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fair trade

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Finding Christmas Spirit


It’s (almost) that wonderful time of the year again…or the most stressful!  Whichever way you look at it, Christmas is just around the corner.  Research shows that more than half of Christmas shoppers in the U.S. start researching gifts as early as October. Those same consumers plan to spend more than $650 on gifts this Christmas season.  That’s a lot of money!  With all this in mind, I wanted to chat with you for a few moments before you finish your Christmas gift giving plans.

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If you’ve spent any time around me, you know how much I believe in fair trade.  The first principle of fair trade is to create opportunities for the economically disadvantaged.  Can you think of anything more in keeping with the Christmas spirit? Add in factors like economic transparency; no child or forced labor, good working conditions, fair wages/profits, and you have a lot of great reasons to shop fair trade.

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Christmas seems the perfect time to offer opportunities to those who don’t have as many financial advantages.  So, since you are going to be spending money on gifts anyway, why not give gifts that multiply a positive impact?  This year, I’m doing my best to give gifts with heart.  That includes fair trade but also handmade gifts.  I want to shop with small businesses, local makers and of course, buy gifts made according to fair trade practices.  Let Aunt Sarah shop at Macy’s and Target and other big chains, not me. I love gifts that have been made with care and that carry a story with them.  So, will you consider joining me in purchasing fair trade or handmade gifts this Christmas?

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There are many wonderful arts and crafts show around this season to help us do just that, and Elevāt will be at many of them!  Stop by and say, “Hi”, find some treasures and support local and global makers:

Nov. 3rd 9am-4pm-World Jubilee Fair Trade Market

Colonial Church of Edina, http://www.theworldjubilee.org/

 

Nov. 8th 4-8pm-Holiday Open House

A Beautiful Pause, Avalon shops, White Bear Lake

http://www.downtownwhitebearlake.com/events.htm

 

Nov. 10th 9am-3pm-Concordia Academy Holiday Craft Fair

Concordia Academy in Roseville, http://www.concordiaacademy.com/giving/craftfair.cfm

 

Nov. 17th 10am-4pm-Holiday Fair Trade Market

New Life Presbyterian Church in Roseville http://www.newlifechurchroseville.org/home

 

December 8th-10am-2pm-Elevat Showroom Holiday Open house

4900 Hodgson Connection

Shoreview, MN 55126

 

Come and visit the newly designed showroom featuring all of Elevāt fashion gifts in one place! Free coffee and holiday cookies and chat with Elevat’s buyer to hear the stories behind each item.

Gift openings will be much more exciting this year as you share about who and how each present was made! 

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Difference-Making Begins with Ordinary Stories

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Difference-Making Begins with Ordinary Stories

 

The Story of Elevāt: Difference-Making Begins with Ordinary Stories

By Amy Weiss

When Mary fled Burundi, she had no idea that jewelry would save her life. With gunfire flying through the air, she left her job as a professor and gathered her three children. They left their home, trying to live on the run. Survival came when Mary joined a jewelry-making cooperative. She was able to reinvent her life and support her family, working hard to take a hopeless situation and create something beautiful.

Women in Burundi making beaded necklaces

People like Mary are why Elevāt exists. Her story–and many others like it–affected Julie Johnson’s life, leading her to found Elevāt, a fair-trade marketplace empowering women around the world to support themselves and their families. By selling their handmade goods, Elevāt enables them to thrive. Difference-making can begin with an ordinary story.

Johnson, the ensemble tour director at a small Christian university in St. Paul, Minnesota, was not expecting to start a fair-trade business when she arrived in Belize for a mission trip–her first trip to a developing country. Heartbroken after seeing extreme poverty and mothers who couldn’t provide for their children, she told God, “I don’t want to go back to my normal life and forget what I know and understand now.” She asked God to show her how to empower these people–some of more than 950 million living in poverty around the globe.

Julie and Dolores in Belize

And He did. In Belize, she met a woman named Dolores who made beautiful jewelry by hand. Selling her products for a low price, Dolores barely made enough profit to support her family. Knowing the jewelry could be sold for a fairer price in the United States, Johnson started Elevāt. Now, Dolores’ children are in school, Elevāt is almost five years old, and stories continue to drive Julie and involve people with Elevāt.

Connected with missionaries across the globe, Julie is often a middle person, linking the friends of missionaries to Elevāt and the marketplace in the United States. Because her husband is a pastor, Julie has been able to travel on missions trips and meet artisans in different countries. Traveling has shaped her passion to be part of these women’s stories. “Through travel, I’ve come to realize that even though we look different, sound different, and act different–we’re all the same,” she encouraged. “There’s more that connects us than divides us. Our heart values don’t change because you live in an Ethiopian desert.

