This week’s letter focuses on Chica’s role as a conscious consumer. We are dropping an old supplier, investigating new ones, and expanding on our understanding of our placement within the capitalist framework. What’s new with you?
Elise: Dear Money Maven,
As I flipped through Instagram stories this other, I paused on a flash photo of a bottle of liquid hand soap. Around the hand soap, were sticky notes saying:
The owners of the company donate to Roy Moore ($400,000-500,000 after he was called out for relationships with young girls, ew), Don’t support workers rights, Are anti-pro choice
I searched the soap for the company name – ULINE. Shit! We buy cold-shield bubble wrap and packaging tape from ULINE. I was planning on placing another order next week. I felt grateful for the person who took the time to share that information, and then I felt dumb.
I have understood for years that money is power, that we must be picky in our consumer decisions if we really want capitalism to come close to aligning with the values that we believe in – such as fair labor, healthcare, trans rights (Donate), immigration (Donate), black lives matter (Donate), etc (Donate). We have made donations a part of our company mission, even working this into our lean structure and donating to Period Pals while Chica is still in baby stage. However, we totally failed to check what our expenses support.
I won’t be placing a new order from ULINE. We’ll figure out somewhere else to get that bubble wrap from; this may even be an opportunity to find a better packaging solution. At the least, I am grateful that the wake-up call to follow up on every supplier we are considering giving large amounts of money to for our infrastructure came early in our growth. It will be much easier to change our habits and put money completely into creating the world we envision.
Sorry for probably donating $5 to Roy Moore’s campaign, thank goodness he didn’t win.
Cassidy: Dear Dollar Doll,
From a theoretical and moral standpoint, I fantasize about divesting from the capitalist framework entirely. Don’t worry, though–I won’t turn this blog post into a searing indictment of commercial self-interest. Mostly because anarchy is not, perhaps, the best platform from which to promote our tender young business; but also because I can respect the potential of the capitalist engine. You said it best: money is power.
It is difficult to conceptualize this reality without feeling intimidated by the negative weight it carries. The inequality it necessarily implies. With power consolidated in the hands of the few, how can the many leverage the system of capitalism in their favor? How can we promote economic sustainability without overhauling the current paradigm? This perspective can become paralyzing. However, understanding my position within the consumer collective changes this dynamic, because it redefines the power of money as something accessible.
In Chica terms, this demands an intimate knowledge of our every input. My weakness there is that I automatically reach for our ingredients–especially our chocolate. We have been careful to ensure that our chocolate comes from a fair trade certified source (Santa Barbara Chocolate Company), but as we’ve recently been learning, labor conditions can still be abysmal on certain farms that are certified by third-party auditors (Modern Farmer). Our intention when starting Chica was to have a direct relationship with our cacao suppliers, and now it’s time to return and execute on that goal. I’m looking into Uncommon Cacao now as a stepping stone.
Truffle ingredients are not the only input we must be conscious of, however. ULINE demonstrates that. We buy molds, tempering equipment, business cards, packaging, stickers. Pay our dues for domain space and online services. Who are the people behind these brands? What do they ally themselves to? To know this is to leverage our power within the capitalist system.
The Chica Dollar, then, is our bargaining chip. Not just in philanthropic terms, or purchasing power–though investing in companies and organizations we believe in is a good place to start. I refer to the entire structure of Chica as an economic actor. How do we create and deliver value? How do we design a model that grants equity to our employees? How do we ensure that everyone who wants Chica can afford to access it?
Cheers to more sleepless nights as we find the answers to these important questions.
Image via Solange Knowles