Kate Spade & Co. is Working with Artisanal Suppliers—And Increasing Revenue
on purpose is Kate Spade & Company’s trade initiative through which we empower a small, artisanal business to be a profitable supplier to our brands: kate spade new york, Jack Spade, and Kate Spade Saturday. The business model for on purpose focuses on full integration of this for-profit, artisanal supplier into our supply chain instead of a perproduct donation or a charitable contribution. Because of our company’s long legacy in empowering women to transform their communities, we developed on purpose’s model to go beyond impacting single artisans or for short periods of time.
The on purpose pilot program takes place in the rural community of Masoro, Rwanda. The business, ADC (Abahizi Dushygikirane, LTD), is a Rwandan-owned, women-owned, for-profit social enterprise and is now a compliant supplier to Kate Spade & Company. The for-profit status means its position is not that of an aid beneficiary but of an independent manufacturing partner, which is held to the same standards and requirements as our other suppliers.
Training for Long-Term Success
Excellent product quality is critical for ADC’s long-term success and competitive advantage. Equally important is supporting and empowering this business to build out its capacity and infrastructure. This means helping ADC withlogistics, packaging, and the import/export policies to ensure both the raw materials and finished goods meet global standards our company expects from suppliers all over the world.
Kate Spade & Company leveraged our in-house technical experts to create effective training programs to help support ADC’s business functions. Kate Spade & Company employees in warehouse, logistics, and compliance departments worked directly with ADC’s artisans and management team to train, execute, and compile polices to facilitate smooth import and export processes.
From a logistics perspective, we helped ADC establish a strong relationship with the local DHL and Regional African DAMCO offices, enabling artisans to fully participate in the sample-making process (an important step in the retail product development cycle) and to receive raw materials on time and in good condition. These business relationships have been critical to ADC’s success thus far and will be instrumental in positioning the company for long-term sustainability as an export business.
Finally, we have facilitated training (both in-person and virtually) on how to properly package, tag, and label all products to be received at our warehouses in the United States, United Kingdom, and Hong Kong. This step ensures on purpose products arrive at our shop ready to go directly to the sales floor. Our internal teams continue their hands-on work with the Rwanda team to continue enhancing packaging abilities and meeting top-quality packaging standards.
on purpose’s model has shown that it is possible to bring an artisanal supplier into the global marketplace as a highfunctioning manufacturer. Additionally, integral to this work is advocating for local and international policies that give advantages to these small and artisanal suppliers. Disrupting the existing relationship between companies and small or artisanal suppliers requires a commitment to hands-on training to help establish successful manufacturing partners, as opposed to aid beneficiaries.
[Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in Global Economic Empowerment: Private Sector Solutions at Each Stage of Development.]