Local + Lejos

Local + Lejos: Design with Intention

Los Angeles, United StatesRwanda
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
for profit
Project Stage:
$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Local + Lejos is a socially conscious home decor brand that creates contemporary product for conscious consumers by employing artisan women in developing nations.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if providing women with empowerment training and steady job and could change the course of the next generation, breaking the poverty cycle?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

There are 72 million unemployed women in the global world. Artisan women do not have a connection to global consumers and struggle to find work. Without training, artisans often undersell their product through local markets, and don't make what they should be. Millennials are searching for design oriented home product that has a social impact, and they can't find it. Local + Lejos bridges these two worlds together through an e-commerce platform.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

We work closely with our artisan women to provide vast training opportunities. From empowerment training, to financial training, we aim to set our artisans up to be self functioning business owners. Because we work in a few different countries, we partner with non-profit organizations with like minded goals to make sure that production is running smoothly, quality is under control, and proper training is being given. In each country we work in, on a quarterly basis, we identify the needs of our women and what training would best suit them at this time. We start small, and only work with the number of artisans that we know we can sustainably employ. As we grow, our groups grow.


UCLA Wolfen Fellowship, YPO Fellowship 2015
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

In Rwanda, most rural families live on a farm and eat off of their land. As a result, a women's role in the household is multi-faceted. She needs to care for the children, tend to the crops, prepare meals, and, if there is time, provide an income to the family. Due to the vast amount of work required in caring for the farm, when children become of age and strength to help out, they always do. Unfortunately, this often results in the child dropping out of school to help out at home. One of our artisans, was determined to keep her daughter in school. Through working with us, she was able to provide enough supplemental income for her family, that she could hire someone to help on the farm, allowing her daughter to continue her studies.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

We started with a group of 24 artisans, and within 6 months, we are now working with 102 artisans. Through our training programs, we have enabled our artisan partners to: 1) establish their first bank accounts, 2) keep their children in school and not working on the farm because of their supplemental income 3) understand the true value of their products and identify the correct price they should be paid for their work. By focusing on education, we are enabling our artisans to change the cycle of the next generation. As we grow, we know there is more potential for hundreds, and thousands of women to join us. There are hundreds of non-profits around the world working directly the artisan groups. The missing link is the design sense, which is where we excel. We will continue to work with new groups, teaching them about desirable product for US consumers, while also creating jobs.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

Moving forward, this strategy has the potential to work globally. Currently, we've seen it successful in Guatemala, Rwanda, Mexico and India. There is potential for this to scale across other artisan driven developing nations, with support on the ground in each location. The key driver will be hands on training programs to initiate artisans into the group, and making sure we grow our artisans only as we scale the demand side of the business.

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

The plan is to raise a small seed round of funding in January 2016, to make our first hires and invest in marketing and inventory. Since we are a for-profit company, we will also fund the company through sales.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Currently, NGOs are working on the ground with artisan groups, but the product offering is not strong enough. Artisan goods are in demand in global markets, but from a product standpoint, the current offerings are not modern. Local + Lejos focuses on giving artisans the direction they need in order to create product for a design driven consumer, that also wants to shop for good. But, the product must come first. Currently, fair trade goods are focused to an older consumer. Through our work, Local + Lejos is addressing the needs of millennials in their first homes looking to make an impact.

Founding Story

The summer after college I backpacked through South America for 3 months. It was a life changing experience for a litany of reasons, but the driver was the relationships I formed with artisan women throughout my travels. I had always had a love for design, and the talent of these women blew me away. I visited during the off-season, and the artisans explained that it this time was extremely difficult for them. They would succumb to greatly undervaluing their products to sell to larger markets, in order to feed their children that night. I knew these women were talented, and they needed the connection to a global market. After 6 years at TJX, I knew it was time for me to make that connection.


Sheeva spent the past six years working within the buying & planning team at the TJX Companies. Aware that consumers are much more informed in the digital age, she constantly analyzed the market, ensuring that I was delivering the best value to my customers. From this experience, she is knowledgeable about consumer behavior patterns, and what customers are looking for. She oversaw the product development of hundreds of styles, both in-house and within the vendor teams and know the complications that can arise. She worked with the teams to take styles from a concept to final completion, addressing and fixing any production issues along the way. My core strengths include market assessment and strategy, product development, relationship building, and sales. During my MBA, she worked on a consulting basis for three e-commerce start-ups, Parachute Home, Lunya, and Tortugas Home. She holds a BA from Boston University and an MBA from UCLA’s Anderson School of Management. It boils down to this. She is the right person to run this start-up for three reasons: 1) She has a keen sense of design and can identify what consumers want. 2) She is deeply passionate about our social focus of empowering women worldwide and using business to do good. 3) She is relentless when it comes to execution. She sets goals, and she achieves them.
Value Chain: Where does your work fit into the apparel value chain? [check all that apply]

Raw Materials, Manufacturing, Consumption.

Your Role: What is your relationship to the apparel industry? [check all that apply]

Designer, Retail Representative - Specialty Store, Sourcing Manager / Supply Chain Manager.

Target Population: What stakeholder groups do you engage or empower in your work? [check all that apply]

● Intervention Focus: What are you trying to achieve / influence? [check all that apply]

Conscious Consumerism, Anti-forced Labor or Anti-Human Trafficking, Physical Working Conditions, Transparency.

Lever for Change: Select up to 3 ways your work is helping to transform the industry.

Advocacy, Standards, Training.

Is your project targeted at solving any of the following key barriers?

Consumers Aren't Motivated to Care: Neither Compelling Reasons Nor Easy Means to Change Consumption Habits.

Does your project utilize any of the innovative design principles below?

Activate Local Know-how for Driving Solutions: Build Opportunities for Workers to Become Leaders.

Innovation Inspiration: When you first conceived of your project, did you think of it as applicable to the apparel industry?


If you answered "no" to the previous question, which industry was your project originally aimed at transforming?

● Replicating in the Apparel Industry: If your project didn't initially target the apparel industry, how are you specifically tailoring it to do so now?
Are you nurturing or inspiring others to be changemakers? If so, how?
● Tell us about the partnerships that enhance your approach. How have you collaborated with others in the industry to increase your impact?

Yes, currently collaborating with non-profit organizations in Guatemala, India and Rwanda.