Katie Bowden has been married to her college-sweetheart, Nathan, for 9 years. Together they have two girls: Brynn (age 5) and Rayne (age 3). Before becoming a mom, Katie worked in the field of urban planning, both in the private and public sectors. Currently, she fulfills her passion for community & economic development as a “Compassionate Entrepreneur” for Trades of Hope, a fair trade company empowering women around the world out of poverty through sustainable business.
What motivated and inspired you to start your own business?
I had been learning about modern-day slavery and how many of the products we buy on a regular basis are associated with forced labor and exploitative trade practices. I became really convicted about my personal spending habits and saw that I could fight that kind of injustice simply by asking more questions about how the products we buy come to market. While researching fair trade companies, I came across Trades of Hope. Their company values align so similarly with my own, and joining seemed like something I could do to help combat the exploitation I had been reading about. I found joining Trades of Hope to be a way to be a part of the solution, instead of the problem… and I jumped on it!
Tell us about your business.
Trades of Hope is a fair trade company that sells ethically crafted fashion accessories and home decor items with the purpose of empowering women out of poverty through sustainable business. We currently partner with artisan groups in 16 different countries around the globe. Our products are sold socially through independent distributors called “Compassionate Entrepreneurs”. Because we are expanding the marketplace for our artisans’ products, Compassionate Entrepreneurs earn a commission of their sales. This means that our artisans and Compassionate Entrepreneurs enter into an equal partnership, both needing each other to earn an income. What’s both unusual and beautiful about such a partnership is that neither are superior or inferior due to race, gender, or financial status.
Trades of Hope is a certified member of the Fair Trade Federation and the Direct Sales Association.
Where is your business based?
I live and work in Southern California. Trades of Hope company headquarters is based in Palm Coast, Florida. We have over 4,500 Compassionate Entrepreneurs nationwide, and we’re growing fast! Now’s a great time to join and start changing the world with us!
What were the first few steps you took to get your business up and running?
You can join Trades of Hope and set up your business in a matter of a few short hours. You will immediately start earning 25 percent commission on all sales. Our kit costs are low, starting at $99, so it’s easy to recoup your initial investment with your first artisan showcase.
What has been the most effective way of raising awareness of your business and getting new customers?
I have had great success in just talking openly about my journey towards a more conscious lifestyle. People are generally surprised to learn about the breadth of modern-day slavery and they want to know what they can do to help. It’s refreshing to know that you don’t have to travel across the globe to fight injustice and slavery. You can start with your wallet, in buying what you believe. And I’m always wearing Trades of Hope accessories, which are excellent conversation starters! It’s almost impossible to get through my day without receiving a compliment or two on these beauties!
What have been your biggest challenges so far? How did you overcome these challenges?
My background is in community planning and economic development, so I don’t have much sales experience. I do, however, have a long history of advocacy for a particular group or community project. When I was able to stop thinking of this job so much as “sales” and shift my thinking towards raising awareness, I found I was better equipped for this role than I first thought. And that’s the beauty of this business! Yes, you’re in sales, but there’s so much more at stake. For me, this job is a pursuit of passion.
How do you keep motivated through difficult times?
My success is tied to another person’s livelihood and well being. I think of the difficulties our artisans have faced and, well, mine just pale in comparison. It’s this reality that makes it easier to push yourself and keep going. As my business grows, I contribute to our artisans’ ability to grow their businesses so that they can employ more desperate people. That’s how this whole economic engine keeps turning.
How do you distinguish yourself from your competitors?
Businesses that practice fair trade are a whole different animal. We don’t just “give back” a portion of our profits (Though Trades of Hope does that, too!) Fair trade practices not only ensures rigorous social, environmental and economic standards are met, but also requires fair trade premiums are paid to empower communities through community development initiatives. At Trades of Hope, we believe equitable and sustainable business is key to empowering people out of poverty, and ultimately, changing the world for the better!
What is the best advice you have received recently?
We are all created by God, on purpose for a purpose. Find your purpose! It’s in that space where you will thrive.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
It’s true that when you find a career that you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. We’re at our best when we unleash our unique, God-given potential. What is it that you would do if you didn’t have to work? What do you find yourself thinking about or doing in your free time? Then go make that your work!
What are your favorite business tools/resources and why?
When you’re in the world of network marketing, you have to network! After all, we are in the people business! My favorite business “strategy” is simply finding new opportunities to share Trades of Hope with new groups of people. I have been fortunate enough to land speaking engagements at churches, moms groups, and even local universities. Seeing the “light bulb” turn on for people and raising awareness on why fair trade is important is my favorite part of this job. Seriously, it’s the best feeling!
What is a good article or book you have read recently?
“Present Over Perfect” by Shauna Niequest.
What are you currently learning about for your business or looking for help with?
For me, it’s probably learning how to keep going even when others are skeptical or just don’t understand what I’m doing at all. I’ve learned I’m not going to change everyone’s mind, and that’s okay. We all evolve at our own pace, on our own time.
What are your goals for the next few months and how are you striving to achieve them?
My goal is to continue adding Compassionate Entrepreneurs to my team of world changers! This interview is one way I hope to achieve that. Thank you, Elaine, for contacting me and giving me a platform to share Trades of Hope with you and your readers. I would ask that anyone interested in a flexible and purposeful career in poverty alleviation contact me to learn more!
What social media outlets do you use? List them below.
Hashtags #fairtradematters #tohstyle #tradesofhope