As the owner of Ahava Australia and Red Earth Market, Johnothan Naiman is passionate about local artists’ work from Australia’s indigenous communities.
His businesses manufacture an extensive range of products that feature First Nation artists’ creations. He tells Kochies Business Builders (KBB) ethical sourcing and sustainable practices are at the core of Ahava and Red Earth Market’s purpose.
Supporting indigenous artists
“We understand the importance of art in a culture that has survived for over 40,000 years without a written language. Maintaining the integrity of art is essential to ensure the chain used to pass down knowledge over countless generations remains unbroken,” he says.
Given the passion that First Nation’s people have for the environment, it makes sense that upon taking over Ahava, Johnothan adopted a sustainable approach.
“Sustainability and ethical sourcing practices have become the core reason we exist. Our products are manufactured through processes that minimise negative environmental impacts while conserving energy and natural resources.”
Taking a sustainable approach
“The commitment to sustainable manufacturing extends to every aspect of the product we manufacture. From the reduction of energy consumption by modernising our plant and moving to solar power to the introduction of waste management practices designed to promote recycling. We use recycled and sustainably sourced inputs and work with suppliers committed to reducing the environmental impact of the products we make. The business continually strives to ensure that consumption of products we manufacture does not come at an unreasonable cost to the environment.”
With so much of the business reliant upon indigenous artists’ creativity, Johnothan has also adopted a Reconciliation Action Plan as an essential part of Red Earth Market’s operations.
“I have created a framework to support the national reconciliation movement. It ensures that the art used on our products is reproduced under licence. The artist retains the copyright to their original artwork, and a portion of the proceeds from their sale is paid as a royalty to the artist or used to support Indigenous charities and businesses.”
Ethically sourced a priority
As retailers and consumers becoming increasingly sophisticated and aware of the importance of sustainability and ethical sourcing practices, Johnothan says Red Earth Market and Ahava Australia has reaped the benefits.
“Not only are consumers increasingly demanding a sustainable and ethical experience, but they are also increasingly willing to pay more for products produced in this way and avoid ones who aren’t. Choosing these types of products not only enables retailers to stay relevant in the market but also make their positive contribution to society,” he explains.
Johnothan tells KBB that he believes that a business without a purpose is like a ship without a rudder.
“So it goes without saying that purpose is an essential part of our business model. From a personal perspective, one of the primary reasons I took over this business was that it provided an opportunity to make a positive social impact. Having a purpose gives me a reason to wake up in the morning and deal with what sometimes feels like insurmountable obstacles and has had a significant impact on employee satisfaction during a difficult time. From a commercial point of view, having a purpose has helped us develop deeper and more meaningful relationships with our customers and suppliers.”
Like most businesses who rely on tourism to ply their trade, the pandemic’s impact was felt heavily at Red Earth Markets.
“Travel restrictions and other public safety measures introduced to deal with the global pandemic had a devastating impact on our business. Our primary market was the travel retail sector which is still a long way from recovery.”
A pandemic induced reset
Johnothan says while the business’s finances grinding to a halt was significant, it also provided Ahava Australia and Red Earth Market with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to re-set.
“Instead of keeping our staff at home, we decided to undertake a root and branch review of everything we did. We left no stone unturned, from the reorganisation of business systems and processes to investing in new equipment and re-organising production lines. One of the most critical tasks was a comprehensive review of our product and marketing strategy and looking for new markets and sales channels. The complete overhaul of the business has allowed us to pivot to new demands. With future growth likely as we return to our traditional markets with an improved product offering when international travel restrictions are eased.”
While overhauling some marketing and sales channels was essential, Johnothan says trade fairs remain a lynchpin for the business, providing the opportunity to reach new clients.
“To reach prospects individually is time-consuming and expensive. Ongoing domestic travel restrictions create additional challenges with planning sales and product presentations. It is also challenging to present samples of our extensive product range to customers in regional areas. The most cost-effective and efficient way to reach the target market is through exhibiting at an appropriate trade event, and these events are significant to growing our business.”
Taking their products to market
“Selecting an event open to a large and diverse range of audiences provides us with an effective platform to promote our business to a broad group that have little or no knowledge of our product and brand offerings,” Johnothan says.
“The Reed Gift Fair is aimed at our target market and last year attracted more almost 20,000 attendees. It is a highly effective way to reach previously unattainable markets, create brand awareness, build brand equity, and generate sales leading up to, during, and after the event.”
According to Johnothan, to achieve maximum value, a trade event must be well organised.
“It must attract a large and relevant audience as well as providing multiple opportunities to engage with potential customers before, during and after the event. I feel that the Reed Gift Fair provides all of these opportunities, and I have been really grateful for all the help we have received as a first-time exhibitor.”
Find out more about Red Earth Market here
Reed Gift Fairs Sydney is a trade-only event, showcasing wholesale suppliers of Home, Gift, Fashion and Kids & Family products. Running from 17 – 20 April at ICC Sydney, Darling Harbour, Reed Gift Fairs Sydney is also co-located with Life Instyle. Registration is free to all legitimate retailers – register here.
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