While enrolled at UCLA's Anderson School of Management, Sheeva Sairafi looked for a fresh approach to feel-good shopping. So, upon finishing her MBA in May, she harnessed her public-spirited goodwill, her love for design and her entrepreneurial zeal, and soft-launched Local and Lejos.
The online resource for handcrafted home goods is targeted to a young demographic. Sairafi, 29, says that shoppers in general and millennials in particular are interested in "conscious consumerism, but you have to make it affordable." Her digital marketplace removes the brick-and-mortar costs. And customers may be pleased to learn that many of the goods — stylish ceramics, blankets, textiles and other home goods — are created by artisans (predominantly women) in developing economies.
Sairafi, who had worked as a buyer for a major national clothing and personal accessories retailer, aims to create "sustainable" employment, which means "training the makers to be their own small-business owners" over the long term. She says she has established direct relationships with craftspeople and their families, and has partnered with like-minded nonprofit organizations to offer entrepreneurial support.
Offerings include simple geometrically patterned textile throw pillows from India and large baskets made in Rwanda. The baskets are created from grass, sisal and bamboo and can be used as compact laundry hampers or for storage. (She spent a month in Rwanda and Tanzania researching the products and producers.) Ceramics are made in Oaxaca, Mexico, where Sairafi collaborated with fabricators to design a line of Minimalist tableware.