About Us

How we got started

About us

  • Intro
  • Our policy
  • Starting up
  • Economics
  • Learning
Tab 1
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A quick intro
Hi, I’m Barb and I’ll quickly introduce myself. I started lovethatstuff in 2002 because I wanted to do something practical to support producers in developing countries. Before this I had spent about twenty years teaching English to overseas students, including many refugees and asylum seekers, and finished an MA in Environment, Development and Policy at Sussex University in 1988.

So, early in 2002, whilst I still needed to earn a living and knew nothing about retail, I was keen to get started. I probably should have done a business plan but I felt that, although I knew quite a lot about teaching, I knew nothing about selling so I would need at least two years’ experience before committing to a business plan.
Tab 2
To source:
• quality handmade fair trade jewellery, classic and casual clothing, accessories and household goods.
• to pay a fair, mutually agreed price for all goods from our producer groups in the global South.

To sell:
• at affordable and fair prices.
• increasing volumes of goods to help more producers.
• to promote and campaign for fair trade.

To maintain WFTO criteria on fair trade, to:
• promote and campaign for fair trade.
• establish long-term trading relationships with producer groups.
• uphold transparency and accountability, and build trust.
• not use child labour.
• pay a living wage plus social premium for health, education and training.
• use eco-friendly materials and not degrade the environment as far as possible.
• establish good communications and ideas' exchange with producer groups.
• ensure workers have a democratic say in how they work.
• uphold respect for the individual.
Tab 3
Who I first bought from
My first order was from a group called Artesania Sorata in Bolivia and I started by selling at craft fairs, school fairs and other small events. I then bought from another two groups – Bombolulu in Mombasa, Kenya and Yakkumcraft in Indonesia. After some time I realised that in order to shift more stock and so be of some use to the groups I would need to organise my own events and so I did a couple of pilots of the Fair Trade Market in Brighton at the Quaker Meeting House in November and December 2004.

These Fair Trade Markets were popular and it was wonderful that the Quakers were keen to support these so we ran them monthly from April 2005. Having a regular outlet meant I could buy from more fair trade producer groups and showcase their wonderful talents.

Setting up the website
Shortly after starting the Fair Trade Market, I applied for and got a grant from UnLtd to set up a website and so lovethatstuff.co.uk was born.

lovethatstuff is probably the only website that puts the name of the producer group alongside every product so that the customer knows who they’re buying from and the credit goes to the producer rather than mainly to lovethatstuff. One of the major problems of conventional retail is that the producer is conveniently ignored so encouraging a focus on the product rather than on the means of production.

Visiting the producers
My first producer visit was in December 2005 and I have worked my way round several of the groups so I can meet them, take photos, develop design ideas and find out how we can best work together. We always have a great exchange of ideas and I learn a lot.
Tab 4
Business as unusual – some thoughts on economic theories
Whilst I don’t pretend to have a great understanding of economics, the philosophy of the free market appears to encourage a ‘race to the bottom’. Business as usual favours a 'buy low and sell high' market, and as we’ve all seen, often results in exploitation.

Fair trade favours a more ‘business as unusual’ model where producer and buyer cooperate. It relies on transparency and accountability and in order for this to happen people have to talk to each other. I like this. Fair trade is a flagship, it's a beacon of hope for change and a future we can believe in. Most economic models take the heart out of their paradigm and yet it is arguable that few amongst us behave in a dispassionate way especially when shopping! In short, I’m very sceptical about whether ‘homo economicus’ really exists and if he does I think we should replace him with something a lot more compassionate.

Fair trade puts people before profits and in a world riddled with poverty, environmental degradation and conflict we all need to cooperate a lot more than we have been in order to improve life on our wonderful planet.

The great hope is that we can do this and one of the main payoffs is that we’ll all feel a lot happier.
Tab 5
What I’ve learned
I have mostly learned that the human spirit in times of adversity is truly remarkable. I have been incredibly privileged to meet a lot of very talented, brave, bright and resourceful people who I have the most enormous respect and fondness for.

Meeting and emailing the producer groups has helped me understand some of the challenges they face and some of their successes. Lots of people here in the UK have generously volunteered their help, which has been incredibly valuable and inspirational.

The future
Be better at selling and passing on the fair trade message. Refine that business plan! Get better designs, represent the groups better. Focus. And enjoy!