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Have you ever heard the quote, “You only rise as high as the tribe you’re in” by Caroline Myss? It’s a wonderful quote that speaks about the company you keep and the Fair Trade Federation is just the right tribe for us! It’s a community made up of great people with the same missions and values. We are a community of friends open to meeting and understanding each other in a casual and comfortable environment. As friends, we share the same fair trade values within the fair trade model of transparency. One of the best ways one can be transparent is through the sharing stories, which is why the conference is organized around this format. Those stories can leave us with great solutions to some of the same problems that we in the fair trade world face. In addition, the stories provide us inspiration to continue our work in helping others.

Now, you may be saying that’s great, but why are you talking so highly of this association? Let me explain. I recently attended the Fair Trade Federation Conference in Del Mar, California. This was my first conference for Global Handmade Hope and my experience started when I was nervous that I had to buy some professional clothing.  You know the kind, definitely not the 20-somethings wardrobe I currently have hanging in my closet. However, when I asked Cynthia about the attire she told me that I was fine to dress in my usual casual/nice outfits that I show up to work in. I was very weary, I thought conferences were for super professional business people who were always on their laptops and phone, wearing starch pressed suits, and incredibly intimidating presences. When I arrived, it was just as Cynthia said. Everyone I passed had a smile on their face, sincere inquisitions, and few with phones glued to their hands. As the conference continued, I met so many people and learned something new with each individual. The community as a whole has established a culture of receptivity and sincerity when meeting each other. While we all need to create a sustainable successful business in order to help the producers, competitors are all friends here!

Transparency helps everyone. Our main mission is to help our producers care for their families and we do this by helping our fellow fair trade comrades, because they are helping producer groups just like we are. What I found is that we are not alone in our issues. We assist each other by discussing our best practices within our businesses. Transparency allows for open discussions and understanding of how fair trade helps marginalized producers. The customers are educated on how the businesses pay for fair and living wages as well as how paying our producers that way affects lives. The producers do not have to depend on donations and to hope that the donations continue to come. Instead, growing the producers business helps sustain and build a better life and one that they have worked hard for. For the companies and members to be open this shows that we are all truly dedicated to the cause.

Inspiration is all around us, but sometimes it’s hard to see. Some days we are just so caught up in our own issues and problems of everyday life that we forget it can be so much worse. Also, business can be temperamental. You will have your good quarters and your bad. In your everyday grind you may forget why we entered the industry. Having the energy of your tribe around reminds us that we are making that difference in someone’s life, while enjoying ours. The stories we share amongst each other leave us with motivation and an onset mission and goal to keep moving!

There are many ways to get involved in fair trade. If you are in the Fair Trade business world or considering joining the community, the Fair Trade Federation conference is a great place to be to make new connections, see new fair trade products, hear best practices and participate in various business discussions.

            If you’re a consumer and you want to get involved, then here are a few links that will provide opportunities:


Written by Arielle Besyk

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