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Colorful Beads That Empower Women

 - Mar 28, 2012
References: theandeancollection
The Andean Collection is a social enterprise fashion line that sells bright, colourful jewelry made by artisans in Ecuador who are able to earn a sustainable income from their creations.

The business was founded by Amanda Judge, who left a secure job in the corporate world to pursue her dreams of social entrepreneurship. In the interview below, Amanda explains why she made the switch from the corporate world, and she offers details on her social business model. She also shares the ways in which meditation and yoga (and a good cup of coffee) help her replenish creativity.

4 Question with Amanda Judge, Founder of The Andean Collection

1. How did the idea for the business model come about?
I studied finance in college and have always been business minded, but I wanted to pursue a career with a social mission. After college I worked in finance, but knew that I wanted to do something more meaningful.

To make the transition, I started volunteering in microfinance, for FINCA, but I realized that, in certain cases, there were limitations to what microfinance could do to alleviate deeply rooted poverty.

My Masters’ thesis explored poverty reduction strategies in rural Ecuador, so I traveled throughout rural communities in Ecuador, interviewing men and women to figure out ways to bring about sustainable economic change. I discovered that access to markets was crucial to reducing poverty in these areas. While loans may enable the communities to produce more, it didn’t necessarily mean they could expand their businesses to sell more.

2. How did you decide to join this sector?
During my field research I analyzed the different streams of household income in the rural communities, which included construction, farming, woodworking, textiles and jewelry making. I saw the biggest opportunity for growth in jewelry making. The pieces the artisans were making were so gorgeous and interesting, but their mobility was limited, as was their customer base; they needed access to a wider global market. There’s always a demand for intricate, well-made, and reasonably priced jewelry, so the market was already there, we just needed to tap into it. We’ve been able to do that by merging the artisans’ traditional designs and craftsmanship with current trends.

3. How do you get your inspiration?
I’m really inspired by travel and personal connections. I’ve worked with some of the lead artisans for four years, and we’ve formed a real bond. Our team in NYC travels to Ecuador a few times a year, not only to finalize our collections, but also to reconnect with the artisans and their families, who are friends. Every time I visit I’m inspired by a new design, technique or material. Each year, more and more artisans partner with Andean Collection, so it’s just an endless well of inspiration.

4. How do you reset yourself to be creative? Do you have any rituals?
I try to meditate everyday. I find when I clear my mind of thoughts and worries, I’m able to open myself up to new ideas. I also do yoga at least 3 times a week. It gives me energy, and in general, I think energetic people are more creative.

We also have design meetings in our NYC office once/week. Having that structured into the workweek requires us to dream up new designs, pretty much all the time.

As far as daily rituals, coffee. Morning coffee is key.