Why I am not opening a shop front

I’m sick today. Headache. Staying at home. It makes me believe that my recent decision to not open a shop front is the right decision.

About two weeks ago, I started contemplating the possibility of opening a shop front in Canberra for Oz Fair Trade. It will be decorated with all sustainable furniture, and it will serve fairtrade coffee, tea and snacks. The walls will be painted with eco-friendly paint. It will be a place for socially conscious people to hang out and find great gifts for themselves and their loved ones. I had a vision and it felt great.

I started looking for retail leases. Two options jumped out at me. One was a shop in Bailey’s Corner facing London Circuit with a big window. It’s asking $40,000 p.a.. The other was a similar sized shop in Gold Creek opposite Cockington Green, asking for $18,000 p.a.. I really liked the shop in Gold Creek, and the rent seemed to be affordable.


My excitement lasted until I crunched some numbers and brainstormed likely problems I’ll face. The biggest issues arise from being a single business owner. No one will open the shop when I’m sick, like today. But the rent will still need to be paid. I will have no free weekends, because the shop’s financial survival will depend heavily on weekend sales. I will no longer be able to visit my inter-state parents and friends. I will no longer be able to do a trip. I will have to rely on hiring or give up work for two days a week, unless I can find volunteers to mind the shop for me. All these sacrifices though won’t bring in much profit, especially given the current gloomy outlook of Canberra’s economy.

So even though opening a shop front would be wonderful, it doesn’t make financial sense. Friends who have tried told me that it’s not worth it. The alternative of e-commerce involves much lower fixed cost and much more flexibility. Like today, when I’m not feeling well, I can still write a blog and dispatch orders. But I will struggle to mind a shop.

Even a shop won’t generate much sales during the week, which means the rent is not divided by 7 days but more like 4 days or less. Financially it can’t compete with market stalls, where rent is considerably cheaper. As a registered charity, I even get free market stalls sometimes. The downside of market stalls include set up and pack up time, limited stocks for display, and dependence on weather condition. However, the financial stress of opening a shop is far greater than the downsides of operating a market stall.

I still hope that more sales will come through the website, so that I can manage it with a full time job. I realised however that e-commerce is not easy. Despite all my efforts, I still don’t get much traffic. This is why I considered opening a shop. I think many people still prefer seeing and feeling a product before making a purchase. Moreover, having a shop will give credibility to the business, and put it in front of more people. I liked the shop in Gold Creek because most customers will be tourists, so I hoped that they would help spread the word and visit the online shop down the track. I also loved the atmosphere in Gold Creek, and that it’s close to home.

Perhaps one day I will open a shop, if I can find a team of volunteers who can mind the shop when I’m at work, away or sick. That would be wonderful. I think Gold Creek is the perfect place to open a shop. It is so relaxing and pretty. If I’m rich enough to not having to work, then I would definitely open a shop there, drinking fairtrade tea and be surrounded by pretty things and wonderful people all day long.

I survived on $2 a day


Recently I signed up to Live Below The Line after being inspired by a friend who is also passionate about fair trade (you can read her blog here). It is a fund raising event, but my main objective was to challenge myself. To be honest I’m not a huge fan of aid; I believe in fair trade as a more viable solution to the alleviation of poverty. I signed up simply to experience what’s it like to live on $2 a day.

In the planning process, I calculated:

  • how much a slice of cheese was
  • how much a slice of bread was
  • how much a cup of rice was
  • etc.

Such things never crossed my mind before. I also came to the realisation that I couldn’t possibly afford any meat at $2 a day. Mostly I relied on rice, weetbix and bread. Here’s what I ate on a typical day:


Two pieces of weetbix with milk as usual. This costs roughly $0.30.


Rice and frozen veggie come to the rescue! Frozen peas and corns cost $4 per kg. I used 200g per meal, that’s $0.80.


