|Nancy & Rikki
NANCY: You were once a high-powered attorney. Can you tell me a little bit about how and why you first got involved with fair trade? Was there a pivotal life experience that encouraged you to create your fair trade business?
|Map of Central Asia
Bridges to Tajikistan hosted the second delegation from Tajikistan, in 2014. That delegation included a young man, Bakhriddin Isamutdinov, who works in eco-tourism and handicraft promotion. We learned that no one at all in the US was working with the artisans of Tajikistan to build a sustainable market in the US for Tajik handicrafts, and no one else was coming. By the end of the delegation's weeklong stay in New Mexico, I found myself raising my hand and declaring, "I'll do it. I'll build that US market for Tajik handicrafts." And thank goodness I didn't know what I didn't know.
But in the course of hosting many international delegations, I had learned about fair trade. I knew that I wanted to become a member of Fair Trade Federation and build a sustainable business based on the equitable principles of fair trade. So I dug in and have spent the last 5 years building HoonArts, which I consider my legacy - my tiny contribution to building a better world.
NANCY: I'm partial to your wood combs and barrettes. And the scarves you sell are gorgeous. Can you tell me a bit about them and where they come from?
|From My Collection!
|Ikat from Uzbekistan
|Making Felt Scarf
NANCY: And I'm super impressed with how you network with other entrepreneurs in an effort to promote fair trade and build your fair trade business. Any advice for other small businesses?
RIKKI: One of the most important lessons that I learned early on is that you can't do it alone. It takes more than a village to build a successful fair trade business (or any small business for that matter). I try to approach every conversation, and every relationship, from the perspective of mutual benefit and the prospect of building a community that improves life for everyone in that community. I consider everyone I work with, from the artisans, to my Tajik shipper, to my graphic design team, my bookkeeper, my business coach, my educational consultants, my branding consultants, my customers, etc. as part of the HoonArts team. I always listen for how i can be of assistance for them, as well as sharing what we're up to at HoonArts. It's all about building long-term relationships, rather than just selling a product.
NANCY: Is there something you enjoy most about operating your business?
RIKKI: It's a toss-up between two areas of the business for me. First, one of my absolute favorite parts of the business is "show and tell." I absolutely love being able to talk to people in person about the stories behind our products - the people,culture, history and artistic processes behind our memorable handmade products. There's just something about seeing someone's eyes light up when they learn the backstory and realize that there's a real human connection behind the product. The other thing I love is working directly with our artisans to develop new products-which is ironic, since I have absolutely no background in art, color or design, and lawyers aren't exactly known for their "creativity."
NANCY: Can you share a story that makes you smile? A story where you were integral in making a positive change?
NANCY: You've mentioned to me that you'll be planning an artisan tour of Central Asia, possibly next year. I've been drooling about possibly joining in. Can you tell me a bit about what you're organizing?
RIKKI: Yes, I'm working right now with an experienced US-based small tour company, to develop the itinerary for our tour, currently planned for October 2021. The tour is being planned as an intimate insider's craft tour (maximum 12 participants), with a focus on life and art from the locals' perspectives. We will be visiting our key artisan groups in Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, with several hands-on master classes along the way. We'll be working with local tour companies, and staying in locally owned lodging along the way. Munira Akilova (HoonArts' embroidery designer from Tajikistan) has agreed to be our tour guide for the entire trip, which will make for a fantastic trip because she has excellent English, she herself is a master artist and she is acquainted with all the artists we'll meet. I hope to announce the final itinerary and open the tour for registration in March or April.
NANCY: And of course, you know I have to ask. You've been caught sporting a piece of Dunitz & Company jewelry now and again. Will you share with me which is your favorite?
|Dunitz Glass Earrings
NANCY: Anything else you'd like to share?
RIKKI: I'm very excited about the rising interest among consumers everywhere in sustainability - giving people and planet equal billing with profit. It's great to see the long-time principles of fair trade going "mainstream." I truly believe that we all have the opportunity to make a real difference in the world with every purchase. And even more fundamentally, for me, these commercial relationships an serve as a foundation for building relationships between people from vastly different cultures - demonstrating that we truly have far more in common than the things that divide us.
--end of interview
After reading this interview, can you see why I adore Rikki? (It's not just because she adores her Dunitz & Company jewelry!) She's so completely transparent about her work at HoonArts and her efforts to help others. She's putting her mark on our world and making it a better place for many. I can tell you one thing for certain, our friendship has made my world a better place. -ND