Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Daily Specials Just for You!! Give the Gift that Gives two smiles!

By Marita Greenidge

We've been a bit delinquent with KVI Fun Fridays. And we apologize most sincerely. Unforeseen circumstances prevented us from effectively delivering on bringing you AWESOME Friday fun.

But we're going to make it up to you!


We're offering daily specials on our website!!

Today we have an online special on our Arianne silk bag. Check it out here.

Remember that with KVI you can give the gift that gives two smiles - one to the lucky person who received the gift and another to the artisan who made the product, who can now earn a fair and decent living.

Have a fabulous day!


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Product of the Month - Turkish Plates

By Glenn and Rebecca Fadner

Our Turkish plates are hand-formed and hand painted by artisans in Avanos, Turkey. They are available in sizes ranging from 18cm-25 cm. Most of the plates are in the traditional "Iznik" style. We also have 18cm plates in the more intricate "Ipek" style.These are designed for display only and make a unique gift. Check out more designs here!


Sunday, November 8, 2009

Gobal Forum on Human Trafficking Report

By Glenn & Rebecca Fadner

You'd think that an event about Human Trafficking would be a "downer", wouldn't you? Well, nothing could be further from the truth. No, it certainly wasn't an occasion for partying, and there were plenty of sobering and somber statistics, but the prevailing mood was one of hope and optimism, mixed with a dogged determination that slavery MUST be wiped out and CAN be in our generation.

Global ForumWhen the folks at Not For Sale Campaign conceived of this Forum, they were hoping that 250 people would attend. Oops! As of the first session, over 750 were expected.The final number pushed 800! That posed a few logistical challenges, but the staff an NFS and North Coast Calvary Chapel did a great job of accommodating everyone.

It was amazing to see people from around the world, from a wide variety of political and religious backgrounds, all united in the belief that there MUST be an end to global slavery in all its forms.

Speakers such as Lou de Baca (US Ambassador-at-large for issues of Human Trafficking) and David Arkless (Manpower President for Global and Corporate Affairs) were among the keynote speakers. US representatives and a Canadian MP sent video greetings and encouragement. Breakout sessions covered topics ranging from changing justice systems to the use of entrepreneurial models as means of combating trafficking.

There's a great recap of the Forum online. Click here to access it.


Saturday, November 7, 2009

Fair Trade Only Works Because.....

By Rebecca and Glenn Fadner

Fair Trade only works because people believe in it and "vote" for it with their shopping dollars. Whether it's coffee or chocolate or our KVI products, it first takes people to believe that EVERYONE ~ from the producer to the retailer ~ has a right to make a fair and living wage.

Subsequently it requires individuals to choose to spend their money purchasing Fair Trade products.


Friday, November 6, 2009

Fun Friday caption

By Marita Greenidge

Hey there readers! It appears no one could come up with a caption for our last picture. Personally I have to admit I found it pretty difficult coming up with something myself. But alas I did!! Please see above. Click on the picture above or visit our Facebook fan page for a better view. Happy Friday.


Friday, October 30, 2009

Bigger prizes for Fun Fridays!!

By Marita Greenidge

Hi readers!

We're upping the ante with regard to our Fun Friday prize! You still have several hours to go before this week's competition is over!

If you can give us a cool caption and tell us the number of products in the picture in the previous post, you'll get a KVI pen, a 20% discount coupon valid for one KVI product and 2 FREE mousepads! (see below for picture)

All you have to do is leave your response in the comments section of the previous post. On Saturday we'll announce the winner and we'll repost the picture with your caption.

We know you guys are creative; show us! :-)

*disclaimer: This competition is for retail customers only. Because we want to give EVERYONE a chance to win, you can only win once each month. But don't quit entering! We love to see everyone's creativity. Also we can only send the pen to US addresses but fear not we can send the coupon anywhere in the world so there's still something for our international readers!


Friday, October 23, 2009

Living the Fair Trade Life - KVI Fun Fridays

By Marita Greenidge


It's that time again! Yup, you guessed it, "It's Fun Friday Time!!"

We're asking you to leave a fun, witty caption for the above photo. And, we'd also like you to tell us how many KVI products are in this picture.

The best caption with the correct number of products wins!!! Your prize is a FREE KVI pen and 20% discount on any 1 KVI product of your choice. (The holiday season is coming up so why not give a gift that gives two smiles - one to one of our suppliers so they are that much further away from falling victim to human trafficking and one to the great person you gave the gift to.)

