N° 5 – Giving Tuesday

Posted by Leila Janah on

This week I’m taking over the mailing lists for Sama, the non-profit I run, and LXMI, to write the content we send myself. This is a big commitment, kind of like the Social Entrepreneur Diary thing I’ve been experimenting with, but I hope you find it more personal than a typical company newsletter.

Since you’ve given us your email (or connected with me on LinkedIn), here’s mine: leila@lxmi.com. You can write me at any time and I promise I will read it and try to respond, even though my inbox overwhelms me sometimes.

So, on to the interesting stuff.

Did you know that 1 billion people around the world work FULL TIME and still earn less than $2 a day? Does that shock you as much as it does me? These people are working hard, often doing jobs that were made illegal in the developed world a very long time ago, like illegal mining or collecting trash in giant urban dumps. 

This fact is why I started both Sama and LXMI. Both companies are tied to the issue at the core of my heart and work: impact sourcing. Impact sourcing is a new way of thinking about how to end poverty. Impact sourcing holds that the best way to help people who are living at or below the poverty line is to give them decent work that pays a living wage, and to encourage companies and governments to hire them with social incentives (like good PR) and monetary incentives (like tax breaks). 

Sama is a non-profit. Even though Samasource is now tantalizingly close to hitting break-even off of our earned revenue, which is very, very rare in the non-profit world, we still have to raise one more round of donations to grow our operations. Donations take a lot of time and energy to manage. I spend a huge chunk of my time traveling around the world asking people, governments, and foundations for money. Not only is this exhausting, it’s also inefficient. The only thing I’m truly good at is coming up with social enterprise business models. So I think I should be off doing that instead of raising money.

Enter LXMI. A few years ago, when I was wowed by Nilotica at an Ugandan market, I had an idea: why not apply the same impact sourcing model we have at Samasource to an industry with better margins? What if we created a Samasource in the luxury goods market, where we could pay above a living wage to producers of products and still make enough money to return a profit to investors and fund our nonprofit work? So I started Laxmi, a luxury skin care company, and I donated a third of my founder’s stock to Sama. 

I figure if we make a decent success of LXMI, Sama will have a small endowment to fund our work for many years. And both companies will demonstrate the power of impact sourcing in different contexts.

We are also using Laxmi to draw attention to the issue of poverty in developing countries, and raising funds for Sama during giving season. For #GivingTuesday, we created a way for people to get triple social good benefits from holiday giving: our $10 holiday trio from LXMI means $1 for Sama with every purchase, and the women who produce the raw materials in Northern Uganda earn 3x local wages. So you’re donating to a poverty-fighting nonprofit AND lifting Laxmi producers out of poverty AND getting a healthier complexion. It’s a pretty powerful instance of our #beautyinaction promise. 

Please tell me what you think of this business model, of our LXMI products, and of my letters to you. I hope you find them interesting.


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