The Fair Trader Story

The Fair Trader Story

Posted by Bronwyn Newnham on

Anyone that knows The Fair Trader co-founder, Bron, will know that she is as humble as they come. Never liking the attention on herself, she prefers to put the spotlight on the people that make the products and their stories.

But the rest of the Fair Trader team knew that our community would love to hear Bron's story, so we convinced her to do an interview where she shares how The Fair Trader began, and answers a few questions about herself.

The Fair Trader first opened its doors in Ringwood East in April 2015. We've sinced moved from Ringwood East to Croydon South, opened a second store at Northcote, and launched our online store.

We want to thank all our customers for their continued support throughout the uncertainty of COVID. We couldn't have made it this far without you, and we hope you enjoy learning a bit more about the story behind The Fair Trader.

What is 'Fair Trade'?

Some people confuse 'Ethically Made' with 'Fair Trade Made'.
They are not the same, Fair Trade is a purpose driven connection with a community that has very real economic and social challenges, and uses a skill set culturally already within that community to create a product for external markets. This often saves a beautiful historical cultural skill from being discarded. 
All this is done in order to provide that community with a sustained income. 
Fair Trade also abides with a strict set of rules. There are 10, and they are set by the World Fair Trade Organisation. They are about respect, inclusion and a living wage. If a producer does not abide by all of these precepts the product cannot be certified Fair Trade.
Within a Fair Trade Project there is also a 'Fair Trade Premium' which is money given to the community to build resislience and empower further development. For example, Matr Boomie paid this premium this year to the jewellery maker that works to make their beautiful earrings. The premium was given to buy safer and more efficient equipment for the makers workshop. No more burns!

How did The Fair Trader journey begin and why are you passionate about Fair Trade?

Our daughter Ashleigh lived in a slum in Bangkok, she was working for Urban Neighbours of Hope, an organisation that lived and worked within slums. She was involved in the creation of a cookbook “Cooking with Poo”. Poo asked for help from UNOH. The price of rice had increased and this made Poo’s small food stall unsustainable. Poo desperately needed a job to feed her family. Angie Barker of UNOH decided to help Poo write her delicious food into a recipe book for the Australian market place. Thus the “Cooking with Poo” was born. This recipe book has been very successful, award winning and featured by Jamie Oliver. My husband John and I watched Poo go from a struggling food stall owner in a slum to an owner of a cooking school listed on Trip Adviser for Bangkok. Poo now employs 4 or 5 full time and 2 part time staff members, and reaches out to empower and help others within her community in a generous and fair hearted manner. This showed us the power of Fair Trade in reducing poverty through the creation of opportunities. We believe wholeheartedly in this effort. 

We try in The Fair Trader to ensure that the producers of the products we sell are treated in a just and dignified manner, that they are paid a living wage

We are tremendously grateful to all those who purchase the products because each purchase helps us achieve this.

Who are the people behind The Fair Trader?

The people behind The Fair Trader are standing tall. They are the people who work so hard to create beautiful, quality products, and they do this while respecting and encouraging each other, and they earn a living wage within difficult and disordered nations. They teach us that despite all difficulties and hardships great things are possible.

What are three of your favourite Fair Trade products?

Wild Timor Coffee

I could not get through each day without the Wild Timor Coffee! It is grown in Belumahatu in East Timor, and is delicious and delightful while supporting the village where it is grown. The Team behind Wild Timor uses the profits to help the village build their capacity for coffee grrowing and export and for caring for it's people. My favourite project of theirs is the pre Birth Midwifery clinic. Good Coffee that works hard in the world!

Conscious Step Socks

I love the Conscious Step Socks. They are super comfy! I wear the orange and grey ones because I love colourful socks! The CS Socks support organisations working toward the UN Development Goals of 2015 and give funding that enables them to do their work effectively. 

They are super stars in the Fair Trade world!

Kenana Knitters

The Kenana Toys. I watch the 'Stitch by Stitch' Vimeo Video all the time (scroll down to watch it). This video reminds me just what we are trying to achieve and where our goals are and helps me stay on track. It is easy to drift away from your goals with all the details of every day and the effort of trying to run a small business. The Kenana women are so amazingly brave, they show me what courage looks like and inspire me to be brave too. One day we would love to meet them.

Tell us one of your favourite stories about a Fair Trader product.

We have some childrens animal floor rugs made in Kenya by Kenana. They are fab, so cute! A young girl who lives with Asbergers came into the store, she had had an awful anxious day. She sat on the sheep rug and spent a long time telling him about her day and slowly she unwound, she said her day had gone from "The Worst Day' to the "Best Day". I told that story to the Kenana Knitters, they were so joyful that they were able to help. The story is now on their website as a blog.

How has Covid affected the world of Fair Trade?

Some of our suppliers are doing it so tough. So tough. I do not think we can imagine what it is like coping with COVID in a nation that is disordered or corrupt or so poor that health care is a financial impossibility. A friend of ours, a doctor, was working in Kenya and caught Covid. The hospital had no oxygen to support him through the dangerous stage of the virus. The staff put him into the back of a car and drove him to Nairobi for extra care and he survivied. One of our suppliers talked to me about being taken to hospital on the back of a push bike, she was so sick she kept falling off so they tied her to the push bike rider. 

All our suppliers are finding it tough getting their products to any market, postal services are either shut or badly affected and this has a devastating affect on their income.

What is your favourite thing about your job?

The Fair Trader Team are so amazing! They are the ones who make the whole Fair Trader possible. Each one of the team just works so hard and so intelligently in their role to bring this effort together, and they are so much fun to work with. 
Our fabulous customers are amazing too, without them and thier consisitent support nothing would be possible.

Who is someone that inspires you?

My daughters inspire me. They all work such difficult jobs, and manage with such grit, and they give the people they work to help such dignity and grace. They teach me every day the meaning of the word grace.  To give another person grace is a powerful gift. I am so proud of them. 

What is your favourite quote?

Easy! It's a quote from Orsolo De Castro, She is an amazing lady. She co founded the Fashoin Revolution, and has released a book called "Loved Clothes Last" which I have on my must read list! 

The quote is...

"Demand quality, not only in the products you buy but in the life of the person who made it."

- Orsolo De Castro

I love this quote because I think it is time we got stronger about what we expect from global brands. 

What can people do to continue to support The Fair Trader and Fair Trade suppliers during the pandemic?

Start to think about your buying. You can change the world one purchase at a time if you just examine your own buying habits. Think; does it create excessive plastic waste? does it last? has it got obsolencence built in? is it quality? who are the makers? How did this product affect their lives?
Supporting retailers who decide to support the people behind their products makes so much difference in this complicated world.

“As consumers we have so much power to change the world by just being careful in what we buy.” 

- Emma Watson, actress and ethical fashion advocate



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