Sustainable fashion, slow fashion, and sustainable eCommerce are some of the hottest buzzwords associated with the fashion industry as of late. Located in central Sri Lanka, Josie shared her journey of starting a sustainable eCommerce business in Sri Lanka and how she is shipping internationally.
What is Amma Sri Lanka?
Amma Sri Lanka is a sustainable eCommerce venture – otherwise known as a social enterprise that creates beautiful hand-crafted garments using dyes extracted from waste, by-products, and other locally sourced materials. Their mission is to financially empower Sri Lankan women living in the rural highlands. Josie, the founder of Amma was introduced to Sri Lanka a little less than half a decade ago when she volunteered at an NGO working to make the lives of Sri Lankan estate workers better.
Empowering Sri Lankan Women through Sustainable eCommerce
When Josie founded and launched Amma Sri Lanka 5 years ago, never did she think that her team would grow to more than a handful of members. While scaling her business, she’s taken the time to educate her team about basic finances, financial independence, and general business – a great feat with the ultimate goal of breaking down patriarchal and generational stereotypes passed down in the region.
In just half a decade, Josie has been able to transform the knowledge and lives of these women and provide them and their families a stable income and also an alternative opportunity to earn fair wages. Most women in the central regions of Sri Lanka are given very limited career prospects, however, working at Amma is not only a welcome change but also an educational opportunity. Today, Josie holds what is known as the “Friday Skills Program”, a weekly workshop focused on teaching her team useful life skills, with a different topic each week.
Good for the Earth, Good for You
One of the core principles of Amma has always been about creating a sustainable brand. Whilst most brands may look at ethically sourcing or creating their garments, Josie and her team look at creating a fully sustainable brand. Even the material used to create the garments and accessories is cotton, and all the colors used to dye the material are derived through natural and sustainably sourced material.
Josie uses avocado seeds, madder root, eucalyptus leaves, used tea leaves, and more to derive these beautiful dyes – they even work with Roots (a Sri Lankan juice company) to reuse the pomegranate skins thrown away by their teams to dye fabric. Josie went on to say that these pomegranate skins are packed and sent to Nuwara Eliya via public transport and then collected by either Josie or a member of her team. Amma Sri Lanka is not only providing employment opportunities for women in the rural highlands but is also taking a great initiative to do their part in re-using what we often consider as ‘waste’ and give them a new life and meaning with the work they do.
Running a Business is a Constant Learning Cycle
People often think that in order to start their own business, they need to have a substantial background in that area – if not, they are setting themselves up for failure. This has been one of the all-time biggest contributing factors holding people back from starting their own ventures. And Josie is no stranger to this notion.
Hailing from a background in textile design, Josie found the business aspect of running Amma Sri Lanka quite challenging. One important piece of advice Josie had to share was that, we should never shoulder all of the responsibility on our own – and that it’s okay to ask for help. Surround yourself with subject-matter experts who you can lean on and it’s always good to learn a little bit about topics of your business that you aren’t comfortable doing on your own.
Make Local, Sell Global
During the entirety of Amma Sri Lanka’s existence, the brand has focused on manufacturing locally, using local labor, and sourcing all of the materials locally. Despite the entire operation being based in Sri Lanka, Amma Sri Lanka’s customers are located all over the world.
Josie said that one of the key lessons is knowing your market segments, and pricing according to your segments – without compromising on your operational costs.
International shipping was always a challenge to Josie as she has a bottleneck when it came to shipping. Her business being located in Nuwara Eliya turned out to be more labor-intensive and created a challenge for international couriers. However, working with Swyft was a much more convenient option which is also easy on her wallet.
Josie went onto say that since she began working with Swyft, international shipping has been a breeze, and she no longer needs to focus on tracking her shipments, dealing with customer questions on the shipping process on her own, and working with the intricacies of foreign customs as all of this is handled for her, by the Swyft team giving her enough time to focus on the other aspects of her business.
If you are keen to watch our interview with Josie, you can watch our Instagram Live session with here, here.
Are you an owner of an eCommerce business based in Sri Lanka? Reach out to us to discuss how you can start your international shipping journey with us.