Get away from it all

Oz Fair Trade was closed for almost two months, during which time I read more than ten books, thought seriously about my life, and traveled to new places. No matter how busy life gets, it’s great to get away from it all once in a while.

This time, I went to Norway, Amsterdam, London, Spain, Portugal, Morocco, Singapore and Phuket. Even spent 8 hours (12am to 8am) at Qatar airport.

Before I went, I had the idea that I must visit Oxfam in London and must check out the fair trade scene in Europe. I have been told that Europeans are more aware of fair trade than Australians. I thought I must check it out with my own eyes.

So off I went. Norway was beautiful and very expensive. Oslo was just like any other developed cities. Fast fashion was the norm. Next stop Amsterdam, where I stumbled upon the first TOMS shop I’ve never been to! I thought…really? Really? TOMS in Amsterdam??? It was 9pm and there were a bunch of people walking out the door. I wanted to walk in, but they said it’s closed. Bugger. I eagerly returned the next morning, like Alice in Wonderland, marvelling at everything in store. The shop manager told me with a big smile that this store only just opened a few weeks ago, and that TOMS has a plan to rapidly open stores around Europe. I was excited! Maybe Australia will be the next?

TOMS Amsterdam

TOMS Amsterdam

I loved the store layout. It created a warm and welcoming atmosphere, and explained well the unique story behind TOMS. If I ever open a shop, this is exactly the feeling that I want my customers to get when they step foot (or even before they step foot) into the store. I ended up buying a pair of TOMS shoes (of course!) and sunnies. Yay!



Next stop London. The British Museum was amazing, although I suspect that many items were stolen or robbed from other countries. I was excited to find that my hotel was close to an Oxfam shop, so off I went. It was on a side street, and looked small. I walked in…I thought I walked into a second hand clothing/book store. There was a small selection of Oxfam food products, but that was about it. Nothing like the Oxfam shops in Australia. I was very confused. Isn’t UK the heart of Oxfam? I asked the shop assistant if there were bigger Oxfam shops in London, but they said every Oxfam shop was pretty much the same size. I walked out with some dried fruit and felt disappointed.

Spain and Portugal were relaxing and cheaper than the other countries I just visited. Fast fashion chains like Mango, Zara and H&M were very popular. I didn’t come across any fair trade shops. To be honest, I still had not got over the disappointment in London.

Then I crossed the border to Africa on a ferry. Morocco is a very different country to Europe. I experienced my first sand storm and first camel ride.


I also discovered a local ingredient: argan oil. Apparently, it is the latest cosmetic secret on the world stage. Expensive products are using argan oil as a selling point. Argan tree is native to Morocco, and at this stage, only grows in Morocco. I visited a local women’s cooperative that produces argan oil for cooking and cosmetics. I loved how the women working there were so happy and proud.

I looked up Morocco fair trade, and the only organisation I could find was Tighanimine. I tried to visit them, but by the time they got back to me, I was already too far away. I heard that many cooperatives are in the process of getting certified, so I’m definitely keeping an eye on this space. I’m also interested to learn whether there are sufficient interest for argan oil in Australia. I found a few sellers in Australia, but none seems to stock fair trade.

Are you interested in fair trade argan oil? Please leave your comments below.

Argan oil producers

Throughout Morocco, there was hardly anyone who knew about fair trade. I talked to carpenters, woodworkers, shoe makers etc., but the responses were always disappointing. I left some business cards and asked them to look at setting up websites and getting fair trade certification. From what I could see, they were simply relying on demand from tourists. But that’s not enough.

In my search for answers, I came across a great website that allows Moroccan artisans to sell directly to people around the world. I thought the prices were very reasonable, in fact, they are similar to what you’ll pay in the market after some bargaining. But if you buy online, you’ll know that the product is handmade and the artisan gets all the profit.

This sums up my trip. Thank you to all those who placed orders while I was absent and patiently waited for your orders to arrive. Now the shop is open again and all orders will be dispatched within 24 hours. Cheers!

Are women more ethical than men?

This question could open a can of worms, and it would certainly take far more than 1,000 words to have any reasonable discussion on this topic. For this reason, I’d like to concentrate on just one area of ethics: ethical shopping.

