KarmaBuy Helps Social Enterprise Sell Online

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Karmabuy is about Doing Good – Feeling good – Being good.

KarmaBuy is an online marketplace where you can buy unique gift items made by the talented members of social enterprises. These social enterprises make original gift items including bags, clothing, jewellery and artwork, and sell these items to raise money to support their amazing programs. When you purchase gifts from Karmabuy, you are helping to support the great work of people in our communities, empowering individuals to take control of their futures, and promoting independence and inclusion.

KarmaBuy is currently in Beta format, having been formed by Lianne Perry, Michael Sanderson and Mukul Gupta of the SMU Business Development Centre over the last year. We caught up with Lianne to chat all about KarmaBuy and their new Buy Social Purchaser certification.

Over the last year KarmaBuy has been designing, developing and testing the site, and are now at the point where a couple social enterprises including Prescott Group and In My Own Voice (iMOVe) are offering products through the site, and the site is live and being tested.

Steph: Thanks for chatting with us Lianne! So how and why was KarmaBuy started?

Lianne: I think it started from the Team Possibles program which was a program started by Enactus student entrepreneurship society several years ago. Including Team Possibles, a collective of artists with Down Syndrome, and some go beyond that to create their own businesses. One participant started designing, making and selling t-shirts. One makes the best paintings of Michael Jackson actually and has recently launched a book celebrating the faces of persons with Down Syndrome! That’s the kind of connection and success we want to foster with KarmaBuy.

So KarmaBuy was inspired by that first program with Team Possibles, and also from ourdeep connections in this area with many other organizations in Halifax and seeing how they could really benefit from getting help to sell the great art and other products or services they’re making.

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Steph: That’s great! So who is KarmaBuy for? Who would be most interested?

Lianne: In our business planning for KarmaBuy, we determined that our target audience is socially-conscious buyers - those that prefer to buy local and double their impact with their purchases; those who feel good knowing they made a good impact with their purchasing choices. Buying local and social is as popular as its ever been, and now is a great time in our opinion to start this sort of online community.

Of course, we’re not the first ones doing this; there are several other organizations with these kind of sites available. But some aspects of our site that we’re still developing are quite unique. For example, we’re developing the functionality to accumulate, buy and use Karma Points, similar to Air Miles, that you can donate to your favourite organizations. We’re also working on a crowdfunding part of the platform to allow social enterprises to fundraise for expansion, new projects and more. We will be seeking funding to build the KarmaExchange to fuel the loyalty points and crowdfunding platform so that will be a priority and a challenge moving into 2016.

Steph: What are the challenges that you’re facing at this point?

Lianne: The real difficultly lies around trying to scale while remaining grass-roots and connected to these individual connections and community. It’s important to grow, because that increases the scale of impact we can make, and the recognition we can garner for social enterprise as a movement. But there’s always the risk of getting detached from the local connections that make this work so worthwhile. And also, in Nova Scotia, there’s also the element of being scared; I think that people are afraid to serve beyond their own communities or the local connections they have, and are afraid of taking that leap to operate on a bigger scale. Yet we can do so much good by doing so. And we hope to encourage that same action and orientation to growth and scaling impact with the social enterprises that participate in Buy Social.

Steph: So, why did you want to join Buy Social as a purchaser?

Lianne: The Buy Social Certification for us is about the movement - the buying social movement is like buying local. It’s also about exposure - so more people see us. We’re looking forward to partnering with and featuring other Buy Social Suppliers on our site and helping this movement grow.

KarmaBuy Helps Social Enterprise Sell Online. To learn more about KarmaBuy visit: http://karmabuy.org

To learn more about Buy Social visit: http://buysocialcanada.ca