As a society, we’ve moved far beyond conspicuous consumption to a zeitgeist defined by sustainable utilisation. Instead of being merely brand conscious, we now choose to follow conscious brands.
Take the traction the Fairtrade movement has achieved among consumers. Results of a survey published in Development Education Journal found that “income was not a significant factor” and participants’ most common reasons for buying Fairtrade were “better conditions for workers”, “to use consumer power for a fairer economic system” and “better environmental care”.
With the rise of the socially responsible shopper or conscious consumer, we’re seeing businesses led by the values of ethical business practices and sustainability. Not enough, but they are there.
One example is a new lifestyle retailer, Beetroot Inc. which started in Gauteng, and now has outlets in Durban and Cape Town too.
CEO Elize van der Berg explains the ethos of the business: “The reasons for the stores’ success are so much more esoteric than about purely product related. We are a business that’s about people, people and again people – their individuality and their aversion to ubiquity. Their jobs, experiences, dreams and creativity… We are a group of consumer-creators, we are business people and artists and we are individuals. What is common is that we all want to create some form of common good.”
Beetroot Inc.’s burgeoning following is definitely predicated on strong values that resonate with their market. That’s not to say that the design of the furniture (and other products) is not outstanding. Light, bright and colourful couches, cushions, placemats and chairs are individualized (customers can customize their products in terms of size, shape and colour), each item is unique because the patchwork and colour combinations differ. The merchandise stocked is an eclectic, original mix that is utterly authentic, from scatter cushions to lifestyle furniture, utility ware to plush upholstered seats, raw recycled-wood coffee tables to eco-sensitive servers, from bags to tableware and aprons.
As an illustration of the values at the core of Beetroot Inc. consider that it was founded in response to the employment crisis. “Job creation is essential to make this country work – a job you create for one person has positive spin-offs for at least five others. To sustain jobs though, you also have to make profit. So, as we went along we also had to develop a sustainable economic model. The one cannot work without the other.”
Beetroot Inc. supports a variety of entrepreneurs from artists to housewives, small manufacturers and other job creation projects. “It is our shared beliefs and attitudes that unite us as ‘Beetrooters’. In short, we do the job, we do it well, we enjoy our work, we respect others and we flourish.”
Asked if the Beetroot model could be emulated by others, Elize responds: “It could. However, retail and manufacturing are not for sissies. Entrepreneurs must have a big match temperament. The real test comes when things don’t go according to plan. Then you really need to step up to the plate.” Elize and her collaboratives have done just that.
For more information about Beetroot Inc. and what they have to offer, please visit http://www.beetrootinc.co.za.