Thursday, June 11, 2020

Getting to Know Pachamama Market's Lindsay Woodruff

Lindsay & Nancy at FTF Austin
Dunitz & Company has been around for a long time now. And over the years, I've worked with loads of different store owners. Lindsay Woodruff, the owner and brains behind Pachamama Market is one of the most passionate fair traders I've encountered.  And if you follow the Pachamama Market Facebook page (recommended), you'll discover why I say this. But don't click that link just yet! Lindsay and I are both verified and proud members of Fair Trade Federation. I asked her if I could interview her, so all of us reading my blog could learn a bit more about what drives her. She graciously said yes. Read on.

NANCY: I've known about your fair trade store for quite some time, and we've been working together these last two years.  Can you tell me when you opened your store? Are you originally from Troy, OH? (where Lindsay's store is located)

LINDSAY: I opened my store in November 2015.  I'm originally from a smaller town just outside of Troy and had been working in Troy for about 5 years so I already knew and loved the community and knew it was where I wanted to open my brick and mortar.

NANCY:  Was there a pivotal life experience that encouraged you to work in 'fair trade'?

LINDSAY: I was raised in a very social conscious household. Other kids had a pool, we had a compost pile.  Other kids shopped at the mall, I got lectures from my mom on how the brand name stores were misogynistic in their advertising and didn't deserve our money. I shopped at thrift stores from that moment on. Other kids ate whatever their parents cooked. We boycotted rice to protest the way US subsidies were hurting small scale rice farmers in Haiti.

I didn't really have a name for my values until I was in college, where I worked for the school newspaper. I was attending my first editorial staff meeting and walked into the wrong room, where I stumbled into the Fair Trade Club meeting. I didn't really know what they were doing, but I saw a few friends and decided to stay. I was hooked from that point on.

I think I knew that I wanted to open a fair trade store someday after visiting Peru during grad school and spending a few weeks with the indigenous community in Pisac.  Seeing the way that colonialism still impacted the people there was eye-opening; I knew I needed to do something to help end the colonial economic systems that keep people in poverty.

NANCY: These are such unsettling times with the Covid-19 pandemic and Black Lives Matter protests. First, can you tell me how you've had to change to accommodate the heath risks associated with the coronavirus?  How have you and how are you adjusting?

Facebook Lives
LINDSAY: We decided to close our brick and mortar pretty early on in the pandemic, around the middle of March. I have always been a very tactile shopper and don't personally enjoy shopping online, so I always focused 95% of my time and energy on our brick and mortar and 5% on our online store.  Suddenly shifting my efforts to 100% online was a huge change for me personally in how I marketed my business and communicated with my customers.  But it paid off!  We were able to find and connect with several new customers, and I learned that chatting with my existing customers in a Facebook Live isn't quite as fun as chatting with them in person at the shop, but it is the next best thing.  We've slowly started to reopen in the past few weeks with limited hours and it definitely feels weird. We are requiring masks for staff and customers, and limiting our capacity to 4 shoppers at a time. It sounds strange but I miss smiling!  We are easing our way back towards operating at our regular hours and are happily bringing back our staff, but there are definitely still days where I don't change out of my sweatpants or leave the house.

NANCY: Creating justice throughout the world is one of our missions at Fair Trade Federation, an important organization to which we both belong.  Have you been encouraged to do anything differently in your store or online since the Black Lives Matters protests have populated all over our country?

LINDSAY: We personally don't do anything differently at Pachamama Market. We have always been very outspoken about justice issues including racial justice, economic justice, and environmental justice which are all incredibly interconnected and central to our mission as a fair trade store.  We did take a week off from creating any of our own content on social media and spent the week reposting and amplifying Black voices, which several people seemed to take note of.  We had a few cranky people throwing their coffee cups at our Black Lives Matter sidewalk sign at the store or trolling us on social media, but all I could think was, "You must be new around here, because we have always been and always will be this way."

NANCY: When not faced with specific current events, is there an activity you enjoy most about your business?

LINDSAY: Relationships are a key part of any fair trade business, and have always been my favorite part.  Meeting and talking with customers, chatting with my suppliers, and traveling to visit our artisan partners are what fill me with joy and purpose.  There has never been a single day since I opened the store where I woke up and thought, "I don't want to go to work today."

