Snow Leopard Enterprises, our handicraft-and-conservation program that benefits cats and communities, has been a success story; generating almost $1 million in total sales, providing dozens of herder communities with a sustainable income and protecting hundreds of snow leopards in the program areas.
Of course, the herders who make the products and agree to protect snow leopards deserve most of the credit. But Snow Leopard Enterprises could not have succeeded either without the support of passionate people who believed in this idea and helped it grow.
One such supporter is Carol Wolfson, an American-born, Asia-based businesswoman, author and philanthropist. She came to SLE and snow leopard conservation as a customer and donor, but when she founded an animal welfare and rescue charity, Second Chance Animal Aid, in Shanghai, she also began reselling SLE products at her own fundraising events.
Today, Carol is both a customer and a donor – and the perfect person to share her insights on Snow Leopard Enterprises with us.
Carol, how did you get involved with snow leopard conservation?
I believe it must have been about 1991 as I was working in Hong Kong with a New York diamond company as their marketing director – and although I love diamonds, I didn’t find it very fulfilling for the soul. I volunteered and joined the local fundraising board of an international conservation organization. I learned about snow leopards through this work and was immediately enthralled. After some more research I found the Snow Leopard Trust, and I started donating yearly. As soon as they started to sell Snow Leopard Enterprises products, I began to purchase. In 2005, I stared my own charity in Shanghai, SCAA, committed to protecting and improving the health and welfare of companion animals. I attended all kinds of sales events and fundraisers; and along with my own fundraising, I also raised awareness for snow leopards and eventually started selling SLE products whenever possible.
I also have various contacts in retail stores/spas throughout Asia that often agree to put SLE products in their stores. I buy them first – along with a donation usually – then put them on commission in stores. The stores make a small profit, and I use the funds I generate either to buy more products and/or increase the donations to the Snow Leopard Trust each year.
What are some of your bestsellers and personal favorites among the SLE products?
Bestsellers have always been the adult slippers, hats, hot pads, snow leopard ornaments and baby products such as booties/bibs/onesies. My personal favorites are the snow leopard finger puppet, the slippers, the large hot pads and the napkins. I also love the rugs! Pets go crazy over them which is why I’ve begged Gina, the SLE sales and marketing manager, to create actual pet pads for years now. I’ve often sold the larger hot pads to people for their pets to lie on. But now, as I’ve just found out, my lobbying appears to have been successful and there are pet mats available from SLE!
What has your customer’s feedback been like?
Always fantastic… everyone I know always prefers to buy gifts that have meaning. It’s excellent how the SLE products are labeled, as it’s a way of telling the gift recipient that they are not only getting a fabulous gift, but the sale of it in turn is helping an extremely worthwhile organization. Everyone adores their slippers, baby gifts, the hot pads, etc. Always well received and appreciated.
What about your own feedback as a customer and donor?
Excellent! I’ve been living/working in Asia for over three decades so I know what sells in Asia, mostly to expats. The Snow Leopard Trust is great at providing point of sales tools and materials which is essential to providing positive incentives for people to buy these products over other retail gift products, etc. It’s utterly important to be able to show that buying SLE products makes a difference and that the products are not only useful and aesthetic, but are providing funds for amazing conservation projects. Having the postcards and labels on each product is extremely effective. I’ve also found that having someone available to explain and push the products at the retail location helps a great deal.
What makes you personally want to support this particular program and organization?
I have been involved with literally hundreds of organizations and fundraising projects over the years, and what makes me continue to support some and completely drop others is their effectiveness in terms of reaching goals, making a substantive difference, the rate of project investments vs. administrative costs, the dedication and commitment of the people involved and indeed, human interaction with me directly. Knowing that I am appreciated and that I am helping make a difference is important, too…I know from my own organization that those little thank you notes go a looong way in keeping donors loyal and involved. That little yearly gift of a magnet or a few greeting cards is so easy to do – but so many organizations take your money and you get a generic thank you or no thank you at all.
I think that it doesn’t take much to keep people donating but the more appreciation you’re shown, the more loyal you are as a donor. The Snow Leopard Trust is such an amazing organization and does such good work. For SLE specifically, it’s a huge plus that the program helps both animals and humans! Some people love animals and others love the way the program benefits humans, so one can direct the appeal for funds accordingly to donor preferences… And of course, who can resist a snow leopard?!!
What’s your dream for the future of the snow leopard?
I’d like to see sustainable growth of populations of the cats and all the other animals in their ecosystem, more protection of their habitat and a complete stop of trade in their pelts.
What products would you like to see added to the SLE collection?
Now that the pet mats are here, I would love to see a felted computer or tablet cover. Many people have asked me about it, and I think it would be a great product to sell, and fairly easy to make as well. It could be very simple, or intricately designed.