My name is Antonio Nuno, and I'm 28 years old. I'm the co-founder and CEO of Someone Somewhere, a social enterprise and digitally native brand on a mission to lift milllions of rural artisans out of poverty. Before starting Someone Somewhere I worked in McKinsey & Co. Mexico, Social Ventures Australia and Cemex Switzerland, focusing on social impact and consumer goods projects. I studied Industrial Engineering at ITESM and did a Minor in Social Entrepreneurship at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. I've been selected as Unreasonable Fellow, Global Social Benefit Institute Fellow and part of the 2020 Forbes 30 Under 30 list in Mexico.
Our work in Someone Somewhere is raising thousands of people out of extreme poverty, and inspiring more than 2 million young people every month through our social media and owned channels.
One-line project summary:
Someone Somewhere is a social enterprise and apparel brand on a mission to lift millions of rural artisans out of poverty
Present your project.
The artisan industry is the second largest source of employment in the developing world, but 70% of the people who are part of it live in poverty or extreme poverty because their products and channels aren't matching today's trends and market needs. 90% of them are indigenous women, the most marginalized demographic in the planet. Someone Somewhere combines traditional handcrafts made by hundreds of rural artisans with materials, designs, technologies and sales channels crafted for the modern consumer, which allows the artisans we work with to increase their monthly income by more than 300% and raise out of the poverty line.
We strongly believe that empowering rural women is the key to eradicating poverty, and that revolutionizing the artisan industry may be the key to unloccking all their potential.
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What specific problem are you solving?
There are more than 200 million artisans in Latin America, Africa and Asia that live in poverty. Only in Mexico there are more than 10 million. It is the second largest source of employment in the developing world (just after agriculture), yet it hasn't changed in decades. Artisans don't have the access to quality materials that justify the amount of work they put in every product, their designs are based on trends from 50 years ago, and it's almost impossible for them to show their products in the places where people actually buy things. They rely on intermediaries who take advantage of their desperation to sell to reduce the prices, and as all the people in the same community to the same work, there's so much internal competition that a lot of artisans loose money with every sale.
At the same time 65% of millennials care about the impact of their products, but they struggle to find brands that match their lifestyle, values and budgets.
We are working to connect both worlds.
What is your project?
We turbocharge artisan techniques, the products where they are implemented and the channels where they are sold so they become competitive in today's market. Our in-house team works with every community to design the products, artisans elaborate them, and our customers get them through our online store or our physical stores in key neighborhoods. We have more than 150k followers in social media who are constantly waiting to see our new launches, and have been able to expand to 13 indigenous communities around Mexico. Our next big steps for the year will be to launch in the US and start working with artisans from Peru.
Who does your project serve, and in what ways is the project impacting their lives?
98% of the people that work with us are indigenous women from rural communities. It's the most marginalized group in the world, but also where humanity has some of it's biggest potential. I've personally seen how smart, hard-working and generous these women are, but also how this talents are being lost because there are simply not enough opportunities for them.
Someone Somewhere was designed with them. We realized that we couldn't come with a solution from the city and hope they would adapt to it, so we spent months testing different ways of working until we found one that worked for everyone. Each artisan works from their home and decides how many products to make each month, get paid immediately and earn more than 300% more than before joining us. We have 10x more artisans in our waitlist than the ones we can employ at the moment, but we are working very hard to involve as much as them as we can as soon as possible.
Which dimension of The Elevate Prize does your project most closely address?Elevating opportunities for all people, especially those who are traditionally left behind
Explain how your project relates to The Elevate Prize and your selected dimension.
I chose the first one because that's our mission, to raise millions of rural artisans out of poverty.
We are connecting rural artisans with millennials, and building awarenss about the issue. We reach more than 2 million young people every month through our social media channels, influencer collaborations and webiste, informing them about the size of the problem and showing them how to solve it. We don't have official calculations, but there's a huge chance that we are the most well known social enterprise in Mexico for people between 18 and 35 years old.
How did you come up with your project?
