|Being First in a New Market: From The Earth is Spreading the Fair Trade Message|
|01 November 2012|
Business analyst and oldest siblings alike will tell you that being the first is not the easiest path to take. But as the philosopher Nietzsche would say, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
As the first and only WFTO member in Jordan, From The Earth has their work cutout for them as they begin to spread the Fair Trade message around their home city of Amman, Jordan. The concept of having a Fair Trade town, city, or county is not a new idea for much of the West, however in the Middle East the very words Fair Trade are relatively new. Marketing Director of From The Earth, Abbey Saloiye, commented that, “The Fair Trade concept is new, not understood, but greatly needed here in Jordan.”
From their inception in 2008 From The Earth has been built on maintaining high standards of integrity, empowerment, and excellence. Although they began with just two local women and a few card designs, today the company has grown to be a quality brand that sells a variety of products, including, handmade fashion jewelry, natural olive oil soaps, textiles, mosaics, olive wood home items, and their original product, handmade greeting cards.
Although they have had success in growing a customer base in Amman, their largest market remains outside of Jordan. Selling in the US, UK, and France via Amazon and several other countries via wholesale customers. They are reaching an audience already familiar with Fair Trade practices in order to grow the Fair Trade message within Jordan.
Fair Trade Education
When Mac launched their new PC during the US economic crisis of the 1980s, they took a risk. From The Earth is taking a similar risk in asking the people of Jordan to pay fair prices in an economic market that is suffering. The question, “Why would I pay 6 JD for these earrings when that guy is charging only 3?” is a common question heard at several of From The Earth’s local sales outlets. The reply is simple, “It’s a Fair Trade, handmade product. At this price, we can pay our employees above minimum wage and still be sustainable.” This and other similar responses are met with only a blank stare. Fair Trade? What does that mean?
Blazing a new trail isn’t easy. It’s hard work that takes considerable risk. From The Earth believes that the risk is far outweighed by the rewards. The rewards being increases in jobs translating to a decrease in poverty, creating more opportunities for the next generation, and providing more reasons for people to smile.
Seeing the current market in Jordan, the obvious question is this, “Is it possible to utilize Fair Trade business practices and be a successful business in Jordan?“ From The Earth would say yes. Yes, it is possible to shift mindsets from low prices to a better economy for communities. It is possible to alleviate poverty by using Fair Trade business. It is possible, but it takes an attitude of a marathon runner and not a sprinter. Amman, Jordan is a city of contrasts. From the wealthy area of Abdoun to the poor areas of Iraq Al Imir, this land of history is steeped in tradition and is slow to accept changes.
With much of the population living below the poverty line and the rise in refugee immigration, the sad truth is that it is becoming increasingly difficult to find jobs in Jordan. The result is that the small markets that were once available to local artisans are shriveling up, leaving the once self-employed artisans unemployed.
Founder and general manager, Jonathan Hankin said that, “Being an outlet for artisans who have little or no opportunity to market their products is one way From The Earth benefits our Jordanian community. Many small producers do not have a network to sell their products at competitive prices. By working together we extend their reach from small villages to international markets.”
Beyond being a sales outlet, From The Earth invests their time and revenue in product development and quality assurance improvements with partners and personal development of their employees. Rasha has worked at From The Earth for over a year and is currently the Production Manager. When asked about how she feels about being employed by From The Earth she said, “From The Earth is different, we feel supported here.” Rawan, a newer employee, also noted, “It is different here because we are trusted and believed in.”
Employing local women and partnering with local artisans to see their businesses, lives, and communities improve is what drives From The Earth. Their tagline, “A Valuable Life Behind Each Product” is stated with sincerity. In regard to this Hankin says, “We are committed to the continued growth and development of the community where we live and work. Our goal is to support even more individuals by increasing employment and meaningful partnerships with local artisans and by pursuing additional export markets.”
Moving toward the future From The Earth plans to continue to grow both their wholesale and retail markets outside Jordan as the Fair Trade message begins to take root within their home country. Local people are beginning to take notice. The message of Fair Trade is beginning to spread. More and more Fair Trade labels are appearing in the local shopping markets. From The Earth is excited to be part of this movement in Jordan. They look forward to seeing big changes in the future as they seek to transform communities through the vehicle of Fair Trade business.
To learn more, visit the website of From the Earth http://www.ftehome.com/.
By Abigail Saloiye