Shopping for the Soul

 Shopping for the Soul

Ten Thousand Villages uses fair trade to help artisans all over the world

Madison Rodgers

Before Ten Thousand Villages purchases an item from an artisan, it makes sure that they are paid a fair wage.

“We make sure that they can pay for themselves and their families,” says Drew Gates, executive director of Ten Thousand Villages in Cincinnati. “It’s all in places that normally they can’t support their families. It’s a market-based solution.”

Ten Thousand Villages works at building long-term, fair trading relationships.

“We are a local nonprofit that has a board of directors here in Cincinnati,” says Gates. “We also have three locations.”

Locations are in O’Bryonville and Harper’s Point on Montgomery Road, as well as a pop-up shop in Liberty Center every weekend. “When you shop here it means a lot more than what it would if you shopped at a normal gift shop,” says Gates.

Gates recently went on a trip to Guatemala with the Ten Thousand Villages national organization.

“This was a part of a learning tour where we visited a lot of the artisans in Guatemala that we buy products from,” says Gates. “We go in and work with the artisan try to help them design a product that will sell, pay for half of the purchase price upfront before they do anything so they are able to purchase the materials. Once the product is ready to ship, we pay for the whole amount right then.”

If something doesn’t sell, Ten Thousand Villages works with the artisan to create a product that will sell in the future.

Ten Thousand Villages is often asked how much of a sale is going to the artisans that created it. “Our answer to that is none of it,” says Gates. “They’ve already been paid.” All fair trade is paid upfront.

Another interesting aspect of Ten Thousand Villages is that 85 percent of the labor within the store is done by volunteers. “We have a lot of volunteers that work at the stores,” says Gates. “We go through four training modules with the volunteers that is basically the same process we go through when we are training a new staff member.”

For more information on Ten Thousand Villages visit or one of the local stores: 2011 Madison Road, O’Bryonville;  11316 Montgomery Road, The Shops at Harper’s Point; and 7100 Foundry Row, Suite 206 at Liberty Center, Liberty Township.