Despite this inspiration, there have been moments Johnson has questioned: What am I doing? How am I doing this? Is it worth it? In these moments, God has reminded her that every sale makes a difference. An ordinary story is still a significant story, and Johnson believes even one empowered life is worth it.

In fact, something as small as a bracelet can connect the story of a mother in Minnesota with a mother in Haiti. Johnson explained that many Haitian women have to put their children in orphanages because they can’t afford to feed or provide for them. Motioning to the bracelet on her wrist, she elaborated: the income from these bracelets allows them to keep their children. Sold around Mother’s Day in the United States, a gift to your mom can empower another an ocean away.

Haitian Bracelets made by mothers from recycled cereal boxes

When customers connect their stories with artisan’s lives, Johnson believes change happens. “They’re given a sense of their own ability to change the world,” she mentioned. “They’re connected in ways they wouldn’t have been connected before.”

Connecting these stories in new ways is one of her dreams for Elevāt. Someday, she hopes her role directing choir tours and Elevāt will combine to create trips, allowing women to visit the artisans who made their products. They will see each other’s stories firsthand: Guatemalan women weaving scarves, ladies doing embroidery work in Jordan, and Syrian women creating earrings in refugee camps may someday meet people helping their stories thrive.

Syrians make scarves at a refugee camp in Jordan

In the meantime, Johnson is happy to do what she can. Traveling to Spain this month for her job, she’ll meet a missionary to pick up bags embroidered by a Moroccan woman. After all, our lives are connected. We can make a difference by living faithfully, weaving our stories with other’s lives along the way to create something beautiful.

“When Mary from Burundi told me, ‘I wouldn’t have been able to feed my family if you didn’t send the money...’ I know that actually made a difference,” she smiled. “And I’m just a little cog in it all. I’m just being faithful to the vision God had given me.”

Simply being obedient to God’s call has led Johnson to new places, and she encourages everyone to do the same. Sometimes our society emphasizes big, dramatic difference-making, but the best place to start is with what’s around us–with our simple stories. Look at the people in front of you: reach out and make a difference in the ways you can, right now.

Julie and Deb selling Elevat products at a fair trade sale

Her best piece of advice? Just do it. Step out and make a small difference. Even a simple step in the direction God may be calling you to use your story is better than doing nothing because you waited for something big. The stories of Julie and Elevāt impart wisdom for our own lives: common, small things matter, too.

 

 

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Know Your Maker - Fashion Revolution Week

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Know Your Maker - Fashion Revolution Week

We probably make hundreds of purchases every year. And, if you’re like me, a lot of those purchases are clothes. Often, I find myself drawn into a new collection, an upcoming promotion, or even just a cute scarf in the “perfect” color.

Even with so many options, I still find myself carefully deciding which of all the colors to choose. What fabric will work best for spring? Is it on sale? Can I buy both? Do I have an outfit this will go with? I ask myself all these questions so that I can make the very best decision with my money. But isn’t it strange that not one of my typical questions is “where did this scarf come from?”

Oddly enough, the answer to that question may be harder to find than we think. Many clothing brands do not have a traceable origin, so we actually may never know where our cute scarf comes from. Many clothing brands have moved their production phase oversees, but in doing so, they have not kept a firm track on where the products are actually being made.

Another question we should be asking about our clothes is who is making them. Unfortunately, the clothing industry is one of the largest industries using child or slave labor. After learning this, my cute scarf suddenly became much less cute. Yep, as much as we want to think that our name brand clothes are made honestly, this is not always the case.

While we can’t always be sure that our brand-named clothing companies are making the best production decisions, we can be certain of our decision when we choose to buy fairly traded, ethically made clothing. Plus, buying fairly traded clothes is easier today than I imagined. Here are just a few emerging and established clothing brands that are dedicated to provided ethically and sustainably made products.

For even more great ethical and sustainable brands, check out the full list here!

Just like many of these great brands, Elevāt is helping empower women all across the globe by fairly trading their handmade products. Elevāt is dedicated to cutting out the middleman and working directly with artisans to sell their work. We value relationships with our partners, which is why it is extra special when we can provide a picture and short story about the women who make the products we sell.

Elevāt’s Ecuadorian Tagua necklaces and Kenyan bracelets both come with a name and photo of the woman who made the piece. And with our Haitian Paper Bead bracelets, we get to learn more personally how our purchase impacts the women who make them – each bracelet comes with a story and photo.

This week is Fashion Revolution week – a week to remember the 2013 tragedy in Bangladesh when the Rana Plaza collapsed and killed over 1,000 factory workers. This tragedy sparked the discussion about knowing where exactly our clothes come from. Many people began to question the ethics of massive clothing factories in their treatment and compensation of workers. Fashion Revolution week is an opportunity for clothing brands and businesses to promote their supply-chain transparency and their commitment to make their clothes ethically and responsibly.

