The Deep Ellum duo that brought us the Obama Bar is expanding their soapy business to include a Web-based retail company to invest in microloans for impoverished women around the world. Soap Hope, Salah Boukadoum and Craig Tiritilli's new venture, sells natural hand-crafted bath products and lotions by companies such as Austin's A Wild Soap Bar and Lewisville's Fraiche.
"Since most of this company's suppliers and customers are women, we decided we'd fund women entrepreneurs with a microloan program," Boukadoum tells Unfair Park. "The site's getting some good traffic, and we're looking for some funds where people can put their money into it like a mutual fund or a hedge fund, and they'll identify needy people they can provide loans to. The programs are incredible because they'll go in with a couple hundred dollars and transform someone's life --enable them to buy a farm animal or a loom, for example."
Tiritilli and Boukadoum plan to pick three different funds and invest 100 percent of their annual profits starting in the last quarter of 2009. At the end of the year, the returns will be disbursed and replaced with the next year's profits.
"The goal is as long as the company is growing, the amount that's invested in these funds will continue to grow," Boukadoum says. One quarter of the proceeds from the Obama Bar go to the Yellow Ribbon Fund to help wounded veterans, and Boukadoum says he and his partner are looking to found a third company that would also include a social component. They also strive to be green, using recycled card board for packaging.
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"Our customers tell us they prefer to do business with a company that cares about the environment and gives back to the community," Boukdadoum says. "We're hoping more and more companies will start doing that."