Spring is one of my favorite seasons: So much change and renewal providing an optimistic look at the rest of the year. As a production manger or buyer for the western market, Spring also means preparing to visit vendors across the world to check in on relationships, evaluate production, and, for the fair traders, learn and gather impact stories. This is true for myself as I plan to visit South Asia.
While it is certainly a perk to travel, brush up on my language skills and cultural etiquette, there is also a full schedule of meetings and EVALUATIONS to prepare. No complaints here, I actually enjoy working while traveling and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I feel it is a chance for me to share the connection to the artisans with the rest of the team, as well as customers to build the global community.
These trips continue to revitalize my passion and remind me that I wouldn’t be happy in any other industry. Since I will be going on such a work adventure rather soon, I wanted to provide a glimpse of what these trips accomplish.
One question/misconception I have heard quite a bit is in regards to how often I communicate with partners during the year. I would be low-balling if I said at least once a day as there is constant communication throughout the year. However, actually visiting groups allows communication to happen A LOT quicker with less to be lost in translation. Especially when articulating design information or challenges, being on the ground will definitely cut down on several days to weeks of emails!
A big reason customers who join the fair trade movement do so to feel that they have made a difference in another person’s life through their purchase. To enhance that feeling, it is always great to have a story of impact from the producer. This impact information is also used by some companies to ensure they are operating on fair trade principles and living up their mission statement. Whether you are with a fair trade company or the end customer, it is always heartwarming to hear of a family that was able to send their children to school, or a community that can now afford clean water.
This is truly the most important piece of any visit to a partner: relationship building. With the nature of fair trade and the general market for that matter, there will always be ebbs and flows in business. What makes fair trade partnerships different is that there is a sense of commitment for all stakeholders. This involves trust and transparency throughout the life of a relationship. Having regular trips to the meet in person is just another testimony to the partnership and will make navigating any rough waters that much easier.
As a production manager, this is one of my favorite parts of the job. Being able to see a product be made from start to finish, meet with the artisans who have helped a design come to fruition, and share with them the joy they have brought to customers abroad is what I live for.
I have been told it is always an honor for artisans to meet someone from the US, but I am always floored by the strength and COMPASSION of those I meet abroad. Although I only speak some Hindi, I am ways sure to say “DHAN-ya-wad” (thank you) when they allow myself and others of the fair trade community into their homes and workshops.
Of course there are so many other objectives on the trips, but at the moment I should prepare for MY trip that is fast approaching! Be sure to follow @ethicallycurated to come along on the trip with me!