FAIR TRADE FOCUS: ALL ACROSS AFRICA

Every Tuesday, we like to shine a light on some of the businesses, vendors, and organizations promoting the fair trade business model, wherein artisans from around the world are empowered and fairly compensated for the beautiful work they do. This week, we’re putting the spotlight on All Across Africa, who describe themselves as a group of “adventure-seeking, justice-driven friends on a mission to transform the lives of the world’s economically marginalized communities through sustainable and fair wage employment.” The company does that by providing a line of intricately woven baskets that originate from under-served areas of rural Africa, such as Rwanda and Uganda, where basket weaving is not only a huge part of the cultural tradition but also a way to enrich, empower and improve the lives of the artisans. We sat down with All Across Africa’s founder, Greg Stone, for a round of five questions about what it means to participate in the fair trade movement and what’s next for the company. 

Tell us about how you got started offering this product. What's the story behind the creation of All Across Africa? 

I started working in Rwanda 13 years ago by founding a traditional non-profit that provided direct relief to those still struggling with the fallout from the genocide. What I came to realize over the next few years was that the people needed jobs and market opportunities, not more aid. So I experimented with several income generating programs: a chicken and egg farm, a pineapple plantation and an artisan project. After a year of these projects, it was clear that the artisan weaving project was getting the most traction and providing the most sustainable jobs.

What was your big break? Was there a moment when you felt the tide turn your way and you suspected you might make it after all?

Landing Costco as a customer was a major break and allowed us to go from 60 weavers to over 1000 in less than 6 months

What do you enjoy about your work? Why is this the perfect career for you?

I really enjoy my time in Africa working directly with the artisans and getting to see firsthand the difference that All Across Africa is making in their lives. It’s a perfect career for me because I enjoy solving big problems and offering solutions to things that have traditionally been difficult to solve, such as poverty.

What kind of relationship do you have with your retailers? How has that strengthened your business model?

We have very positive relationships with our retailers. We think of them more as our partners rather than customers, as we team up together to provide markets for our artisans that translate into a better life for them and their families, while also providing beautiful handmade products to our retailers’ customers.

What's next for you? Any future plans for All Across Africa? Where do you hope to take things next?

The future for AAA is to continue to grow our business and add more markets, which translates into more jobs for rural African artisans. The more work we can give them, the better off they will be.

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