Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "Before you've finished your breakfast this morning, you'll have relied on half the world.” An interesting thought. And a depressing one, when we realize that those very people we've relied on to help get us out of the door in the morning - the folks who grew our coffee beans, harvested our tea, made our t-shirt, shoes and jewelry - are most likely not the recipient of a fair wage or decent working conditions. 1.3 billion people in our world live in absolute poverty with many living on less than $1 a day.
This sad fact weighing heavily on my heart coupled with my own personal need for socially responsible gifts ignited my desire to create Karma Market – a fair trade online boutique. It was a sunny San Diego during the spring of 2006 when the idea for Karma Market was born.
I had spent half the morning on the internet looking for just the right meaningful and unique gift for a girlfriend of mine and was dumbfounded by the limited choices we have for handmade and unique gifts with positive social value. I knew that I couldn’t be the only one looking for fair trade gifts. My friends and people like us with similar values and tastes must also be longing for gifts that have more meaning - right?
And if they aren’t consciously looking for gifts to help other people at that very moment, I bet they would if it was easier and there was more awareness around the benefits of fair trade. I believe most people really do want to help those in poverty, but just don’t know were to start and how they can incorporate “giving” into their everyday lives affordably. The fair trade model impresses upon people that we are able to help those in need not only through charity, but also by incorporating ethically sourced goods into our daily living.
This caffeine induced pondering of the state of fair trade turned into the realization that if I wasn’t going to do anything about it, who was? Sure there are wonderful people out there very passionate about providing opportunities for deserving artisans, but just not enough. I decided that I could start by making a small difference in the world by combining my interest in Fair Trade with my love for shopping, marketing, sales and creating. Voila - the beginnings of Karma Market.
The beauty of fair trade model is that it is a sustainable business model. It works so well on many levels:
1. Profitable: The price points are not too high and yet I still make a decent profit. Many people have the false assumption that fair trade = expense, but this is just not so. The prices remain reasonable because a significant number of middlemen who would normally take much of the artisan’s well deserved profits are cut out. It also helps that I do not find it necessary to use greedy profit margins.
2. Marketable: The desire to help others seems inherent in so many people and to be able to do so via a purchase that you were going to make anyway is ideal. We are offering the gift that gives twice! We are also empowering the consumer by letting their purchases reflect their values.
3. Fullfilling: Running a fair trade business is also emotionally and spiritually sustaining because knowing that I am making a difference brings so much passion and dedication to my work. When driven by the desire to do good, things just seem to manifest much easier for me than if I were purely profit driven.
Karma Market is making a difference everyday by offering fair trade gifts, ensuring that artisans are paid a living wage and that their products aren't made using forced or exploitative child labor. Our main focus is to improve the lives of artisans worldwide by generating awareness around fair trade and making the hip and beautiful handcrafted work of the artisans more accessible to the average consumer.
Our beautifully handcrafted jewelry, bags and home décor are sourced from local cooperatives and companies who support artisans by providing them with a fair wage and helping them to become economically stable. Producers work in healthy and safe working conditions in the local context and there is often an emphasis on reinvesting in their communities and working to preserve the environment.
By choosing fair trade items we not only help provide income, dignity, hope and respect to people in developing regions. We also help to sustain the communities and the environment of future generations. I am sure that my 8 month old little girl who grins up at me still toothless in her cute little fair trade and organic onesie thanks me.