Fikay - Cementing a future in recycled fashionable goods
When 22 year old Aaron Jones took a 10 week sabbatical in 2010 to teach children in North India before starting university, the experience affected him profoundly and inspired him to set up his business, Fikay, which would help support struggling communities.
Aaron developed a business plan to source used, non-biodegradable, durable cement and fish feed bags from deprived nations and work with local suppliers to turn them into fashionable bags and wallets for students and young people. For every Fikay product sold, bricks are donated to local school building programmes; helping to make a huge difference to those communities and bring about real change for the future.
Aaron explains: “My sabbatical to India was the first time in my life I’d really held hands with poverty. Right there, I knew I had to do something to help disadvantaged communities around the world. I wanted to find a way to provide long term, sustainable help.”
It was during a later trip to Cambodia in 2011 that the business concept presented itself. Aaron saw a market trader selling goods made from recycled cement bags. “I was blown away by the resourceful way the bags were being used” Aaron recalls. “So, I spent a month getting to know the seller, and eventually met her supplier.”
A Bag, a business, a boy shouts a name
By 2012 Aaron was working with the supplier to make fashion items from the recycled bags. “Our design inspiration comes from the rather normal day-to-day sights and colours we see in the countries we visit,” Aaron explains. “The best part is we’re recycling materials that aren’t always bio-degradable, so it’s great for the environment too.” He adds; “Fikay is about your adventure, a brand for successful living without screwing everyone over.”
Aaron recruited a friend to the business and they began selling the products. The final task was to decide on a name for the company. Aaron says: “While we were in Vietnam a little boy from a local village jumped into a pool and shouted ‘FIKAY’. He was so happy, against all odds, that we took his word to mean ‘hope’ and immediately adopted it as our business name.”
From there, business objectives were created to; empower local people, find local suppliers, and give back to the community. With one supplier in place, business experts suggested that Fikay speak to Alibaba.com about finding more suppliers. “I became an Alibaba.com member and began to explore the platform.” Aaron continues, “Within hours I’d found a perfect supplier of cement bags, based in Cambodia, and began chatting to him.”
Sourcing a supplier from Alibaba.com turned out to be a significant move for Fikay. “Our usual supplier was reaching their capacity limits and we needed an additional product source. We turned to our Alibaba.com supplier, who was able to produce the goods in time to meet the order,” states Aaron. “We realised that without them, we had no back-up plan and our business wasn’t secure. If we had not found the additional supplier, Fikay probably wouldn’t be here today.”
Global Reach, Local Charities
The positive experience Fikay had through the Alibaba.com endorsed supplier gave Aaron the confidence to expand the business, whilst keeping to its social enterprise roots. “We learnt the true value of partnership, thanks to Alibaba.com. We’re now using the platform to meet suppliers across South-East Asia and the Congo,” explains Aaron.
Fikay now sells more than 100 products in 20 styles and many colours. Fikay is launching its latest line – a guitar case range - this summer, with the help of up-and- coming artist, Leddra Chapman.
“What a great way to celebrate an excellent year of trading,” Aaron smiles.
Giving back to communities through fair trade remains at the heart of Fikay and it works with local charities to support their causes, help families to learn new skills and raise employment levels. With the bricks bought through each Fikay product sale, it is aiming to help build 10 schools in 10 years around South East Asia. The first school, part funded by Fikay, is due to open in Cambodia in June 2013.
Aaron concludes: “I’ve learnt from my travels that, no matter how bleak a situation looks, as long as there is hope things can change. Fikay has already helped to improve the lives of many people in poverty, and we’ve only just begun.”