The Enlightened Elephant: The Gift that Gives Twice

It was a pleasure for Soul Economy to speak to Michael recently and ask him some questions about The Enlightened Elephant. It is an Australian owned store and company, that is dedicated to importing and selling items that are made by community based groups and non-profit organisations. They are proud stockists of Monkeybiz beaded dolls and animals, Wire Women jewellery also from the townships of Capetown, BANG Bags from Bangladesh, and about to sell Kopanang Embroidery. “The gift that gives twice”. To find out more from Michael….

1. What gave you the idea to start the business? How long did you have the idea for?
I was already looking to start a business of my own as I had decided several years prior to change career, 00 to be precise, and start my own business and had bought the building, my shop and home, in anticipation, not certain what business. The idea of this particular business came from initially buying a doll in LA in June 04 and being so touched by the concept and seeing them again in New York a year later and heeding it as a sign to do something about it. And did, opening in Dec 05.

2. Did you receive much support from family and friends and other people in the community in the beginning?
My family was very emotionally supportive and positive towards my business. They all live interstate. I very much started my business on a wing and a prayer, a lot of faith and naivety but a lot of positive energy and willingness. I received a lot of assistance from friends here in Sydney as I ran the business on weekends and flew as an international flight attendant mid week. There were a lot of times when friends had to cover weekends for me and did so. The local community very much supported the business from the beginning and the media also have been very supportive and attentive.

3. How long has the business been running?
Started Dec 2, 2005.

4. What were you doing before you started the business?
International flight attendant with QANTAS for 20 years.

5. What have been your greatest challenges? Your greatest successes? 
Greatest challenges: Having faith that a small ethical giftware business will succeed in the village of Erskineville and starting to import and retail without any prior experience whatsoever on my own.

Greatest success: Defeating my doubt and opening Dec 2, 2005 and being prepared to have faith in the continued success of the business and leave flying to run the store full time and look at expanding the business through the web and a chain of stores nationally.

6. What is your core product? Do you have other products as well?
Monkeybiz beaded dolls and animals. Yes, I have Wire Women jewellery also from the townships of Capetown, BANG Bags from Bangladesh, and about to sell Kopanang Embroidery.

7. Are there other people out there doing similar things?
Yes quite a few. The Fair Trade Association members are all very similar.

8. Is it difficult or easier to attract the right people to work for you?
Yes, I have had a lot of people offer to help or work for me as they love the ethos of the business and what it does for them and others.

9. How have you gone about promoting the business? Of these, which have been the most effective?
I have had a lot of media attention with the media coming to me. Sydney Morning Herald Domain, Daily Telegraph Business section, local rags, Craft magazines, CH10 TV interview, Marie Claire, Better Homes and Gardens and soon to be in the Sydney Magazine.

10. What keeps you going? 
I love what I do. I love how it helps the women and enables them to empower themselves and create change. I love the effect it has on my customers and inspires and lifts them and how the dolls and animals reach out and touch people. I love how my soul feels at the end of each day and my desire is to make the business as big as possible in order to help create as much goodness and enoughness as I can for as many people as possible. That is my dream.

The Enlightened Elephant:
Michael Gutte
+ 61 (0)422 018 472

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