Five Things I Learned from the Virtual Market 2.0

Hello everyone, 


I hope you had a good weekend. Here in Hamilton the weather was beautiful and I got the chance to sit outside with an iced coffee and journal. 


It reminded me of how much I love writing. And how I originally started this business with educational blogs! So I’m back now- reflecting on the virtual market I hosted a few weeks ago. 


I get the pleasure of interviewing several vendors throughout the week and learning more about what they do. I always see trends and hear similar themes so I’ve decided to bring those together here with the Five Things I Learned from the Virtual Market 2.0. 


And, in case you’re interested, check out my Five Things I Learned from the Virtual Market blog from last June! 


Without further ado, here we go: 


  • Many of us started in the international development space

  • I thought it was interesting while talking to many business owners that a lot of us started in the international development space. This usually includes working for non-profit organizations abroad who rely on donations. But this isn’t always the most sustainable model. When I was in Uganda I talked to the artisans on the ground I was working with. I asked them what they needed and wanted and they continually said “Buy our products!” They didn’t want a hand out, but instead, they wanted to create beautiful pieces that people were happy to buy and display proudly in their homes. Which brings me to my next point...


  • It’s so important to ask the artisans/producers what they need 

  • A lot of vendors I interviewed throughout the week talked about this point. It is very problematic when we go into a community and tell them what we think they need. Because often we don’t know! By asking we find out what artisans need and how we can best support them. This often includes help get birth certificates, passports, or signing up for a bank account. Not what you would initially think when running a fair trade business! I know we all miss travel so much and I can’t wait to get back to meeting artisans again and hearing their stories in person. 


  • Start with what you have and where you are 

  • This is another theme that kept coming up. Most of us started our businesses not knowing where they would lead. (And, I joke, still not knowing where they’re going!). But, we started right where we were with what we had. Christal from Brave Soles started with $250 and sold 39 pairs of shoes! Krista from Just One started with a camera and sold 200 necklaces. It’s so important to have faith and take that leap. A lesson I’m continually reminding myself of too. 


  • Buy fair trade because you love the products not out of pity

  • I think this point was touched on by every single business owner I talked to. A huge part of the work they do is to bring you products that you LOVE. Fair trade sometimes gets a bad reputation because people remember it as church bazaars and knick knacks! We all want you to buy something because you will use it not out of pity. It’s important to buy less but better. It’s not sustainable if a product sits in a drawer forever collecting dust. 


  • Knowing who you’re working with/where they work is also so important 

  • This is another conversation that came up a lot! Through Fairly Traded, I’m always looking for how local and global can support one another. There are some things that can’t be made locally and there are some things that aren’t made abroad. But, Made in Canada doesn’t always mean ethical and Made in China doesn’t always mean unethical. What’s really important is knowing who makes the products and what conditions they are working in. All of the vendors I work with have travelled to meet the producers they work with and know they are being treated and paid fairly.

     

    Thank you again to all the vendors and customers who participated in the Virtual Market! It is so much fun for me to get to know everyone better and learn about why they do what they do.

    What did you learn from the week? Let me know in the comments! 

    Until next time,

    Mel

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