Anna Leung’s passion to end human trafficking through economic empowerment led her to start RIJI Green in 2009. RIJI Green imports tote bags and t-shirts made of eco-friendly or recycled materials from India and produced by survivors of human trafficking, under an agreement above fair trade (fair wages, healthcare, daycare, and education). RIJI Green’s online store offers standard and custom products to retail and wholesale customers.
Anna Leung grew her company in three years mostly through retail sales from the website, and a wholesale contract with Whole Foods. She reached a plateau in 2011 and came to the Mason SBDC asking for specific help to extend her online presence so that she could reach additional wholesale customers in the retail industry and in new markets. She wanted to grow the company more quickly and hire help to further her mission of helping fight human trafficking.
In the course of two years and four sessions, Anna was matched with several Mason SBDC counselors specialized in different aspects of marketing and sales. The counselors helped Anna define a new marketing strategy that included developing a strong online social media presence, and identify new markets that would be responsive to the humanitarian and/or green causes. In these new markets, the value proposition would be to build awareness and to raise funds, using RIJI Green’s products.
The Mason SBDC gave Anna a clear path to growing her company, as well as very specific tools and actions to execute the new marketing plan. The counselors also introduced Anna to another Mason SBDC client who is the host of a “green” radio show. She has promoted and interviewed Anna live on her show. The counselors also recommended that Anna consider switching her company to a non-profit or a social enterprise (“B” corporation), and they have put Anna in contact with the Mason Center for Social Entrepreneurship.