Purchasing with a Purpose

AmericasMart buyers can take good work to heart
By Mandy Roth

Today’s consumers expect more from the companies they buy from and the products they use in their homes. They desire attributes beyond function and beauty; they want to make the world a better place by purchasing products with a purpose. Many AmericasMart exhibitors include philanthropy as a major tenet of their businesses, offering end consumers an opportunity to contribute to a greater good.

Half United; Full Commitment
Half United founders Carmin Black and her brother Christian didn’t set out to better the world through their professional lives. Yet that is exactly the path they now navigate. Each purchase of one of their company’s apparel items or accessories provides food to hungry children. To date, their customers have made possible more than 200,000 meals for children in the United States and around the world.

“Everything we’ve been through in life led us to this point,” says Carmin, a former television reporter, who later worked as a public speaker for TOMS—the company that set new standards in corporate philanthropy by donating a pair of shoes to needy kids for each pair purchased.

All elements of her past coalesced during an enthusiastic speaking appearance. She recalled memories growing up as a pastor’s daughter in a family where every male member was in the clergy, as well as her mother’s endeavors in the fashion industry. She remembered the mission trips in which she and her brother participated. She was reminded of her service as her sorority’s philanthropic chairperson. The energy created by the combination of charity, business and brand passion fused for her in front of that audience. It was one of those moments that changed everything that happened next.

She placed a call to Christian, who was in L.A. trying to launch an apparel business, suggesting that they join forces to create a company with a charitable focus. They borrowed $200 from their mother and the venture has grown in the years since. They now sell a variety of goods, including jewelry and T-shirts. Some of their most popular items feature recycled bullet casings, turning a symbol of harm into a sign of hope, representing their fight against hunger.

TOMS, Carmin believes, cracked the code that unites business and philanthropy by communicating the impact each consumer has on the world by buying one of their products. For Half United, that unique formula means that each time a product is purchased, seven children receive meals. “Hunger is something every human can relate to,” says Carmin.

The founders closely vet the charities they work with around the world. On a trip to Haiti, for instance, they examined the operations of Papillion Enterprise, an organization that employs local artisans to make some of the jewelry Half United sells, providing a source of income so impoverished parents can feed their children.

Carmin insisted on accompanying one of the workers home, a journey down dirt roads and over a ravine filled with trash and goats. They eventually entered a shantytown, navigating four-foot wide alleys through the shacks. When they arrived at the worker’s home, the mother shifted a plywood door to the side, proudly showing off her kitchen, featuring charcoal on a dirt floor. “Where do you sleep?” queried the entrepreneur. The woman revealed a second room where her children slept on packing materials—the same ones used by the charitable organization to ship jewelry to Half United. “My heart hurt for them,” says Carmin, who purchased proper mattresses for the family before leaving the country.

While Carmin and her brother are literally in the trenches at times, she points out that the retailers who sell Half United’s products—and the consumers who buy them—are the ones making the difference. “You have no idea how much your purchase matters in the lives of people around the world. Ultimately, you are the ones feeding people; we just facilitate that transaction.”

Sari Bari: Rescue From the Red Light
When secondhand saris gain new life as accessories and home goods, the women in India who make these products secure access to freedom from lives in the sex trade. The extraordinary goods available through Sari Bari offer employment opportunities for women who want to escape the red light district of Kolkata, India, as well as young women in outlying villages, who are vulnerable to being trafficked.

Each blanket, handbag, accessory or baby item is sewn using the traditional Kantha stitch, unique to the creator’s personal style. No two pieces are identical. Living in India, Sari Bari founder Sarah Lance established the company a decade ago when she personally witnessed the plight of these women and determined she would do something to make a difference in their lives. Goods are sold in the U.S. through a non-profit organization.

Today’s consumers are interested in one-of-a-kind products and want to know the stories behind the things they purchase, explains Merilee Rowe, the company’s sales and operations manager. Sari Bari deepens that connection because the 120 women the company employs stitch their names inside the items they create. During their first year of training, they are known generically as “Mukti.” After the first year, each graduates to using her own name. Their “freedom birthday” is celebrated annually, and employees are given opportunities to rise into management, providing further opportunities for a better life.

