Supplier case studies
Fairgift - fair trade wedding gift lists
Name: Brian Walmsley
Locations: Henley-on-Thames in Oxfordshire (Showroom) & Penzance in Cornwall (Warehouse & Customer Services)
Tell us a bit about yourself and your business
Fairgift is a social enterprise set up in 2006 by four friends and family: Brian, Mel, Helen and Charles.
Fairgift offers a ‘wedding list with a heart' - hundreds of beautiful and original Fair Trade items for your home.
Our goal is to help Fair Trade producer groups and co-operatives in Africa, Asia and South America reach potential customers in the UK.
At the moment we work with 37 groups, including:
- co-operatives in Mali & Burkina Faso that provide the cotton for perfect fluffy white dressing gowns and bedding
- Craft Link in Vietnam who produce the handmade Green Glaze dining-ware
- a co-operative in Kashmir that chain-stitches a wide range of colourful cushions and rugs.
The idea is to find couples getting married in the UK who are looking for beautiful, original gifts but also something that's a bit different and that reflects their values.
Many families around the world are faced with a daily choice between feeding their children properly and sending them to school. Providing a fair wage and access to UK customers means that many of these families can do both, helping to build a positive future for their communities.
What or who inspires you?
In the public sphere Anita Roddick for successfully showing that business can be a force for good, and Nelson Mandela, a living legend who led a nation into peace and hope.
On a personal level, we are constantly inspired and humbled by the many producers we meet who have created the Fairgift range through their expertise and hard work.
What do you enjoy most about running your business?
Getting to know wonderful couples in the UK, working with Fair Trade producers around the world, and interacting with many creative, energetic and inspirational people involved in running social enterprises and ethically minded businesses. People like Barbara who started Oxfam Bridal from her back room (and is married to Charles from Fairgift), Leander who started My Small Help in Nepal, Andy at Give It, Amber & Shah at Sky Lotus, Katie at Ethical Weddings and many people at Traidcraft who helped us when we started.
What is the most challenging aspect?
Building sustainable businesses in the very poorest communities - especially where infrastructure is weak, such as East Africa where we lived and worked. We're working hard to fix this, and 2009 will see the launch of some fantastic new product ranges plus campaigns towards fairer trade rules.
How do you see the wedding industry changing over the next five years (if at all)?
I think and hope that we'll see a shift from excessive consumption to greater sustainability and provenance.
We're all starting to learn about the social and environmental impact of the decisions we make: social/Fair Trade pioneers are working to improve the environment, and environmental campaigners are realising the social impact of climate change.
The economic downturn may actually help as we seek to reduce consumption and instead seek greater value and meaning from our economic choices.
Find out more about Fairgift - fair trade wedding gift lists