When we purchase ethically made, sustainable, and fairly traded clothing we can be confident that our money is not going to a multimillion-dollar brand that underpays its production-line workers. Instead we can know that the individual who made our new scarf is treated fairly and receives fair wages. We may even receive information about them with our purchase. This is what is so neat about buying fairly traded products! With each purchase we make, we deepen connections and trust throughout the world while proudly supporting talented and deserving artisans. I urge us all to, at the very least, think twice before we make our next clothing purchase and to consider where our money is going. We all make hundreds of decisions every year. Let’s be committed to make our next worthwhile.

 

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What Exactly is Fair Trade?

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What Exactly is Fair Trade?

For many of us, we have heard the phrase “fair trade” tossed around here and there at various craft shows, local ministries, non-profits, and even in nation-wide corporations. We all feel much better when we know what we are buying is fair trade. We feel a sense of social responsibility to buy all products marked “fair trade.”

But wait. Do we even know what “fair trade” means? Do we really know why we should feel good after purchasing a fair trade product?

By definition, fair trade is when a fair price is paid for a product and the money paid is given directly back to the product’s producer in a developing country. Not only that, but most fair trade partnerships also help promote clean and sustainable environment practices as well as produce higher quality products than most factory-produced items.

Too often, buying and selling is based simply on pushing products and driving profits. Typically, when I stand in the grocery isle or shop for clothing online, I’m not always thinking about the long chain of individuals my cereal or pair of pants went through to make it available for purchase. If I did, I would realize that many workers at the beginning of the chain are not getting their fair share of profits. The individuals who make the products often receive unfair compensation for their work.

This is why fair trade is so important to helping stabilize and support developing countries.

The World Fair Trade Organization lists 10 Principles of Fair Trade that help us better understand how it is positively impacting the world. Just a few of these important principles:

  1. Opportunities for disadvantaged workers
  2. Transparency and accountability
  3. No discrimination, gender equity, and freedom of association
  4. Good working conditions
  5. No child labor or forced labor

You can check out the full list of fair trade principles and learn more about what you can do to help here: http://wfto.com/fair-trade/10-principles-fair-trade

When we buy fair trade products, we are not only helping small-scale workers around the globe, but we are also empowering them to use their talents and skills to make a livelihood. While charity and donations are helpful to third-world workers, it is even better if we can help support them in their occupation, which in turn promotes long-term relief.

All of Elevāt’s products are fairly traded. We can rest assured that when we purchase a product, our money goes directly back to the woman who made it - helping to support her family and livelihood.

Fair trade partnerships make it possible to truly make a positive difference in the world and enjoy quality, beautiful products while doing so!

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One day away!

Ever wonder where all the products come from in massive department stores? Or, maybe more importantly, where all the money goes when a product is sold? Wouldn’t it be nice to know exactly where our money goes and to know that it goes to a good cause?

We have hundreds of big businesses and megastores to choose from that we often miss opportunities to buy from someone where our dollar will really make a lasting difference in the world. The holiday season is fast approaching and soon we will be buying gifts for family and friends and this is the craft fair where you can do just that! Plus, you will not only be checking things off your shopping list, but you will also be supporting local, small businesses.

Tomorrow, October 8th from 9am-2pm, the Autumn Craft Fair (see address below) will be hosting various vendors—all selling handmade products. This craft fair is a great opportunity to buy unique products to help support small businesses.

Here are some of the vendors to look forward to:

  • Elevat – fair trade fashion accessories
  • Wesley Andrews - craft coffee
  • UNW Symphonic Band – baked goods
  • Artful Romp Studios – silver and stone jewelry
  • A Beautiful Pause – journals, prayer boxes, etc.
  • A Monkeys Wedding – books, jewelry, and knits
  • Janet Poire – handmade greeting cards
  • Art is where my heart is – paintings
  • Meraki – watercolors
  • Bundles of Love Charity – knitted baby items
  • Black Horse Candles – handmade soy candles
  • Living Essentially Sp’Oiled – Young Living essential oils
  • Becky Maguire – recycled pincushions, plates, etc.
  • Janet Brown – photography and notecards

Mark your calendars and plan to stop by and enjoy a cup of coffee (or tea!) while you help small businesses make a lasting change in our world!

Saturday, October 8th // 9am-2pm // 4911 Hodgson Road, Shoreview MN

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Living your own story

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Living your own story

 Most of the day I fill every spare moment on a screen with information pouring in, wolfing down food, events and experiences in mindless abandon

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