This profile was prepared when Alice Freitas was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2008.
The New Idea
Alice is bridging the gap between artisans and consumers, using a direct sales approach to distribution. By engaging artisans, consumers, and the salespeople who connect them to one another, Alice is working to effect change across the entire spectrum of production and consumption. She has built a strong network linking existing artisans’ groups from the poorest areas of Rio and its surrounding areas, providing them with on-going training and information regarding consumer interests, pricing plans, and design techniques. Capitalizing on the growth of socially-conscious consumerism, Alice and her team feature the groups’ products in an elegant catalog, “Asta.” The first direct sales catalog of its kind, Asta combines typical product information with the stories behind the products. Alice is building an ever-growing cohort of well-trained sales agents to distribute the catalog, equipping them with in-depth knowledge of the myriad social issues that relate to each product, as well as the products’ immediate social impact. Apart from improving artisans’ access to market information and distribution channels, Alice enables informed decision-making, and in the process, aims to ultimately change consumer behavior. By avoiding the high overhead costs associated with high-end fair trade stores, Alice is able to turn an unusually high percentage of the sales directly over to the producers, providing them with a valuable source of income-generation and an improved degree of confidence and autonomy. Having launched the first catalog in 2007, the Asta Network now brings in yearly sales that total around Brazilian R$250,000 (roughly US$111,000 at the current exchange rate), providing its participant groups with a consistent income stream that well exceeds what they could earn otherwise.