Nonprofit online store ‘Nest’ makes retail therapy good for the world.
Here is an easy way to save the world by doing something you would do anyway: decorating your home or yourself with beautiful handmade goods from around the world.
Nest (buildanest.com) is a nonprofit online retailer that sells clothing, jewelry and home accessories and turns the profits into micro-loans for women in developing countries. Loan recipients can choose to repay their loans in cash or by selling the goods they make on Nest.
The idea of the micro-loan—where a business in a developing country is awarded a small amount of money (usually around $50) for supplies or other necessities—first appeared in the 1970s.
Since then, various forms of the micro-loan concept have appeared.
Nest’s micro-loan model is particularly exciting because the retailer has elected to give loans only to businesses that are owned and operated by women. These entrepreneurs, who are often limited by their lack of education and their second-class-citizen atus, flourish when given a chance to take control of their own businesses and livelihoods. The women are able to increase their social standing, provide for their families and pay their debts. In fact, women have an astoundingly high repayment rate on these loans—to the tune of 98 percent.
Nest is also exciting because, like the loans it funds, it operates under a sustainable business model. The company sells handmade items in the U.S. by up-and-coming designers, many of whom design items specifically for the Web site, thereby promoting local as well as foreign talent and ensuring a bigger pot for those who need to draw from it.