Tribes and Nations launched in 2005 to offer a ‘just alternative’ to unfair trade. We the founders, Grant and Mignonne, wanted to encourage Australians to think carefully about where their products have come from, who made them and have they been paid fairly.
Our intention was/is to put fair goods and information in the hands of our customers who desire to live dynamically & intentionally in this world of inequality.
Our family business is based in the Blue Mountains, NSW. Our products hark from groups that are
· Micro enterprises
· Fairtrade certified co-ops.
We work with faith and non-faith groups because we believe the poor need to be cared for, whoever they are.
We seek to offer products
· Of use, purpose and beauty.
· That are Organic and/or Fairtrade certified
· That are and/or recycled, upcycled, eco-friendly
· Made ‘from scratch’, involving locally sourced, highly sustainable raw products such as jute, grasses and coconut.
A word from the founders
Our time in Tanzania was a life changing moment for me.
I have always considered myself as a ‘global person’, where food and travel have always grabbed me. Realising I have lived on three continents – Asia, Africa, Australia has confirmed it. My time with Ansett Airlines brought great joy as I was able to travel and see what was out there. While working here, I become a Christian and went to Bible College. This was a defining two years in my life as it was here I met Grant and it was here that God directed me, very specifically, towards the poor and marginalised at Redfern, Sydney.
Redfern came first, where as a single person I lived and worked there for five years, with a dynamic, thought out group of people, who wanted to share life with the marginalised and poor. After Bible College these were the next formative years.
Then came marriage; I will never forget Grant giving me the book ‘A companion to the Poor’ by Viv Grigg. It was deep, and I didn’t understand a lot of it, but there was one part about Viv living in a slum, where big fat rats ran along the rafters at night and occasionally fell off!! After reading that, I said I could live in a mud hut that was comfortable and solid, but not with any fat rats!
As they say, the rest is history or maybe the journey; 25 years later we are still working with the poor in mind.
Grant and I, both went to Bible College (SMBC, Sydney) with mission in mind and it was this that took us to the mission field with our then, two little boys.
Even though I had seen poverty in Sri Lanka, it was my time in Tanzania, as an adult did I realise the depth of it. It was here that Grant’s love for the poor, me as an adult seeing and understanding poverty first hand, my time at Redfern and becoming aware of the UN Millennium Goals in 2000, all surged together.
I will never forget reading the ‘parable of the good Samaritan’ (Luke 10:25-37) on our return (2003). I saw it with fresh eyes. I had always has seen the “church officials/leaders walk by”, but this time my heart was pierced …Am I one of those people who are walking by!
The realisation was hard; I had to get involved and fair trade was how I could express it. I knew the poor made beautiful, useful products that we in the west would appreciate and value, and I wanted a fair trade store that just did that.
“Perhaps due to some relatively small struggles I had in my earlier life I have always had a soft spot for the strugglers of this world. In 1988 I had the blessing of working in a drug rehab centre in New Delhi with a friend. In the surrounding suburbs of Delhi I saw people living in such closeness to the edge of life it startled me. Later when we as a family lived in Tanzania for almost 5 years we witnessed part of the flipside of poverty, in unfair trade. It was hard to believe that people could treat other people so rigidly, without compassion or care for their rights. Worse still this “grinding of the poor” seemed a given. If the bottom line was affected the lowest worker would bear the pain. On returning home in January 2003 we heard about an amazing thing called “fair trade” that was booming in the UK. What was doubly exciting for us as Christians was that the church had been a big part of taking this forward into the community. We hoped we could follow in their footsteps.”
In August 2015 we celebrated our 10th year of business!
A business we began after we came back home after living in Tanzania, East Africa, for five years.
We have a come long way since starting in 2005 and are heartened to know we have been part of the growth of Fair Trade in Australia.
Who would have thought we would have made it this far? It certainly is a milestone and we wouldn't be here today without people like you.
In this time we have seen an increasing number of churches hosting Fair Trade Fairs and growing the movement, whereby making sure the small landholder/producer earns a fair income for their work.
Each year we find it very encouraging to see many of you taking the ‘Seed Sower store in box consignments’ into your churches via Christmas Stalls and local markets, speaking up for the poor through Fair Trade.
We have greatly appreciated customer feedback which has enabled us fill the gap of customers being able to take fair trade into their local community, like -
Lessons Learnt -
As non- business people, the last 10 years have been a steep learning curve. Learning to ride the tidal wave of the Global Financial Crisis was something! Errors were made, warehouses moved, shop opportunities closed but the Internet was steadfast.
Budgets struggled, handcraft sales ebbed and flowed, while the awareness of Fairtrade coffee and tea grew in leaps and bounds. This saw our freshly ground coffee come in and go out in the same week. Sometimes we had to roast twice a week to keep up with the demand.
In all this we were learning to manage and do business in the difficult and good times
The next learning was combining marriage, family and business; well, it was an eye opener to say the least. It revealed our strengths and weakness. It was a growing time and yes a few bombs went off but each time we sat down and talked it through. In all this time we both crossed over to the second half of our lives and saw our sons finish school and move into adult life.
Learning to combine business, marriage and family was certainly demanding. We have learnt to be better communicators and work through conflict. We also learnt a lot about ourselves and each other along the way. In all we feel blessed that God held, provided and guided us through it.
The third learning was ‘simple living’. At a basic level, Grant and I have always lived in this manner but without a lot of understanding. It was encouraging to learn that simple living and fair trade go hand in hand; both make us stop and consider the impact of our choices. We love the principles behind simple living; to live small, with less, recycle, grow herbs and vegetables and generally craft a ‘good life’. We are seeking to integrate this more and more into our lives.
The fourth unexpected learning was that we were some sort of pioneers – seed sowers where Fair Trade was concerned. This still surprises us as we were and still are trying to put into practice what is in our heart and head. But, it has been encouraging to hear new fair traders say ‘oh I looked through your website to learn’ or ‘you are one of the pioneers’.
We were one of the founding members of the group Fair Traders of Australia; where our business was reviewed by peers and found to be aligned with the International Principles of Fair Trade.
To the future and beyond
Well we do see this as our life work. We will take each year as it comes while seeking to balance life and work.
There are three aspects we want to pursue as we move forward –
It’s been a full 10 years and we look forward to the next 10 years. Hopefully the fast rollercoaster ride will slow to a merry-go-round ride. Ha ha…keep tuned to see if this happens! Check-in at Fair Living our blog for our monthly grabs to hear what’s happening. Our boys are growing up, with one married and the other enjoying travel, while still at home. We are semi empty-nesters! On the personal side we look to mellowing while growing as people. With Tribes and Nations we will keep to our desire of enabling and supporting our customers desires to live ethical, intentional lives that have global impact.
Here’s to the next 10 years!