Unlike other, so-called fair trade shops, Kirabo is in association with the Fair Trade Federation and in alliance with Ten Thousand Villages, a fair trade retailer that consists of 70 stores across the US that Kirabo and 200 other stores are partnered with. That means that about one third of the products featured in Kirabo come from Ten Thousand Villages, similar to the way other retail stores buy
products from their manufacturers.. Kirabo carries items from 37 developing countries where the items are handmade out of anything they can find in their environment. Through the fair trade associations, the artisans are not allowed to kill animals or harm any trees or plants to make their products and they don’t allow any child labor. So the artisans make products from old newspapers, wire scraps, fallen nuts or berries, downed or pruned trees, or animals that have died a natural death. The final product is amazingly beautiful and ingeniously resourceful. “We try to tell the story of the artisans,” Kirabo manager, Gail Catron, says about the unique products they feature because near each item is a description of what it is made from and where it was made. Fair trade also means that these artisans actually make a fair profit for the sale of their products.
Kirabo was started in East Lansing four years ago by Gail Catron. She has just graduated with a business degree and was looking for a job when, at the Haslett Craft Show, she saw pottery made in Nicaragua that a local church was selling for the artisans. They told her about fair trade and Gail was confused because she had only heard of free trade; fair trade never came up in any of her business classes. Gail then went to the fair trade store in Ann Arbor and after seeing it she decided what she wanted to do. Catron opened Kirabo on the corner of MAC and Albert and six months ago they moved to their current location on Grand River.
Gail Catron chose East Lansing because of the proximity to the university. “The younger generation is more knowledgeable on fair trade and the teachers are more supportive,” Catron says about Michigan State University. The churches in the area are also very supportive of
Kirabo. The MSU Students for Fair Trade are also connected to Kirabo in many ways. Kirabo offers them a place to meet and helps with their “annual bash”. Kirabo also takes part in the community by hosting events. They have recently had a tea party using all fair trade tea and chocolate and they were also a part of their first Groupon. Be sure to check their website or join their E-Newsletter for upcoming events and look for their online store that will be up and running soon so that you can buy these fantastic products even if you don’t live in the East Lansing area! ~Leighanna Whiting, Regional Director
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