Aging is not lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and strength.
The brand name is the combination of two words, “Marco” and “Roho”; Marco is derived from “Marco Polo” and Roho means “Spirit” in Swahili language. Using the first name of the famous Venetian explorer is not just for easy recall but also to associate with Marco Polo’s courage and to draw inspiration from his adventures and success. Therefore, the word Marco Roho means to constantly challenge the social problem. Marco Roho, which is managed by a certified social enterprise named RVFIN, is a brand which pursues ethical consumption and supports the social participation of old women.
Marco Roho was initiated due to an article about the high suicide and the poverty rate of the aged in South Korea. Especially, old women were suffering relatively more from difficulties. Marco Roho tried to create “sustainable jobs” to solve the problems of the old women who are struggling to have financial independence. The company employs them to make handmade accessories using Korean knot craft. Also, it provides them various cultural experiences to maintain vitality in their lives. Marco Roho has paved the way for job creation among old women by giving ten percent of its sales and donating 25 percent of its business profits for their welfare.
The names of Marco Roho products are uniquely different from other companies. Who would ever think that such amusing and intriguing phrases such as “the trip to Sokcho of August” and “the roller skater rink of December” to be named for pairs of earrings? The old women who are working at Marco Roho and crafting the products gave these catchy names to these items. They often associate them with their own stories and memories in this process. For example, the crafter associated the experience when she went to the theater with the earrings named “The Theater in May”. When she visited the theater with her friend, she was caught by her father who was holding a stick, so she escaped and hid in the bathroom of a stranger. She intended to incorporate the feelings of romance of her first trip to a theater in the earrings.
Another unique feature of Marco Roho is that when the customers buy products at Marco Roho, they can receive a postcard called “Knot Maker Certificate” along with the goods; on the postcard, there is a self-portrait of the maker and a short letter for the customer written by the maker. Some customers find the knot maker postcards quite touching. In addition, the customers themselves can select where to donate. When the customers select the size of the product and are ready to buy it, they can choose to donate the profits to an organization which aims at: ▲helping alleviate the lives of senior citizens who live alone ▲supporting the family of the disabled children ▲providing food to less fortunate and ill-nourished students ▲sponsoring African kids ▲helping abandoned animals to be safe
Kim Ji-eun, a fresher from the Department of Spanish Language and Literature at Korea University, was looking for a meaningful present to give to her grandmother. She realized that when buying the product from Marco Roho, the customer can donate the profit at the same time through an advertising posting on Instagram. Thinking it is killing two birds with one stone, she decided to buy the sky-blue colored ring named “bit- kkeu-reo-mi”. She said, “It was a little bit bigger than her finger, but the packaging of the ring was so pretty that it was a suitable birthday present. Also, it was memorable and impressive to personally select where to donate the profits. After I read the article about inadequately fed students, I decided to choose a charitable institution to providing food assistance for them.”
Marco Roho also provides a lot of cultural experiences for old women who are working as crafters at Marco Roho. They can engage in various activities such as making a handkerchief using natural materials, designing floral arrangements, making their own dreamcatchers, and so on. Reading the postings about the old women who are working at Marco Roho, the customers can feel warm hearted. One old woman nicknamed “the pretty grandmother” wrote her thoughts about working at Marco Roho for four years. She wrote; being a knot maker for four years, I am happy because I have found the enthusiasm, felt worthy, and met many beautiful friends.
According to Korea Social Enterprise Promotion Agency, a social enterprise is important for our society because it can provide sustainable jobs, revitalize a community, expand the social service, and promote ethical markets. “It is impossible for just one company to solve all social problems. However, our attempt would be the opportunity to be interested in solving social problems,” the CEO of Marco Roho and RVFIN, Shin Bong-guk was quoted as saying. He emphasized the idea that the challenge of RVFIN would be the chance to solve social problems.
Social enterprises with specific goals to provide employment opportunities for older people are much needed in South Korea’s “aged society”. Senior citizens have a wealth of local knowledge, expertise and other untapped potentials. If they can be provided the right opportunities to continuously be productive despite their old age, they will be able to enjoy fruitful lives. May there be more ventures like Marco Roho. It is not only a fashion brand, but also a means which can give old women a beautiful “TOMORROW”.