To enter leave your response in the comments section of this post. On Saturday we'll announce the winner and we'll repost the picture with your caption.

Have a fabulous Friday!!

*disclaimer: This competition is for retail customers only. Because we want to give EVERYONE a chance to win, you can only win once each month. But don't quit entering! We love to see everyone's creativity. Also we can only send the pen to US addresses but fear not we can send the coupon anywhere in the world so there's still something for our international readers!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Living the Fair Trade Life - Fun Friday Captions!

By Marita Greenidge

Unfortunately we didn't have a winner for the this week's competition because no one correctly guessed how many KVI products I was wearing.

The answer was 5 - 1 pair of earrings, 2 bracelets, a necklace and a bag. I would have accepted 4 because the second bracelet was very difficult to see!

However, Amanda Biesel still gave us a fabulous caption so we wanted to share! Thanks again Amanda!


Friday, October 9, 2009

Living the Fair Trade Life - KVI Fun Fridays

By Marita Greenidge


It's Friday again and you know what that means, "It's Fun Friday Time!!" "Yay!"

Today we're going to give you another picture we'd like you to leave a fun, witty caption for. However, along with the caption, we'd also like you to tell us how many KVI products I'm wearing in this picture. (You have to look very closely!)

The best caption with the correct number of products wins!!! Fun and simple! (Is there any other way Fridays should be?) Your prize is a FREE KVI pen and 20% discount on any 1 KVI product of your choice. (Remember the holiday season is coming up!)

To enter leave your response in the comments section of this post. On Saturday we'll announce the winner.

We can't wait to see what you guys come up with! Let's have some fun today!

*disclaimer: This competition is for retail customers only. Because we want to give EVERYONE a chance to win, you can only win once each month. But don't quit entering! We love to see everyone's creativity. Also we can only send the pen to US addresses but fear not we can send the coupon anywhere in the world so there's still something for our international readers!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Update from the Global Forum on Human Trafficking

Beijing is a city of around 12 million people. Imagine all of them held as slaves. That's the LOW estimate of the number of slaves being held worldwide. The HIGH-END estimate is 27 million. That's larger than any city in the world except Tokyo!

Today and tomorrow almost 800 people are gathered in Carlsbad, CA for the first ever Global Forum on Human Trafficking. We're not hearing a lot about the magnitude of the problem - most everyone here is well acquainted with it. Nor are we hearing a lot about the scope of trafficking - most of us are aware that it's not confined to "over there"; it's "here" as well.
What we ARE hearing about is progress that IS being made and steps that ARE (and CAN) be taken towards finally ending slavery for good.
More to come... Glenn

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Congrats to Amanda!!!

By Marita Greenidge

CONGRATS Amanda Beisel!!! You are the winner of our first KVI Fun Fridays competition. Your caption was AWESOME! I think you may have scared the competition away!

Amanda said...

Jesus said, "No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit..." I'd say that this tree definitely has good (and stylish!) fruit!!!


Please contact us at fairtradelife@gmail.com so we can send your prize!! Have an amazing week Amanda and thank you for your support!

To see the picture that Amanda gave us such a wonderful caption for click here.

Also check out Amanda's great blog here!


Friday, October 2, 2009

Living the Fair Trade Life - KVI Fun Fridays

By Marita Greenidge

Okay, so you haven't heard from us in a few weeks. Life has been pretty busy! I've been relocating from Rochester to Barbados and Rebecca and Glenn have been busy running KVI.

But to make up for our absence, we're offering you a chance to have a bit of fun with us every Friday! Perhaps you'll also win a prize! Because we will be giving away KVI goodies every week! We're calling these KVI Fun Fridays and everything will be focused on living the fair trade life.

This week we're asking you to give us a fun, witty caption for the picture above. It's from a photoshoot we did in May, where we decided to hang some bags in a tree like fruit.

The person with the best caption gets a FREE KVI pen and 20% discount on any KVI product of his/her choice.

To show us your wit, all you have to do is leave your caption as a comment. On Saturday we'll tell you who we thought had the wittiest caption.

Hey, it's Friday! Let's have some fun fair trade style!

*disclaimer: for retail purchases only


Sunday, September 13, 2009

Potential ain't Capacity!

By Marita Greenidge

I watched a live stream from my church Faith Temple today. How's that for embracing technology? I love how this church uses direct marketing and technology to build relationships with its congregation. It makes me smile as a marketer.

