North Texas business owner Sharon Cansler spoke of the importance of fair trade in a exclusive interview. Sharon founded “Beloved Mercantile” five years ago and spoke about her companies role in ending slavery and educating the public about fair trade. Along with her online shopping site she also participates in local north Texas events bringing in fair trade items for sale at local festivals, concerts, churches and conferences.
How did you get started in fair trade?
I was on a journey in San Francisco and went to the green festival. The Holy Spirit started highlighting all the fair trade products. I actually worked at Starbucks and heard a little about fair trade there but not much. When I went to the festival the only things that was really highlighted to me was the fair trade products. I started praying over it and asking God what He wanted me to do with this and He just started showing me. How we can truly empower the impoverished of the World by just small things and actually creating jobs for them. Over 80% of the people that create fair trade products are women.
When did you find out about modern day slavery?
I found out about slavery, human trafficking the more that I did my research on fair trade. The more I did the research the more I learned how impoverished the world was. Then I learned about the Not for Sale campaign. Just really started doing research online. Chocolate being one of the big ones. Children being forced to work the fields to get the cocoa bean. A lot of them were actually taken from their families, and never saw them again.They were fed maybe a rotten banana a day forced to work 12 hours a day.
What is one of the most important things that your company is doing?
The most important things that we do is education. Whenever we get any customer we start talking to them about human trafficking. Even just through their purchasing could literally save a life. Then we start telling them about the countries we buy from. Educating them about human trafficking, the products. Like in India and Nepal how much trafficking their is among the girls. I didn’t realize that Nepal is the second poorest nation in the World. God’s really been highlighting India and Nepal to me, in fact He highlights it because their products are the ones we sell the most.
What people buy can save a life can you expand on that?
With the artisans in fair trade their are in the very remote areas, very rural areas of India, Nepal and other nations. These artisans have no way of getting their goods to people. So when a fair trade company comes to them and actually starts working with these artisans, they give them the money up front and they help teach other skills, how to run a business. They give them resources that they never had before. Which pulls them out of that poverty. In some of the communities actually they become a cooperative many times they do. Since it is a cooperative the women will get together and bring their children when making the crafts. They will also get together and start a school or be able to buy medical where they weren’t able too before, the ability get clean water. In different regions they actually take women out of slavery or being abused.
What is one of the most important products that you sell?
The most popular products are made by women in Nepal. Made from recycled silk products they are purses and scarves. Made by recycled sari’s that they literally tear the threads apart and make it into a yarn and that they crochet, knit or sew. Over there in the region we are buying from in Nepal most of the women’s husbands are trekkers that go up to Mt. Everest and many die because it is so dangerous. That is actually how the coop got started one of the woman’s husband died and she had to provide for her family so she started this cooperative and now she employe’s other women.
What is the companies future?
Future plans for the company. I would like to start a tea room and hire women that have been rescued from human trafficking. But also because we have fair trade organic baking mixes I would like to teach them how to go ahead and package them to sell in Universities or businesses. To have more of a social enterprise. In the near future to connect with local churches and have a fair trade style show, and more events during the holidays.
Buying fair trade could truly save lives, and when buying it is always good to know that there are ethics in the product. Sharon Cansler business is bringing more to North Texas than just a fair trade product by educating the public on the subject and how the consumers choice can bring change to people half way across the World.
To find what products are fair trade, Free2Work gives grades to companies and is a great and easy to use guide for buying fair trade they also have smart phone apps.