At this time of year I guess we are all thinking about hearth and home. But a conversation with one of the founders of Gossypium, a great little business that started here in Lewes in 2001, got me thinking about the reality of building a sustainable business locally.
Gossypium sells organic and Fairtrade certified cotton, sourced directly from independent farmers in India. This is worthy in itself. But I think one of the things the company has done really well is embed itself in the community.
This isn’t done in a forced way, but simply and authentically. For example, the company supports local initiatives. It’s open to suggestions by local people for local campaigns that matter. It contributes to these campaigns and joins in – both the owners and the team. Generally, and wherever it can, it does the “right thing”.
I think this, and the fact that the business started here, has led to a growing belief that Gossypium “belongs” to Lewes. Gossypium is a business that people who live here seem almost proud of.
I know my wife and I have chosen to shop there this year, and lots of other local people do. It’s probably not the cheapest place in the world. But there’s something special about buying things from a place you know is involved in and supportive of your community.
And the owner told me that this support has really benefited the company, financially as well as in other ways, and she believes it will continue to do so.
Perhaps this is the kind of thing the writers of the Cluetrain Manifesto had in mind. The Manifesto is 10 years old this year. As you may know, the Manifesto sees markets as conversations. And it stresses the importance of talking with a human voice. Principles 34 through 40 are:
- To speak with a human voice, companies must share the concerns of their communities.
- But first, they must belong to a community.
- Companies must ask themselves where their corporate cultures end.
- If their cultures end before the community begins, they will have no market.
- Human communities are based on discourse — on human speech about human concerns.
- The community of discourse is the market.
- Companies that do not belong to a community of discourse will die.
It’s easy to critique the Cluetrain idea. But, for me, the point about community is essentially true.
Happy New Year.