As usual the message was powerful and uplifting.

A section of the sermon stood out for me. The pastor, Steve Edlin, said sometimes we give people keys to vehicles before they have the capacity to drive. Well he didn't quite say it like that but that was the overall metaphor.

And the meaning? Sometimes people have the potential to undertake a task but do not currently have the capacity to handle that task. Maybe they are not in the right state of mind; maybe they haven't learnt all they need to know to do a great job.

Just because someone has potential, doesn't mean they are ready for the job!

This can be extended to many parts of our life. You may have the potential to run a marathon but 3 months before the race you might not have the capacity. It requires training. You may have the potential to be a great wife or husband but you're still trying to figure out who you are and what you want to do in life. Requires a little soul searching. You may have the capacity to be a great entrepreneur but you don't understand accounting, marketing or business planning. Requires a little skill-building.

Potential ain't capacity and you have to build your capacity before you can unleash your true potential.

Have an awesome week everyone!


Saturday, September 12, 2009

Fair Trade Fashion shoot!

By Marita L. Greenidge

A few months ago I got the bright idea that showing how great our products looked when paired with the right outfit, was a fabulous idea. Below are two pictures from that day. It looks like I've done a good job of passing myself off as a decent make-up artist.

My friend Duan gets to be on the receiving end of this bright idea. My other friend Mai, appears to be chilling out. Little did she know that she was next! Just kiddin', Mai did her own make-up that day. Maybe I didn't do as great a job convincing everyone my make-up skills were great.

Look out for more pictures from our shoot!


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Entrepreneurs Tackling Africa's Problems

By Marita Greenidge

Check out the New York Times' blog Freakonomics for a great post on what some people are doing to further development in Africa. Click here. A few tidbits:
  • Using entrepreneurship
  • Using venture capital for technology development
  • Helping those affected by HIV/AIDS
Why rely on aid if you can find innovative ways to help your country?

Monday, September 7, 2009

Fair Trade Labor Day Sale on Recycled Bags

It's Labor Day today and we're celebrating by offering you 15% off our PILAR totes.


Sunday, September 6, 2009

Slavery? Today?

By Rebecca and Glenn Fadner

Slavery ended in 1863 when Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, right? Guess again! Slavery is "alive and well" throughout the modern world!! Oh, it's illegal in over 80% of the countries, but it still exists. In fact, estimates range from as "low" as 4 million to as high as 27 million people enslaved, with the US State Department settling on around 12 million. Contrast that with an estimated 4 million slaves in the US immediately before the Civil War.

Trafficking in human beings is "tied for second" (with illegal arms) as the second largest criminal activity in the world (after the drug trade). And if you think it only happens "over there", think again! The US is both a destination and an origination point for victims of trafficking.

Because combating the trauma of those rescued out of trafficking is central to the mission of our supplier STOPStart, we are taking the opportunity to become more informed about the scourge of human trafficking and how to combat it. We will be attending the first Global Forum on Human Trafficking in Carlsbad, CA on October 8-9.

We'll have more to share from what we've learned, but we want to encourage YOU to become more informed as well. Here are several resources to assist you:

  • "Not For Sale" - David Batstone A look at examples of human trafficking worldwide AND how a number of organizations are working to combat it.

We encourage you to become informed and involved!


Friday, September 4, 2009

Product of the Month - Sea Glass Jewellry

By Rebecca Fadner

Searching for that piece of jewelry that is fun, colorful, reasonably-priced, eco-friendly, unique AND has a socially-relevant back-story? That's a tall order, but we have an answer for you! Sea glass jewelry from Honduras!

Our artisan Maria combs the Caribbean shoreline seeking bits of colorful glass that the surf washes up on the Honduran beaches. With an artistic vision for each piece, she polishes the glass and fashions each piece into vibrantly-colored dragonfly and Celtic cross necklaces as well as stunning matching necklace & earring sets. In each case the delicate necklace chain completes the image!

The sea glass is available in a number of colors, but as is the case with all recycled products, Maria must creatively work with those "raw" materials that the ocean provides!

Click here to view more of our beautiful sea glass jewelry!!


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Big Decisions, Big Developments & Big Balloons!

By Glenn Fadner

Gershwin wrote, "Summertime, and the livin' is easy..."

