1st Year Anniversary

Aniversario

It’s hard to believe that it has been a year since I founded Oz Fair Trade (initially known as Global Handmade). What a year! I still remember coming back to Australia from Southeast Asia with a burning desire to help the kind and talented people who lived in such poverty. The images of bare footed children selling things on streets were popping up in my head over and over again during Christmas, when my own nieces and nephews were spoiled with endless toys. I felt depressed, and I wanted to cry. Nelson Mandala once said that

“Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great. You can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom.”

I have been donating. I have been volunteering. But I felt that I could do a lot more. How? How can I help these people? I read widely and brainstormed. It didn’t take long before I came to the conclusion that I could help these people to find a market for their products in Australia. I would source from fair trade suppliers and sell their products in Australia via e-commerce.

I’ve always loved Oxfam, and my research has introduced me to a few other fair traders in Australia. However, most of them are quite small, and over the years Oxfam has scaled back its retail operation. In contrast, fair trade has flourished in Europe, America and New Zealand. I strongly believed that Australians are kind hearted and generous. There is no reason why fair trade can’t flourish here! I wanted to introduce fair trade products to people who normally wouldn’t have thought of buying fair trade. I wanted to help to expand the fair trade market in Australia. I believed I could do it.

So there I was, setting up a website and a business with no relevant experience or knowledge whatsoever. The first version of the website was horrible, but at the time, it was a great achievement and I was really excited when I got my first order. Over the next 12 months, I read widely and learned a lot about website development. Then in October I made the move to rebrand and launched a brand new website (www.ozfairtrade.org). I have been working very hard, managing both a start-up and a full time job. I have made mistakes along the way, but I have learned so much. Looking back, I am very proud of what I have achieved in the last 12 months, and I already have great plans for the next 12 months. The best thing that happened in the last 12 months is the number of people who have kindly supported Oz Fair Trade and made me believe in myself. The next 12 months will not be easy, but it will be great!

Thank you all for supporting Oz Fair Trade, and I promise that you will never be let down!

How to buy fair trade Christmas presents

I’m certainty no expert at gift shopping…in fact…my mum used to exchange all the Christmas presents that I gave her…but…since I started Oz Fair Trade (formerly known as Global Handmade), I have improved my gift purchase skills a lot…at least that’s what I believe 🙂

Now I want to share with you some tips about buying fair trade Christmas presents. Why fair trade presents? Because by buying fair trade presents, you are not only showing your love towards someone you care, but also you are also showing that person that you care for a better world and people who you have never met but who desperately needed your help.

By buying fair trade presents, you are giving twice.

There are some misconception that fair trade means higher prices. This is totally untrue. Most products sourced conventionally go through a number of middlemen, and the end price is often similar or even higher than fair trade products. The way fair trade market works is that the retailer deals directly with the artisans and/or the representatives of the artisan groups. This means that we as retailers are helping to cut down the middlemen cost and that we have better control over the quality of the products and the fair work practices of the artisan groups that we work with.

The end result is a fair price for the producers and a competitive price for the consumers. 

So…this Christmas, will you buying fair trade?

How to buy for mothers and grandmothers?

If you have a mother like mine…good luck…just kidding 😛

I have found that hand made cushions and table runners seem to be popular with middle age female customers. They appreciate the details, the traditional methods and the uniqueness of each product. We have a few such beautiful cushions. All cushions come with Innergreen inserts which are made in Australia from recycled plastic water bottles. Now that’s eco-friendly all the way!

Our mothers and grandmothers will also appreciate Christmas tree decorations. We have very cute handmade angle and animal decorations.

How to buy for fathers and grandfathers?

I share your pain…it can be very difficult…but not this year! How about a recycled bombshell bottle opener? The coolest bottle opener ever! Check out other items in Gifts For Him.

How to buy for husband?

We offer you something more budget friendly and long lasting than PS4, latest phone etc. How about a bomb necklace for a cool gen or a beautiful travel photography calendar that supports over 40 Australian not-for-profits? Check out other items in Gifts For Him.

