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Celebrate February 2013 : Page 30

tiny planet sourcing A Business with a Mission Business Profi le I By Haley Bradford Bateman Photos by Brant Bauman, Joe Futterer and Derek Henderson Tiny Planet is a small business with a big mission and a vision to transform communi-ties throughout India and to bring phenomenal furniture to Americans. When many college graduates accept their diploma, they dream of starting their careers in big cities like New York, San Francisco and Chicago. For Mark Palfreeman, things were a little different. He graduated college and visited one of the most populated places in the world—India. “When I fi nished school, I was just starting to learn that there was a world beyond what I knew and I had an opportunity to go to India on a short trip,” he shares. But that was all it took because as Palfreeman de-scribes, he fell “head over heels” for this place and people, so different and yet so similar to his own. When he got home from his short stint there, he told his wife Terri that he thought they needed to move to India. She responded, “Well, you can move there.” At the time, s it possible to change the world through furniture? One Arkansas business thinks that it just might be. Mark Palfreeman and his wife Terri are the founders of Tiny Planet Sourcing Agency, an international sourcing company that is working to shrink the distance between America and the other nations that share our globe. The company, which sells handcrafted Indian furniture under the brand name Navi-yan, is driven to help the less fortunate and looks for products crafted by people in need. 30 celebrate arkansas magazine February 2013

Tiny Planet Sourcing A Business with a Mission

Haley Bradford Bateman

<br /> Is it possible to change the world through furniture? One Arkansas business thinks that it just might be. Mark Palfreeman and his wife Terri are the founders of Tiny Planet Sourcing Agency, an international sourcing company that is working to shrink the distance between America and the other nations that share our globe. The company, which sells handcrafted Indian furniture under the brand name Naviyan, is driven to help the less fortunate and looks for products crafted by people in need. Tiny Planet is a small business with a big mission and a vision to transform communities throughout India and to bring phenomenal furniture to Americans.<br /> <br /> When many college graduates accept their diploma, they dream of starting their careers in big cities like New York, San Francisco and Chicago. For Mark Palfreeman, things were a little different. He graduated college and visited one of the most populated places in the world—India. “When I finished school, I was just starting to learn that there was a world beyond what I knew and I had an opportunity to go to India on a short trip,” he shares. But that was all it took because as Palfreeman describes, he fell “head over heels” for this place and people, so different and yet so similar to his own.<br /> <br /> When he got home from his short stint there, he told his wife Terri that he thought they needed to move to India. She responded, “Well, you can move there.” At the time, moving their small family did not seem like a feasible option. But in 2006, Terri was also able to take a short trip and came back to the United States more open to the idea of uprooting to a foreign country. The family moved in 2007 and spent two years there diving deep into the culture and making new friends.<br /> <br /> During this time, they discovered that if they were truly going to be able to impact an ancient place like India, they needed to start with those that have influence there. As Palfreeman shares, most of the time outsiders immediately try to meet the needs of those who are in poverty first. While these efforts are valiant and needed, lasting change remains hindered because the decision makers in the community remain unaffected.<br /> <br /> So, he and his wife tried to build connections with members of the business class in India during their two-year stay. What they found, however, were that most members of this community were busy people that had little time to develop relationships with the American visitors. After two years, the Palfreemans returned to the United States with more questions than answers and still uncertain of what to do with this love for India.<br /> <br /> Several years later, as Palfreeman shares, “God took an old passion in our life that had been there for a while, but He began to ignite it with a new vision.” Palfreeman began to wonder what would happen if someone started a legitimate business in places like India and employed people with like passion to work and live there, as well. He thought, why couldn’t someone take advantage of our global economy for the good? He decided to test his theory and started Tiny Planet Sourcing in March 2012. American sourcing companies routinely find market needs in the United States and go abroad to find products. And that’s exactly what Palfreeman did.<br /> <br /> He went to India and contacted local factories. Where he had once experienced difficulty in developing relationships and meeting with busy business people, he immediately experienced a warm welcome and open arms as a buyer from the United States. A potential partnership with these factories made the opportunity to connect with their owners possible, and Palfreeman began to develop both business and personal relationships with them. He developed a particularly close relationship with one factory owner named Shanti and his son Raunak. Palfreeman even flew to India in December 2012 to participate in Raunak’s three-day wedding celebration.<br /> <br /> Palfreeman’s relationship with Shanti and Raunak is just one example of the influence that Tiny Planet Sourcing can have around the world. Mark and Terri dedicated both their time and a portion of their own savings to start the business. They are deeply committed followers of Jesus and believe everyone should have the opportunity to hear and respond to His message. They wholeheartedly desire the redemption of communities all over the globe, and their furniture line Naviyan— an ancient Indian word that refers to making something new—is one way to accomplish this mission. Naviyan is a line of handcrafted furniture, made from reclaimed mango and sheesham wood. In many cases, the materials were recovered from century-old structures to create a one-of-a-kind work of art.<br /> <br /> Today, Tiny Planet Sourcing has two agents that live in India full time and are highly involved with the Tiny Planet purpose there, as well as the Tiny Planet business. The Palfreemans hope to one day expand the agency’s mission to other countries such as Egypt where they can find other markets and develop strong relationships with business owners there, as well. “We’re doing furniture for now, but it could be 100 different things in 100 different places. We have a big vision,” shares Mark. He is passionate about selling furniture and growing Tiny Planet Sourcing, but he ultimately wants to better lives by caring for people and sharing the message that changed his life. As he often tells people, “I’m a sourcing agent. Now let me tell you about my passion, Jesus.”<br /> <br /> The company recently launched the Tiny Planet online store in January as a sort of outlet for all the products connected to this bigger purpose. People here in America can take advantage of a unique opportunity to purchase the exquisitely crafted furniture and help a noble cause in the process. While the company is for profit, the business is truly committed to changing the world and utilizing the market place as the platform for lasting impact.<br /> <br /> Currently, there is not a Tiny Planet physical storefront in Arkansas, however, the Tiny Planet warehouse is in Russellville and open by appointment. People can see some of the furniture at Mama Carmen’s Coffee in Fayetteville and online at shop.tinyplanetsourcing.com. Is it possible to change the world through furniture? Through the efforts of people like the Palfreemans and those that dedicate their time to the mission of Tiny Planet Sourcing, it certainly seems that way.

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