The month of August has had a "slower" pace for us if you measure it in miles travelled. This month we've only done one "show" and it was close to home. It has nevertheless been an extremely eventful month for KVI.

Probably the most significant event for us was Hagar International's decision to "spin off" Hagar On-Time! (H-OT!), their textile business that manufactures all of our Hagar Design products.

I'm not going to go into all the details here because it will make this too lengthy. You can click this link to get all those details. The condensed version is that in order to conserve finances for their social programs, Hagar International sold H-OT! to a group of like-minded Australians who will operate it under the name STOPStart. Look for our products to begin carrying the STOPStart logo in the near future.

Hagar's decision and the "challenging" economic climate provoked us at Kingdom Ventures to examine our own business model. The picture that I got as I reflected over the past four years was that when we first started out, it was somewhat like duck-hunting - we used a shotgun with scatter-shot which is bound to hit SOMETHING if you sent it into a flock of ducks. That technique worked well in bringing us to where we are, but it won't take us any further. We need to be thinking much more strategically if we're going to grow KVI. It's going to take a "rifle" rather than a "shotgun".

So with several big gulps, we took the steps of applying to exhibit at two more trade shows: Another one in Boston in September and (BIG gulp) one in San Francisco in February. The costs involved are scary. However, it does give us opportunity to be in front of more people who understand and promote Fair Trade.

Finally, we just made the decision to attend the Global Forum on Human Trafficking being held in California in early October. In addition to the opportunity to become better equipped to speak to issues around human trafficking, we will be able to meet face-to-face with the new Executive Director of STOPStart, who will also be in attendance.

Yes, August has been a significant month ~ one filled with change, flexibility, adaptations and preparing for growth. Now it's off to the Festival of Balloons in Dansville, NY this weekend. If you are anywhere in Central New York, stop by and say hello! It's a GREAT time with terrific weather and a view of those balloons in flight that truly IS out-of-this-world!


Monday, August 31, 2009

What’s having a Life Anyway?

By Marita Greenidge

If you don’t go to bars or parties on the weekend guess what, you don’t have a life! At least that’s what television teaches you. Essentially having a life boils down to the presence of certain activities in your life – drinking alcohol and partying.

I too got trapped in this, joking with friends that I “didn’t have a life” when I stopped bar hopping and partying.

But hey what’s having a life anyway? To me having a life is doing the activities you love. I realized that heading out to party on the weekends wasn’t really that exciting anymore. Actually halfway through the night I’d be drained and bored (how’s that for proof of getting old?...lol) Well it wasn’t that I couldn’t keep up; it’s really that things that don’t excite me drain the life out of me.

I’d rather be having a quiet dinner with a few close friends or reading/watching something about marketing. Instead of going to loud beach parties, I’d rather spend quiet days at the beach listening to waves and reading a magazine/book. Instead of going to bed at 6 am after a crazy night on the town, I’d rather be getting up at 6 am to head to a hike.

Your definition of life is whatever you make it. It’s whatever you do that makes your existence rich. If hiking, photography, dancing, singing, playing a sport, reading, spending time with your family etcetera are the things that excite you most, if they are present in your life, then you most certainly have a life.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Using Entrepreneurship to Combat Global Poverty

By Marita Greenidge

"Multiply the population of the US by three. That’s how many people around the world live on about a dollar a day.

Do it again and now you have the number closer to $2. About forty percent of the world lives on $2 or less a day.

What’s that like? What happens to you when you have two dollars a day to live on. It’s almost impossible to imagine. I mean, $2 is the rent on your apartment for about 45 minutes. $2 buys you one bite of lunch at a local restaurant...

And yet, two billion people survive on that sort of income. "

Those are the opening lines from Seth Godin's post last week Friday. You should definitely read the entire post here. Godin speaks about why entrepreneurship is so important to social and economic development. The focus eventually turns to the Acumen Fund, a non-profit Seth will be working with. I particularly like the Acumen Fund because they seem to share our ideals here at KVI. Here's an explanation of what they do:

"Acumen Fund is a non-profit global venture fund that uses entrepreneurial approaches to solve the problems of global poverty. We seek to prove that small amounts of philanthropic capital, combined with large doses of business acumen, can build thriving enterprises that serve vast numbers of the poor. Our investments focus on delivering affordable, critical goods and services – like health, water, housing and energy – through innovative, market-oriented approaches." - Acumen Fund Wesbite

So the idea is that charity alone is not the answer because it creates dependency. However using charity and investing in projects that have the potential to offer the world's disadvantaged ways to support themselves negates the need for continual charitable donations. This is very important because it means that if charitable dollars run out, persons aren't instataneously transported back to poverty. Donations become more like investments than hand-outs.

