Paul Culler, Board Secretary
Co-Founder, Fair Trade Winds, Fairfax, VA
Paul Culler lives in Fairfax, Virginia and is a Certified Financial Planner with Culler Witman Financial Advisors. Together with his wife, Lois, they opened Fair Trade Winds in Bar Harbor, Maine in 2007. In 2010, two more retail stores opened – one in Fairfax, Virginia and another in Stony Brook, NY with his sister, Susan Conard. A fourth store in Seattle store will be opening in the summer of 2011. They also sell fair trade products on their website and through World of Good on eBay.com.
Co-Founder, Lucia’s Imports/ Lucia’s World Friendly Boutique, Lexington, KY
In 1989, I graduated from the Patterson School of International Diplomacy and International Business and I then traveled to Antigua, Guatemala to study Spanish. I fell in love with the country and the culture. Later that year, I opened my first retail store in Antigua, Guatemala. I carefully selected and developed the products we carried from artisans and cooperatives throughout Guatemala. We traveled to many remote villages and worked side by side with the artisans as we transformed their unique products into more functional and marketable products. Gradually, we expanded and opened two other stores.
In 2004, my husband, Eduardo, and I decided, for our children’s education, to return to my home town of Lexington, Kentucky. My longing to continue my work with the Guatemalan artisan led to the development of our wholesale company, Lucia’s Imports, L.L.C. This allowed us to continue our work and relationships with our artisans in Guatemala. We could now develop new products to meet the needs and desires of consumers in the US market. In the fall of 2007, we opened Lucia’s World Friendly Boutique in Lexington, Ky. Not only do we highlight our Guatemalan products but we also offer fair trade and eco-friendly jewelry, accessories and gifts from other FTF members.
I currently live in Lexington, Ky with my husband Eduardo, my mother and 2 children. Lucy is 22 and launching a career as a personal fitness trainer and my son Ramiro is 17 and still in High School. If and when I have spare time I love to garden, hike and travel.
Kristin Johnson, Board Treasurer
Co-Founder, Global Mamas (Women in Progress), Minneapolis, MN
Kristin Johnson began working for women entrepreneurs in Ghana nearly 20 years ago, helping them to grow their businesses and enhance their profitability while working as a Peace Corps Volunteer. After returning to the US she maintained close relationships with many of the women and began selling their products in the US through informal channels. In 2002 Kristin co-founded Global Mamas (also known as Women in Progress). The organization started with six founding Mamas and today Global Mamas provides sustainable livelihoods to nearly six hundred women. This growth has been achieved through very close relationships with producers in Ghana and long term relationships with retail partners.
Co-Founder and CFO, Global Fair Trade Crafts, Edgewater, FL
After almost 20 years of working in Information Technology and wearing heels and suits, Renice Jones decided to avoid the potential Y2K systems meltdown and joined Peace Corps in 1999. During her 3 years in Kenya as a Small Enterprise Development volunteer, Renice garnered relationships with artisans and craftspeople who were eager to sell their products in the US. Together with her husband, Kevin Ward, Renice started Global Crafts in 2002, initially as a small Florida retail store and selling wholesale from their garage. The company now occupies a 10K sq. ft. warehouse and sells fair trade handicrafts wholesale to 1000+ businesses and organizations in the US and Canada and runs a small beachside retail store, Gifts With Humanity. While Renice performs many of the tasks required of any business owner from human resources to payroll and accounting, she by far prefers her day-to-day work with producers. Renice finds communicating with the more than 40 groups and individual artisans with whom Global Crafts works by email, LinkedIn, and Facebook is just about the right amount of IT in her life.
Owner, Venture Imports, Westmont, IL
Jennie Misner found her professional calling at the crossroads of two seemingly diverging interests: business economics and teh desire to improve the lives of people in some of the most impoverished places on earth. During a college trip to South Africa in 2001, Jennie witnessed the extreme poverty facing residents in the urban area of Soweto and other impoverished South African townships. Jennie started searching for ways to make a difference, and realized that her love of travel and budding entrepreneurial spirit could be focused in a way that helped others.
With a degree in Economics and minor in International Development Studies from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI, Jennie launched Venture Imports. For more than a decade, Venture Imports has helped create positive change in some of the world’s most impoverished areas. By cultivating trade-based relationships with artisans in Kenya and other countries in Africa and Central America, Jennie has helped these craftspeople raise their living standards and support their families. Jennie serves on the Board of Directors of Chicago Fair Trade, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to furthering the fair trade movement and making Chicago an international fair trade city.
Music, food and wine are a few of Jennie’s interests away from work, but they are secondary to her passion for football. Jennie loves the Green Bay Packers and also played wide receiver for a women’s professional football team – the West Michigan Mayhem – for two years.
Serena Sato, Board Vice-Chairperson
Marketing Manager, SERRV, Madison, WI
Serena Sato is currently the director of marketing for SERRV, and has worked in their marketing department since 2002. SERRV currently partners with 75 artisan and farmer groups in 36 countries, and market their products through consumer, retail, and church channels. It is a nonprofit organization with sixty years of experience in alternative trade and development strategies.
Before joining SERRV, Serena spent six years in Tokyo working with People Tree in producer relations, product development and imports. Serena holds a Masters degree in International Development from the Patterson School at the University of Kentucky, and a Bachelors in International Studies with minors in History and Agricultural Economics.
Serena happily resides in an co-housing community that shares land with an urban organic farm and community gardens, along with her Japanese husband and two sons who choose Divine Chocolate “because it’s fair trade.”
Farmer Relations, Dean’s Beans Organic Coffee, Orange, MA
Michael Skillicorn works in farmer relations at Dean’s Beans Organic Coffee in Orange, MA. He works directly with farmer cooperatives in Latin America to build strong, equitable trading relationships and promote positive social change. Prior to working at Dean’s Beans, Michael worked at a farmers cooperative in Northern Peru and co-founded a café there. He was educated at the University of Vermont and received an undergraduate degree in Community and International Development.
Brian Smucker, Board Chairperson
Co-Owner, Baksheesh, Sonoma, CA
Brian Smucker is president and co-owner of Baksheesh, a fully fair trade retailer with stores in Sonoma and St. Helena, CA. Previously, he worked for Ten Thousand Villages and a magazine publishing company. He has served on a number of FTF committees and 15 nonprofit boards, including FTF. Brian has been directly involved with 8 fair trade store startups. He and his wife Candi do startup consulting and mentoring with fair trade retailers around the US. Brian also produces an annual best seller report. He has worked in fair trade full-time since 1993 and hopes to retire in a few years. He has contributed thousands of volunteer hours to the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory since 1997.