I had $0.90 left to spend on dinner:

  • two slices of bread with peanut butter: $0.50
  • one banana: $0.30
  • one carrot: $0.10

After five days of living on $2 a day, I lost 0.5kg and I can honestly say that it’s not easy. On Saturday morning I had a chicken pie for breakfast 🙂

My main takeaway:

We can’t expect someone who’s financially stressed to take strategic steps to break poverty cycle. When our mind is constantly on how much a cup of rice is, it is extremely difficult to step back and think strategically. Only when basic human needs are met, then we can talk about the next step.


Top 10 Fair Trade Gifts for Mother’s Day

I visited my mum recently. My mum is picky, and in the past I have always had trouble finding her gifts that she actually liked. Not this year. Here are my top 10 picks of Fair Trade Gifts for this Mother’s Day. Happy reading and share it with your friends 🙂

Top 1 Fair Trade Gift For Mother’s Day: Handmade Wool Felt Home Boots $34


My mum loved them! I ended up gifting one pair to my future mother-in-law, one pair to my future grandmother-in-law and one pair to my future sister-in-law. They are super soft and super warm, hand stitched by Nepalese women. How do I know they are Fair Trade? Because their supplier is a certified Fair Trader by the World Fair Trade Organisation. For more information about how they are made or to make a purchase please click on the photo above.

Top 2 Fair Trade Gift For Mother’s Day: PEACEBOMB bangle $10


This is the best selling product from Oz Fair Trade. Not only is it a beautiful silver toned bangle, but also a meaning item carrying a special message of peace. Each bangle is handmade from recycled bombshells in Laos. It helps to clear up lands affected by bombs and creates employment for villagers. Mums love them because they are both beautiful and special.

Top 3 Fair Trade Gift For Mother’s Day: Bombshell Spoon Gift Pack $25


These spoons are also the most popular items from Oz Fair Trade’s PEACEBOMB range. They are made in Laos using recycled bombshell aluminium. The gift pack contains a full size dinner spoon, a long spoon for stirring, a tea spoon and a miniature spoon. It comes with a story card and a beautiful origami crane, all wrapped in a delightful gift box as shown above. Christmas or not, this is our best selling gift pack!

Top 4 Fair Trade Gift For Mother’s Day: Organic Hand Woven Silk Scarf $85



This is a beautiful gift for an elegant lady who values quality and leisure. She might even be a weaver herself, or a knitter. We have a few unique pieces of hand woven silk scarves starting from just $19.95. Click here.

Top 5 Fair Trade Gift For Mother’s Day: Bright Blue Dotted Wood Earrings $45


This is a perfect gift for an arty mum, who loves aboriginal art and bright colours. We have a beautiful range of hard-to-find jewellery for women of all ages, starting from just $10. Click here.

Top 6 Fair Trade Gift For Mother’s Day: Hand Embroidered Cosmetic Bag Featuring Farm Life $25


Super cute and most suited for winter, this bright coloured cosmetic bag will put a smile on anyone’s face! We have them in white, black and red, and also in coin purses for just $15. Get your mum a gift fro this delightful range here.

Top 7 Fair Trade Gift For Mother’s Day: Stylish Naturally Dyed Hemp Backpack $69


This is for a nature loving mum who appreciates hemp as an eco-friendly and durable material. This bag is light weight and batik dyed with traditional Thai patterns. The stripes are comfortable. It makes a stylish backpack for a weekend getaway or a market day. We also have it in cross-body shape.

Top 8 Fair Trade Gift For Mother’s Day: Batik Deer Eco European Cushion Cover $65


A super cute cushion cover will definitely delight your mum! It is naturally dyed so it has no harmful chemicals. We also have it in elephant design. If you prefer cushions that come with inserts, we have quite a few standard size cushions with inserts made in Australia from recycled plastic bottles, starting from just $25. Check them out here.

Top 9 Fair Trade Gift For Mother’s Day: Pure Alpaca Scarf $60



Alpaca is the best material for winter. It is non-prickly and extremely warm. This scarf is handmade by Bolivian women. Your purchase helps them to have an income in their summer months. Choose from our beautiful range of pure alpaca scarves here.

Top 10 Fair Trade Gift For Mother’s Day: Pure Alpaca Gloves


These super soft gloves will go well with our alpaca scarves. Keep your mum warm this winter!