On May 12, 2014 businesses got together to learn, celebrate and connect with one another at the Leverage Lab event, hosted by our good friend, Sara Blenkhorn at Future Strategies. Leverage Lab creates space for company leaders to take a step back from the every day and come together to tackle a shared challenge. Denise Taschereau from Fairware and Kirsti Inglis from Starworks were invited to speak at the event – here is a synopsis of their presentation that night.
At the beginning, Fairware didn’t have enough in-house capacity to kit and fulfill projects like pre-loading business cards into business card cases or pulling together products from multiple suppliers to be kitted and sent out together. They needed to work with someone who could, that’s when Starworks came into the picture.
Starworks is a Vancouver fulfillment house that provides fulfillment, kitting, and assembly and packaging services. In addition to their business services, Starworks is also a social enterprise and a provider of competitive employment for 45 individuals with developmental disabilities like Downs Syndrome and Autism.
“One of the ways we’ve been successful as a vendor and a partner is to always be on the lookout for ways to drive deeper community benefit in our supply chain”, said co-founder of Fairware Denise Taschereau. She goes on, “We’ve been driven by our mission to change the world through the simple act of buying from day one.” Although Fairware is primarily focused on ethical supply chains and environmentally preferred materials, their supplier and vendor relationships had the power to do good also.
Fairware’s partnership with Starworks brought relief and efficiency to their operations. Taschereau said, “We’ve always believed that you have to have great product and customer service, not simply good values”.
This story helped differentiate Fairware from their competitors and build their clients trust as a partner. It also helped clients showcase their commitments in a tangible actionable way to their staff and customers.
Celebrating 15 years in business this fall, Starworks’ success could not have happened without relationships with businesses like the one they share with Fairware.
Starworks had its first contract with Fairware in 2007 and it consisted of assembling 200 luggage tags for Ethical Funds. This past summer, it has grown to include an order for labeling 50,000 promotional lollipops for Vancity. Their relationship has grown significantly, and this shift toward social purchasing has helped foster relationships with other local businesses such as Vancity, Natures’s Path, Frog Box and Saul Good Gift Company and other socially conscious businesses in the room.
Kirsti Inglis of Starworks said that, “When we first opened our doors, less than 1% of our business came from socially minded businesses, today it’s about 20% and it continues to grow”.
Leveraging Ethical Sourcing
Inglis shared with the room an inspiring story that demonstrated the true impact of leveraging of ethical sourcing. She begins by asking us to think about what employment meant for us: a mortgage, a car payment or an annual vacation? What about our identity? When we first introduce ourselves, we generally give out our name, where we work or our job title.
However imagine a life where one is not expected to work, but rather is socially expected to live on income assistance.
About 5 years ago, she interviewed a man living with autism, who had a history of unsuccessful employment. He interviewed well and met with all the quality control expectations. On top of that, his attention to detail was fantastic.
She asked him, “Why do you want to work here?” He responded, “People think I’m stupid and can’t work because I have autism, but I can do things and I can work. I want to make my own money and not live on assistance anymore.”
Inglis hired him on the spot. As a result of his employment with Starworks, he was able to take his very first vacation in his life. And now when he introduced himself to the others, he has the answer to the question “what do you do”? He can proudly identify himself with a job title and company.
We look forward to more collaborative events such as these in the future. Shoutout to Vancity, Recycling Alternative, Mills Basics, Salt Spring Coffee, Traction on Demand, Climate Smart, SPUD Vancouver, Starworks Packaging & Assembly and Ethical Bean Coffee who were there too! It was great seeing everyone.
Read more about Leverage Lab here.