Redress Raleigh Interview: Beleza

Cameron Village, 2014 Cameron St, Raleigh, NC 27605
Phillip and Sara Dail

One of the aspects of Redress Raleigh’s vision focuses on appreciating community businesses and encouraging local economy growth. We recently got the chance to talk with Phillip and Sara Dail, owners of Beleza, located in Cameron Village, about their fantastic business model. Their fair trade shop supports artisans by featuring unique jewelry and accessories.

Q: What inspired you to open your business?
A: The business started when a former student of Phillip’s came to him with a question about how to help some women she met in Madagascar while working in the Peace Corp.  The women had traditionally made “lambas” which were beautiful pieces of cloth formally worn by the royalty, and while they thought they had a French customer for them, they were never paid for their work.  The student emailed some former professors to see if they could help find a market, and Phillip wrote back to say he would try to help find a market for these, intending to sell one shipment.
At the same time, Phillip was doing a lot of traveling around Central and South America finding artists who made incredibly beautiful things and were trying to make a living for themselves and their families. He was buying things to give as Christmas and birthday gifts, but someone finally told him he didn’t have enough friends and wasn’t going to live long enough to give them to that many people! So he started with a kiosk.

Q: When did you open your business?

A:  As a kiosk at Crabtree Mall in July 2005, then Beleza became a store in Cameron Village in November 2005. This was all set into motion before Phillip and Sara were married, and it was not originally the plan for Sara to run business. But, she says: “There is so much to be said for ownership. I love it. I have never enjoyed a job more. It is fun being here and talking to people and trying to help people.”
Metal and gemstone rings from Brazil
Q: What is your business’s vision and mission?

A: The goal is being able to help independent artists make a living while at the same time providing customers with items that are unique, well made, and beautiful. Meeting the artists featured at the store is also important to Phillip and Sara for several reasons.  First of all, the goal is to build a long lasting relationship with the artist.  Having direct contact with the designer allows Phillip and Sara to bring feedback and custom work to the artist.  Being able to communicate directly with the artist to add a stone to a necklace, or a chain guard to a bracelet, is such a benefit over buying from wholesale companies where there is little to no connection to where the product is made. Wherever the couple’s travels take them next determines how the business will branch out.  A return trip to Brazil is planned in the Spring.

Q: What are the types of items I would find in your store?

A: Beleza carries handcrafted women’s jewelry and other accessories from 17 different countries at this time.  From scarves to rings to necklaces to earrings to purses and bags – all selected for their unique beauty and quality craftsmanship.  

Q: How do you choose the products that are featured in the shop/online?

A: There are a few criteria that rank as most important, including the uniqueness of the item, the fact that merchandise must be hand crafted with high quality, and of course, it has to be something the customers at Beleza will buy.  Sara says they have learned some hard lessons about what works and what doesn’t but the number one criteria comes back to uniqueness – the goal is to find a product that sells well so that they can bring return business to the artist.
Handmade items Made in the USA
Q: Do you feature any local vendors in your shop?

A: Yes, but to a limited degree.  For example, they work with a woman who makes necklaces from kazuri beads from Kenya.  By purchasing the beads, she supports an orphanage for children who are HIV positive, and Beleza sells her necklaces.  Another woman who crochets scarves uses the proceeds to support a group of pastors in Cuba.  Sara says they want to help the people who need the money the most, so local artists who are considered for the store have a larger mission than just making jewelry as a hobby.

Q: If yes, how did you connect with these local vendors?

A: Phillip and Sara met Lee McLeod, the woman who crochets scarves, at Edenton St. church when doing their fall bazaar.  They originally approached her because she was making something unique that they didn’t have at the store.

Q: What sets you apart from other similar business like yours in the area?

A: Ultimately it is the uniqueness of the items, although the fact that Beleza is a fair trade shop sets them apart from many other businesses in the area. as well. Sara says that less and less people come to the store and ask what fair trade means; rather they come to the store because of the fair trade goods.  Also, buying directly from the artists allows Beleza to keep their prices very reasonable.

Scarves and metal jewelry from Turkey
Q: What are some of your favorite things about being part of Raleigh’s local business community?

A: A lot of the praise goes to the customer base in the Raleigh area that supports locally owned businesses.  The Cameron Village Shopping Center where Beleza is located has been there since 1949, and has long been known for independently owned businesses.  As hard as the recession has been,  this area has not been hit as hard as others.  Sara says “our customers are receptive to what we do - 1) help artisans and their families and 2) encourage appreciation of unique accessories”.  The customers in the Raleigh area see the value created by having beautiful, unique gifts to chose from, and helping someone in the process.

Q: Sustainability -- what does it mean to you? How do you consider impact on the earth and society within your business? (ex.: fair trade, organic cotton clothing, etc.)

A: The merchandise at Beleza is absolutely chosen with sustainability in mind.  Some of their merchandise is made from recycled goods, such as purses made out of can tabs, and totes made with recycled product packaging.  They also carry bark art made in Uganda from the mutuba tree.  The artisans strip the bark off the tree, then wrap tree in banana leaves so that the bark regenerates. Sara says they would not buy the art if the artist did not have a sustainable solution for their production.

Q: Have you heard of Redress Raleigh? If so, how have you been involved with us before?

A:  Yes, Beleza has been involved from the beginning due to a long-term relationship with Mor Aframian, co-producer of Redress Raleigh, through the non-profit MorLove that she founded with the help of Phillip Dail while in school at NCSU.  MorLove was born in the side room of Beleza, now overflowing with scarves and beautiful jewelry.  Beleza has also sponsored Redress Raleigh in past years.
Necklaces from Bolivia
Redress Raleigh thoroughly enjoyed learning more about the story behind Beleza, greatly appreciates their continuous support, and thank Sara and Phillip Dail for taking the time to talk with us!!