NANCY: When did Pachamama Market become part of Fair Trade Federation? Do you have any thoughts about your partnership with FTF?

LINDSAY: I attended my first FTF conference about 4 months after we opened, and applied for membership as soon as I was eligible at 6 months old. The FTF has been critical to my success as a business.  I would have closed my doors a long time ago without their workshops, mentorship, and other educational resources. But more importantly, they are my family. Knowing I have this huge network of people I can call or text any time and ask for help or just vent to a sympathetic ear has been a lifesaver for me.  I was just texting another FTF member at 10:30pm last night about my social media and we promised to be accountability partners in speaking out on racial justice. I don't know any other kind of business community where you find relationships like that.

NANCY: Can you share a story that makes you smile? A story where you and/or Pachamama Market were integral in making a positive change?

LINDSAY: Oooooh my. I had so many moments at the shop that have made me smile. Narrowing it down to just one is so hard.

I think probably one of my conversations that had the greatest impact on me was last year when I was getting ready to close up when a middle-aged gentleman walked in. I greeted him with a smile and he walked around for about 10 minutes, just silently taking everything in.  Finally he turned to me and said, "In 50 years, I never thought a place like this would be in Troy."  I thought, oh here we go again. Someone is mad about something.

But he went on to tell me about growing up in Troy as an indigenous, Latino mixed-race man.  About the racism and discrimination he faced. Then as an adult working in mental health, he tried to start a support group for LGBTQ+ teens in the area, which was quickly shot down by other members of the community.  For him, our presence in the community was a sign that progress was being made. Our little shop could be a safe space for youth like him who struggled to find acceptance growing up. He finally just smiled and said, "Thank you for being here."

There are times like last week when my Black Lives Matter sign couldn't make it an hour without being vandalized that I wonder what I'm doing here in such a small, white town. But I think back to that conversation and I know that we are here for a reason and will continue to be here and use our voice for change.

NANCY: I know when you're self-employed you tend to work a lot. At least I know I do. When you can steal some time for yourself, what do you do? Do you have any special hobbies?

LINDSAY: Yes, we work A LOT! Thankfully my family keeps me grounded and they aren't too polite to tell me it's time to close my laptop and walk away.

I still have little kids (11 and 9) and we love baking, hiking, and watching movies together. I think when your kids are that small it's a bit easier to balance work and play because they pretty much demand your attention.  They have been known to just stare at me over the computer screen like creepy owls until I take a hint and turn off the computer. My partner will either open a beer and slide it over to me or just grab my shoulder and say, "time to walk away" depending on how subtle he is feeling.

When I do have a minute to myself, I am a reader. I probably read 3 or 4 books a week because when I start one, I can't stop. It leads to a lot of sleepless nights but it is worth it.  I read everything, but mostly mysteries, romance, and sci-fi/fantasy. We actually started a book club this year at the store which has been on pause for a few months due to Covid-19 and I'm looking forward to reviving. (Can I be a remote member?)

NANCY: Of course, I'm thrilled that Pachamama Market is selling Dunitz & Company jewelry. You know I had to ask. Do you have a favorite design you like pointing out to customers? Or something you personally enjoy wearing?

Dunitz & Company Jewelry
LINDSAY: I really love the fused glass studs for days that I just want a small pop of color. I also love sharing the art images earrings and the vintage botanical print earrings because they are small and lightweight but so fun and visually interesting. Customers love to look through them and identify the artists or flowers.

NANCY: Is there anything else you'd like to share?

LINDSAY: Just that we love Dunitz & Company and we love Nancy! Thank you so much for all you do to support other fair trade businesses. (melts my heart.)   

 --end of interview--

Tell me. After reading Lindsay's responses, are you impressed with her or what? Now, I encourage you to check out and follow Pachamama's Facebook Page. Can you tell why I find Lindsay from Pachamama Market so inspiring? I'm thrilled she let us understand just a little bit more about what makes her tick.

Dunitz & Company has been selling fair trade jewelry for a long time. And we value our fair trade partners so so much. Without them we wouldn't be.  I am always honored to share a bit more about about the people who are so important to me and what I do. -ND