CauseTalk Radio Ep82: Overstock Invests in the World with Worldstock

Today on CauseTalk Radio, Megan and I talk to Patrick Byrne, CEO of online retailer Overstock.com, about Worldstock, which sells items handmade by artisans from around the world. 

Patrick discusses the challenges of starting and growing Worldstock from a company vision to an impressive program that has returned $100 million to artisans worldwide. He calls it the best idea of his career!

Patrick goes on to share some of the big plans Overstock has for other cause-related programs. Finally, listen closely. Patrick has a special offer for CauseTalk Radio listeners!

Show Summary (Prepared by Megan Strand!)

:00 - 2:55

Joe introduces Megan and guest Patrick Byrne, CEO of Overstock.com

3:00 - 4:20

Patrick introduces Worldstock and why he considers it the single best idea of his life and how they built relationships with international artisans to bring hand crafted goods to the huge Overstock platform at reasonable prices.

4:22 - 5:00

Overstock keeps artisans to coops or individuals - 10,000 artisans around the world in 55 countries. Worldstock has been around for 13 years and may well be the largest fair trade program in the U.S. and shares his frustration that more people don't know about it.

5:20 - 6:25

Patrick explains why Worldstock focuses on woman to increase their income and how they pass on 60-70% of the purchase price back to the artisans.

6:30 - 8:00

Patrick explains the push/pull of identifying artisans and why co-ops are their partner of choice. Worldstock also has local offices set up where artisans can secure materials and get paid for finished goods.

8:10 - 9:07

Patrick shares why Overstock's business model is perfect for dealing with small stock products such as artisan products.

9:15 - 9:50

Instead of buying something mass-produced, why not purchase a limited quantity item directly from a local artisan.

9:55 - 10:45

Megan asks about the storytelling aspect on the site and Patrick confesses that they're working to improve the descriptions to share the amazing stories behind the products.

10:45 - 11:45

We learn about Main Street Entrepreneurs, another Overstock.com program.

11:55 - 13:20

Empowering people is such a foundational aspect to cause programs, the discussion turns to nurturing grassroots efforts.

13:20 - 14:12

In 2006, Worldstock had 1500 workers in Afghanistan, 1300 of them women and was awarded a prize from Karzai.

14:20 - 16:00

Patrick explains early challenges in setting up supply chains including the exporting process and basic business tools like email and establishing payment systems. Now the challenge has evolved into getting the word out. Worldstock recently hit the $100 million remitted to artisans. 

16:15 - 17:05

Although Patrick considers himself a rapacious capitalist, artisans are treated with a different approach. Patrick explains how giving market feedback to artisans has helped the marketability of products and why they run Worldstock at break-even. Any profits are invested into creating 26 schools internationally.

17:10 - 18:10

Patrick makes a big announcement that Overstock will be integrating with local CSAs. So now Overstock will be a landing place for your fresh veggies!

18:20 - 19:30

Patrick shares ANOTHER new initiative of Overstock - this time consolidating Pet Adoption in a searchable, geographically target platform.

19:35 - 20:40

Joe asks about the business case for doing CSAs and Pet Adoption. Patrick shares one business benefit of these programs is that their customers tend to be incredibly loyal.

20:45 - 22:00

Will Overstock become that one place that people rely on for all aspects of their lives, from pets to veggies to furniture? Patrick's putting his money where his mouth is and wagers that the answer is a resounding, 'Yes!'

22:25  

Show close out. See this story on Wired for more. And…wait for it...Patrick makes a generous offer: email patrick@overstock.com by Friday, February 14 by 5pm MT and he'll set you up with a free Club O membership!