All Things Being Equal

A company that embraces producer-friendly business practices? It's only fair.
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This story appears in the November 2006 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Twenty years ago, Rink Dickinson's business model had people warning him, "Don't waste your time. It'll never work." Today, he is co-founder and president of Equal Exchange. The 90-employee West Bridgewater, Massachusetts, organic coffee, tea and chocolate company engages in fair trade practices, which eliminate middlemen and allow producers to earn a significant share of their product's final price. Equal Exchange projects sales of $24 million this year.

The company is an employee-owned cooperative that works with farmer cooperatives in 15 countries. "The organization reflects the mission to make the world work better," says Dickinson, 49.

Fair trade does have its challenges: Dickinson sees big corporations trying to lower fair trade standards, with some degree of success. But he also sees entrepreneurial opportunity in offering consumers more openness and fairness: "They really want to support something that works differently." he says.

Edition: July 2017

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