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Ever wondered how you could support ethical, sustainable businesses? Welcome to a regular series highlighting products, services and organizations that are ‘doing well by doing good’.

We caught up with Amazig Leathers founder Brandi Jordan about the inspiring company she created which produces beautiful leather goods in Morocco while supporting a community of artisans in a sustainable way.

Tell us a little bit about your company please?

We are told from a young age that we can change the world, but rarely are we told how. I’ve always had this intense desire to make a positive impact somewhere and a radar system in my head is constantly on the lookout for opportunities.

It wasn’t until the last few years that this radar began going nuts. I started paying attention to the products I was buying on a regular basis. I began to research the companies that I bought from and was shocked by some of the things I discovered: substandard working conditions, unfair wages, and unethical treatment all seemed to be common practices.

I had the epiphany that with every purchase I make, I can either empower or enslave people, real people, like the ones I had become friends with during my travels.   

At the beginning of the year, I told someone that I wanted to open a leather-goods company in Morocco – that was the first time I had ever said that out loud. Later in our conversation she asked me one simple question that has changed everything , “Why aren’t you doing it?” The question took me off guard and completely consumed my thoughts for weeks. It made sense  I love leather  and by starting an ethical company  I could have a far-reaching positive impact . However,  at that point in time I had never been to Morocco and it seemed simply a far off dream of something beautiful that could-be…one day.   

Several weeks later, I started telling people that I was interested in starting a leather-goods social enterprise based in Morocco and energy started to build around this idea – quickly! I didn’t know it then, but Amazig Leathers had been born. Two and a half months later, by some miracle and the generosity of hundreds of people, I found myself sitting in front of one of the most fascinating and inspiring men I have ever met.   

While in Morocco, Absetic (Amazig Leathers lead artisan) and I spent time sharing our life stories with each other and discussing our vision for Amazig. Absetic told me about his heart for the Imazighen people and the struggles faced by so many in his community to find honorable employment. Together, we perfected our debut collection. By the time I left, I was filled with inspiration and the drive to bring Amazig Leathers to life and to create positive and sustainable change with this incredible community.   

Through the sale of high-quality, handmade artisanal leather-goods, Absetic and the rest of the artisans will be able to provide not only for their families, but also for their community because a portion of Amazig’s profits will go to support educational initiatives among the Imazighen people.  

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How did you get started with this idea?

I was born in Louisville, Kentucky but I grew up all over the world. As I traveled from place to place, each country and stranger I encountered provided the impetus to uncover something new about myself. At a young age I became passionate about the social justice issues that face our world and the role that I play in them,  whether I acknowledge it or not. As a freshman in high school I spent my first summer in Cambodia , and during that time I found a little shop called ‘Beautiful Feet’. They let you design your own shoe and construct it specifically to fit you.

It was at that point  that I fell in love with the artisan experience. In fact, one of the things I love most about traveling is finding talented people in the most obscure places who make the most beautiful creations. Amazig is birthed out of this desire to know the people who make the products that are in my home. I know that when I go shopping the things I purchase will either oppress or empower the people who made them. Amazig wants to provide an outlet where people can get beautiful bags that they will love to carry and be guilt-free about, because they know that their purchase is not only empowering the artisan, but also the artisans’ community. I truly am so humbled to get to be apart of something as beautiful as Amazig ; it is already more than I could’ve dreamed.

What is the purpose of this organization?

Through the sale of high-quality, handmade artisanal leather-goods, Absetic and the rest of the artisans will be able to provide not only for their families, but also for their community because a portion of Amazig’s profits will go to support educational initiatives among the Imazighen people.  

What are you proudest of?

Our growth, to be quite honest. We started with nothing but an idea. I’m the CEO and I’ve never taken a single business class, we had no investors, but you know what we are making it, and we are growing. Three years later, and we are still here and expanding.

How do you think you are different to your competitors?

We are small and ‘mom and pop’ in a digital sort of way. It s just me, my family  and the artisans we work with. If you email our website  you get me, the CEO and I love that. I want to talk to our customers. I want to be a part of their lives and I want them to be a part of ours here in Morocco. I’ve always said that business, if done correctly, has the power to change communities and we are seeing that here on the ground. Our customers get to be a part of that and it’s exciting!

What do your customers/community say about your organization that makes you happy?

They love the quality and craftsmanship, which is something we are absolutely committed to. I had a dilemma earlier this year because there is a machine that you can buy which will cut all of the leather pieces to a standard size using molds. I really contemplated getting it for us because it would really speed up the production process and further standardize form, but when it came down to it, I just couldn’t do it. The beauty of Amazig is in the hand-cut, hand-stitched, one of a kind uniqueness and we aren’t walking away from that any time soon!

What is your favorite story about your organization?

I don’t know if I have a single story, it truly has been such a wild ride. My favorite thing though is repeat customers. We are a small company and our reach thus far has been relatively small, but the customers we do have are so committed to us and that’s truly humbling. Most of our customers own more than one Amazig piece ; in fact, we have several customers who own everything we have ever made, which tells me we are doing something right. We love our artisans, they love the art they make, we love our customers  and once you are a part of a shopping experience like that, well, it’s hard to be satisfied with Kohl’s afterwards.

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What difference do you make in people’s lives?

Amazig isn’t handing anything out. We partner with talented artisans, validating that the work they do is amazing and then giving them access to a market they could never otherwise reach. We only work with Imazighen people, who have a long history of being oppressed in Morocco and elsewhere; in fact the rest of the world refers to them as the ‘Berber’ people, which is a name the colonial French gave them, meaning the ‘barbarians’. Yet in stark  opposition to those falsehoods, we say : your culture is rich and beautiful, your craftsmanship is some of the best in the world and it deserves to be celebrated on a global scale.

Where can people go to support your organization?

Easy, you can find us online at www.amazigleathers.com, on Facebook, and Instagram.

What are your plans for the future?

Oh, our plans are endless and multi-fold. You can expect to see an expanded product line that ranges from home-goods to apparel in the coming years and there may even be an Amazig house in the works. Wouldn’t it be fun to come stay in Morocco, hang out with us  and learn about how all of the beautiful Moroccan goods that fill our homes are crafted?

Afdhel Aziz is the co-author of  book ‘Good is the New Cool’, a book on brands and social entrepreneurship available on Amazon now.

If you have a suggestion for a business or organization you think should be highlighted, please email him at goodisthenewcool@gmail.com