Designer, artist, and entrepreneur Tracey Young is on a mission to spread love. Her newest venture, the beautifully-designed Luv., offers hand-crafted, high-quality, low-environmental-footprint pieces produced by artists who are mindful about the world around them. Why this project and why now? Tracey says, "Simply put, all the pieces of the puzzle were in place and I was ready!"
Luv.'s bi-annual collections are each connected with a special cause. The first collection supports 5 International children-related charities: UNICEF, Feed The Children, Save the Children, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada, and War Child. Not only do purchases support these charities, but consumers can choose which one they want 50% of their purchase to support, bringing an interactive experience to the transaction. At each transactional point, Luv. engages artists, consumers, and charities to bring purpose to purchases. I caught up with Tracey to learn more about the inception and future of Luv.
Luv. stems from my desire to drown out unnecessary noise and to promote love and simplicity in my life.
Luv. stands for Love, Unconditionally, Veraciously, Period. I feel like my life needs an acronym now. How did you come up with yours?
Luv. is the sum of my life experiences that made me who I am today. I created it as a framework to help guide me through my life. Luv. stems from my desire to drown out unnecessary noise and to promote love and simplicity in my life. It is a constant source of inspiration that keeps me grounded in how I feel about the world; what I want to both put in and get out of it.
All of the items on the site are specially created for and are exclusive to Luv. How do you find the artists and artisans who make them?
For the first collection I approached artists with my concept of Luv. at a New York gift show, NYNow. I focused on finding artists that create products that are not only unique and beautiful, but also ethical and sustainable too. I also sought out artists who were willing to go outside their current product line and design and create products to be sold exclusively by Luv.
You must meet a lot of cool individuals. What’s your favorite part about sourcing these handcrafted pieces?
Making creative connections! While looking for artists to create exclusive pieces for Luv., I meet some very passionate, artistic, and kind people. This makes approaching them and interacting with them a very enjoyable experience for me because I find that we really understand each other and feed off of each other’s experiences, stories, and passion. Ultimately, I love being able to collaborate on ideas with creative, like-minded individuals who share a common goal.
Luv. is and always will be a social enterprise focused on sustainable living and giving.
Which item on the site are you coveting right now?
I couldn’t choose! I feel so connected with not only the artists but also the products themselves. A lot of love, time, and careful consideration was put into each product and so, I guess I am coveting all of them.
What other kinds of products will you be adding to the shop in the future?
Luv. is and always will be a social enterprise focused on sustainable living and giving. We will continue to create ethical, sustainable products that we believe would make unique and thoughtful gifts that inspire love and positivity.
With each purchase, consumers have the option of deciding which of the 5 charities they want their purchase to go towards, with 50% of net profits donated and the rest reinvested into Luv. How did you decide on this generous model of giving? Are you hoping to inspire other businesses to do the same?
I want Luv. to unlock the potential for commerce to achieve the perfect balance (50/50) in achieving social impacts as well as commercial goals. Too often the choice has either been commercial gain or social results. I created business model Luv. to link these outcomes together bringing benefits to consumers, small businesses, and communities alike through the power of giving. By collaborating with each other and sharing our skills, we have the power to support each other as we continue to fulfil our social and environmental purposes.
Luv. wants to raise and donate a million dollars to charities within the next 10 years. That’s admirable and ambitious! Do you want to displace some of the conventional shopping that happens in the space? Or add to it?
Consumers are always buying gifts. In the US alone, the gift market is $300 billion. By utilizing the “people power” aspect of Luv. our hope is to create a flow of cash to the social sector from the commercial side.
How do you choose the charities you work with?
First, we choose what cause we want to focus on. For our first collection, we chose children because they are society's most vulnerable. They have little or no voice, and are completely reliant on adults to take care of them. As well, I believe it is with our children where there is the most hope for positive significant lasting change in society.
Second, we research the major issues facing the cause we chose to focus on. Since these differ drastically in North America compared to the rest of the globe, we categorize them as 'global issues' and 'North American issues' .
Thirdly, we research for the top 20 charities that deal with theses major issues via charity rating websites. We use Charity Intelligence for Canadian charities and Charity Navigator for charities in the U.S. These websites not only rate charities on their financials, but also their mission, project goals and transparency.
Fourthly, we look at the charity websites and take into consideration things like how they tell their story, how easy it is to navigate their website and find vital documents such as annual reports, financial statements, etc. Finally, we do a Google search to see what has been written about them. Upon finalizing the top 20, we put it out there to our community of artists, friends, family, and our following for a vote to select our top 5.
Are there changes or regulations that you like to see at the corporate level that would make this kind of model more enticing to traditional businesses?
I believe that consumers will have to drive this change. There needs to be a shift in consciousness, a decision to change a system that is broken that we have unwittingly but willingly allowed ourselves to profit and benefit from for too long. We need solidarity and an understanding that every dollar we spend is a vote for the kind of world we wish to see and support. Only if and when consumers start changing their buying habits will we see corporations adopting this new business model with a larger purpose over traditional model of profit at any cost.
Is there a favorite local business you "luv" supporting in your city?
I love the The Big Carrot in Toronto, Ontario! They were the first organic food store in Toronto to be certified as specialists in the field of procuring and selling organically grown, non-GMO and environmentally safe food and products. Founded in 1983 on cooperative principles, they have grown from 9 founders to over 70 members! The store has grown and expanded into it’s own little cluster of stores, known as ‘Carrot Common’, with The Big Carrot as their flagship store. It truly has become a one stop shop for all of your grocery and home care needs. While the Carrot Common is an excellent find in itself, it is what they do for the community as a whole that really gets my attention and admiration: They give to local nonprofits, have an educational outreach programme to promote better healthy eating and funds to promote local growing and sustainable agriculture!
Passion, patience, and perseverance are important foundational elements for any entrepreneur.
What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs who are hoping to start a social enterprise business like Luv.?
Dream, then Commit! Starting your own business venture is no easy feat. Be prepared to work extremely hard! Working hard everyday and taking action one bold step at a time will bring you steadily closer to making it happen.
Seek Help! Seek out individuals (coaches, mentors, professionals etc.) who are passionate about your vision and know how to get you from where you are to where you want to be.
Be Patient! Everything worth having takes time. Passion, patience, and perseverance are important foundational elements for any entrepreneur. Be patient and everyday take steps towards creating, building, and improving your venture.
Stay true to yourself! The most important thing to remember is that no matter what challenges you face and successes you enjoy during your business venture, you need to always stay true to yourself and what you stand for. Keeping this in mind will help you stay focused on your dream.