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I AM. is a social business that sells yoga straps and bags created by Guatemalan women. Like many places in the world, Guatemala is home to artisans who are often at risk because of the manufacturing industry’s rigorous overtake and monopoly on factory- and machine-produced goods that were previously handmade. I AM. hopes to help recharge not only the art of traditional backstrap-woven and naturally dyed fabrics, but also the ways in which artisans maintain their livelihoods.
Interestingly, I AM. sees itself as not a brand, but an idea and a movement. According to their website, “I AM. is an idea that we no longer have to live in a world of blind consumerism. An idea that the power of business can be used to provide, and not just profit. An idea that the value of a product can be measured by the benefit it brings many, not the image it brings to one. An idea that by connecting like-minded people around the world, we can make a real difference.”
Indeed, honest business solutions can have profound affects on lived experiences and standards of living. I AM. aims to alleviate poverty through paying an above average wage to the women artisans they employ, as well as re-investing half of the profits back into the communities from which the products are sourced. The website Milkshake had overwhelmingly positive things to say about the business’ method to giving back: “Your yoga mat bag could change the world. That might sound like a big statement, but it’s true. I AM., a company founded on the principle of helping struggling communities that capitalism left behind, thinks their yoga mats are life changing—and we happen to agree.”
As social business (as a movement, sector, field or whatever you want to call it) continues to gain steam around the world, the true impact will come from idea-based solutions that simultaneously measure impact. Hopefully, society is moving toward something like I AM. is proposing, that is, a shift in the very idea of what a business is, how it should behave and who it is accountable to.