“Sari Bari products are special because retailers and consumers know the products are directly tied to impacting a women on the other side of the world,” says Merilee. “That artisan is creating something beautiful, and you are empowering her to do that by purchasing her product.”

Imagine Home: Third World Artisans; First World Designs
When interior designer Staci Lantz toured South Africa with the founder of TOMS Shoes in 2007, she was inspired by his company’s commitment to social responsibility. She returned with a new plan for her life, an idea to add a greater sense of purpose to her profession and an approach to American consumerism that would contribute to the betterment of others.

She’s spent her time since touring the world, meeting artisans in communities where she could source creations conceived by her, along with her design partners. The result is Imagine Home, a collaborative effort between third-world artisans and first-world designers.

The company takes first world product designs and commissions impoverished people in artisan communities around the world to handcraft the items. “By using our industry experience in design, we create a product that is desirable to consumers; by commissioning people in need, we create an income-generating opportunity for them,” according to Imagine Home’s website. The 2016 collection includes lighting, rugs, tabletop, upholstery and bedding from Haiti, Peru, Africa and India. Many items feature 100 percent organic and recycled materials. Also in the line-up: hand-knitted baby alpaca bedding and handsome horn and bone products.

“Staci has spent time in each of the communities we work with, as well as with each artisan, developing the product with them,” says Katie Gable, Imagine Home’s showroom manager at AmericasMart. “Instead of purchasing a product that is mass produced, each item we offer is individually created by someone’s hand. The buyer may never meet the artisan, but there is a connection back to them and you are contributing to the economy in their communities across the world.”

Stephen Joseph: A Connection with Kids
When Rick Taylor, president of Stephen Joseph, returns home each evening, he has a wonderful reminder of the good things his company is doing in the world. His daughter was adopted from a Russian orphanage that his business supports through its philanthropic efforts.

Giving back is something this company takes seriously. Established 30 years ago as a sorority products specialist, it grew and diversified over time into a variety of businesses. Stephen Joseph is the parent company, as well as the name of its successful kids lifestyle brand. In 2013, executives decided to bolster the business’ charitable endeavors, and sought to support organizations that focused on kids. One recent initiative raised $250,000 from the sale of certain products, with donations contributed to No Kid Hungry, Children’s Scholarship Fund and Little Kids Rock.

Stephen Joseph

Stephen Joseph

Karma, the company’s lifestyle brand, which features popular handbags, accessories, home and travel products, gives five percent of its gross sales to numerous charities, including the Russian orphanage. Other endeavors include providing filtered water in Nepal; paying teacher’s salaries a school in a poverty stricken area of Cambodia; and supporting Food Backpacks for Kids, which provides weekend food to kids in need. In addition to special projects, the company makes ongoing donations to organizations such as the American Diabetes Association.

“Given the choice between two similar products, if one has a ‘give back’ component, it affects the end-consumer’s buying habits,” says Rick. “It’s a selling point for buyers to communicate information about where a portion of consumers’ money is going.” While the executive is enthusiastic about all the charities his company supports, the ones that tug at his heartstrings are focused on children. “We love kids,” he says. “They don’t have the ability to help themselves, so we are passionate about helping them.”


For more information: Imagine Home; Half United – halfunited.com; Sari Bari – saribari.com; and Stephen Joseph – stephenjosephgifts.com

Images courtesy of Stephen Joseph, Sari Bari and Half United

Going Global: 7 Tips

What you need to know about working with international vendors
By Jessica Harlan

Crossing the borders and exploring the offerings of manufacturers and distributors from all over the world is sure to give your store a distinctive product mix. But it can be daunting to work with a supplier from another country where the currency, language, customs and standards might be different from yours.

But establishing an international roster of suppliers is worth the extra effort to find unusual products and to incorporate trends into your assortment even before they start catching on in the U.S.

