Hedvig Alexander is the VP of Community & Impact and Founder of Powered by People.
Hedvig is a Danish Army Captain and Yale graduate. She founded Far + Wide Collective, an online platform with a network of 5,000 suppliers and 400 retailers in 18 countries. She led Building Markets, adding 1.6% to Afghan GDP (‘06), was Managing Director of Turquoise Mountain, and founded The Pin Project for refugees. From this impressive background, Hedvig went on to establish Powered By People, an impact driven organisation. This innovative, digital wholesale marketplace partners with diverse makers from more than 70 countries, all focusing on small-batch production of responsibly made goods. By providing independent makers access to the global economy, Powered By People gives artisans sustainable economic opportunities and connects the world to a new creative economy.
- What does being an ambassador to artisans mean to you?
I am honoured to be called that because such commitment has driven my career for 20 years. It means a lot to me to be involved in the artisanal community. The sector represents several important things: beauty, slowly and carefully made, quality and everlasting, livelihoods, community, women, traditions, and identity. To be working alongside so many great people – including CCP – to elevate, innovate, and advance artisans worldwide massively motivates me.
- How did you initially embark on your artisan journey? (As an artisan yourself or in partnership with artisans).
I have next to no artistic talent myself – but hopefully, a little taste for the talent of others!!
I always loved beautiful and hand-crafted products, but only when I worked in Afghanistan did I get my first job in the sector – running an organisation called Turquoise Mountain. My friend Rory Stewart (and then Prince Charles) and other patrons established it to revive arts, crafts, and architecture in Afghanistan. We restored a historical, educational, and trade area in downtown Kabul to its former glory while establishing four schools in jewellery, calligraphy, ceramics, and architectural woodwork. Until then, my career had been in economic development. It was only with Turquoise Mountain that I saw what opportunity crafts offer to connect artisans to global markets – even people with very little education, just utilising skills passed down generations.
- What area of the artisan sector are you most passionate about?
The economic aspect. How can we make the sector a viable economic endeavour for artisans? I am passionate about building the foundation on which increased trade can easily happen: low-cost payments, financing, logistics, technology and much more.
- If the sky is the limit, what would you do to make a lasting impact in the artisan community?
Being part of building an effective ecosystem for the handmade sector that removes all the barriers that keep handmade products from being more available in mainstream retail and makes it easy for artisans to have full access to global markets and thrive economically.
- What are you currently working on, and how do you hope your current projects will make a difference for your personal artisan communities and partnerships?
We need to solve the shipping problem that often adds too much cost to the end product. I believe the solution lies in consolidated shipping – aggregating large shipments at certain times of the year. If we can find a way to ship enough volume out of select regions to reduce cost significantly, we can scale it. If we can entice wholesale buyers to buy twice or thrice a year and get artisan makers and brands to use this service – even offer it to other businesses and our competitors – we can make a difference.
- Who inspires you to stay on your artisan journey?
The many artisans I have met on my way. The ikat weaver in the Fergana Vally, Uzbekistan; the basket weaving community in Kasigau, Kenya; the potters in Istalif, Afghanistan; and countless others. When I am just about to give up – as I am sure you will agree, this sector is challenging – I think of them and the immense opportunity we have to make a difference if we work together as a community.
- If you had your choice of anyone or any organisation, who would you like to collaborate with in the future?
Bill Gates – he understands the importance of economic development, and he understands technology. We need to bridge the digital gap and ensure every artisan anywhere has a digital identity/profile so that they can showcase their work globally, regionally, and locally – to buyers, collaborators and partners.
- Any big dreams for the future…?
That we can grow Powered by People to be the go-to platform for unique and handmade products – where buyers can easily source, and artisans can find the support they need to continue to create. Our dream is one of scale, a world of beautiful products powered by artisans.