Wednesday, April 14, 2021

What Motivates You to be a Fair Trader? These Stories Answer that Question

Dunitz & Company Fair Trade
 Nancy (left) & colleagues
I know why I work in fair trade and why I established Dunitz & Company as a vehicle to sell beautiful handcrafted jewelry. I've traveled the world over. And too often I'd seen (and see) wonderful artisans who live in poverty with no access to sell their creations. I adore designing. I adore collaborating. And I wanted to find a market for artisan goods that would allow many to have a better life.  This is my story in a nutshell. I was curious what motivated other fair traders, so I decided to ask.

I reached out to several colleagues of mine who are always the most collaborative and supportive. This seemed a good place to start.  Several are Fair Trade Federation members. Others are not, but live by fair trade principles.  Here's are my questions and their answers.  I asked them to be concise in their responses and interpret my questions as they saw fit.

What motivates you to work in fair trade? Did you have a life experience that changed the way you see and work in the world?

Nina with artisans
Nina Moukova - Seeds To Sew International - It's the women and girls who participate in our programs, and knowing that by doing what I do, I can help create a lasting positive change in their lives. Every time I come across a customer who wants to hear about our artisans and is touched by the difference they can make in someone's life buy buying a product handmade by them, it touches my heart. It helps me realize that there are a lot of caring people out there and our work is meaningful - for both the artisans and the people who are happy to share with the less fortunate.

Julio at his store

Julio Zegarra-Ballon - Zee Bee Market - I was born in Peru and saw first-hand the lack of opportunity countless artisans face daily. I then built a career in retail working for large US corporations and realized I wanted to launch a Fair Trade business that would give market opportunities to talented artisans and makers the world over.






Rikki with Husband, Jim
Rikki Quintana - Hoon Arts Fair Trade - Art grabs people's attention. Through Fair Trade, I can use beautiful and unique Central Asian handicrafts to build long-term collaborative relationships and open the doorway to this unknown part of the world so that people in the West can see our common humanity and appreciate our beautiful diversity. It's my contribution to building a more peaceful, connected world.


Cael with artisans
Cael Chappell - Baskets of Africa - I suppose it's in my nature that I love helping people. So it's very rewarding for me to affect change in Africa by providing transformational opportunities for a person, family, community, or region...simply by treating them with respect and paying them a great price for their beautiful creations. I grew up very poor myself, sometimes homeless, and have lived without running water, indoor plumbing, electricity, or any modern amenities. When I first went to Africa almost 30 years ago, I realized that the majority of the continent lives in those difficult conditions and i wanted to do what I could to provide economic opportunities.

LeeAnne wears fair trade
LeeAnne McCoy - Change the World By How You Shop - Around 15 years ago, how I shopped was forever changed when I watched a video about Chinese pastors, imprisoned for their beliefs, forced to work 16 hours a day making Christmas lights. Though I initially changed my shopping habits to avoid exploitation, what motivates me now to support fair trade is the stories of how lives have been impacted in a positive way.

Karen with artisans
Karen Sparacio - Project Have Hope - Having traveled to Uganda in 2005, I saw the talented craftsmanship of a group of paper-bead making artisans. They had the skills; they just needed someone to help them bridge the gap to the marketplace. From day one, it was imperative to me that these artisans should have a voice as powerful as their talent.

Rosa with Peruvian colleagues
Rosa Chang - Blossom Inspirations - After living abroad from my home country of Peru - studying then working, I was looking for ways to reconnect with my home, our culture and traditions. I started bringing handicrafts fro my friends when visiting Peru, which eventally grew into a small business. Running the business under the tenets of fair trade was a way of giving back. Self-reflection made me realize that our humanity often gets overlooked in the profit & loss statements and that there are more stakeholders than those who hold shares in any given business.

Akhmim artisan
Hala Scandar - Dandarah  - Having grown up in Egypt, I have always appreciated Egyptian crafts and the highly talented artisans who create these treasures. Dandarah was born from a desire to empower marginalized artisans and help them sustain their age-old crafts. I so want to share their exquisite products beyond the boundaries of their home country and in a way that they are treated ethically.



Creating Opportunity in Haiti
Michele Adams - Village Country Store -  I strongly advocate ethical brand shopping, purveyors and supporters of fair trade who are working towards the good of us all.  I have met so many incredible people working in fair trade who little by little and piece by piece are making a difference. By launching my fair trade store, I'm able to spread social good, awareness, hope and help others less fortunate than me.





Designer, Kovida at work
Joan Rasch - Sevya  - Through this work, we are inspired each day to grow in our contentment and compassion. When we se the women artisans we work with blossom into their empowered selves, always giving of themselves with care and joy in their hearts, it motivates us to keep our hearts open and to give our ourselves without inhibition.


Caryn(right) & Sandra
Caryn Maxim - Mayamam Weavers - Volunteering with undocumented immigrants in my community of Morristown, NJ opened my eyes to the horrible realities that force so many people to migrate from their homes leaving family behind. I collaborated with a group of migrants from Guatemala that had organized themselves to look out for each other while in the US which lead me to apply my years of business experience to organize a weaving cooperative back in their community in Guatemala. By following the fair trade principles, the women of the cooperative are able to stay in their country, earn fair wages, support their families and reinvest in their community.


Anne with artisans

Anne Kelly - Mayan Hands - At its core, fair trade is about honoring shared connections. Nothing motivates me more than working alongside our artisan partners. I'm inspired by their creativity, strength, and their willingness to take on risks like learning new techniques or business skills. I believe the women are powerful agents for change, ad it's a joy to be there, through all the ups and downs, with our artisan partners as they work to create better futures for their families and communities.


Eldonna with artisans
Eldonna Fernandez - Baskets & Beads Kenya - As a military veteran who lived a life of service for 23 years, I have traveled the world and been to many different places and countries. I am motivated by the Air Force Core Value that still stays with me, Service Before Self.  I did have a life changing experience when I visited Kenya for the first time and met the women there. I knew working with them was the next "Service before Self" event for my life.




beaders in Guatemala
Nancy (that's me) with artisans
After reading my colleagues responses, it seems there is a common thread among us. Most of us have traveled the world or were born in a third world country. In those places we've spent meaning chunks of time, we've discovered and met countless artisans who need opportunities to sell their craft. And all of us live by the golden rule and expect that all workers should be treated with respect and earn living wages. I'm so happy to share these sound bites from my colleagues who live life in the same lane as me and Dunitz & Company. If you have a story from your experiences, I'd love to hear it. Please email me. -ND