This is why we at KVI believe in Fair Trade and helping our artisans find marketable solutions to their economic problems. We are facilitators giving artisans connections to distribution channels they wouldn't normally have so that they can chart their own entrepreneurial course.

Of course this brings into question what happens when we aren't there to facilitate but that's a discussion for another post when we'll talk about why succession planning is so important.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Videos for Social Good

By Marita Greenidge

I was doing my daily reading of Mashable and I came across this post on the top 10 videos for social good. They are all pretty interesting.

The groups vary from those supporting environmental health to those trying to lift people out of poverty. Have a watch; I really like the last one which is an interactive video where a young person has to choose his path. Each path can lead to various outcomes. It clearly shows how the small choices you make in life can lead to serious consequences. Good work by the Metropolitan Police Service of London.


Sunday, August 9, 2009

Political unrest in Honduras and unfortunate economic situation in Kenya affecting our Suppliers

By Glenn & Rebecca Fadner

July was another busy month with both retail and wholesale shows. We had a few "drenchings" (in both Fair Haven and Geneseo), quick turn-arounds between shows, and as much time in hotels as at home! We're glad that the pace is a bit "lighter" in August, which will give us an opportunity to catch up a bit with things that have gotten set to the side (including yard work).

On a more somber note, I want to update you on how two of our artisans are being impacted by current events.

Honduras: Hopefully you have been following (at least to SOME level) the political crisis unfolding in Honduras. I can't tell you how the crisis in Tegucigalpa is affecting people "on the street" in the Gulf Coast city of Trujillo, but anytime there is political unrest in a country where tourism is a significant part of the economy, there's bound to be a decrease in tourist traffic. (This is a link to an annoucement by the US embassy discouraging travel to Honduras).

So even if things start picking up in the global economy, we can expect that it will be quite some time before tourist dollars start flowing freely in Trujillo. That makes our supplier Maria, and the others at the Made In Honduras co-operative, significantly dependant on what we (and others) sell outside the country.

Kenya: Just this week I received an email from Eunice Kasisi, who makes our "marbled" and bamboo jewelry. (Click this link for more about Eunice.) Things are very difficult in Kenya. On top of the political crisis there in 2008, the global recession, and the seventh year of drought, it appears that people in both government and business have been "manipulating" the price of food staples like maize for their own profit.

Food has become outrageously expensive for the poor of Kenya, with the result that there is nothing left over for other necessities of life. Eunice is the caregiver for her brother's two children since he passed away. Last week they were "chased from school" because she couldn't pay the school fees. (There are fees even for "public" school in Kenya.) She was asking if we have any business for her, and I had to tell her that at this point, we simply don't need any additional jewelry.

We're not telling you these stories to discourage you or to stir up feelings of guilt. That's not what we're about. But we DO want to encourage you to consider KVI and other Fair Trade businesses when you do need to make a purchase. And encourage your friends to visit us and other Fair Trade e-tailers. All of us thank you!

We wish all of you a great month!

Honduran immigrants speak about recent events in Honduras surrounding President Zelaya.


Sunday, August 2, 2009

It’s Friendship Day People…so who are your friends again?

By Marita Greenidge

Can you do it? Can you really walk hand-in-hand with someone who’s not going where you want to go? At some point along the journey someone’s going to have to let go or both your journeys will come to a screeching halt.
Pretty simple concept…let’s make it even simpler. You are kind enough to give your friend a ride to the supermarket. You buy all your groceries and are ready to head back home. If both of you live at the same house then great, you return home together. If you don’t, you have to drop that friend off. If you decide you want to hang out with your friend a little more because you enjoy their company so much then you’re stuck at that friend’s house until you leave. Meanwhile your groceries are sitting in huge pile because you decided to linger and not go on to do your business. Your journey has halted and you haven’t reached your destination. The frozen food is getting warm and the hot food cold.

