Just two months ago, One World Market celebrated its 25th Anniversary as an independent, non-profit, fair trade store. It has come a long way since its humble beginnings in the basement of Watts Street Baptist Church, and Executive Director Katie Westermann is proud of what the store has accomplished. An employee of the store since May of 2012, Katie took the reigns in 2016. Brandy Fleming, her partner and the store’s Community Program Manager, has also been with the store since 2012, making this year the sixth holiday season for this dynamic duo. Katie and Brandy, along with twenty-five volunteers, four part-time employees, and ten board members, are humming along through their favorite – and most hectic – season.
So many things make this store special that it’s hard to know where to start. For one thing, two of the most active volunteers, Hanne Rogers and Gail McKinnis, have been with the store for its entire 25 years. For another, this is not a for-profit shop. The bottom line at One World Market is about improving lives. All of the goods for sale in the store are purchased to empower artisans from 70 countries across the globe. All the proceeds go towards operating the store and, of course, paying those artisans fairly. You’ve likely heard the term “Fair Trade,” but like many people, you may not be sure what it means. Here’s the short version: Fair Trade means always paying a fair and living wage to workers; it means striving to give equal opportunities to women and to provide safe working conditions; it means prohibiting child labor; and it means engaging in environmentally sustainable practices. Through Fair Trade, artisans are afforded the opportunity to change their lives for the better. How do Katie and other merchants guarantee that their products meet these standards? The Fair Trade Certification program helps, but One World Market builds relationships with the artisans. This practice ensures that no one is exploited in the making or selling of goods. Here’s one thing that Katie is adamant about: Fair Trade is not charity. Instead, it is an empowering business relationship that helps alleviate poverty and create income through sustainable jobs. Amazing, right?
Curious about some of the wonderful artisan-made products One World Market carries? From The Women of the Cloud Forest in Nicaragua come Balsa wood ornaments hand-carved by tiny machetes and beautiful, shiny crosses made from recycled car parts. From Good Paper come gorgeous greeting cards handmade in the Philippines by women rescued from sex trafficking and in Rwanda by young people who lost parents due to conflict. From the Mighty River Project come gorgeous baskets in bold colors made by Uganadan artisans. There are even custom Bull City ceramic magnets handmade in Mexico.
The stories of these artisans and their beautiful goods are inspiring, and a big part of Katie and Brandy’s job is to educate customers about those artisans. They frequently explain the meaning of Fair Trade to shoppers and they even host school field trips. Recently, a consumer math class from a local high school visited the shop to learn about ethical consumerism.
When talking with Katie and Brandy, it is clear that they love their jobs at One World Market and are deeply appreciative of their volunteers and staff, without whom the store couldn’t function. According to Brandy, the customers, who "are dedicated to making the world a better place," are pretty great, too. This little shop certainly has a big heart. Like Katie said, “It’s a retail store, but it feels like a family motivated by something bigger than that.”
Here are a few other things that Katie and Brandy love:
Great Books: Katie’s current go-to baby gift is A is for Activist! by Innosanto Nagara – perfect for inspiring a new generation of change makers. Brandy loves Lost in Translation by Ella Frances Sanders, which beautifully illustrates words that we don't have in English but which exist in other languages.
Wind-Down Time: For Katie, it’s watching all the sports. For Brandy, it’s walking dogs for her side hustle, Zen for your Zoo (or, playing with her own five pets!).
Tools of the Trade: Katie and Brandy agree that running the store without their talented volunteers and staff (Amy, Cara, Diana, and Renee) would be impossible. They make the store an amazing place to work. And because they know the value of a living wage, One World Market is Durham Living Wage Certified.
Merchant profiles are written by Kate Van Dis of Kate Van Dis Creative Content