Heading Logo

World Crafts: Built to make a difference

Katherine Ryder Published: September 1, 2010 1:02 PM
  • 1 of 5 Photos | View More Photos

As World Crafts manager Lisa Zuercher prepares for the 20th anniversary celebration of her store, she wants to turn the event into an opportunity.

"We see it as more of a celebration," Zuercher said. "There's going to be entertainment, international foods, face painting for the kids...our focus is going to be on educating the people who walk through our doors about what we do."

An opportunity for Zuercher is a chance to help her customers, the local community and tourists understand the objective of World Crafts.

As a business that operates under the Fair Trade Organization (FTO), World Crafts strives to bring quality products to its customers while maintaining its beliefs.

Zuercher has explained it several ways in the past; however, the easiest way to understand FTO is by understanding its goal.

"It's a trading partnership with the person who is making the product," Zuercher said. "The biggest difference in dealing with a business this way, as opposed to larger conglomerates, is eliminating the middleman. By eliminating the middleman the producer is given a greater percentage of the equity and benefits."

FTO products come from 35 countries.

By the time the product has reached the U.S., the artisan who made it has already been paid. This verifies that the artisan receives adequate compensation for his or her work.

The artisan is given the exact amount for which he or she requested. FTO doesn't haggle for a better deal.

There are guidelines that must be followed for the FTO concept. Such guidelines include: no child labor, fair wages and good working conditions.

"Now, some people might question the idea of a fair wage," Zuercher said. "For the artisans who make the products and live in these developing countries, their living conditions are much different and more circumstantial."

Monetary gain is not the most essential part of this business.

"It gives them power. It gives them a voice," Zuercher said. "The organizations they work with are working toward their benefit."

There are three essential steps in the producer to consumer process. The artisan who makes the product, the Fair Trade wholesaler that buys the product and the Fair Trade retailer who sells the product.

"World Crafts is too small a business for the importing aspect," Zuercher said.

"That's why the Fair Trade wholesaler is a much needed part of the process."

Zuercher grew up in La Junta, Colo. and volunteered in a local Fair Trade store. She moved to Kidron in 1992 and began working at World Crafts in 2007.

That was three years ago, when Zuercher came on staff as the store manager.

There are 30 volunteers, all of whom operate the store under Zuercher's supervision.

Their responsibilities mainly entail working with the customers. However, they are also accountable for educating new customers about FTO and why its products are different.

Lisa's responsibilities are more centered around ordering the products, overseeing the volunteers, making sure the orders are right and managing the day-to-day operations of the store.

"I order from 15 different FTO's," Zuercher said. "Mainly by listening to customers, community members, friends and family I can get a fairly good idea of what will sell well in the store.

"If an item is requested and one of my specific FTO sites doesn't offer it, I will do some research and make sure that the similar item I do find is coming from a reputable place that operates under the same concept and belief as we do."

The products available in the quaint shopping boutique vary.

"I try to keep a balance -- the majority of our products are for the household," Zuercher said.

"But we're also heavy on scarves and jewelry because they are our biggest sellers right now."

FTO sites receive new products every month, which allows stores such as World Crafts to keep their customers returning for variety. Zuercher is committed to acquiring the high demand merchandise for her customers.

"I have to ask myself, "Will is sell in our store?' and "Is there a line for this type of merchandise?' I absolutely cannot buy according to my personal preferences," Zuercher said.

Which inevitably has proven to be a learning experience. There have been many items that have exceeded her expectations.

"Countless times I think, "That really isn't something I would like.' But then it turns out to be a high-selling item."

Apart from the household decor, scarves and jewelry, World Crafts also sells consumables.

"These are the items that most frequently keep the locals coming in. It gets back to the close producer to consumer relationship," Zuercher said.

"For them it's knowing where the product is coming from and the effort that has gone into making it that they like."

The biggest success known to Zuercher for the 20 years World Crafts has existed has been the longevity of the store.

"I think it's a pretty amazing thing when a business has been around for 20 years," Zuercher said.

"This is "little Kidron,' it's a crossroad. But what it's done for the lives of the people in these Third World countries...there's no way to measure that."

Although World Crafts is a nonprofit store, in the event that it does turn a profit, its proceeds are given back to the Third World countries from which the products come.

At the end of the year the sum is given to help with water, schools, housing and development across the area.

However, Zuercher is thinking of even more ways to better the concept and take it another step forward.

"Just because we're working with other countries doesn't mean that we want to ignore our own," Zuercher said. "There are plenty of areas around us locally that also need help and support."

Sales for World Crafts have continued to increase every year. With the exception of 2007-08 when the store took a particular hit from the economic downturn, has flourished steadily.

"There are many options out there that have a different effect with monetary profit. Our goal is to help our customers understand their purchasing power.

"It's about the concept; what their money can do and how it can help the development of these under-developed countries is something great. Consumers need to know that they have a choice with where their money goes."

On the other hand, the hardest or least successful aspect for the store has been trying to get locals to come on board.

"We want everyone to understand what we are about and what we are doing," Zuercher said. "There are a lot of people that live in the area who have never even set foot in the door."

Zuercher graduated from Cedarville University with a degree in broadcasting. Although store management is not what she expected to pursue she is perfectly content.

"I love this job. I love the mission of this job. It keeps me focused and energized to keep coming in, knowing that what I'm doing is an attempt for something greater."


Rate this article

Do you want to leave a comment?   Please Log In or Register to comment.