Highlights from the 2018 Conference & Expo

Conference Overview

The Fair Trade Federation’s 360° Fair Trade Conference & Expo is the largest fair trade conference in the United States. We were joined this year by approximately 250 attendees and speakers from 160+ fair trade wholesalers, retailers, and organizations from across the U.S. and Canada. The 2018 Conference and Expo took place Tuesday, March 27 through Thursday, March 29 in Westminster, CO.

A first time conference attendee remarked, “[The highlight] was being able to meet the people that I do business with and actually seeing their faces and shaking their hands. I do my business with all of these people via phone and email so it was so wonderful to meet everyone and begin to form actual bonds with them…I thought I knew what working for a fair trade company would be like but it turns out that I really had no idea how great of an impact working for a fair trade store really does have. The entire conference provided me with such an abundance of inspiration and new knowledge. I am extremely grateful.”

We would like to extend a thank you to the speakers, panelists, and exhibitors for making the 2018 Conference & Expo a success, and would especially like to thank our dedicated sponsors!

Keynote Speakers

“We live in a globally connected world where every action affects others.” – Nasreen Sheikh

Pictured: Nasreen Sheikh, Founder and Executive Director, Local Women’s Handicrafts during the plenary session

Nasreen Sheikh of Local Women’s Handicrafts shared her insightful journey of founding a fair trade business that empowers and educates marginalized women in Kathmandu, Nepal, the same city in which she was a child laborer. Maureen Dunn Fetscher, Founder and Creative Director of FTF member and fashion brand Mata Traders, joined Nasreen to  share her optimism and encouragement about the changing retail marketplace as she sees fair trade businesses uniquely positioned to create the authentic connections and thoughtful experiences modern customers desire.

Pictured: Bená Burda, Founder, Maggie’s Organics during the plenary session

Bená Burda, Founder of Maggie’s Organics, inspired attendees the following day with her reflections on the shared values of fair trade and the organic industry. She reminded us of the impact of combining forces with other movements to achieve our goals and the power of partnerships with “like-hearted” businesses to address safe working conditions and climate change.

Breakout Sessions

“This year I really felt a sense of empowerment and community. FTF is a force within a movement, and participating in the Strategic Planning session, and some of the other sessions, really made me feel like I have a voice within the Fair Trade Movement, and also that FTF has a voice in the world, a real way to make change.” – 2018 Conference Attendee

Pictured: Conference attendees during the breakout sessions

Open Forum

Open forum sessions allowed participants to dive into topics of their choosing, including topics that emerged during the conference. Discussion topics included e-commerce platform Shopify, World Fair Trade Day events, trade show collaboration, non-profit retail, and more.

Digital Strategy

Pictured: Carrie Hawthorne, Consultant, Carrie Hawthorne Consulting during her 3-part workshop series

Speakers from FTF member Global Goods Partners, Artizenry, as well as digital communications consultant Carrie Hawthorne provided comprehensive and advanced presentations regarding digital content planning and strategy. Attendees left prepared to implement digital strategies following the conference. An attendee commented, “ I’ve already begun to put the SEO and page audit process into practice.”

Retail Marketplace

Participants heard from businesses in fair trade fashion – Maggie’s Organics, Global Mamas, and Fair Trade Winds – regarding merchandising, inventory management, and sales strategy for fair trade retailers. ByHand Consulting’s Colvin English presented about establishing or growing a wholesale business. An attendee commented, “Colvin was incredibly knowledgeable and his experiences were extremely applicable and helpful for wholesalers of all sizes and stages in business. I would love to attend his session yearly as a refresher course.”

Capacity Building

Pictured: Andrea Reyes of A. Bernadette and the NYC Fair Trade Coalition during the session on community leadership

Speakers from A. Bernadette and Pure Art Boutique as well as the Buy Good. Feel Good. expo led an inspiring discussion on how to engage with your local community to grow the fair trade movement. Denise Attwood of Ganesh Himal Trading led a session on engaging with producers,emphasizing the importance of  of listening and taking direction from the people with which they work. Additional panels featured speakers from the Threads Worldwide and Ten Thousand Villages.

Fair Trade Supply Chains

This year, FTF members had a strong focus on assessing the current and future role of the Fair Trade Federation within the greater fair trade movement, movements in the Global North, and the global trading system. Discussions included increasing demand for ethical certifications and labels with Dana Geffner of the Fair World Project, domestic fair trade with the World Fair Trade Organization & Domestic Fair Trade Association, and connections to climate with sustainability professionals and leaders from the City of Westminster, Coop Coffees, and Just Haiti.

Strategic Planning

Pictured: Attendees during the FTF annual meeting

FTF members shaped the future of our community and movement with consultant Ora Grodsky during the Fair Trade Federation Annual Meeting, one of a number of chances for members to engage in the development of the FTF’s 2019-2024 strategic plan. Representatives from Global Gifts and Global Mamas held a session on incorporating strategic planning into fair trade businesses, bringing the topic to life with examples from their companies regarding the planning process, tools used, and lessons learned.

360° Fair Trade Expo

Pictured: A fair trade expo visitor viewing products and talking with Alexander Szul and Cori Vipperman of Mira Fair Trade

The 2018 Expo was our largest ever with nearly 60 exhibitors! One attendee said their favorite part of this year’s conference was the expo: “We love connecting with wholesalers we email and talk to on the phone through the year, seeing new products in person, and of course discovering new product lines.”