When we were in highschool, my co-founders and myself started going on volunteering trips to a lot of rural communities around Mexico. In this trips we met a lot of people, and were amazed by their talent and passion but also buy the levels of poverty and marginalization they were facing. In college, we decided to go and live in some of these communities for various months to really understand the problems and design a solution together with them. The production model we designed in these trips is the basis for Someone Somewhere.
Why are you passionate about your project?
When I was a teenager, my family was very affected by the 2008 financial crisis and we spent months living by the day. It was just at this time, when I was complaining about everything, that I started going on volunteering trips to a lot of rural communities and realized what real poverty was like. Some of them were just 2 hours away from my home, but were so different. It was an experience that really marked me, and that day I decided that I would spend the rest of my life fighting poverty and helping people realize their full potential.
Why are you well-positioned to deliver this project?
I'm extremely passionate about eradicating poverty, and extremely confident that working with rural artisans is one of the best ways to do this.
My background in business has helped us build a company around the idea, raise the necessary funding and recruit the right people for each area. My creative side has helped us come up with great products that people love, and come up with marketing campaigns that reach millions of potential customers at a fraction of what other brands spend on these activities. I've also been able to surrond myself with people that complement me and have the strengths I don't have, something crucial when you are trying to build something meaningful and powerful.
Provide an example of your ability to overcome adversity.
During the current COVID crisis, we have had to close all our physical stores, a big part of our revenues. Instead of laying off all our sales staff, we decided to open a new area of the company called SS for Business, to elevate the corporate gifting industry with our products. Working with artisans allows us to personalize products in ways that are impossible for any other brand, and our team has been super motivated after knowing they would become part of this project instead of loosing their job. They have generated more sales in 2 weeks than what all our stores together sell in a month, and have kept the artisans working instead of stopping all our productions.
Describe a past experience that demonstrates your leadership ability.
-I've mentored more than 100 social enterpreneurs in Mexico in different topics, and a lot of them have told us that they decided to start their companies after learning about us and finding it was possible to solve social issue with a business.
-More than 200 undergraduate interns have done programs with us and more than 30% of them went on to start their own social enterprises or join existing ones after the experience.
-I recently started a monthly event where some of the top entrepreneurs in Mexico join to share insights, problems and help each other. We are preparing for the 4th edition and a lot of great sinergies have been created so far.
-After understanding that one of the biggest barriers for artisans to join the global market was informality, we decided to launch an innitiative to develop a special fiscal entity for artisans, that allows them to become part of the formal economy without all the obstacles and taxes that are currently present. It's already in the senate and has great chances of being approved.
How long have you been working on your project?
Where are you headquartered?Mexico City, CDMX, México
What type of organization is your project?For-profit, including B-Corp or similar models
Describe what makes your project innovative.
-We spent all our college years developing a production model that allows us to work with thousands of rural artisans at the same time without changing their lifestyle. Mobile phones allow us to stay in touch with all of the communities in real-time and monitor each production
-Our sales model involves a mix of digital and physical channels, and leverages the potential of both worlds. We reach more than 2 million people every month through our different media channels, which allows to raise a lot of awareness about the issue and grow our online community
What is your theory of change?
Connecting traditional handcrafts with contemporary products and channels wil increase demand, which will allow us to create more job opportunities for rural artisans. If we can create jobs for rural women, we can significantly increase their quality of life and unlock their potential
-Provide access to quality materials
-Adapt their designs to the modern marketplace
-Provide the infrastructure for organized productions
-Connect the products and stories to high-value markets through digital channels
-Close sales through an online store and physical points of sale in key neighborhoods
-Use all of the data gathered in the process to constantly improve
-High quality and competitive products
-Organized groups of 30-100 artisans
-300% increase in the income generated by their work
-Access to more opportunities
-New skills and capacities
-Strong support groups
-Better quality of life for the artisans and their families
Select the key characteristics of the community you are impacting.
Which of the UN Sustainable Development Goals does your project address?
In which countries do you currently operate?
In which countries will you be operating within the next year?