Insider Info
AmericasMart is the perfect place to find international suppliers; you can travel the world while staying on one interconnected campus. We spoke with some of the global exhibitors at The July Atlanta International Gift & Home Furnishings Market to get their best tips on how American retailers can best work with suppliers from other countries. Here’s what they have to say:

Image courtesy of Eightmood

Image courtesy of Eightmood

1. “A vendor who has gone through the hurdles of entering the U.S. Market is determined,” says Fredrik Axelsson, sales director for the U.S. for Eightmood, a home furnishings design company based in Sweden. “If you see what you like, start a dialogue, establish a partnership, place an order, and grow together.”

2. During an in-person conversation, be sure to ask questions if you don’t understand, and don’t be afraid to summarize or restate the discussion to make sure everyone is on the same page.

3. Bring a tape measure – basic measurements might be different in other countries. Outside the United States, most countries use metric measurements, so having a tape measure (or downloading a conversion app on your smartphone) will allow you to translate sizes for your market.

4. The way products are designed or constructed might differ too, says John Goumas, sales and marketing vice president for Australian company OneWorld Collection. “In America, lampshades are mounted with harps and finials, and in Australia, our lamps are done the English way, with the shade that attaches to the base of the bulb.” While OneWorld has adapted, redesigning its lamps to reflect the American market, some products just might be different from what’s expected – and that’s part of what makes it unique.

Image courtesy of Evelyne Prélonge

Image courtesy of Evelyne Prélonge

5. Double check details about financial transactions to make sure there are no unexpected costs associated with your orders. “Make sure the price includes transport and duties,” says Marylou Altounian, brand manager for Evelyn Prélonge. She also recommends retailers make sure they can set up payment in U.S. dollars via bank transfer or credit cards.

Image courtesy of Tissage Art de Lys

Image courtesy of Tissage Art de Lys

6. Plan for longer delivery times. One of the challenges to working with an overseas source is that getting goods might take longer. Aureline Maillard, spokesperson for French company Tissage Art de Lys says her company typically proposes DDP delivery (Delivery Duty Paid) and does everything possible to limit the time it takes for orders to be delivered. Altounian also recommends double checking that quoted delivery time includes transport time, since sea freight can be as long as four weeks.

Image courtesy of Moe's Home Collection

Image courtesy of Moe’s Home Collection

7. Take advantage of a vendor’s offerings. At Moe’s Home Collection, a Canadian/American home furnishings company, the company can sell a retailer a whole room package, from the rug to the furniture to the lighting and decorative accessories, and even has available photography for retailers to use in promotions. Inquire about promotional materials and bundled assortments to help give your imported merchandise a boost.

Read more tips for working with international vendors in the July 2016 Market Magazine.

For more information: Eightmood, Inc. – eightmood.com, 561.801.5400; Evelyne Prélonge – evelyne-prelonge.com, +33 1 85 08 59 55; Moe’s Home Collection – moeshomecollection.com, 800.967.9942; OneWorld Collection – oneworldcollection.com, 630.870.4799; Tissage Art de Lys – artdelys.com, +33 3 20 75 42 10

“Fresh Food – Delivered Fast” with Classic Fare Catering

Having trouble choosing what food to serve in your showroom during market?  Or do you have the perfect place in mind, but the timing and pricing just aren’t right?  Look no further than Classic Fare Catering, AmericasMart’s on-site catering service, lead by head chef Martin Smetana.  Chef Smetana and his team of talented individuals make Classic Fare the perfect go-to destination for all of your catering needs here at AmericasMart, offering delicious and fresh food choices, excellent service and great pricing.

Recently, Classic Fare has released its new menu, created specifically with Showrooms in mind.  The new menu features a wide variety of options, including decadent French pastries, house-smoked pulled BBQ pork shoulder and fresh waldorf bleu salad. These mouth-watering options are sure to impress your guests and leave them coming back for another delicious bite during the next Market!

Chef Smetana and his team at Classic Fare Catering were kind enough to share one of their unique recipes with us to pass along to our readers.  Below you will find the recipe for their Watermelon and Spinach Salad, along with their Peach Vinegarette which is used to dress this light, summer salad.  We highly recommend trying this at home!


