Friday, April 17, 2009

Not fair

I was feeling hopeful and so I started making phone calls. Two of the women I do the most business with did not answer their phones. I guess they are out of range. My ostrich eggshell contact (who shall remain nameless until I can employ her full time) has been out of cellphone reception for weeks now. I'm getting frustrated. I have orders to keep and my stock is dwindling to just a few pieces. . .

I called a woman who had contacted me weeks before. I had encouraged her to send me pricelists but still no email. I am desperate for stock so I give her a call.

She was wonderful - articulate and knowledgeable, spouting those charming phrases that to me and apparently 7 million readers who love Alexander McCall Smith No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency books find so endearing.

She worked "herself to death" with UNDP and other organizations in order to make "funds" to start her business. "How can one live knowing that others are sufferrrring?"(Setswana calls for "r" rolling that I just could never master.) She had "starved" so that her business could "live", she said, and "now with a recession, what hope do I have?" But she endures and with my kind help she hopes her sweat and tears will pay off.

How do you pay for the crafts that you buy? I asked her. "I have employed the women." She said frankly. "I researched and asked knowledgeable people how best to do business. I asked the women. And we all said, the best way to do business is to make everyone responsible. And so I employ women - at first there were 10 basket makers, now there are 6. At first I hired 3 ostrich bead makers, now there is one, with 2 that work part time. But if you have an order, we will work night and day, night and day for you to fulfill that order." I smiled, they would too. "I don't want you to do that." I told her. I would buy what they had if she can send me a pricelist and we can go from there.

So many people wanting to do what they can for others. She started her business "small in 2006." She said, "I strrrugggled for two years, only to be rewarded with a recession. Ah, that is life."

Familiar with her plight because it is much like mine. I too started the store in 2006, hopeful that I had great products and could fill a niche market. How could I fail? I was doing it out of love, out of a desire to help others? But a recession hit, hit hard. It's funny, coz I finally got a sign put up. Gorgeous sign (thanks to Todd Jones) so well worth the wait...but wouldn't you know it, the very month I had it hung, was the first month in nearly three years that my store couldn't pay for itself...

What does THAT mean?

It means that no, things aren't "fair" but it's up to us to make it less so. And that's what Fair Trade is all about...finding the best solutions to a more equitable existence.

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