2018 was a year of transition and in short reflected a few years of hard work that led to the fruition of our original vision- to create a sustainable business that could produce cashflow with the primary objective of supporting non-profit initiatives that we believe in.
As some of you may know, b.a.r.e. soaps is a part time effort and we volunteer our time because we believe in the cause and product. In 2018, founder Jessie moved to Berlin for 10 months. This meant that our production and fulfillment would both be outsourced together for the first time and we would be operating the business remotely. We were able to still grow our sales and contribute more than 2017 to non-profit initiatives.
To be honest, there were some growing pains. Shipping times were longer than what we believe to be acceptable and we focused less on new products but more on profitability, given the additional fees associated with outsourcing. With 2019 now underway, we are looking to rectify the shipping times (back to 2-3 business days) and expanding our scents and flavors.
We partner with Sundara Fund in India to fund a soap recycling workshop. This initiative is the poster-child of everything that we strive to look for when supporting a non-profit initiative because we are able to achieve the following:
- Empowering women through fair wages. We have always been a proponent of empowering rather than just "giving". Many of these women are sole bread winners and the wages that they receive enable them to make meaningful decisions for the family including investing in a house or sending their children to school. This year, we were also able to fund giving raises to a few of the women. Read more about the impact of a raise & fair wages here.
- Reducing waste by recycling used hotel soap. Despite the tiny soap bar sizes offered at hotels, very rarely are the bars used up and it all adds up to significant waste. We love how Sundara is able to take what would be sent to landfills to repurpose it and save lives. Being sustainable is something that is really important to us.
To quantify what this all means, if you bought soap in 2018, you helped fund the following:
10% reduction in school absentees
195 hygiene lessons taught
9600 bars recycled and distributed
1810 towels donated from hospitality partners, so that the children can dry their hands clean versus wiping them on their clothes
38 women employed time plus receiving heath benefits for themselves and their children
We are super excited to reveal a new initiative that we will be undertaking with Sundara in 2019. Some of you may remember plans to expand to Bangalore with a new soap recycling workshop. Unfortunately, there were a quite a few logistical hurdles that have put this project on hold, but that means that we can focus our efforts elsewhere. We will be announcing in 1Q19 what this new initiative looks like, so stay tuned.
Our partnership with Carepoint 68|5 through Point Community Church is really the genesis of why b.a.r.e. soaps started. We remain committed to helping the Carepoint on an as-needed basis. The Carepoint is in a rural village called Kaberamaido and supports around 150 children with a guaranteed meal a day in addition to tuition assistance and other essentials. While this type of support is funded by individuals who contribute $35 a month, we try to supplement when other "projects" come up. Some examples from the past include helping fund Hep B vaccines, shoes for the children, bringing solar to a local library, etc...
If you bought soap in 2018, your contribution helped raise money for the following:
- Multivitamins and soap. We normally try to provide a few months supply when possible. This year we were able to do so in January.
- "Village Savings & Loan": There's actually no bank in Kaberamaido. This program has been established through Hopechest, the nonprofit organization that helps set up the Carepoints through the support of local US churches, and they've set up such savings & loan programs in other Carepoints in Uganda with great success. Hopechest has worked out all of the details of this project, including an established system that involves training a committee to oversee the project. Note that we are only one party that is helping funding this project.
- Begin fundraising for a maize milling machine. Years ago, our partners at Point Community Church purchased 10 acres of land which enabled them to not only feed the children but also subsidize school costs through selling the crops to other Carepoints. This year, we saw the largest crop yet- 110 bags of maize, weighing a minimum of 100 kilos (220 pounds) per bag. That's at least 24,000 pounds of food! Currently they need to hire someone to remove the maize from the husk, but having their own machine would save money for the Carepoint. Furthermore, that machine could generate income by being rented out to others. This is an expensive project but one that will have long term impact, and your purchases began to help fund it.