Watermelon & Spinach Salad

Ingredients:

1 oz BABY SPINACH

5 each SEEDLESS WATERMELON, SLICED INTO SQUARE SECTIONS

3 Tbsp. FETA CHEESE, CRUMBLED

2 Tbsp. PECANS, CHOPPED

1 Tbsp. OLIVE OIL

1 tbsp. BALSAMIC GLAZE – DRIZZLE

2 oz. PEACH VINAIGRETTE – OPTIONAL

Directions:

On a plate, alternate watermelon sections and baby spinach, as shown.

Top with feta cheese and pecans, olive oil, and drizzle with balsamic glaze. Serve immediately.

Catering 2     Catering 1

Peach Vinaigrette:

Yield 5 servings

1 PEACH, PEELED AND DICED

½  cup RICE WINE VINEGAR

1 cup SALAD OIL

Pinch of SALT


For more information on Classic Fare Catering and our other dining options, visit our Food Services webpage.

For all other inquires and to book services, contact Milena Hernandez at 404-220-2258.

The Barks Live up to the Bites

Toffees, Brittles and Barks are the artisanal sweets for 2013 seen at the September 2012 Atlanta Fall Gift & Home Furnishings Market℠ and The Atlanta Gourmet Market®.

E.V. Oh Oh

From right here in Georgia to Uruguay to Italy, olive oils are sizzling at the September 2012 Atlanta Fall Gift & Home Furnishings Market℠ and The Atlanta Gourmet Market®.

Skye Showroom Celebrates Grand Opening with a Blowout Party at Market

agaveSkye showroom is opening a new showroom on floor 9—a part of the contemporary permanent showroom collection. It’s new location is 9S335.

To celebrate, the showroom is hosting a grand opening party on Friday at Market this week. The bash will feature live music form Rare Form DJs and a special Herradura Bar. Everyone is invited so be sure to stop by the party on Friday between 5-7 p.m.7diamondjeans

Skye showcases designs and contemporary men’s and women’s styles from Agave Denim and 7 Diamonds.

Stop by Skye to party and discover fabulous contemporary trends!

Best of Gourmet Honored at Atlanta Market

IMG_8774One of the most significant highlights of fall Markets was the recognition of the gourmet industry’s crème de la crème in the Best of Atlanta awards. This honor is exclusive to the annual September Market, spotlighting superior gourmet products and celebrating achievement in taste, originality and packaging.

AmericasMart invited Atlanta’s top culinary experts to judge more than 60 gourmet products for the Best of Atlanta awards. Sampling product from the permanent and temporary product centers, the team of independent judges visited the booths and showrooms to experience the product in its unique environment and interact with the creators and representatives. The judges selected winning product that excelled in distinctive tastes, innovative packaging and display in 10 individual award categories.

The winners were unveiled during the Best of Atlanta reveal on Saturday, September 11, and continued to be on display for the remainder of Market on Floor 7 in Building 1. The 2010 Best of Atlanta winners are:IMG_8808

  • Best Candy: Indianola Pecan House – Southern Praline Pecans
  • Best Chocolate: Sugar Marsh Cottage Confectionary – Bittersweet Chocolate Coastal Collection with Fleur de sel Toffee
  • Best Beverage: Raven’s Nest Specialties – Original Mulling Spice
  • Best Condiment: Mother Shucker’s – Original Cocktail Sauce
  • Best Dessert: Toffee To Go – Dark Chocolate Pecan Toffee
  • Best All Natural Product: Miss Jenny’s Pickles – Miss Jenny’s Habanero Bread & Butter Pickles
  • Best Jam/Preserve: Raven’s Nest Specialties – Raven’s Original Raspberry Jalapeño  Jam
  • Best Snack: Strawberry Patch – Vidalia Onion Grits Bits
  • Best Extra:  Oak Leaf at Belmont – Thousand Island Dressing
  • Best Soup: Plentiful Pantry – Roasted Tomato Parmesan Bisque

IMG_8816 We congratulate our winners on a spectacular showing this Market!

Pictures of all the winners can be found on the AmericasMart website and on our Facebook page.