Fair Trade Market encourages meaningful purchases

The Fair Trade Market is a business whose goal is to sell foreign, fairly traded products to their customers in order to aid developing countries in a sustainable lifestyle. The company was opened in 2006 as an attachment to World Cup Café. It is located at 1321 N. 15th Street and open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sundays. More information about the company is available at https://missionwaco.org/fair-trade-market/. Photo credit: Jessica Hubble

By Abby Sowder | Contributor

The Fair Trade Market, attached to the World Cup Café on North 15th Street, offers an assortment of foreign products that were fairly traded before making their way into this Waco establishment.

The Fair Trade’s website says the purpose of the Fair Trade Market is to only sell products that were made in safe working conditions and for proper wages, which ultimately provides a sustainable way of life for developing communities.

The Fair Trade Market was started in 2006 as an addition to World Cup Café. Both the market and restaurant are affiliated with Mission Waco, an organization dedicated to empowering the poor and marginalized, mobilizing the middle class and overcoming issues of social justice, according to its website. The proceeds from both the café and market go back to Mission Waco.

Kathy Allison, a former board member of Mission Waco and Fair Trade Market volunteer, took over the Fair Trade Market with co-worker Laura Mitchell in its beginning stage.

“We did it for the first two months out on the sidewalk on weekends,” Allison said.

Shannon Williams, the current director of Fair Trade, said the Fair Trade movement started small and gradually grew into the business it is today.

“We did not quit,” Williams said. “We put in a ton of hours behind the scenes.”

When the makeshift Fair Trade Market began gaining popularity and producing a profit, Jimmy Dorrell, the executive director of Mission Waco, moved the organization from the sidewalk to a small closet and eventually into the permanent location it is in now, Allison said.

The Fair Trade Market is located in a large room attached to World Cup Café. Therefore, customers from the restaurant can easily make their way to the market by walking through the small hallway that runs alongside the kitchen. Likewise, Fair Trade shoppers can just as conveniently grab a bite to eat from the café.

Waco junior Hannah Humphrey volunteered as a waitress at World Cup Café in 2013.

“I believe that the delicious food draws people in,” Humphrey said, “and then the Fair Trade products win them over.”

Williams described the concept of fair trade as artisans being paid a fair wage up front and free from bad working conditions, which helps to change their communities.

Williams encourages customers to start small with fair trade purchases, such as coffee or chocolate, because those are the easiest products that make the biggest impacts. Williams said that paying a dollar more for fairly traded chocolate that has only been traded three times makes a huge difference, as opposed to buying chocolate that has been traded up to 15 times.

“You are paying a very minimal price to change somebody’s life,” Williams said.

Edmond, Okla., senior Abby Webb said she chose to buy coffee from the Fair Trade Market after learning that normally traded coffee is a product that uses child labor to harvest, manufacture and produce.

In addition to chocolate and coffee, the Fair Trade Market also sells a variety of clothing, accessories and trinkets made in countries such as Ghana, Kenya, India and Guatemala. The market gets these products from vendors that are members of the Fair Trade Federation (FTF).

Williams said the Fair Trade Market works with around 47 vendors that fill their shelves with fairly traded products. These vendors are referred to as “middlemen,” who are responsible for bringing the fair trade products to America. Williams is in frequent contact with the market’s vendors and said she has personal relationships with them.

“I feel connected to the people that we work with,” Williams said.

When selecting the vendors she wishes to partner with, Williams said she often asks them about working conditions and where the proceeds go, in accordance with FTF’s rules. After selecting vendors, Williams chooses the products she wishes to be sold in the Fair Trade Market.

“We buy what we would like,” Williams said, “and what we consider a ‘need’ or ‘want’ in Waco.”

Williams said she pays attention to sales and trends when deciding which products to carry.

“I’m always trying to think outside of who I am and more like the Waco audience or the audience for the shop,” Williams said.

Popular items include headbands made by women in Ghana and wooden pieces crafted by artisans in India. Williams said Global Mamas is a favorite company that provides the Fair Trade Market with Ghanaian headbands, which are signed on the tag by the women that make each headband.

Jessica Yaa, the sales and marketing representative from Global Mamas, said their headbands sell well to kids and adults because the fit is comfortable, the cotton is sturdy and the color is eye-catching. Yaa said 60 percent of Global Mamas’ products are made from repurposed or recycled materials. The headbands are made from batik fabric scraps leftover from larger products such as garments or home goods, she said. Yaa said this fulfills the FTF requirement that all businesses should be environmentally conscientious.

Global Mamas is a nonprofit organization that grew from the need for retail outlets for women batikers on the coast of Ghana, Yaa said. According to the Global Mamas website, batiking is a fabric art form that uses a traditional waxing and dying technique on fabric to create a unique, crackled style. Global Mamas has been operating for the past 14 years to enable women batikers with a sustainable way of selling their product, Yaa said.

The company has grown from working with the original six batikers, she said, to working with around 400 men and women to create traditional handicrafts throughout Ghana. Because Williams and the Fair Trade Market are in contact with the vendors on a monthly basis, the work partnerships have evolved into prosperous relationships. The long partnership between Global Mamas and World Cup’s Fair Trade Market has contributed to Global Mamas’ success as a nonprofit.

“This growth is in large part sustained by committed wholesale partners like World Cup that regularly place orders with us and continue telling our story,” Yaa said.

Another popular vendor that partners with the Fair Trade Market is Matr Boomie, which supplies the market with an assortment of wooden pieces such as puzzles, mazes, dice and even wooden noses made by artisans in India, Allison said.

Webb said that one of her favorite purchases from the market was one of Matr Boomie’s sculpted wooden noses used for holding eyeglasses.

“Matr Boomie is a wholesale fair trade collection from India that marries modern design sensibility with inspiring traditional art forms,” its website says.

Manish Gupta, the founder of Matr Boomie and former board member of the FTF, played an instrumental role in the beginning stages of the Fair Trade Market. “Manish really helped us get started,” Allison said.

Gupta said he helped the Fair Trade Market by providing products for sale at the shop. He said that he also helped with marketing collateral by promoting artisan signage to be displayed in the market. Gupta said because World Cup’s Fair Trade Market is a committed fair trade shop, the market is a natural partner with Matr Boomie.

“World Cup has done an amazing job bringing awareness about fair trade in this community,” Gupta said.

Mission Waco often sends work groups of volunteers and students of all ages to visit the Fair Trade Market to gain insight into what fair trade actually is and how it benefits communities in other countries.

“I love the education aspect of it,” Allison said. According to Allison, every year, the work groups come into the market knowing more and more about fair trade. Allison said she believes that change will come about when people are demanding to know who made the products and that they were fairly paid. “To me,” Allison said, “the ideal world is when we do not have to put a fair trade label on things because everything is already ethically traded.”