Friday, June 30, 2023

The Positive Side of COVID - from a Fair Trade Wholesaler Perspective

I know these have been tough times for so many of my fair trade wholesaler colleagues. We're finally on the other side of COVID and for many of us, much has changed. So many people I know crawled through COVID, and many business couldn't hold on. For me, I actually think a lot of good came out of COVID times, both personally and professionally. Sometimes the line between personal and profession blurs for me because my life is so intertwined with Dunitz & Company. I decided to ask several of my wholesaler friends what good came out of COVID for them. For me, the answer was simple. For others, as you'll soon read, they really pondered my question and their responses were much more detailed than I expected. My answer will come last. But for now, here is the question I posed and the replies I received.

NANCY: Phew! We're mostly on the other side of COVID. What a relief. I know operating a business during the last few years has been so tough. I also know that some good things came out of COVID times for many of us, both personally and professionally. Would you care to comment on the positives for you? (You can share either a personal tidbit, professional tidbit, or both.)


Women doing community work
Jennifer Webster, Mayamam Weavers: If given a choice, we wouldn’t wish to relive the pandemic but we also recognize there were some bright moments during this time.  As people spent more time at home, Mayamam Weavers enjoyed an increase in website sales. Since traveling to Guatemala wasn’t an option, the members of the cooperative learned to use technology more to communicate with us in the US. Between using WhatsApp for quick questions to scheduling zoom calls for planning meetings, we were able to forge ahead. One of our backstrap weavers, Maria, was thrilled to have the opportunity to teach a virtual embroidery class to Americans from Guatemala.


Woman at mountain view
Karen Sparacio, Project Have HopeDespite the challenges of maintaining a business during COVID, COVID offered the opportunity to regroup, reconnect with myself and with friends, and hit the pause button on the constant rat wheel of life.  I found time to climb mountains (literally) that cleared my mind to be prepared to climb all of the figurative mountains erected from the pandemic.



Artisans holding shirts
Nina Moukova
, Seeds to SewCOVID has thrown a wrench into things for many of us, especially those of us whose work supports communities in other countries, on other continents. Trying to come up with any positives that came out of the COVID pandemic, one thing stands out: Compassion became endemic in our lives. People helped each other, checked on each other and really connected in a way that we didn’t know before. Professionally, it was wonderful to see so many people came forward and asked us how they can help the women and girls in our programs, realizing that the people in developing countries are the most vulnerable and need our support. The amount of volunteer applications was (and is!) overwhelming and we have gained many new friends and colleagues, who are still volunteering regularly, helping us raise money for our programs any way they can. Thanks to our generous supporters, we were able to provide the women in our programs in rural Kenya with necessities and resources when they needed us the most. We are still feeling the aftermath of the pandemic, but we are thankful we were able to get through it. Most importantly, we are thankful to know that the women participating in our programs are now much closer to becoming empowered and resourceful active members of their local economy.

Peacock with feathers spread out
Joan Rausch, Sevya Handmade My first thought was no more trade shows! That has been one of the biggest blessings for sure. (And this was #1 on my list too! I'll comment more on that when I share my answers below.) For us, less travels led to more time for introspection, meditation, and consequently more clarity about what are our priorities in this life and how to best nourish the ultimate freedom of being alive to the limitless reality of each moment. All of this feels like coming back full circle to where we were at when we first started Sevya, with open hearts, free minds, and a clear vision of giving oneself completely to what is. We had the opportunity to step back and take perspective from the “busy-ness” of running a business and could focus again on the heart and vision of our work.  We are designing our collections with renewed inspiration and gratitude for this blessing of life.


Three women smiling
Melissa Kendrick, Sojourns Fair Trade I discovered I had a more committed customer base who was hyper focused on keeping small businesses afloat. This created a stronger sense of community that continues now.



Artisan making a scarf
Rikki Quintana, Hoon ArtsThe COVID-19 pandemic saw me shifting online, like everyone else in the world. For HoonArts, that meant that we started doing a lot of virtual programming, including live events with our artisans (including live from Central Asia). This has turned out to be a wonderful opportunity to have our customers get "up close and personal" with our artists and to expand our storytelling and marketing footprint. As a result, we've even launched a new "Experience Box" product which includes both handmade products and digital goodies




A colorful embroidered face mask

Rosa Chang, Blossom Inspirations: (Rosa had a lot to say. And soon she may blog about it herself. Here is a bit from what she offered.) I met YOU because of COVID! Our friendship started when you purchased one of our Arpillera masks. If you recall we developed these masks to support a vulnerable single mom without a job during the pandemic. (I completely forgot about this!) I had the time to write and publish a bilingual book for kids which helped support the basic needs of artisans. Blossom Inspirations, because of down time, was able to reset, restart and reimagine. Innovating with artisans during the pandemic virtually was possible with current technologies. And personally, I connected more with neighbors and I had time to learn more about black lives matter, fair trade, circular economy and sustainability.

 And what were my positives?


Drawing of a girl and dog

Nancy Dunitz, Dunitz & Company: Professionally, I'm with Sevya. I'm thrilled to no longer be traveling to trade shows. When you travel to many, it is so draining. The advent of B2B wholesale websites, (which has resulted in smaller in-person gift shows) has made this possible. This allows me more freedom and time to focus on other areas of the business. Personally, two things stand out. I was a long time meditator and somewhere along they way, I stopped. At the beginning of lockdown, Bob Roth from the David Lynch Foundation began twice daily Zoom TM meditations. I'm back to 2x daily meditation and I'm certain this has kept me sane. And finally, I took up drawing. Perhaps you've seen some of my other blog posts where I've shared some of my drawings. I had taken a five day drawing course in Mexico in October 2019. When I came home, I bought supplies and did nothing with them. At the beginning of 2021, while we were all still sheltering in place I started drawing regularly. And now I can't stop. Without COVID, these positives would not have happened for me. (The drawing excerpt shown here, at time of posting is not finished. But it's what I'm working on right now. A self portrait with mascot, Bella.)the-positive-side-of-covi


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I know COVID times were tough. And for many, the effects are long term and many small businesses are still recovering. For this blog post, I wanted to focus on 'half full' vs 'half empty.' It's so inspiring to know that positives came out of these difficult times. A common thread among everyone who responded seems to be the opportunity and time for introspection, the growth of community and the observation of more compassion among people than we'd known existed. Do you have a positive to share? I'd love to hear about it and welcome you to email me at Thank you for reading my blog.-ND