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Choose Purpose. Choose Fair Trade.

You know that exciting moment when you finally unpack your summer wardrobe that you’ve been dying to wear since February, you reach into your shorts’ pocket and, to your surprise, find $3 you didn’t know was there? If you’re like me, your day becomes instantly better. All of a sudden, you’re walking about with an extra pep in your step and you take such a surprise as a sign to treat yourself to some coffee or a mid-day work snack. It’s the little things, right? Well, imagine if that $3 was all you had to live off of for the whole day. Imagine if you had to provide for yourself, your spouse, and maybe even your kids off those three $1 bills you didn’t know you had.

This is the reality for people — and even families — who live below the extreme poverty line, often in developing countries. Facts like this put into perspective how excited we can get about finding “surprise” money in our pockets or the spare change we find lying on the sidewalk. It’s easy to let these facts move us emotionally and shift our mindset to appreciate the lives we are fortunate enough to lead. We want more than a shift in mindset. We want a shift in lifestyle. We want to create change, to create difference. And this urge for change is how we started.

I Thought of You was founded by Mandy Nagel after a spur-of-the-moment trip to Indonesia. At the time Mandy was planning her travels, she didn’t have a purpose or a why behind it all; she had simply felt a calling and she went.

She visited a market during her time where she happened to meet Yulia, a local woman who made and sold jewelry to support her family. Yulia’s jewelry displayed such a unique beauty and an undeniable craftsmanship that Mandy was drawn to them — and Yulia — immediately. She left with many of Yulia’s pieces and shortly returned to the U.S., pieces in hand, excited to show off her souvenirs to friends and family who were equally fascinated with the details and artistry.

Because the compliments only continued to ensue, she decided to begin selling her pieces and, without question, they sold instantly. These pieces she purchased for herself, little did she know, were now paving the way to create a fashion brand for good.

One of our Indonesian artisans creating a beautiful new apparel style.

Starting a business from the experience of her trip was never something Mandy had planned to do. She happened to be put in the right place to meet Yulia and the rest has been such an amazing ride of stepping out of comfort zones like this moment. The potential to make an impact was worth the risk. But that risk is where our mission was founded.

As a Fair Trade company, we’re on a mission to do good and expand the global marketplace of hardworking people in developing countries. We aspire to provide income to people who need it most through the retail of our products and the opportunity we endlessly give.

But what exactly is Fair Trade? You may have heard of it or have even purchased Fair Trade in the past knowing it holds a positive connotation but not necessarily knowing the effects it brings.

Your Webster’s definition of Fair Trade explains it as the “trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency and respect, that seeks greater equity in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers.” A mouthful, right? Thankfully we also aspire to educate others on the principles of Fair Trade and break down its core values.

Fair Trade can be defined in three simple practices—be supportive, be fair (bet you didn’t see that coming) and be thoughtful.

Our founder, Mandy, learning from some of our Colombian artisans.

Be supportive. We provide our artisans with an environment for success. This includes access to the global marketplace and assistance in areas like product development and quality control. Take Yulia’s story. Yulia is still one of our amazing partnerships to this day and she has now expanded her business to hire more artisans alongside her to keep up with customer demand.

Be fair. We ensure that each artist is fairly compensated for their time, labor, and talent. Our partners set their own prices to help ensure a stable income. We’re committed to making our products in a way that is good for people and good for the environment. When you say yes to our Fair Trade and eco-friendly goods, you’re saying no to sweatshops, unfair wages, and child labor.

And lastly, be thoughtful. Each product you find at our shop is handmade using natural, recycled, or upcycled materials. Our artisans craft their unique styles with the eco-friendly materials that are found abundantly in their respective regions. From our Made From Fruit necklaces to bracelets fashioned out of real Indian saris, our artisans upcycle waste into wonders.

One of our Indian artisans displaying our Disca Necklace made from bone, horn, and painted wood. (bone and horn from animals bred for human consumption)

Our goal is to be transparent with our ethical supply chain, to help women feel beautiful, and give back with their style. When women in developing countries are supported, the economic effects ripple through their economy. When a woman is lifted out of poverty, she takes an average of three people with her and, ultimately, lift up entire towns. The reward to see differences such as these on this journey has been a life-changing opportunity to these women we are proud to call our partners.

I Thought of You will be celebrating five years in business this Thanksgiving and we are incredibly grateful to say that we have accomplished a lot. But we are still a young company and at the tip of the iceberg for what we can accomplish within ourselves and the communities we’re on this journey with. Fair Trade is more than just an adjective — it’s a lifestyle that chooses purpose. We chose that purpose five years ago and will continue to make decisions that make a difference.

We love our mission and will continue to spread hope for change as we move forward. Help us bring more good into the world by supporting Fair Trade when you are called to do so.