FairMail - Fair trade photography by underprivileged teenagers

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FairMail - Fair trade photography by underprivileged teenagers

Amsterdam, NetherlandsTrujillo, Peru
Organization type: 
for profit
$100,000 - $250,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

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

FairMail is a social enterprise producing fair-trade greeting cards. The pictures on the cards are taken by at-risk teenagers in Peru, India and soon Morocco too! The teenagers receive 50% of the profit made on the sale of their own cards. FairMail provides the teenagers with a free camera, photography training, medical insurance for their families and guidance in making their own future plans.

FairMail as social enterprise is tackling 2 social problems:

1) Economically deprived teenagers in developing countries are often forced into child labour to help supplement the family income. This is a huge problem as it keeps them out of school and in the vicious circle of poverty.

2) Currently the beauty present in developing countries is exploited mainly by western photographers who have the ability to sell images of this beauty in the west.

FairMail wants to fight poverty and child labour by enabling local people to commercialize their own local beauty (a free resource!) and earn a fair share of the profit being made. So they can break the chain of poverty and give their children a better life.

Over the past 4 years 33 at-risk teenagers have generated more then 225.000 euro in local income with the sale of their >1.000.000 cards to finance their own education and the operation of the social enterprises they work for. Over the next 5 years we want to expand to 100 teenage photographers from 5 countries that generate >1.1 million euro in local income.

Our biggest threat for not fulfilling our dream is that our sales targets aren’t met. We can overcome this by investing Ben & Jerry’s prize money in effective PR and marketing and developing more web-based products with the teenager’s pictures.

Will you give us your vote and help us make our dream reality?

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

FairMail is tackling 2 problems: 1) Economically deprived teenagers in developing countries are often forced into child labour to help supplement the family income. This is a huge problem as it keeps them out of school and in the vicious circle of poverty. 2) Currently the beauty present in developing countries is exploited mainly by western photographers who have the ability to sell images of this beauty in the west. Especially in parts of the world where there is a lot of poverty it is unfair that the inhabitants of the country that provides the beauty do not earn a fair share of the profit being made.

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

By training deprived teenagers in photography and selling the photographed beauty (a free resource!) on greeting cards worldwide, the teenagers can earn an income to finance their education. FairMail Cards found a consumer demand for a card concept that offers a combination of a quality product and the inspiring, direct link to a young and hard working teenage photographer who the consumer can directly support by buying his/her card or photograph. Other card companies are struggling to respond to consumers request for socially and ecological responsible products. Apart from FSC paper none are able to offer ethical credentials besides charity cards which often have badly selected images for card themes. Fair trade greeting cards are an innovation our clients have been waiting for. It is the first time that local beauty is used by local teenagers to generate an income. We also use state of the art environmentally friendly techniques and introduce them to developing countries.

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

There are NGO's working to end child labour and increase access to education. Though none are applying a business approach to sustainably tackle this social problem. Consumers appreciate FairMail's approach and that it differs from charity cards because of its: 1. "Life changing" impact vs. "Day changing" impact - with the FairMail training and money the teenagers change their lives (instead of for example free food for a day). 2. Trade vs. Aid - FairMail is independent of subsidies or donations. 3. Positive vs. Pitiful - FairMail believes in the power of the teenagers to influence their own destiny. 4. Direct vs. Indirect support - on a FairMail card you see who you are supporting. 5. Independence vs. Dependence on charity - After 6 years the teenager continues independently.
About You
FairMail Cards
Background Information
First Name


Last Name

den Hond

The competition is only open to people between 18-34 years-old and resident in UK, Ireland, Sweden, Denmark or the Netherlands. Does this apply to you


Country of residence of entrepreneur

The Netherlands

Tell us about your personal background. Why are you passionate about this issue? Making an idea a reality takes innovation, dedication and strong leadership. Do you have the necessary entrepreneurial skills to realize your vision?

I am a visionary social entrepreneur with experience in setting up and running 7 social enterprises in Peru, India, the Netherlands and preparing one in Morocco. It is my passion to run a business with underprivileged teenagers and develop their creativity. I want to show the world that deprived but motivated teenagers can break the chain of poverty in a business manner by taking creative pictures of the beauty around them and selling it worldwide. My vision for 2017 is to have FairMail production units in five countries and sell their pictures in 20 countries, employing over 100 teenagers.

About Your Organization
Organization Name

FairMail Cards

Organization Country

, NH, Amsterdam

Country where this project is creating social impact

, LD, Trujillo

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The Model: Walk us through a specific example of how your solution makes a difference; include your primary activities

FairMail's three main activities are:
1) Train underprivileged teenagers in developing countries in photography and creativity.
2) Sell and license their best pictures worldwide on cards, calendars, bookmarks and other licensed products.
3) Pay the teenagers a fair trade income (50 % of the profit and health insurance) and guide them to invest their money in education and housing.