How many people does your project currently serve? How many will it serve in one year? In five years?
We currently work with 200 artisans, who support the livelihoods of 1,000 people. Next year we plan to grow to 1,000 artisans, and reach 10,000 in 5 years
What are your goals within the next year and within the next five years?
-This year we plan to launch in the US, open 4 more physical stores, involve more than 1,000 artisans in our supply chain and start working with rural families in Peru (alpaca and pima cotton)
-In 5 years, our goal is to become the favorite lifestyle brand for socially conscious millennials in North America and Europe, work with artisan groups from all around Latin America, Africa and Asia, and prove our model so more people can replicate it in a global scale (just as happened with microcredits)
What barriers currently exist for you to accomplish your goals in the next year and in the next five years?
-Fundraising (there are way less resources for startups in Mexico than in the US)
-Market Size (Mexico is a great country to test our model, but we need to expand to a larger market to be able to work with thousands of artisans)
How do you plan to overcome these barriers?
-We are already building relationships with US based investors, and are preparing to launch in the US this summer. The US market for our kind of products is 200 times bigger than Mexico's, so entering this market would allow us to significantly increase the number of artisans we work with.
What organizations do you currently partner with, if any? How are you working with them?
Investors: PSM, Unreasonable Capital, Dila Capital, Soldiers Field Angels, GBM Ventures
Marketing: Google and Facebook programs
Mentorship: Global Social Benefit Institute (Santa Clara University), ITESM, and Unreasonable Institute
Internships: Ibero, ITESM, Centro, ITAM, La Salle
What is your business model?
-We design, produce, promote and distribute our products (we are vertically integrated)
-We provide value to the artisans by buying their crafts, and value to our customers by selling them finished products that match their style, values, budgets and functionality needs
What is your path to financial sustainability?
Currently it's a mix of investment capital and sales, but we are close to reaching break even and plan to fund all our activities with sales in the future
If you have raised funds for your project or are generating revenue, please provide details.
We just raised a $1.3M USD Seed Round from Dila Capital, PSM, Unreasonable Capital, GBM Ventures and Soldiers Field Angels. Our sales of the last 12 month have been $500,000 USD (30% online, 60% from our retail stores and 10% from corporate sales)
If you seek to raise funds for your project, please provide details.
By the end of this year will start raising our Series A round ($4-6M USD), hopefully lead by US-based investors
What are your estimated expenses for 2020?
Why are you applying for The Elevate Prize?
We are planning to launch in the US this year, so being selected for The Elevate Prize would be extremely helpful. It would allow us to spread the word about our work, build relationships with the people that could help make our goals a reality and inspire a lot of the people who already follow us to keep working for their dreams. The funding would be extremely helpful to develop new innovative products, reach more communities and strengthen the company to start scaling up and reaching thousands of artisans around the World
In which of the following areas do you most need partners or support?
Please explain in more detail here.
-Funding and revenue model: the funding would allow us to revolutionize more artisan techniques and mitigate the impact of the COVID in our plans (unfortunately all our stores are currently closed and will affect our forecasts). The spotlight would make us more attractive to international investors that could fund our next stage of growth (we are running out of options in Mexico!)
-Talent Recruitment: connect with top talent to join our team and help us expand our operations
-Mentorhip: access to the people who have already gone through all the challenges we will face and that can help us take the best decisions
-Marketing, media and exposure: winning such an award would help us reach a lot of new potential partners, customers and advisors, and take us a little bit closer to our vision
What organizations would you like to partner with, and how would you like to partner with them?
MIT could be an amazing technology and innovation partner to improve the infrastructure we are currently building, and a great source of talent
Nike would be an amazing partner in terms of marketing and product design (and perhaps a product collaboration)
The Bill & Melinda Gates foundation would be a great impact partner, helping us measure our outcomes and reach more communities with our solution
All the company representatives we would meet could be great leads for corporate projects. On average, each corporte production helps us provide 3 months of work for 50-100 rural artisans.
- Antonio Nuno Co-founder & CEO, Someone Somewhere