I made an interesting observation recently that over 90% of my customers and Facebook followers are females. Whenever I visit an Oxfam shop, most shoppers are females. Where are the males? Could it possibly be our fault, that there’s simply not enough ethically produced products that appeal to our male counterparts? Or are women simply more ethical than men?

In Australia, Etiko and Eternal Creation have a limited selection of clothing and accessories for men. There are far more choices in the UK, then again over 90% of UK population recognises Fairtrade label, compared to just over 50% in Australia (according to Fairtrade Australia). I don’t know what’s the gender split of customers for these two businesses, but they certainly have far more female products than male products. Since they’ve been in business for a long time, I think we can reasonably assume that the demand for female fair trade products are far greater than those for male fair trade products.

Maybe it’s because women spend money on clothing and accessories while men spend money on gadgets and games?

While ethical fashion and fair trade are well known, ethical gadgets are less heard of. Fairphone, the world’s first ethical smartphone, is probably the only fair trade gadget that I have heard of. The Electronics Industry Trends report, released on Wednesday by Baptist World Aid, found that 97% of companies failed to pay factory workers enough to meet their basic needs.

If our male counterparts are really concerned about whether the people who made their gadgets are fairly paid, then they should demand change from the large companies, and more smaller players like Fairphone would see a market for their products. The lack of such development is a sign that businesses are not yet convinced of the size of this market, which in turn suggests that men might care more about functionality, brand and price than ethics behind the production of products.

I hope I am seeing the beginning of a movement. It took more than 50 years for fair trade to lose the “pity product” image. I hope the journey for ethical electronics will be an easier one. Perhaps we can play a bigger role in this movement, not only as consumers of electronic goods, but also as partners and friends who can educate and influence the purchase decisions of men. According to Money Smart Australia, we spent $9.5 billion a year on gadgets vs $5.1 billion a year on fashion. If we can push forward an ethical electronics movement, then many workers in the developing world will benefit.

p.s. we currently have a small range of fair trade products for men, and we will expand this product range in the near future to include clothing and accessories. Please click here.

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!



How to feed the world’s poorest without growing more food


I was invited to an event held by the ACT Fair Trade Collective last night. The topic was on food sustainability and fair trade. There were four speakers:

  • Mandy Nearhos, Co-convenor ACT Fair TradeCollective;
  • Molly Harriss, the newly appointed CEO of Fairtrade Australia and New Zealand;
  • Debbie Hunt, NSW/ ACT Campaign and Engagement Coordinator, Oxfam Australia; and
  • Federico Davila, ANU PHD Student specialising in food sustainability

In the past 2 years I have been searching for answers to help the world’s poorest. My search led me to setting up Oz Fair Trade in the hope that I could help some people to improve their living standards through their skills and a fair trading system. At the moment Oz Fair Trade only deals with handicrafts, which many women rely upon for a sustainable income, as land becomes a scarce resource in many developing countries. I was thinking about expanding into food such as coffee and tea, but decided to postpone the plan because there are a few businesses in Australia that are doing a wonderful job in this field (such as Republica).

The night was very educational for me, as my knowledge of fairtrade concentrated on handicrafts not food. You’d think that farmers are the ones closest to food so why are they starving? One answer is that farmers are pressured by global economic systems to grow “cash crops” such as cotton. It’s all good when they get a good return, but the reliance on a single product inevitably makes one vulnerable to price changes. Other answers include their reliance on good weather conditions, unfair prices set by powerful buyers, corruption, land grabs etc.

The problem is not that we are not growing enough food. The problem is that a lot of the food is wasted instead of feeding the people who need it most. The world food system, as part of the global trade system, is broken. Governments have been shown to be powerless in terms of driving changes. NGOs have been doing great jobs such as pushing for Fair Trade. There are many ways to fix the system e.g. fairtrade, microfinance, microinsurance, addressing climate change etc.

As consumers, we have so much power that we don’t realise. Again and again, it has been shown that companies do listen if we are loud enough and care enough. Oxfam recently exposed ANZ’s involvement in a sugar plantation investment in Cambodia which forced hundreds of farmers to leave their farms. This contradicts ANZ’s social responsible policy. As consumers, we can hold them accountable. Be sure to be loud and clear.

