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Doing business with a conscience

Raglan export Jordan Abrahams has set up a business with a conscience, so that as her fledgling online travel accessory grows, so does her contribution to others.

Jordan and her friend Francesca Logan, started working on their ideas for a stylish but practical range of travel luggage and accessories about two years ago, which culminated with the launch of their online business, Elephant Stripes, in March.

Aimed at women, the Elephant Stripes range includes backpacks, suitcases, foldup bags, travel cosmetics, packing cells and toiletry bags. These come in a range of different designs and are loaded with practical features.

The pair drew their inspiration from their own travels to South-East Asia, when they were frustrated by the lack of good travel gear on the market.

“You could either get something that was functional and well-made or something that looked good. We’re trying to combine the two into something stylish and cool and well-designed,” Jordan says.

The two 23-year-olds, who met at Victoria University, also want to help others so have built into their business a charity called The Ashla-Maia Foundation, which owns a percentage of Elephant Stripes’ shares.

This will mean that some business profits will get funnelled into the foundation to fund work on the issues close to Jordan and Francesca’s hearts, such as teenage mental health, female leadership and entrepreneurship and breaking the poverty cycle through education.

They are addressing the latter in their “Bag for Bag Donation Programme”, whereby Elephant Stripes donates a bag to someone in need when people buy  one of the selected bags from their range.

“It’s really important to Francesa and I that we do something to make a difference in the world,” Jordan says. “This [Elephant Stripes] has been a really good platform for us for that.”

The enterprising pair are using crowd funding platform Kickstarter – in which customers pre-order Elephant Stripes products at discounted prices – to raise at least $15,000 to pay for a larger production run later this year.

“That’s where Kickstarter is really cool because it’s allowing us to raise that money before we go into production.”

The campaign had raised more than $20,000 by Monday, with seven days left to run.

“We want it to be an international business and so far we’ve sold to 15 countries – so we’re off to a good start,” says Jordan, adding that most of those online sales came from New Zealand and the United States.

A feature on Elephant Stripes that appeared in the American teenage magazine Glamour, which has five million followers on Facebook, helped: “That took us flying over the [$15,000 Kickstarter] line in about 24 hours”.

For the Kickstarter campaign, the women have partnered with the Bali Children’s Project, wanting to do something in Indonesia where most of their products are manufactured.

Jordan says they have designed some colourful school bags for the Balinese children and for every pack purchased during the Kickstarter campaign they will gift one of these school bags to a Balinese child.

So far about 50 children’s bags have been funded.  Jordan says they plan to fill the bags with donated stationary and school supplies, then at some stage, go to Bali to hand over the bags.

Jordan, who has a Bachelor of Science majoring in Environmental Studies and Development studies from Victoria University, now lives at Broadbeach on the Gold Coast in Australia, but still feels grounded in Raglan, where her mum, Liz Hosking, and the rest of her family live.

The plan is for Jordan to look after the Australian side of the business while Francesca takes care of the things in New Zealand.

They are constantly expanding their range of products and hope to launch a travel clothing range – reversable and crease-free – by the end of the year.

“It’s really scary [to set up this business] but you just feel the fear and do it anyway. We’ve just trusted our instincts and it’s been really good,” Jordan says.

Rachel Benn

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