Just out of college, I decided fair trade was the thing for me. Actually, it didn't even have a name yet. That came later. But, with a love for handcrafted things, a bit of flair for the creative, and a passion to "serve the poor," I set out to start a "SELFHELP Crafts" store in a small storefront in Chicago. I took a year or more to get myself some retail experience, working as a clerk in the Art Institute Museum Store. I gathered a board of directors from among my friends and church members, and we had countless meetings and a few fundraisers. We planned to be "debt free in "83!" I ordered a ridiculously small amount of merchandise (Botswana baskets, mahogany
I had many days like that in that little shop in Chicago. But I also had lots of great conversations with people who really cared where they used their purchasing power, and loved the idea that we could "serve the poor" through business, even more effectively than with charity. Since then fair trade has grown and changed. It's much more powerful and sophisticated. Now we have Facebook, Twitter, Etsy, Pinterest...and the guy in the pink fluffy slippers is on my browser, not in the same room with me. Which is a bit of a relief. But there is still that sense of anticipation...who is going to be my first customer on this new website? Won't you be the guy in the pink fluffy slippers this time?