So what can you do? You can:

  • choose fairtrade certified products whenever possible
  • spread the message of fairtrade among your friends and colleagues
  • waste less food and start a worm farm
  • buy locally produced food helps to reduce food miles
  • sign petitions to stop land grabs and unfair trade
  • support brands that really respect people and planet
  • vote for politicians who care about climate and people
  • write to companies who don’t have a social responsible policy or don’t obey them
  • make some noise on social media to show that you care
  • eat more veggie helps to reduce demand for meat which has higher carbon footprints, and veggie is good for you
  • lend small amounts to the poorest through organisations like Kiva and Good Return. From personal experience, the repayments have been excellent
  • choose superannuation funds such as Australian Ethical Super that invest only in ethical companies


Molly pointed out that in UK more than 80% know about fairtrade and more than 50% regularly buy fairtrade. In Australia, 50% know about fairtrade and 15% regularly buy fairtrade. This confirms my feeling that a lot more can be done in Australia.

If you are interested in how to fix the world food system, you can find useful information on Oxfam’s website. If you are interested in fairtrade handicrafts please checkout my not-for-profit social business Oz Fair Trade where customer service is guaranteed!

Point of difference: one woman brand


One week after my previous post about putting my face forward to showcase products, I have delivered! The very amateur photo studio with a wrinkled backdrop sheet delivered relatively satisfactory results. There were lots of running from the front to the back of camera in my small living room, and there was certainly no room for a second person, but the end results justified all the efforts. At least for now, I’m quite happy with the photos 🙂 I hope my efforts will help you to make more informed purchase decisions.

I was thinking very hard about the point of difference that Oz Fair Trade can offer you as a customer. Yes we are a charity, but it is a charity that relies entirely on a sustainable business model. So I have to make it work commercially, and to do that, I have to be able to compete with other businesses, and I must think like a businesswoman. I can offer excellent products and great customer services, and you’ll only deal with one person if there’s any issue. If there’s any problem with delivery address, product availability, etc. I’ll contact you quickly and directly, and aim to fulfill your order asap! I want to make this work, so that I can support more fair trade producers and help push forward the fair trade movement!

A registered charity – a new chapter begins.

Nepal trip Oz Fair Trade

When a good friend of mine heard about Global Handmade at about the same time last year, she suggested that I should register with the ACNC (i.e. the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission) where she worked as a lawyer. I remember my response at the time was that ‘it’s in my plan’. One year on, I achieved this goal.

As any new business owner would know, moving from a sole trader to a company structure requires some guts and money. I made the leap in October last year, as part of the re-branding, because I knew how committed I was to running it for the long term. Even though financially it wasn’t the best time to make the transition, I did it anyway because I wanted the organisation to have the credibility it needs and deserves. I can now proudly call Oz Fair Trade a charity and confidently continue the journey forward.

The next big thing is to be endorsed by the Fair Trader of Australia. It is a lengthy process, but I’m sure I’ll get there!

P.S. you can find Oz Fair Trade on ACNC’s online register here:

FREE SAMPLES: Fair Trade Lao Coffee and Tea


Laos is my favourite country in Southeast Asia. It was in Laos that the idea of building a not-for-profit fair trade organisation was born. I wanted to help the kind and hard working people I met in Laos, and to help them to clear the farm lands affected by millions of undetonated bombs.

It has been a year since the organisation was founded. It’s a great time to introduce Lao Fair Trade coffee and tea.

Not many people know about the delicious coffee and tea that the land of Laos produces. Unfortunately I can’t drink coffee due to caffeine intolerance, but I love smelling coffee. Recently I got the samples from a fair trade producer in Laos and I loved the smell!

There’s also something for tea lovers! Phongsaly tea leaves are picked from 400 year old trees in Phongsaly province, and they have a very unique flavour!

We are giving away FREE samples of coffee beans and tea. Simply email us ( your address before stocks run out! 

Note: you’ll need a grinder for the sample coffee beans. In future, we will have both coffee beans and ground coffee.


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.,, and 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

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?