Discovered is a new sustainably minded online platform that connects artisans directly with worldwide consumers. Through curated products and community stories, a typical Discovered shopping experience allows consumer to experience a journey around the world from the comfort of their own homes.
View the interview below:
What is Discovered?
Discovered is an online marketplace where artisans from upcoming countries sell their products directly to consumers worldwide. It is a community connecting artisans and consumers and takes you on a journey around the world from your own home. On the marketplace you can find handmade products and the unique stories behind them, share your own (travel) stories and share your discovered artisans.
How did the idea for Discovered come about?
At the end of 2012, founder Gijsbert van der Sleen contacted Enviu. Enviu starts businesses that create social and environmental impact. “I strongly believe that people want to develop themselves by doing business. Sometimes they just do not have the resources to do this. I saw an opportunity to establish an online marketplace that makes this possible. But developing an online marketplace is not enough; you need to be able to support people who do not naturally have access to the Internet or an international market.”
“We believe people will improve their lives through business if they can. That’s why we offer artisans the tools they need to connect to a global audience online. By cutting out the middlemen, we create more income & work. That’s what we call fairer-trade!
Can you tell us more about the current pieces on the site? What is the inspiration when selecting pieces for the Discovered platform?
We aim to select pieces that combine fashion with local materials, designs and techniques – mixing the best of both worlds. The pieces from these countries all have a great story behind them and we believe that these stories need to be told. At the same time Discovered is a marketplace, which means that every artisans that fits our basic criteria is welcome to open a store on Discovered. The community can also give input on product designs and/or request custom made products.
How does Discovered select its artisans? Can anyone that hand makes their products get involved or is there a criteria?
Discovered is an impact-driven company and we want to make a difference for people that wouldn’t normally find their way on-line. So yes, handmade is a basic criteria but a more important criteria is that the artisans have to come from upcoming countries (the so-called DAC countries) and that selling on Discovered means more margin (as there are no middlemen) and thus more income for the artisans. We aim to achieve at least 20% more income by selling through Discovered (selling directly to the consumer) instead of to local buyers and/or wholesale. Via local scouts we make sure the products are of high quality and special enough that you can’t easily find them anywhere else online.
On Discovered we sell unique, handmade products. Since we want to guarantee unique products we aim for artisans and not small factories. We do not want mass production but individual products produced in small quantities, so that is another important criteria. Last but not least, everyone selling on Discovered needs to be directly involved in the design and/or production of items sold. We want to make sure customers really buy from the producers / designers and not from traders.
Do you face any obstacles setting up business foundations in different countries?
Discovered is a social enterprise and does aim to make a profit and not depend on subsidies. Making a profit means that we can grow (faster) and enable more artisans to start selling online. Currently we’ve only established a legal entity in the Netherlands and work with partners in the different countries where we are active. We think that forging partnerships is more sustainable and will help us to work according to local culture and customers rather than setting up parallel infrastructures in each country. Moreover, we need to work with various cultures and therefor it takes some time to understand those cultures to help people opening their online shops.
Are there any plans to work with artisans from other parts of the African continent?
Yes, most definitely. We already sell some products from Kenya and more Kenyan artisans / organizations have shown their interest to become part of Discovered. At the same time we are also exploring Ghana, Tanzania and Senegal to name a few.
How important is Ethical manufacturing to Discovered and how do you infuse it into your business practices?
Very important – ethical manufacturing is at the core of our business. Because of our selection criteria of artisans we immediately contribute to fighting poverty and we enable artisans to earn a sustainable income by taking out most of the middlemen. In terms of environmental issues: we do encourage selling products that are up-cycled and products that are made using locally available materials. We also work with the sellers to ensure that packaging is done consciously. In our own office we do recycle, pay much attention to keeping energy usage low, we provide organic lunches and only drink fair chain coffee.
What can we expect to see from Discovered in future?
Artisans and users are very positive and the ambitions are high. We currently have seven countries on the marketplace: India, Indonesia, Kenya, Morocco, South Africa, Bangladesh and Mexico. To become really global we aim to be available in all emerging economies. As a first step we will have local teams in 12 countries and start by bringing 10,000 products online.
How can our readers learn more about Discovered?
Visit www.discovered.us and take a look for yourself.