Megan Gupta makes beautiful jewelry for her company, Philanthropic Panda. Some of the profits then go on to support amazing causes. After experiencing poverty in various regions while traveling, she has become committed to helping make a difference through her jewelry company. As a small business owner, she faces the challenges of running her own business, all while supporting larger social issues. Megan shares her story and offers up small business advice for other store owners with causes in mind.
Name: Megan Gupta
City: San Francisco, California
Store Owner Since: 2011
Opened on Storenvy: 2014
What is your favorite place in the world? Hanoi Vietnam. My husband and I spent some time there in 2010 and fell in love with the food, the people, and the culture. I’ve been longing to go back ever since and try to relive the experience by eating lots of pho here in San Francisco.
Philanthropic Panda supports some amazing causes. How has running your own business helped you contribute? Why are these causes important to you?
My other passion besides making jewelry is traveling. I’ve seen a lot of poverty in my travels and wanted to do something that could make a positive contribution. All five of the organizations that Philanthropic Panda supports are striving to eliminate poverty in ways that have been shown to help break the cycle (e.g, through education, access to clean water, healthcare for women and children, and nutritious meals for children). For every piece sold, 10 – 20% of the proceeds go to one of those causes based on which collection it is from.
Prioritizing is by far the most challenging aspect for me. As a sole proprietor, I do pretty much everything on my own from making jewelry to marketing to bookkeeping; it’s often really hard to determine which task I should be doing when.
If you had 10 extra hours in the day, what part of your business do you think you would want to focus on more?
I would love to focus more on new designs. With so many competing priorities, it’s rare that I have time to sit down for a good chunk of time to focus on new pieces. Sometimes new ideas spend weeks in my head or as a sketch before I get a chance to make them.
What has been the most rewarding experience you’ve had as a store owner?
I really enjoy meeting customers at events and seeing them go home with a particular piece that they have fallen in love with. It also means a lot to me when customers contact me to let me know that they were happy with their order or why it is special to them.
What advice would you offer other independent store owners with causes in mind?
Do your homework to make sure the organization(s) you are supporting truly resonate with you and that they are using funds in a way that you deem appropriate. There are a lot of people and organizations with good intentions that have caused a lot of harm when going into countries they don’t understand. It’s a good idea to find out if the organization has locals in decision making positions to prevent any problems that can arise from the organization not fully understanding the culture or the regional history.
If you decide to support a large international organization, it’s important to find out if they have partnered with a local organization on the ground to ensure cultural sensitivity is being considered. It’s also beneficial to learn about the partner organization in order to check that your values are in line with its mission as well.
Remember that it’s okay to ask questions when considering which organizations to support. It’s your right as a donor to understand where your money is going. Non-profits and NGOs will most likely be very excited that you want to support them monetarily; if not, there are thousands of other worthy causes that will be. Also, many of them will be happy to allow you to use their name, pictures and logo in your marketing, which helps in building your brand.