Of course, values alone aren't enough to run a business. "Good intentions can't replace business skills," says Meyer. "We succeed because of hard work."
Cheryl Musch, executive director of the Fair Trade Federation Inc. (FTF), says FTF and other fair-trade organizations offer several business advantages to retailers, including:
- Networking. If one of the organization's members finds a good supplier, word quickly spreads.
- Bypassing hassles. Fair-trade organizations put you in touch with international cooperatives and wholesalers who deal with the international language barriers and government regulations, and can help you locate other sources of supply if problems arise.
- Communicating needs with producers. "Cooperative middlemen work with artists to develop products that sell in the U.S. market," says Meyer. The result: products tailored to consumer tastes while reflecting the craftsman's styles and techniques.
- Promoting. Members of FTF are listed online and in print directories, receive marketing and promotional materials, and can use the FTF logo on products, packaging and at trade shows. "A number of predisposed consumers buy from companies they believe are socially responsible," says Musch. "This gives you access to an established customer base."
But the greatest advantage of all may be the friendliness in this global industry--Meyer, for one, is always happy to advise other fair-trade entrepreneurs. In many ways, explains Musch, the fair-trade movement represents "a spirit of cooperation rather than competition."