In life, who you surround yourself with has such a crazy impact on your life. It morphs your thinking because you become immersed in a way of life. If societal status and gathering ‘things’ are the ambitions of your friends, then you may slowly find that those become your ambitions as well. And we may not want to admit this but think about the way you speak…the words you use….those bits and pieces you pick up along the way. I never said the word “awesome” before I came to Rochester but now it’s ingrained in my vocabulary….a little gift from my classmates who said it so frequently. I’ve passed on “altrighty” to my roommate. You see how this works. These things solely creep up on us and we don’t realize until it’s ingrained.

You want great habits and ways of thinking to seep into you. You want peer pressure to have a useful purpose like encouraging you never to cheat on your spouse or to volunteer to tutor young kids or adults. You don’t want it telling you to buy the latest non-essential object as the only way to feel worthy.

You do this by surrounding yourself with the right kind of people, the ones who are going to the same place you are. It’s the reason in your career you’re encouraged to join associations related to your fields. You get all the good info on the recent developments in your industry and a group of people that can help if you get stuck in a problem.

It’s easy to see this applied to a career so why is it so difficult to apply to our lives?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Are You Committed?

By Marita Greenidge

Are you committed? I mean are you really committed? It’s pretty easy to say you’re committed because words are easy. I can say anything I want in the world but following through with actions is the difficult part.

I wanted to gain an MBA. After the first quarter I was told my full scholarship wasn’t really a full scholarship. I was literally faced with being kicked out of school because I couldn’t pay my bills. Perfect time to give up, right? Nope…

Commitment doesn’t mean that you’re in it only for the good times. The true test comes when the waters become choppy. I made the decision that I was going to get my MBA from Simon and I was surely going to make that happen. I now possess an MBA in Marketing and Entrepreneurship so I guess I can say staying true to the course paid off.

Marriage, friendship, goals…..having kids. These are all things that require a strong commitment because you know what? The journey won’t always be easy. Spouses will annoy you; kids will upset you; things will not always go as planned. But you have to be strong enough to say, “I made a decision and I’m going to see it through”.

Right now at KVI sales are down. But guess what? We made a commitment to our suppliers and we’re going to stick with them as we navigate through this challenging economic time. What about you? Are you honoring your commitments?


Saturday, July 18, 2009

Aaahhhh to be Sweet.....

By Marita Greenidge

People usually don’t think I’m a sweet person. I’ve never understood why.

My latest explanation as to why I’m lacking the sweetness component is because my career-minded nature and ambitiousness overpower any sweet qualities. So I thought to myself, what defines a sweet person? When do you describe someone as sweet?

Must I wear ribbons in my hair? Should I own a puppy? Maybe I should own a puppy that has ribbons in its hair! Hahahaha….

Then I thought about what makes me think someone is sweet. I think both Rebecca and Glenn are sweet people. What makes them fit the bill?

  • They have strong moral values
  • They care about the welfare of others a whole lot
  • They show how much they care by actually going out of their way to help others
  • There’s a smile on their face even when they’re not actually smiling
  • They motivate me to lead a good and decent life

I guess sweet can mean a lot of things for different people but my definition never seems to coincide with that of others. What does sweet mean to you?


Sunday, July 12, 2009

Make a Difference today

By Rebecca and Glenn Fadner

Watch CBS Videos Online

Everybody's talking about the economy these days. And all of us are "challenged" by the effect it is having on our lives (and our investments). How often do we stop to think of the effect that it is having in the poorest regions of the world?

Our supplier Hagar Design has had to lay off over half of the women it employs because orders are "down" from every part of the world. The impact is not only on the ladies, but affects their children as well. Even we at KVI have had to reduce our orders by more than half the amount we ordered last year.

When we first started working with Maria, our seaglass artisan in Honduras, our orders made it possible for her to send her son, Samuel, to school. The economy has so devastated the tourist trade that Made in Honduras has far less traffic (and sales) in their shop. The "extras" are "out". Our recent purchases from Maria are essential to allow her to put food on the table.

Food prices are skyrocketing in Kenya. You can argue whether it's the economy or the corruption (probably both!), but many people are hard-pressed to put basic staples on their table. When we visited our artisans this past February, we brought along a gift of basic food staples to each one. We had been told that what we brought (flour, corn meal, oil, sugar, tea) was about a week's worth of food for a family.

A few weeks after we returned home, we heard from our artisan Simon, owner of Alisim Glass Studio in Kenya, how appreciative they were for the food that they had "stretched" for more than three weeks.

These are just a few examples that WE know about, but we know they are not isolated cases. When the economy falters in the "developed" world, we describe it as "painful" and "difficult". For those in the "developing" world, it could best be described as "devastating".

