Highlights from the 2019 Conference & Expo


Posted: Mon. Apr 29, 2019

The 25th Anniversary FTF Conference & Expo was the second largest conference in Fair Trade Federation’s history! We were joined this year by over 260 attendees from around 160 fair trade wholesalers, retailers, and organizations from the US, Canada, and Europe.

The community celebrated this special occasion with a welcome party on the first night of the conference and a Texas fiesta generously hosted by Austin-area FTF members! In addition to all the fun, attendees took this time together to learn and connect. Continue below for highlights from the event.

Keynote Speakers

“I am honored to be a part of a community of people who really understand that we can all make a difference.” -Llenay Ferretti

As a leader in the ethical retail industry for 70 years and an FTF founding member, Ten Thousand Villages kicked off this year’s conference & expo. Their Acting CEO Llenay Feretti generously shared their recent research in retail trends, the industry, and consumers with the FTF community.

Liz Forkin Bohannon, Co-Founder & CFO of Sseko Designs, imparted the importance of design thinking to the development of Sseko Designs over its ten years of business. She encouraged and inspired fair trade enterprises to jump in with new ideas and to not being afraid of shifting directions, allowing your enterprise to evolve as you experiment and listen to consumer demand.

“I want to see a world where the term fair trade ceases to exist because I believe fair trade values need to be the norm.” – Molly Stillman

Molly Stillman, Founder & Creator of Still Being Molly, has interviewed over 100 mission-driven enterprises for her podcast Business with Purpose. With this insight, Molly shared three ways in which she sees a need for fair trade enterprises to adapt to the new reality of the rapidly growing ethical retail industry by shifting their messaging, branding, and marketing strategies. She challenged brands to think about the future of their business in a world where fair trade is the norm.

Primary conference sponsor and Austin-based business, Noonday Collection, lead us into day two with a moving speech from their Founder and Co-CEO Jessica Honegger. Jessica inspired attendees to lead their businesses with vision, belief, and passion and to support each other.

“It really is in our togetherness that we make our impact.” -Jessica Honnegger

Throughout the conference, members and non-members gave input into the future of our community and proposed ideas through interactive and engaging sessions at the FTF annual meeting and during the breakout sessions and open forums. At the annual meeting, FTF Executive Director Chris Solt and Board Members also shared highlights from the past year of the FTF and the health of our community and the movement. The meeting featured key FTF allies World Fair Trade Organization‘s Chief Executive Erinch Sahan and British Association for Fair Trade Shops and Suppliers‘ Chair of the Board Laura Cave.

Breakout Sessions

New to the conference this year, 14 FTF members shared short stories of their choice about their fair trade journey. They touched on support for indigenous communities, balancing cultural tradition & the desires of U.S. markets, batik dyeing processes, working & supporting producers during conflict, evolving business models & brands, life stories of artisans & farmers, and more.

Other sessions covered business tools and topics in fair trade, including financing your fair trade enterprise, strengthening artisan businesses, the future of fair trade retail, supply chain management, and developing local advocacy networks.

Attendees were also able to dive in to topics regarding digital marketing and branding with Art of Citizenry‘s Manpreet Kalra and Austin-area influencers in sessions on search engine optimization, digital content strategy, and influencer marketing.

Fair Trade Expo

The fair trade expo featured close to 50 FTF verified businesses showcasing beautiful, unique fair trade products.

The expo was open both days of the conference to attendees and on the second day to Austin-area customers. See additional photos from the expo and conference on the FTF Facebook page.

We would like to extend a thank you to the speakers, panelists, and exhibitors for making the 2019 Conference & Expo a success, and would especially like to thank our dedicated sponsors!

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