How to buy for wife? 

Again, we offer you more budget friendly options that make equally wonderful presents. How about a hand woven luxury silk scarf? I have created a category Gifts For Her to make your shopping easier. Personally I think a woman will always want more jewellery…you can easily find something cute, beautiful or outstanding to suit your wife’s style. Even if fashion jewellery is not her thing, I’m sure she’ll be intrigued by our special recycled bombshell jewellery range.

How to buy for siblings / friends / colleagues?

My tip is buy what interests them. We have categories for special interests such as vegan, eco-friendly, hand weaving, natural dye, embroidery and knitting. At each category level you can also shop by price. We hope to make your shopping experience as easy and enjoyable as possible!

How to buy for children?

It’s so hard to buy for little ones…their interests are constantly changing…

Our most popular children’s products are finger puppets hand knitted by Bolivian women. An eco-cushion is also a great choice to decorate a kid’s room.

How to buy for someone who has everything?

…try our Most Unique category. Good luck!

Greeting Cards

This Christmas, why not send a unique handmade greeting card along with your presents? We have greeting cards made with printed silk and jute paper. Check them out!

All purchases can be upgraded for individual gift wrapping for just $1 extra. This option can be added in the shopping cart. I will be personally doing all the wrapping, and I’m not kidding when I say I take gift wrapping seriously! 🙂

Why not check out Oz Fair Trade’s full range of beautiful fair trade products online? I have sorted presents by recipients and interests so hopefully your Christmas shopping this year will be super easy! You can also find Oz Fair Trade products in some retail stores

p.s. we have just applied to the Fair Trader of Australia for their endorsement so please stay tuned. 🙂

How to rebrand an e-commerce store (Part V)

People matter

No matter how the technology changes or where the business operates, online or offline, the ultimate relationship between a seller and a buyer has not changed. The most important thing to be mindful of during a rebranding campaign, in my opinion, is to keep customers happy.

At Oz Fair Trade, one of things that set us apart from our competitors is our full commitment to providing the best customer services. We are passionate about fair trade, and we know that ultimately it is the consumers who have the power to push forward fair trade practices. For this reason, we want our customers to have the best shopping experience so that they will continue to support fair trade. We not only offer free express shipping on orders above $50, which is one of the most generous in the market, but also offer 365 day free return and exchange. This is unmatched by any other fair trade businesses in Australia. As a result, we have many happy customers, and any customer who has an issue will see it resolved quickly, because he/she only needs to deal with one person who really cares instead of some random employee who doesn’t care. All these earned us WOMO’s 2013 Service Award, which is shared only by the top 5% of the businesses listed on WOMO.

We were very mindful of customers’ reactions and needs when we decided to rebrand from ‘Global Handmade’ to ‘Oz Fair Trade’. One of the first things we did was posting on all social media platforms about the upcoming changes. Immediately after the new website was up and running, we emailed all our past customers about the change and the new features of the website, and invited them to visit the new site and give us feedback. We also offered them a permanent 10% discount on all future orders for supporting Global Handmade, a start-up fair trade not-for-profit. Some customers immediately responded and we were very happy about the positive responses that we received.

Through the process, we learned that people is the most crucial part of rebranding. All these website changes, social media update etc. all serve a single purpose: keep past customers happy and attract new customers. It is easy to forget the role of people when running an e-commerce from a home office, when the person responsible is faced with an endless to-do list covering web building, graphic design, photography, accounting, stock purchasing, stock labelling etc. But losing that focus would be a fatal mistake.

This is the last post of ‘How to rebrand an e-commerce store’ series. We’d love to hear your thoughts/experiences!

How to rebrand an e-commerce store (Part II)

How much does your name matter?

One of the very first steps once we decided to rebrand was to evaluate whether we needed a new brand name. A new brand name is not a necessary element of a re-branding exercise, and it’s certainly not suitable in some situations. We needed a cost benefit analysis. This was where my actuarial analytical mind came to be handy.

