Launching a nonprofit organization and developing a retail brand all at the same time can present exciting opportunities, enormous challenges – and some daunting realities.
When Catherine Shimony and I set out to create GGP six years ago, we relished the chance to make a difference in the lives of women – but we were cognizant of the need to make sure each and every project in which we invested our resources made a wholly positive impact.
Social entrepreneurs, like their private-sector counterparts, make hundreds of decisions, small and large, all day, everyday. When funding for GGP seemed elusive, our partners’ products were stuck in customs or our online check-out system failed, we would ask ourselves one question that always served as our guiding North Star: “What’s in the best interest of the women artisans?”
It is that same question we ask ourselves today. What option provides our partners the greatest sustainable source of income generation? How will women artisans and their families benefit for the long run and not just for short-term gain?
Over the past half decade, the market for fair trade artisan products has found a much wider audience. With the right checks and balances, we believe that this is a market that can welcome more participants – as long as the participants adhere to the rules of the road in supporting fair trade ethical investments.
Within the past year, we have secured orders with retail companies that help us broaden the market for our partners’ products. Last spring, we produced a line of fair trade scarves, jewelry and bags for retailer Club Monaco, a Ralph Lauren brand, which was in stores around the world as part of their beach boutique. More recently, GGP has helped partners secure orders with and produce for Wal-Mart as part of their new “Shop for Good” initiative working exclusively with women-led enterprises. Felt flowers crafted by our partner Friends Handicrafts in Nepal and jewelry crafted by Maasai Women Development Organization in Tanzania will be available on Walmart.com in March 2013.
We are proud of how far fair trade has come since we started GGP six years ago. By helping to shine a wider lens on the hard work our partners do and growing market access, we can all contribute to achieving greater equity and income for women and their families around the world.