Christine Souffrant is a young, social enterprise proponent. A relatively new and revolutionary way of doing business, social enterprise means using business tenets and goals to help solve society's most distressing problems. The social enterprise business is set up to provide a solution for an issue that exists in countries with crises such as lack of potable water, lack of energy sources for poor households, underdeveloped business and trade, absence of sanitary living conditions in the home, poor agricultural systems, and limited access to proper healthcare and education.
In short, social enterprises are built on the foundation of wanting to improve the lives of the poor and underprivileged of the world. And that's exactly what Souffrant does.
At 26 years old, Souffrant, a social entrepreneur, is the founder of Vendedy, which has successfully developed the world's only digital platform for marketing the work of street artisan vendors living in third world markets. In building her enterprise, she has gained insight to the stories and struggles of street vendors in 30 countries while travelling as a student on a Bill Gates scholarship.
"Vendedy is a social enterprise start-up that is digitising the street vending industry via mobile technology," Souffrant explains.
"For the first time, street vendors can upload photos of their products online via mobile so that a travelling consumer can search, purchase, and pay for an item via SMS. Local agents deliver the product to the consumer's hotel during their stay," she said.
The mobile network was in beta in Haiti. The startup aims to launch the first phase of the network in the Caribbean this summer.
She added that "as the Vendedy network expands, it aims to help travelling consumers access remote artisan designs that come with a story from over 150+ countries in real time."
Vendedy's platform of commerce is the hugely popular global mobile SMS service. This affordable and reliable platform is used to streamline the entire sale, purchase, and payment transaction for the street artisan and the travelling consumer, and inherently minimises the artisan's cost of getting his products to market.
This social enterprise not only provides a cohesive marketplace for street artisan vendors, it goes further to offer the humble street artist an instant global consumer base, plus professional representation and marketing around the world–all for a small commission; most profits go to the rightful owners, the street artisans who produced what was sold.
In further highlighting the impact Vendedy is making in revolutionising the street vending industry, and improving the lives of thousands around the world, Souffrant explains that approximately two billion people around the globe survive on less than US$2 a day and many earn their daily existence by selling handmade crafts and art on the street. Sadly, these micro-business owners lack representation and are often exploited by wholesalers who purchase their products at a very low cost and resell them in Western markets at a significant markup. This, ultimately, creates a vicious cycle of poverty among street artisans. The good news is that Vendedy is now on the scene to offer fair trade to these vendors.
"During the beta launch of the mobile network, street vendors who used Vendedy earned nine to 14 times their annual income in weeks because they are paid a fair price for their goods' market value, as opposed to local undervalued prices, Souffrant explains.
"On the other hand, 66 per cent of global consumers want to purchase unique items that create a social impact, but can only access them via fragmented channels like NGOs, boutique websites and sporadic craft fairs. Furthermore, many of the 1.1 billion people who travel the world annually search for products that symbolise their experience abroad. But they buy items at airports, hotels and malls despite the fact that most authentic products are located in street markets. We want to leverage mobile technology to revamp this global supply chain and connect street markets to global consumers."
Christine's passion for the support of street artisans stems from her own experience of knowing the struggles of family members who were street vendors in Haiti and the streets of New York.