Jennifer Gootman is one of the newest additions to Global Goods Partners. She comes to us with an incredible wealth of knowledge and experience. From an undergraduate degree in History and Women’s Studies, ten years experience working in the non-profit sector, an MBA (and studio jewelry studies at FIT), Jennifer brings a new perspective to our organization. From her jewelry-making hobby, she understands the challenges of trying to start an artisan line of handmade products, but also recognizes the opportunities for growth and sustainability.
In a conversation, we learned more about her background, passions, and insight into the mission of Global Goods Partners. Below are clips of our conversation:
What led you to join Global Goods Partners?
GGP is a combination of all the interests that I’ve developed over many years. I am passionate about economic development and supporting the craft sector, and am particularly interested in helping social organizations develop alternative streams of revenue. With this, I wanted to highlight the business component, which is a large element of Global Goods Partners. We provide market access to global partners because we have the tools to connect to markets that these partners would have difficulty entering on their own.
There’s a misconception that non-profits are not as organized as a traditional business, but that has not been my experience. I think that the application of business knowledge is a very important component to bring back to the social sector. After all, non-profits have the same considerations as running a business—operating within budget, delivering your service or good in the most efficient way possible, etc. What often distinguishes non-profit organizations from other for-profit companies is the lack of a stream of investment capital. The rigor with which you run a business—finances, investments, organizational structure—is very similar to start-ups, except that non-profits sustain that structure for a very long time.
Is it the social motivation that sustains non-profits past the point where profit-oriented start-ups may struggle?
Definitely; the ultimate goal and social motivation is key. The challenge of a non-profit is to figure out how to obtain resources and then efficiently determine what’s the best use of those limited resources.
What motivates you to go into the non-profit sector?
I left this question open when I went to business school. I didn’t feel that I had to work for a non-profit, but I definitely needed to have an ideological connection to my work. I need to believe in the work that I’m doing. There is a lot of inequity and injustice in the world, and it would be time wasted to not try to do something about it.
Is there an “end goal” that you keep in the back of your mind?
I’m looking forward to growing the organization. One of the best things that we can offer our partners is greater market access by growing the reach of our e-commerce website and expanding our wholesale business and school fundraising program. I’m definitely looking forward to increasing sales all while striving to improve the technical support that we offer the organizations we work with.
What has been the most memorable organization that you’ve been involved with?
An experience that was very formative was my time as a summer associate in Nicaragua with Agora Partnerships. As part of my project, I was consulting with Nica HOPE, which provides education and job opportunities for children from the neighborhoods in and around the municipal garbage dump in Managua. I worked on distribution and scaling strategies for their vocational training program in jewelry making. I witnessed the impact the program had on the children’s lives and how well it fit will all my interests. This experience affirmed that this was the kind of work I wanted to do after business school.
You have traveled a good bit for work—Italy, Spain, India, Mexico, Nicaragua. What’s the next country on your list?
I hope to visit some of our partners in Central and South America. I think it’s really important to have face-to-face contact with the artisan partners that we work with. Knowing more about what it’s like on-site and some of the daily challenges that they face will help us better serve them in our capacity here.
Do you foresee GGP expanding partnerships in conflict zones?
We are looking and have identified some partners and countries that would be good places for GGP to go, such as Sudan. It is important to focus on job creation and economic opportunity in these conflict zones, where, it may not be safe to leave your home, but you can still produce goods and find a way to earn an income. Providing the means to make this possible would have a great impact. However, there are new challenges, such as distribution and safety that also need to be considered.