This is the third in the mini-series of blog posts for Responsible Business Week 2017.
In the first post I talked a little bit about what ‘Responsible Business’ means to me, and every day this week, I will be interviewing an ethical business owner, to find out what it means to them, as well as some of the challenges and rewards of running a business that looks after people and planet, as well as profit. You can read the other interviews here.
Can’t wait to introduce today’s Responsible Business Owner with you – here goes…

1. Can you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your business?  

My name is Michelle Kime, and I am a co-founder & co-owner of Imagine Goods.

My friend and I call ourselves “accident entrepreneurs”, as we never really intended to start a business.  We had been working in Cambodia as a non-profit for several years and slowly came to the realization that this was the most empowering project we were working on.  We saw that by giving people the opportunity to be empowered by employment we give them hope and then people have the opportunity to change their lives.  So, we made the switch from a non-profit to a business.  We travel to Cambodia several times a year to hand pick the fabrics used in our goods in the open market.  We then deliver our designs, ideas and the fabrics to our partner organization.  The 90% of the Artisans who make our goods are survivors of trafficking.  The other 10% are people who are marginalized and vulnerable.

2. What does ‘responsible business’ mean to you? 

A responsible business is a pretty big term.  To us, in part, it means that we are personally involved in the process of where our monies go & how our Artisans are treated.  After 25+ trips to Cambodia we know a lot of the stall owners in the markets that we are buying fabrics from.  We know our partners orgnizations well, we know how our Artisans are treated.  We love that our Artisans (along with an above living wage) receive free child care for their little ones, health care, they enjoy a free, prepared, healthy lunch together each work day, and the last 1.5 hours of their paid work day is education.

3. What has been/is your biggest challenge as an ethical entrepreneur? 

I guess there are 2 that come to mind right away when I read that question.
1.  Working internationally. It can be challenging to work with those of a different language, different culture, even as simple as a different time zone when you are trying to connect over emails through out the year.
2. Desiring to run an ethical business can be a challenge simply because you are trying to make a great product as well as educate on the importance of shopping ethically in a culture that is attracted to “fast fashion”.

4. What is the best thing about running an ethical business?  

I think the same things that are my biggest challenges are also some of the best things.  I love working internationally.  I love to travel.  I love the culture we are working in.  I love shopping in the markets for fabrics.  I love getting to connect with the individual stall owners whose businesses we are supporting.  I love educating on the beauty and importance of “slow fashion” in a “fast fashion” world.  I also love being able to see thriving Artisans who have the opportunity for hope and empowerment.

 5. What advice would you give to others wanting to either start up an ethical business, or to re-design their existing one to be more ‘responsible’?

I would say to start small, just keep taking the next step. And, surround yourself with people who are good at the parts of the business that you are not.  Have people in your world who will support and encourage your dreams and your heart to do good with our business.  But, just keep taking steps.  Keep pushing yourself and your business to do the next thing.  All the steps will add up to something beautiful.

I love this advice from Michelle – “start small, just keeping the next step”. It’s what I say to people when they aren’t sure where to start making changes to live more sustainably, and it’s brilliant advice for businesses too. And as Michelle says “all the steps will add up to something beautiful”.
Thanks so much to Michelle for sharing this with us – you can find Imagine Goods online here, and follow on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

What was the part of Michelle’s story that resonated with you, or inspired you the most? Do leave a comment below, or hop over to the#MakingGood Facebook community to carry on the conversation ?