By Guest Blogger Mark Ostroth
Handmade Expressions, founded in 2006 by Manish Gupta, is an importer and wholesale vendor of Fair Trade products from India and around the world. In their work, they have stayed true to their mission of educating people about Fair Trade and improving the lives of marginalized producers and it is because of this focus that the company has had its share of success: Over 800 socially-conscious retailer partners bought Fair Trade products through Handmade Expressions last year, and the company has expanded its network of producer cooperatives this year to over 5000 artisans.
Through all the ups and downs of running a small business, Handmade Expressions has found that the most successful relationships, ones that sustain the business through good times and bad, are based on shared values. Because of this, they know that the best way to increase the size and impact of Fair Trade is by turning business partners into “fair traders” who have a commitment to ethical practices in every step of the trading system. “We have found that stores run by people who believe in Fair Trade are more likely demonstrate the benefits of Fair Trade, and to turn their customers into Fair Trade supporters,” Manish says.
To that end, Handmade Expressions is focused on educating all its stakeholders about Fair Trade, using such mediums as their website, Fair Trade Blog, catalog, marketing materials (like flyers and posters) and trade shows. Handmade Expressions has participated in numerous events in the Austin, Texas community. Everyone in the company has participated in World Fair Trade Day and Fair Trade Month for the last two years, setting up informational booths (complete with free Fair Trade chocolate and coffee!) outside of Austin-area stores and on the campus of the University of Texas. One of their most successful promotions was carried out with the help of their UPS driver, who agreed to hand out a piece of Fair Trade chocolate and an informational flyer at each of her stops on World Fair Trade Day. The company’s marketing manager has presented an overview of Fair Trade to student groups all around Texas and has helped students get involved in their own communities. Most recently, Manish gave a presentation to the Fair Trade Towns campaign in Norman, OK, encouraging them in their efforts and offering advice as they move closer to completing their campaign to make Norman a Fair Trade Town.
Handmade Expressions is working with the Austin, TX campaign for Fair Trade Towns and is excited about the future of Fair Trade in the United States.
Manish and the Handmade Expressions team wants everyone campaigning for Fair Trade Towns to know that they would be happy to support other FT Town initiatives by sharing experiences, promotional and educational material, and Fair Trade products for their local businesses.