A specific example is the 19 year old Mariaflor Reyes from Trujillo, Peru. Before entering FairMail she worked on Trujillo's garbage dump with her mother to collect materials that could be sold for recycling. At the age of 15 she entered FairMail and received free photography training and a digital camera to use. Her pictures where printed on the over 1 million cards sold so far in Germany, France, the UK, the Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland. On the back of each of her card her customers can see her face, name, age and email and read the message that Mariaflor is funding her education with the sale of her cards. In just over 4 years she has earned almost 7.000 Euro with the sale of her pictures. With this money she is now financing her career of 5 years at a local private university and paid to finish the construction of her mothers house. Mariaflor still lives next to the garbage belt, but is now a shining example for her surroundings that with hard work and creativity it is possible to break the chain of poverty.

Select the stage that best applies to your business

Operating for more than 5 years

Social Impact
What is the social impact you have had to date and how you measure it?

In the period between 2007-2011 33 at-risk teenagers have generated more then 225.000 euro in local income with the sale of their >1.000.000 cards to finance their own education and the operation of the social enterprises they work for. Only two of them have dropped out of school despite their harsh realities and several are currently studying at universities.

In the period 2012-2017 FairMail aims to provide images from 5 countries taken by >100 teenagers, marketed on different media concepts that:

1) Empower >100 teenagers by developing their creativity and self esteem while earning an income with their pictures.

2) Uses local beauty as a resource to generate a total of >1.1 million Euro in local income.

3) Inspires customers in 20 countries to contribute to poverty reduction.

What barriers might hinder the success of your business? How do you plan to overcome them?

Our biggest threats are:

- That our sales targets will not be reached. We can overcome this by investing the prize money in effective PR and marketing.

- Decline in general greeting card market. We will overcome this by developing more web based products & target the stockphotography market more. Plus enter 10 new national card markets.

How does your model address financial, social, and environmental sustainability?

FairMail has been profitable since year one as with no profit the teenagers would earn nothing and return to their exploitative labour. FairMail's income and profit is increasing due to an increasing amount of licensing agreements with international publishers in such a rate that we can employ more teenagers and increase FairMail's impact. Due to our successful track-record we are being approached by publishers who are in the top 5 of their national markets who want to licence and distribute FairMail products. Due to their experience and sales force >100% growth is foreseen over the next 5 years.

FairMail cooperates with local NGO's working with at-risk teenagers in Peru, India and Morocco who help preselect the most needy but also motivated and school-going teenagers. FairMail's membership of the WFTO is an important partnership due to the increasing importance and market share of fair trade products.

An environmental component fits very well with an ethical product like FairMail and a combination we believe in. Our main stream publishers and printers recognize this and let FairMail inspire them to incorporate new environmentally production techniques we have experimented with ourselves like using bio-degradable inks, bio-degradable cello bags, FSC paper and recycled envelopes.

Awareness & learning
How do you see social entrepreneurship contributing to the improvement of developing countries?

I think social entrepreneurship is the future after traditional development aid which is being criticized more and more and loosing public support both in the donor and developing countries.

Businesses have proven to be able to contribute to solving social problems in developing countries where traditional NGO's have not always met the expectations. This is because social enterprises work demand driven, focused on long term operation and financial sustainability to finance future operations. Whereas NGO's run the risk of working donor driven, for a short period where sustainability can be jeopardized when project funding runs out.

The challenge will be to scale up the good ideas that are going around to provide real impact. And to keep the positive aspects of "pure" social entrepreneurship alive when social enterprises scale up to become bigger entities.

What aspects of your stay in Uganda as part of the competition do you think you will find most challenging and rewarding?

The only challenge I can imagine is keeping up with FairMail work and e-mails while entering remote parts of Uganda and working hard and enthusiastically on the team assignments. The experience of staying with a local family during the part of the stay will be very interesting I am sure and a great way to connect!

The most rewarding I think is meeting like-minded social entrepreneurs, learning from their experiences and sharing my own. I also look forward to getting first hand experiences on how FLO certification works in practice and the benefits it provides for the involved farmers. Possible constraints of fairtrade certifications and improvements that can be made to ensure sustainability of the system great topics to discuss in this international team!

And to get inspired to start FairMail Uganda in the future in cooperation with the people I meet. So we can provide fair trade pictures of Ben&Jerry's vanilla producers in the future!