Buying Fair Trade products helps lessen the impact because one of the key tenets of Fair Trade is "fair" payment to the people doing the work. When you make a purchase - whether it's a gift from KVI, flowers for a loved one, coffee, tea, or chocolate - we encourage you to purchase Fair Trade and know that you "made a difference".


Saturday, July 4, 2009

Don’t Settle for Mediocrity….Be Extraordinary

Along the way, we settle,” began Seth Godin’s post. And I thought about this, along the way sometimes we do settle. We settle in relationships and we settle in jobs. In relationships we just don’t want to be lonely….in jobs we just need to make some money.

The personal development books will tell you, you don’t have to settle and any motivational speaker worth his/her salt will tell you the same. But then you take a step back and look at your life and wonder “Gosh, how do they really expect me not to settle? These are just easy words; they don’t have to live my life.”

And you know what, that’s true…they don’t have to live your life. But I’m going to throw my hat in the ring and also say settling is bad. I’m a realist although if you met me you’d probably think I’m a na├»ve optimist :-). I want everything to be amazing but I recognize things aren’t always so simple for everyone in the world so giving up-in-the-air solutions is a sure-fire way for people to turn away….I’ve seen people lose their faith because they aren’t given practical solutions beyond “Trust in God”.

And I trust in God but sometimes when dealing with real issues you need a lot more than those words.

Let’s take a look at jobs. Sometimes you do have to settle for a job which isn’t ideal because without it you might not be able to repay student loans or support your family. However that job doesn’t have to be the end of the line; there may be skills you can glean that help you get to where you want to go. There may be connections you can make. Don’t look at the situation with a closed mind; view it as a stepping stone to getting you where you want to go.

Relationships are a little bit more tricky…it’s obviously completely unfair to be using someone as a stepping stone to someone else. But with these I’d have to recommend that settling is not an option. If you know what you want and what makes you happy then you deserve nothing less and anything less will make you unhappy. Of course you shouldn’t have a laundry list of things that need to be checked off…people are only human remember!! But I’m sure there are some key traits you don’t want to compromise on. So don’t…..and these key things are usually better as character traits instead of superficial qualities.

So what makes me qualified at just 26 years of age to be speaking such things? Let’s say I’ve been there and done that. Settling never makes you happy.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Making Choices in Your Life

At one point in my life, every time I’d settled on path I wanted to take someone else would come along with a great piece of advice that made me feel like I should switch to an alternate path. Gosh if I had a dollar for every time I changed my mind since beginning grad school I’d probably be well on my way to becoming a millionaire. Alas since no one pays for such things I was forced to tread that old beaten path to becoming a millionaire…yup I decided to try my hand at acting. Okay, just kiddin’, although I wish I were partly kiddin’. I feel very inspired by Angelina Jolie :-).

Back to the point at hand – I felt I was getting so much advice that I really didn’t know what to do. “This would be a great application of your skills; you could make considerable money pursuing this career; you could live a fulfilling life if you did this…blah blah blah”…the list goes on. It was like I was getting advice to get clarity and then I needed more advice to make clarity of all the advice. It’s like what Barry Schwartz talks about in the “Paradox of Choice”- more choices don’t necessarily make you freer/happier but can really make you more paralyzed. That’s exactly how I felt.

It starts like this – you get advice 1, 2, 3, 4,….and so on..Then it goes “Which of these pieces of advice is good?” You get so much advice that you have to then sit down and think about which advice is best to take. Truth be told you can end up pretty confused….especially if some of that advice is conflicting.

My solution to this crazy scenario? Don’t ask a bunch of people for advice. (Ironically here I am giving you advice…lol). Have a few trusted people in your life that you turn to that can help you out in situations. These are people that you know have your best interest at heart and are relatively balanced people. Yes that means no talking to random strangers on the bus OR even random acquaintances.

I have a core group of friends and business associates that I appreciate and seek for personal and professional advice. Not all questions go to all members of the group, like I don’t ask my professional associates for personal advice. And some friends I don’t ask for business advice. I turn to those more experienced than I. Quality over quantity….remember that. Digging for diamonds in a pile of rubble is simply time consuming and frustrating.

I opted to narrow my choices by the metric of quality and it has worked pretty well for me. I’ve chosen KVI and the field of marketing and I’m very convinced this is what I’m supposed to be doing. There’s such a calm when you know you’re on the right path.

