My answer to the commonly asked question, “What do you do?” often provokes more questions or confusion from the asker. To be fair, what I do is unique, and to set the record straight (a record of which I am very proud and a record that is tons and tons of fun), this, my friends, is my answer.
What do you do?
I am a Founder and VP of Marketing of Trades of Hope, a fair trade company that sells ethically crafted fashion accessories and home décor made by artisans all around the world to create sustainable business and job opportunities to end the cycle of poverty. These products are sold online through our website and socially sold through Compassionate Entrepreneurs. You know what’s really cool? Because they are creating a market for our artisans’ products, our Compassionate Entrepreneurs earn a commission of off their sales. This means that our artisans and Compassionate Entrepreneurs are in a dignified partnership, both needing each other equally to earn an income. Neither of them are superior or inferior due to race, gender, or financial status. How beautiful.
I founded Trades of Hope in 2010 with three other amazing women who won’t allow for the heartbreaking realities millions face every day to endure. We believe that sustainable business is what will end poverty in lives, communities, and countries around the world.
When I was 5 years old, my family founded an orphanage and nonprofit organization in Haiti. After Haiti’s devastating 2010 earthquake, all of the children in the orphanage were evacuated and placed with families in the United States for adoption immediately. That offered an empty orphanage and an opportunity to reevaluate. The community’s poverty around the orphanage had not changed during the time of our work there. Yes, children were adopted out of the situation, but there was no long-term solution to the poverty of everyone left behind.
My mom started learning about micro-loans and sustainable business, and through her learning I became aware of new and innovative ways to help people out of desperate situations, ways that actually helped to heal poverty, not just cover it with a temporary band aid.
This is when Trades of Hope was born.
“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” – Chinese Proverb
All around the world, different countries home talented, intelligent, creative people who don’t want charity. They don’t want to depend on another person. They don’t want a hand out that will quickly run dry. They don’t want to wait powerlessly and remain passive in their lives.
They want an opportunity. They want an opportunity to show people their craft. They want an opportunity to change their own circumstances, feed their own children, reach for their own dreams. And when you give a woman that opportunity, she shines! According to CARE Australia, when you empower one women out of poverty, she takes 4 more people with her.
We empower her to be the hero of her own story.
Our artisans work in 16 different countries around the world, as far as Thailand and the Philippines to as close as Costa Rica and even in the U.S. itself! These are women and men who are earning a living wage so that they can support their families, thrive in their communities, and make their dreams a reality. (FAQ: How much of a product sale goes back to the artisans? Answer: Goes back? The artisan has ALREADY been paid 100% of the asking price before their product is released to our customers! This is amazing for them and so unique! Our artisans are our peers and business partners, so nothing “goes back,” as they have already been paid in full before a customer makes a purchase. Because empowering our artisans is our sole focus, if we don’t sell a product, that is a financial ramification we take on ourselves.)
I love my job so much.
As a Founder, I get to dream up new ways to grow Trades of Hope on a daily basis. I also get to do things like help decide what beautiful products will be released in which lines! (I excitedly always want every piece to be released NOW for you all to see, but we typically plan a year and a half out.) I get to collaborate with the other founders on how to lead our office of Home Team members and how to help our Compassionate Entrepreneurs. But I would say my two favorite things about my job are 1) When I travel around the world to meet our artisans and experience their culture and 2) When I get to speak publicly about how I know sustainable business is alleviating pain and will end poverty. I get to travel the U.S. multiple times a year to speak on university campuses, in leadership forums, in interviews, and at large events with our Compassionate Entrepreneurs (we currently have over 4,500 and growing rapidly!). I love public speaking, sustainable business, and cultivating relationships, so it’s no surprise I enjoy it all so much.
As the Vice President of Marketing, I get to do a myriad of creative, colorful, strategic things such as leading an amazingly talented and big-hearted team of creatives and strategists, branding our company and branding each line release (we have three every year), planning and executing our catalog photoshoots, being the creative editor of our catalogs and business collateral, and strategizing new ways to bring Trades of Hope to passionate, purposeful, world-changing people just like you!
This is what I do.
It is my dream job. More than that, it’s my so-perfect-I-didn’t-know-how-to-dream-for-this-dream-job. When I was growing up I wanted to be a spy (to help people like Kim Possible), then a fashion designer, then a teacher, then a writer – and I feel like I am all of those things now, at the same time, but in such an amazingly purposeful way.
I went to Haiti and saw poverty for the first time when I was 8 years old. I spent my childhood struggling in a vigorous pull between my comfortable home in the States and the responsibility I felt after seeing what I saw abroad and wanting to be on the ground there to help. I felt so misplaced, and I was restless and helpless to be there for my friends and their loved ones. Trades of Hope has been the answer: being able to help those who are in desperate circumstances around the world, straight from my home in the middle of my daily routines.
If you have felt that restless helplessness, there are three ways you can get involved:
Thank you for your sweet time and interest! Sustainable business is what will empower people out of poverty and one day positively alter the economies of countries around the world!
At Trades of Hope, we wear what we believe. Poverty ending. Hearts hoping. People rising. Nations healing.
What do you believe in?
With relentless ambition + passion I live intentionally to take my dreams from plans to reality + empower other women to do the same. I'm a Trades of Hope founder, public speaker, and designer living in Washington, D.C. When I'm not following fashion trends, catching airplanes, or playing with my redhead pup, I'm offering up fashion shortcuts, life lessons I'm learning, and free wallpapers to remind you of how much you've got this.