Now, when donations and volunteers keep the business
going, Khan Academy keep scosts low for the consumer and provide
something better than a monetary return — a social return.

“The decision to (be a non-profit) is really the view that we want to be more than a software
company,”
says Khan. “We want to be an institution…. People always have
conversations on what’s going on with the world, and it always gets back
to education. It is the root issue behind every single society or
resource problem.”

Case study. Screw soccer as usual:
The homeless World Cup

Mel Young was in a Cape Town bar with a colleague, Harald Schmied, discussing ways to bring attention to the homeless and their plight. But there must have been a football game on the TV. They chose the sport as their conduit.

“Soccer is the ‘universal language’ that brings people together, wherever they are,” says Young. “It is cheap and easy to organize and great fun for everyone — of all ages and abilities. It is also a team game, and is good for health and fitness.

Soccer can have a huge impact on people but all sports have the power to change people’s lives.”

Today, Young’s and Schmied’s Homeless World Cup (homelessworldcup.org) has 73 national partners who organize programs to help a variety of people including the homeless, people who are struggling with drug and alcohol

addiction and those with HIV/AIDS. All participate in the annual Homeless World Cup tournament, which will take place in Mexico City Oct. 6 through 14 this year.

For Young, what keeps him going is a pragmatic attitude that actions speak louder than words.


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