Be sure to watch Barry’s video above. It’s pretty thought-provoking.


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Interesting Thoughts on Money and Power

I sent a link to the previous video from pastor Rick Warren to my cousin in Barbados and she was kind enough to forward me a link to a blog post I found pretty interesting. The author of the post has some interesting thoughts on money and power and the real reason people go after these things. I thought it would be a great follow up to what I wrote in my last post.

Take a read here and let me know what you think.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

MBA + Fair Trade = Purpose Driven Life

It’s an atypical path for an MBA, especially one that went to a school that is known mainly for its excellence in finance. But yet, here I am, partnering up with other social entrepreneurs (namely Glenn and Rebecca) to ensure that persons in other parts of the world can lead a better life. It’s something that’s truly close to my heart.

I believe in using the skills God has blessed me with to make a difference in the lives of those around me. And what better way than marketing fair trade products. I’ve been trained to be an analytical marketer and I intend on using those skills to help artisans become economically self-sufficient. I’m not into giving handouts; I’m into helping people use their skills to support themselves.

Rebecca’s speech at the Rochester chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) got me thinking again about why I made the decision to join her and Glenn to develop KVI. I could very well have been in hot pursuit of a corporate job which would guarantee a relatively stable income and a host of benefits. However the more and more I thought about it, the more and more I realized that life wasn’t for me.

I wanted to be able to know that what I was doing was going to make a significant impact on the lives of others. I wanted more than simply going out there and earning a paycheck. Albeit I could have donated a portion of my paycheck to a non-profit, I wanted to be a major part of the process. I wanted to get my hands dirty (in a manner of speaking).

Of course foregoing the cushy job means taking a greater risk. Paychecks may not flow as frequent nor be as high but you know what, I’ll be happy, because I will be doing what I am passionate about. And if you are passionate about something that has great potential then you’re going to see it through until you make it a great success.

Of course, along the road to success, I’m not trying to put myself in the poor house; happiness doesn’t buy groceries! However I realized I wanted to structure my life and career in such a way that I would always be delighted at the thought of what I was working on, even if that meant earning lower than what someone with my skills could command. Furthermore my trust in God is as such that He’ll provide opportunities for me to earn a decent living if I continue to do His work. And He hasn’t failed me yet!

So yeah, it’s an atypical path for an MBA, but it’s my path and I’m pretty sure it’s one I’m supposed to be on.

For those of you trying to find your path, be sure to watch the above video by Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life.


Thursday, June 11, 2009

The World of Sex Trafficking – Modern Day Slavery

Many of us have been very lucky; we have been brought up in homes and societies where we have numerous opportunities. It’s often our choice how we take advantage of those opportunities. For example, in Barbados, education and healthcare are free, available to everyone at any echelon of society. I was able to gain a scholarship to come to US to pursue my MBA degree.

While many of us are lucky, many are not so lucky. There is no free education; there is no access to free healthcare and day to day survival is extremely difficult. These places are the hunting grounds of modern day slave traders who prey on the innocent. The US State Department’s “Trafficking in Persons” 2008 report estimated that at any given time around 12.3 million are in forced labor, bonded labor, forced child labor and sexual servitude. The most rampant of these is sex trafficking.

Children as young as 4 are forced to work in brothels catering to the sick cravings of the men who visit. According to HumanTrafficking.org, women and children from rural areas are often tricked into sexual exploitation. Many believe that they are going to the urban part of the country for domestic employment but then are often coerced into the sex trade. The reasons these horrendous incidents occur can usually be linked to poverty and lack of education. Many have no idea of the dangers and risks of the international sex trade.

In Cambodia human trafficking is big business and, according to a recent article in the Phnom Penh Post, the economic crisis is fuelling trafficking as jobs dry up at home. The US State Department reports that women and children account for the greatest percentage of those exploited through the sex trade.

This is what our supplier Hagar Designs, works hard at preventing. The company promotes social development and economic empowerment for those most at risk for human trafficking. It is a proud advocate of the social enterprise model, teaching women and children skills they can use to be economically self-sufficient. This is very important because even those who manage to escape their captors find themselves back in the slave trade as a means of survival.

All our products from Hagar Designs are made by women who are striving for a better life for themselves and their families, one that is free of physical, emotional and sexual abuse. When we say your purchase makes a difference in the lives of others, we truly mean it.