By Veronica de la Cerda
Do you ever look at the product you’re about to purchase and wonder who made it? Sure, if you’re an eco-conscious fashion/beauty/lifestyle junkie like the rest of us at Conscious Collective Co. Who’s the person who made my new favorite dress? Do they have a family? What’s their story?
Enrou does just that. Founded by partners and BFFs Ann Wang and Jessica Willison, Enrou allows users to shop socially responsible brands for one of a kind products, handcrafted by communities around the world. Each product offered highlights its creator and their story, so you know exactly where your new fave piece is coming from. Together with these brands, Ann and Jess have helped create opportunities for communities and have given their consumers the power to create change and give opportunities to those who need them.
We interviewed the ladies of Enrou to learn a little more about who they are, what they do, and what we as consumers can do to help.
How did your partnership begin?
Jess: You could say our partnership began when we were 13 when we met in junior high. We began a friendship through working together on class projects, holding leadership roles together for our high school clubs, and living together in college and beyond. While Ann’s background is in international development (she got her degree in the field at UCLA and worked with non-profits like Invisible Children), I really love fashion & shopping which I got to live out through working for companies like Refinery29 & Nordstrom. Ann came up with the idea of Enrou because of what she learned in school and her experiences in activism. Wanting to expand the work that socially conscious brands were already doing, she dreamed up the idea of Enrou. She brought me into the mix since I had experience in what people like to buy that she didn’t.
What do you love about your job?
Jess: Seeing people reach their greatest potential has always been the most rewarding part of our job. From our creators on the ground finding new ways to support themselves, their family, and impact their community to our internal team members growing professionally, to our customers being able to make that true impact they are craving, we love playing a role in that personal growth of those that touch the brand.
What’s the best part of working together?
Jess: The best part of working together is that we truly are best friends and know each other as well as we know ourselves. This has been really helpful and has become even more important as we continue to build Enrou. Because we know each other so well, we can be 100% honest with each other enabling us to be honest with Enrou. We push each other in the best way possible and we know that we can have honest conversations to make important decisions for the company. We understand what makes the other tick, our strengths, and our weaknesses which enables us to support each other throughout this process in the best interest of the company. Plus, we get to hang out with our best friend all the time!
How involved are you in the communities your brands partner with?
Jess: While we aren’t directly involved with the communities our brands partner with, our brands very much are. We like to keep it that way. Logistically, we understand that we cannot be experts in 72+ diverse communities where our partners are. It’s so important to us that our partners understand the community needs fully because that truly is what makes that sustainable impact.. We go through a lot of lengths to make sure that their work in those communities is valuable, wanted, and continues to be successful. But we do rely and trust our brand partners to carry out that community involvement directly. We try to be as supportive as we can to help them achieve those goals by focusing on sharing their story and selling their products so that their businesses can flourish and so that they can continue their work on the ground.
What other opportunities do you and your partners offer to the people of their communities?
Ann: Aside from creating dignified employment for the artisans and their teams, the main goal of part two of our dual impact model is to further establish the community infrastructure around the workers so that the new capital entering into the economy can be withheld for long-lasting and sustainable impact with the end goal that the community can become self-sufficient. These initiatives vary by impact partner based on an assessment and partnership between them and the workers they employ and/or the greater community. Some of the most common are microfinancing, and skill and business training and education. This approach ensures that these programs are bringing the greatest value to the people it affects.
Are you looking to add more causes to the list you currently support?
Jess: The causes that are shown throughout Enrou are reflected through our partners’ impact programs. The seven causes you see are all common throughout the community development initiatives that our partners implement, and are categorized by the needs of the community. We look for great socially conscious brands that empower their employees and their communities. And if there are needs within a community that fall outside of our seven causes, we’re absolutely in support of expanding those!
What’s your biggest pet peeve?
Ann: My biggest pet peeve is missing opportunities when you know the potential could be huge.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?
Ann: Ask the right questions to the right people.
photo via @TheCartorialist
What does the future of Enrou look like?
Jess: We want to be known as the place where people can live out a life of meaning in their everyday. One of the ways you can do that is through shopping with intent. When shopping with Enrou, you create hours of dignified work for our artisan community and continue to offer this same opportunity to more and more people. Making ourselves more accessible, sharing incredible stories of others living out a life of intent, providing even more opportunities to share the story and the effects of every purchase are ways that we’ll get there.