Generally speaking, a new brand name can cause confusion to existing customers and undo past marketing efforts. However, the younger the brand is, the less it has to lose. In our situation, Global Handmade was only 10 month old, so it was definitely a young business. On the other hand, we were certainly aware of the implications of a name change, and the amount of work that this would create.  So it all came down to this: could we come up with a brand name that’s significantly better than Global Handmade?

Looking back, I think “Global Handmade” failed at least one crucial test. It didn’t imply what the organisation stood for. When I attended networking events, people often looked at my name card and asked what ‘Global Handmade’ was. Their first guess would be some crafty business. They were certainly right because most of our products were hand crafted; however, the name said nothing about what we stood for or that the products were fairly traded. When I first chose the business name, I picked something that described what the products were. But after 10 months of business experience, I came to the realisation that what we stood for was far more important than what we were selling. People bought from us not because the products were hand crafted, but because they supported our values and they supported fair trade. In other words, a lot more people were interested in fair trade practices and ethical products than the method of production. I realised that the brand name had to be changed.

The length of time that it took me to decide on a new name was about 10 hours. By now, you might have realised that I’m the sort of person who jumps on things. In less than 24 hours, I had registered a new business name, bought four new domains, set up two new email accounts, and set up a new private company.

Why did I choose ‘Oz Fair Trade’? Because it was available, it implied exactly what we stood for, and it implied that we were a locally owned business. It was also very important to check the availability of domains. I wanted to get four domains i.e. ozfairtrade.org, ozfairtrade.org.au, ozfairtrade.com and ozfairtrade.com.au. There were some other names that could have worked, but at least one domain was not available. Once the decision was made, I quickly registered all four domains. The default domain at the moment is www.ozfairtrade.org.

A new brand name also meant new business cards, new promotional materials and a new logo. Have I mentioned that I’ve learned so much about Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator in the past 10 months? It took me a few late nights to finish the design of all new marketing materials, and then they were off to the printer. Could I take a rest now? No…the fun has just begun…

Coming soon: How to rebrand an e-commerce store (Part III) – How much does your website matter?

thankyou.co

thankyou water

“Live Everyday. Give Everyday.”

When I first heard of Thankyou Water sometime last year, it was a moment of “wow”. I thought, this was a social enterprise that has done everything right; this was a social enterprise that I could learn a lot from.

I was disappointed to find that Thankyou Water was not available in ACT. Then I sort of forgot about it, until I saw the familiar “thank you” on a cereal box in a supermarket. I haven’t felt this excited about trying a new product for a long time. The cereal looked a lot like Carman’s which I loved. So I gave it a go.

YUMmmm!

To give you a bit of background, Thankyou Water was born out of two discoveries by its founder, Daniel Flynn, when he was 19. One was the World Water Crisis in 2008, and the other was the fact that Australians spent a crazy $600 million annually on bottled water. A bold idea was born to join the extremes together. The result? A bottled water company that would exist for the sole purpose of funding safe water projects in developing nations.

Since then, the company has expanded into body care and food. What I love about this company is not only what they stand for, but also their total transparency. This is a company that’s leading the Australian social enterprise sector by example. I have long believed that the solution to poverty lies not with the public aid, but the private sector. I founded Oz Fair Trade out of this belief.

Love to hear your thoughts!

Meet Wakami

fairtrade

Oxfam recently launched a campaign “Meet Wakami” to add a personal spin to the fair trade products they sell. I love the campaign, and ideally I would love to tell the personal story behind every product we sell.This is something we will explore in the near future.

http://www.oxfamshop.org.au/wakami

One fundamental difference between fair trade and free trade products is that, fair trade cares about artisans and values their individuality and creativity. I have met talented artisans who were forced to work on repetitive tasks in a crowded factory for 14 hours a day for less than $2. Until fair trade is embraced by consumers, these people will continue to suffer.