Fashion for a cause – starting up a fashion-forward fair trade online retailer

stephanieAs it turns out, there’s more to “fair trade” than just chocolate and coffee. Stephanie King wanted the world to know this, so she started Fair Trade Designs to help spread the word about all fair trade opportunities – including high end fashion products. She knew that she could make a difference and that she could provide consumers with the opportunity to do the same.

“Two years ago, I was not working. I was taking a 30-week course on social justice issues, such as poverty, immigration, and unfair trade. The reason I decided to take the course was because I really felt like I wanted to do something more. I had my own management consulting business for 15 years, and I reached the point where I decided I wanted to do something worthwhile that helped people, not big corporations.”

The first step to creating the business was researching the different options for selling online.

“I really knew nothing about online retail, so I took quite a few courses on building websites, ecommerce, and social media.”

All of the courses took a total of three to five months, and then she was ready to get her work online and ready to sell.  While Stephanie was taking courses about business, at the same time she continued researching products to carry and different fair trade wholesale suppliers. She made herself become the expert in this field. She knew that she believed in the cause, and she knew that if she was going to do this, she was going to have to be all in.

“At the outset, I decided I only wanted to deal with Fair Trade Federation members or suppliers who, if they weren’t FTF members, I was able to verify that they were toeing the line on fair trade principles, such as fair pay, good working conditions, protecting children’s rights and the environment.”

Stephanie knew that starting a company online was not going to be easy. It turns out that running an online retail store takes a lot more time than one would think!

“My next step was putting a business plan together – putting down my business goals, thoughts as to what I wanted on the website, and how I wanted it to look. What was the message to get across? What about website designers? It was about a six-week project getting the design process up and running.”

At the end of the day, Stephanie’s goal is clear. She wants to spread the word about this important cause through selling only fair trade, high quality jewelry, clothing, and other fashionable accessories. Through the power of great content, quality products, and the story of the artisan behind each and every item that she sells, Stephanie’s business is growing and expanding every day.

“I have a great video on my web site about one of the women who makes the recycled paper necklaces I sell. Her story is typical of the artisans I work with in that she's been able to provide for herself and her children in a way she never thought possible through her work. I want women to realize that they can be socially conscious shoppers without sacrificing style. I’m selling beautiful products that are made more beautiful because the people who make them are paid well and treated fairly.”

For more information, please check out the Fair Trade Designs website, and make sure to take a look at the blog for the latest in fair trade fashion news.

To receive 15% off of your next order, make sure to use code EVE15 at checkout.

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5 COMMENTS

  1. Great story, Jessie! And Stephanie King sounds like an amazing woman.

    At the risk of sounding spammy– forgive me if I do!– I just wrote a post called, “e-commerce: the complete getting started guide” for people like Stephanie at http://www.fairgroundmedia.com/getting-started.

    I plan to keep tweaking it, but my hope is it will inspire women to dive into online retail even if they don’t have formal education or the money to spend on a professional designer.  Many women with e-commerce dreams like Stephanie King just never get any traction because they don’t know where to start!

    Anyway, all that said, thanks for sharing this with us.

    –Stephanie Peterson
    e-commerce blogger at fairgroundmedia.com

  2. Jessie thank you for the great article and Stephanie for sharing it with us. In addition to taking advantage of Stephanie’s generous discount everyone should take a moment to check out FairTrade’s awesome merchandise. At first I was thinking I’d just find the perfect birthday present and then my list started to fill up with many, many items I wanted for myself. 

  3. Thanks to Jessie for a great article and to Project Eve for posting it!.  And Stephanie Peterson–just looked at your e-commerce guide, lots of good information. 

  4. Sweet blog! I found it while browsing on Yahoo News. Do you have any tips on how to get listed in Yahoo News?
    I’ve been trying for a while but I never seem to get there! Thank you

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